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.
When 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.