I’ve just recently started running again after a solid post-track season break. As my fiancé and I were jogging together today we started talking about how even though we hate taking time off from running it really is an important part of training in itself. Somehow the conversation turned into a sort of debate on the science behind why taking time off running is beneficial. Despite years of doing this after every season, I began to question exactly why a break is beneficial to the body. Some avid runners are terrified of taking off more than a few days in a row. They’re so afraid they’ll loose fitness, gain weight, or loose focus and they fail to see anything positive about taking time off. Now don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love running and cannot imagine living without it, but that being said I will gladly deal with a few days or weeks off in order to prevent a future of months or years away from this sport I love.
So what exactly are the benefits to taking a break from running?
Scientifically speaking there are all sorts of benefits you may not see or feel right away. That shin or foot that started aching you before your last race might actually be on the verge of a stress fracture. Or perhaps you’ve been training for six months to a year without break and you seem to have hit a plateau. Taking a short break from the repetitive pounding motion of running can fix both of these. It’s a beneficial time to heal weak or damaged muscle, bones and tendons. If the time off is a planned routine it can end up being a small fraction of the time you might end up taking if you push another day, week or month (yes I said it D-A-Y: some runners seem to think “Oh another day couldn’t hurt” but if it HURTS then you never know, it COULD!!)
It’s the runners’ high, the endorphins, the routine, and the lifestyle that true runners hold so dear to their hearts. Giving these up, even for the sake of injury prevention, does not always seem worth it in the running-obsessed mind. So if one isn’t injured, is there still a benefit to taking a break at least once a year?
In my opinion, there most certainly is. I did not always think this way, in fact I too used to shutter and moan at the thought of the dreaded “break.” Then as the years went by I began to realize that not only is it good to get a physical refresher, a mental refresher is needed just as much. In that time away from running you get to experience the things you always complained, “If only I didn’t have that workout tomorrow morning I could ________.” It’s the perfect time to not feel bad about staying up a little later, splurging on less healthy foods and even trying new forms of low-impact exercising. Perhaps more important than any of these is the benefit of a new found perspective. Time away from running is the perfect time to really evaluate your life’s priorities. Lucky for me, my break from running was perfectly timed with my visit to my Grandparents. Staying with them meant no Internet connection so I had no distracting track gossip to read and the bonus of visiting with my family all day without worrying about fitting a trail run in. Finally, time off from running makes you appreciate the sport even more and is also a good time to ask yourself, “Why do you run?”
For me, that answer came to me at a time when I was struggling between taking time off and starting running again a few years ago. As is the focus of this blog, I realized I’m not just running because I want to win, but also because I love it and even more importantly I love God. I believe that He created me with this talent and wants me to use it to the best of my ability and praise Him both at my best moments and even when I’m forced to take my break. How do I know God is calling me to “run for His glory?”
Well, in the Bible in Luke chapter 10
, there a story where one of the experts of Jewish law tests Jesus by asking him what someone must to do earn eternal life (AKA make it to Heaven). Jesus replies with the question, “What is written in the law?” The man answers, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and Love your neighbor as yourself.” Now like this scholar of the law, many people today may already have heard this verse or even have it memorized, and be asking God, “What do you mean!?” After all, what does it mean to love God with all your heart, soul, strength, mind? In simplest terms, it seems God is saying we should love him with EVERYTHING we have.
For me, since I first started running it quickly became my “everything.” Some point along the road I got worried that by putting so much focus on running I wasn’t focused enough on the more important things in life. But then when you look at Luke 10:27 I realized that if running is my “everything” and I’m asked to love God with “everything” then why can’t I love Him through my running by giving my hobby, sport and lifestyle greater meaning as I run for Him?
Some runners out there love running with all their heart, soul, strength and mind, but when it comes down to it, at some point we all have to give it a rest. Whether its a few days, weeks, or eventually retirement, running does not last forever. No matter how much we love and obsess over it, running isn’t a matter of life or death. But there are other things in life that do hold great value or priority and sometimes its good to take a step away from the trail to not only refresh the body but refresh the mind to see it all more clearly.
————————————————Four Fun Facts——————————–
1. Favorite food to indulge in on break: Cheesecake
2. When I’m not running I have so much more time to: read books like my latest, Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
3. Favorite type of cross training: Yoga for low impact, aqua jogging to stay fit
4. When I’m on break I still find myself: Stretching, doing core, massage or ART if needed and admittedly I still walked into the running store four times this past break because I just couldn’t help myself!