I am at a stage at the moment, in my training and racing close to where I want to be.
However when I have been here before something has happened and my running has taken a back seat! Last year my heart refused to work properly and the death of my father compounded the issue resulting in a couple of months with no running. The result was another two months or so getting back into running and regaining fitness!
The thing is now, would it, and could it happen again. I am a little bit nervous and wondering if and when I should and could take some time out!
This year I have stepped down from running marathons and ultras to concentrate on getting to the level of fitness I was five or six years ago and achieve pb’s again at 5k, 10k, ten mile and half marathon distance?
I believe I should take time off.
Why don’t runners take breaks?
Many sports are seasonal. My other main interest of cycling is like that with many cyclists taking time off in the winter to rest and recuperate. Okay there is often no complete break, but they don’t race competitively in the winter months and their cycling is more social. So why don’t we runners do the same?
At the elite level they do. But the weekend warriors, like myself? It is almost considered a sin to do this……plus why take time off and become deconditioned?
Plus there are too many brilliant races that I want to run and they are spread out through the year……York and District Road Race League (6 races, fortnightly from April); Evensplits 5k Race series ( every month from February to November); Vale of York 10; Yorkshire 10; Guy Fawkes 10…….need I go on?
What if I don’t take time off?
The condition I had, sick sinus syndrome, bradycardia etc, was not diagnosed as being a result of over training, but the clues are there! The symptoms were more prevalent when I was at my fittest.
There is a lot of research and evidence out there linking overtraining with heart defects. Okay, you may see it as scaremongering and the British media don’t help and soon jump on the ‘exercise is bad for you bandwagon’. However if you have any heart related abnormality then it all adds up. Further research shows that periods of deconditioning help and aid this:
“Frequent and/or complex ventricular tachyarrhythmias in trained athletes (with and without cardiovascular abnormalities) are sensitive to brief periods of deconditioning” from Science Direct https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0735109704012112 for example.
Anyway…if you want to read more, google ‘Athletes and deconditioning ‘ to come up with further reading or read my favourite book about this subject ‘The Haywire Heart’ by Dr John Madrola
So, next question…….
How long should I take off?
Or basically how long would it take to become deconditioned that would help my heart. Everyone is different and I suppose it depends upon what you are doing during this period. For me I doubt it would be complete rest. I would still be working, and no doubt be cycling, albeit socially. However a complete break from hard and competitive exercise would benefit me and I reckon that this needs to be for a month as a minimum. Being realistic, the best time for me to do this would be mid year and coincidental with my annual holiday. I could also take time off in December / January meaning I would have two competitive seasons in the year!
How long will it take to regain my fitness?
From past experience it seems to take me longer than research and other people’s experiences state it should take. Search the internet for information and you tend to see that it should take up to twice the duration you have been off. For me it has taken up to four times this duration. However there had not been the focus and drive. Plus I had always put on weight as well! They key to getting this reconditioning phase shorter would be to maintain my weight and have a focused period of training to get back to (and maybe improve) my fitness!
Never the less, I am nervous about this!…….I am also nervous about not doing this too!
I would be interested to hear your experience and whether you take regular time off!