Five Questions to Help You Decide If It’s Time For a Break From Running

running pain

Have you ever found your­self suit­ing up for a run and fight­ing it the whole time? Whether you’re injured, burnt out, or exhaust­ed, there are days when—contrary to what so many peo­ple believe—it’s smart to throw in the tow­el and stay home. There’s a fine line between rec­og­niz­ing the warn­ing signs of need­ing a break and giv­ing in to the lit­tle voice in your head that just likes to be pes­simistic or lazy. We’ve all walked this line at some point, and we’ve all made the wrong deci­sion before, but hope­ful­ly, with each wrong deci­sion we’ve learned a lit­tle more about read­ing our body’s queues. Here are some ques­tions to con­sid­er when decid­ing whether it’s time to take a break or force your­self out the door.

Is some­thing phys­i­cal­ly hurting?
Phys­i­cal pain is your body’s way of get­ting your atten­tion. Minor injuries and gen­er­al sore­ness just comes with the ter­ri­to­ry and can be eas­i­ly addressed or run through, but if you’re hav­ing sear­ing, cut­ting, or stab­bing pain—something that dras­ti­cal­ly changes your run­ning form—then the odds are you shouldn’t be out run­ning. Not acknowl­edg­ing and tak­ing care of these big pains will not make you more hardcore—it will even­tu­al­ly make you unable to run, whether it’s for a few days, week, months, or permanently.

breakWhen is the last time you took a day off?
For some run­ners, tak­ing a day off is right up there with doing their tax­es. They get rest­less, feel guilty, or even feel lost when their run is removed from their day. How­ev­er, you’d be hard-pressed to find a legit­i­mate train­ing pro­gram that doesn’t involve rest days. Even the most hard­core made-of-burlap-spit-and-vine­gar indi­vid­u­als are still human at the end of the day, and all humans require some lev­el of rest and recov­ery. Stop fight­ing it and learn to rev­el in your rest days, stor­ing up ener­gy and excite­ment for your work­out tomor­row. 

Do I want to run? If not, why?
Run­ning should be some­thing you enjoy. Even if you have a slow, painful, or clum­sy run, you should still be hap­py you got out by the end of it. If you’re com­ing back from your run feel­ing worse—mentally or physically—something is not right.

Am I respect­ing my easy days?
Easy days are hard­er than days off for some run­ners. Some run­ners believe they can give them­selves an edge by push­ing the pace a bit or adding a few miles to easy days, but that rarely ends up work­ing in their favor. Although it seems coun­ter­in­tu­itive for some, easy days are as vital to a run­ning pro­gram as hard days, track work­outs, long runs, and any­thing else. This active recov­ery allows your mus­cles to grow, heal, and remain active, all of which are need­ed to keep a run­ner healthy and con­tin­u­al­ly improving.

Will run­ning today make me feel bet­ter or worse?
Real­ly, this is the bot­tom line. If you’re going to feel worse for run­ning, whether that means limp­ing hard­er or a bad mood turn­ing absolute­ly foul, then what’s the point of run­ning that day? It might be time to take a break from running.