A few of the Pavement Bound crew have been participating in the Advent Running Challenge, initially I didn’t think it was that big of a deal but hearing them compare their run to “having a child and needing to put that child to bed every night” I realised how much of a commitment running everyday is and how proud I am of these guys for keeping it up. If I’m completely honest I also felt a bit guilty, as this year Christmas vibes got in the way of my running routine …and just at the point when I was finally making decent progress.
The Christmas period is often centered around overindulgence, especially when it comes to food and booze (which is what makes it so awesome) however Christmas time isn’t often conducive to a decent training regime. But for those feeling guilty for swapping the Pavement for Prosecco, fear not, it’s okay, taking a break is actually good for you!
No matter what kind of exercise you do, taking a break has many benefits. Not only for your body but also for your mind. Nick White, a senior coach with Carmichael Training Systems, so rightly explains “taking away the thing you love can really reinforce how much you love it, helping to bring back that motivation. Otherwise, training gets to feel like a job.”
We all run for many different reasons but ultimately what keeps us going is the love. So our runs becoming a chore to be ticked off is no good, it’s important we make the effort to keep us in a good place, both mentally and physically enjoying our training routines.
The main thing people fear when thinking of taking a break is that all of the hard work, building up strength and endurance, will have been for nothing. A few weeks off and it’s back to the start again, right? As much as it’s well documented that you lose fitness a lot quicker than you build it up, and there is some truth to that, it’s not as bleak as we may think.
To help you feel less guilty, more informed and ultimately to help reduce the freak out, here’s a few important facts about taking a break , my Christmas gift to you.
Breath It all In.
The biggest change in the body when one takes time off is in how the body consumes and processes oxygen (VO2 Max)
// 1 week break = negligible decline
// 12-21 days break = 7% decline
// 21-84 days break = 9% decline
// Muscular strength takes a lot longer to diminish.
It’s all about the Enzymes Baby (Diddy Voice).
Initial decline in fitness occurs rapidly, but then slows down and eventually levels off (the measurable decline in enzyme levels associated with performance and fitness drop by 50% in approx. two weeks, but then slows).
Fitness is for lifetime, not just for Christmas.
People who have a good base level of fitness lose it less rapidly than beginners with low endurance. If you’ve been running for a while your “lifetime” aerobic conditioning is still mostly intact after a few months.
The amount of time you take off is key, but longer breaks do not mean you have to start from scratch. A study conducted by Klavs Madsen & Colleagues concluded that a group of trained athletes only lost 21% of their endurance capacity after a 4 week break.
Variety is the spice of life.
You can take a complete break from running and still maintain your fitness by taking part in other activities. Studies have shown that it’s possible to maintain maximum fitness levels (over a few months “off”) by exercising at 70% of your VO2 max at least once per week .
Build up and decline of fitness levels is unique to the individual so predicting how long you need to take a break for is hard but in general it seems that 1-2 months is an acceptable length of time for most reasonably fit people.
So, there you have it, taking a break is all good. You can enjoy your pigs in blankets, Baileys and board games without that little voice in your head telling you off.
Enjoy people & Merry Christmas.