Once you get hit with the running bug, it’s there to stay. If you are already a running addict, you know how difficult it is to take breaks. We constantly push ourselves to achieve new personal bests, shave down our times, and up mileage to run longer distances. We are a committed, hard-working group of athletes, that’s for sure.
However, sometimes we go too far.
Runners tend to never be quite satisfied with their performance, constantly pushing themselves to do even better the next time around. But being pleased with our performance is a topic for another day. Today we will focus on when training becomes just too much on our bodies and minds, and it’s time to take a day off.
In this article, we will go into detail about the following 5 tell-tale signs it’s time for you to take a day off, recuperate, and come back stronger than ever!
- Fluctuating heart rate: higher or lower than normal
- Persistent, unusual pain
- Absolute physical exhaustion
- Absolute psychological exhaustion
Let’s get into the nitty-gritty of it.
Let’s jump in!
#1: Your Heart Rate Is Off
Most of us train with heart rate monitors as it’s a great way to track our training zones and effort levels. If you are familiar with your normal heart rate ranges, you will be able to tell when it’s off. If you are fatigued, your heart rate can read higher than usual or lower than usual.
If you are experiencing a higher than average resting heart rate, it could be a sign it’s time for you to take a day off. This fluctuation in heart rate could be the result of training at a high effort and not allowing your body the necessary time to recover.
If you continue to push your body through these tough workouts without the proper rest, it will have a negative effect on your training, and you’ll feel as though it was all for nothing. Instead of seeing positive results, you will begin to hit a plateau or even notice decreased performance levels.
Related: Average Heart Rate While Running: Guide By Age + 7 Influencing Factors
On the other end, if you are training and feel you are working at a high effort, but your heart rate just won’t rise, this could be yet another sign of fatigue and overtraining.
Keep track of your normal, day-to-day resting heart rate so you can flag it if it begins to fluctuate. If it does, take a day or two off and let your body rest so you can get back to it as soon as possible.
Related: How To Calculate Your Heart Rate Zones
#2: You Are In Constant Pain
If you’ve got a case of the DOMS, delayed onset muscle soreness, or any sort of consistent pain, this is a sign your body is giving you to take a day off. Pushing through the pain will only lead to frustration and, most likely, injury.
Figure out where the root of the pain is coming from. Perhaps you need to get a sports massage or set up an appointment with a physical therapist to help figure out what’s going on. You may need to cut back just a bit and take a day or two off or incorporate strengthening exercises or specific stretches to assist with a particular need.
As runners, we tend to ignore discomfort and categorize it as something that just happens, and we need to tolerate it.
My advice to you is, don’t let things go. If you have uncomfortable pain, figure out what it is as soon as possible, so you don’t miss out on any more training than you have to. By putting it off, you could end up making the situation worse and need to stop for even longer than if you had taken care of the problem right away.
So yes, whether it’s just a case of the DOMS or a more serious issue, take the necessary days off to give yourself time to bounce back and run pain-free.
#3: You Feel Plain-Old Exhausted
Sometimes we just have a bad training day, and things don’t go as planned. However, there is a difference between a bad day and feeling completely exhausted and out of sorts.
If you are fighting to get out of bed and can’t keep your eyes open, you may need to take a day off from running. If you didn’t get enough sleep, catch up, and if you were able to get your 8 hours and are still exhausted, you might be overtraining.
According to HSS, overtraining syndrome “occurs when an athlete doesn’t adequately recover after intense, repetitive training, and can include fatigue, declining performance, and potential injury.”
It’s a tricky balance that we need to measure considering our personal needs and abilities. We want to improve as athletes and therefore need to push ourselves. However, overdoing it can cause us more harm than good. Trial and error and identifying the signs that it’s time to take a day off will help you find this balance.
Some of the most common symptoms of overtraining syndrome are:
- Persistent and unusual muscle soreness and heavy legs even during low-intensity exercise
- A decline or plateau in performance
- Constant fatigue and low energy levels
- Decreased desire and motivation to train
- Stress, restlessness, moodiness, and even depression
- Increased resting heart rate, blood pressure, and illness occurrence
Be sure to take some time off if you are experiencing these symptoms, as overtraining syndrome can result in more severe consequences. This may result in needing to take a prolonged time off from running. We sure don’t want that!
To avoid overtraining, seek professional help when setting up your personalized training plan. An experienced coach can help create an appropriate balance between training and resting while keeping a close eye on how you respond to each workout.
Also, be sure to fuel yourself with enough calories and fluid. You don’t want to be training at a deficit or become dehydrated. Those factors will undoubtedly negatively affect your general performance and how you feel.
Ensure your day to day nutrition is sufficient for the amount of exercise you are currently doing along with pre-run snacks, recovery drinks after intense workouts and long runs, and post-run recovery meals.
Also, you need to have a nutrition and hydration strategy in place for while you are running, especially during long runs and races. Check out more details here so we can help you formulate your specific fueling strategy now.
#4: Your Head Is Just Not In It
There is a big difference between feeling lazy and wanting a lie in and losing all motivation to run altogether. If you wake up and realize that you, without a doubt, do not want to train, it’s most likely a sign it’s time for you to take a day off.
Recharge, refresh and get ready to get back out there the next day. Sometimes we just need to take a break, clear our minds, and switch up our routine. Remember that we love to run. If we are constantly forcing ourselves to do it and aren’t enjoying it one bit, there’s something wrong.
Most of us do this as our hobby, for fun. Sure we want to get better, but very few of us are actually making a career out of our running performance. So get back to a place where you are absolutely loving it again.
You’ve all heard the saying, “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” Sometimes we need to let go a bit to remember why we love running so much.
#5: You’re Sick
I am the first offender when it comes to this one. If I can run, I run, which is not always the best choice. If you are sick, your body needs all of its energy to help you recover. If we run, we are not allowing this to happen and will most likely prolong our symptoms.
Usually, running with a mild cold or “above the neck” symptoms is considered safe. In this case, instead of doing a full-on intense speed workout, you may want to dial it back and take an easy recovery run to not push it too much.
On the other hand, if you have more severe symptoms such as a phlegm-filled cough, fever, or body aches, it’s best not to over-exert yourself and take some time off. Allow your body to fix itself up so you can come back strong and not hang onto that flu any longer than you need to.
After you take your time off to recuperate, you can jump right back into the game.
There you have it. These are 5 tell-tale signs it’s time for you to take a day off, recover and recuperate. If you are experiencing any of them remember, there’s no shame in taking a break. Doing so will ensure better running health and help keep you injury-free.
If you feel you may be experiencing overtraining syndrome, take a closer look at the symptoms in our article “Overtraining – Here Are The 8 Signs And 7 Strategies To Beat It”.