At some point or another, most runners experience a setback in training that requires them to take time off. There are also important benefits to be gained from scheduled breaks.
A gradual, thoughtful, long-term approach to becoming a good runner is the only sensible way to achieve greatness and reach one's potential within the constraints of one's own ability, motivation, and opportunity. Consistency in striving for a goal is the most certain way to achieve it, and setbacks along the way should not deter the overall plan.
Maintain a Positive Attitude Toward Breaks
All breaks, and almost all setbacks, are actually beneficial to a runner in terms of overall development. A break gives both the body and the mind some time to regroup from what may have been a pretty strenuous period of training and competition.
Good health, both mental and physical, is more likely to occur when a runner is training moderately. Continuous exhaustive training can place too much wear and tear on runners' bodies and can also have an adverse psychological effect.
The Benefits of Taking Time Off
After a break, runners are fresh physically and mentally, and usually feel enthusiastic about new goals they have set for themselves. While fitness has been reduced during the break, big improvements can occur once training resumes. In fact, it's best to look at these setbacks positively, as "career prolongers."
As a setback-induced break ends, your enthusiasm for running is renewed and you are more knowledgeable about what type of training is and is not stressful to your body. Wiser, better rested, and more determined, you are actually in a position to have a longer career because of the imposed break.
Setbacks can be terribly disappointing, but they also have a way of keeping us hungry for more training. Temporary training stalemates can actually rekindle competitive fires, revitalize worn and tired body parts, and minimize the chance of burnout.
Logging the Specifics
Record every setback in a special logbook that you can refer to when needed. Particularly when injuries have occurred, enter all the details leading up to the problem. Categorize the injuries according to the parts of the body in which they occur-knee, ankle, foot, hip or hamstring.
Enter the date that you first noticed the injury and the date that you think the injury actually occurred. Also write down what you think caused the injury-training, competition or accident. Finally, keep track of what you do to remedy the problem, both at the onset of the injury, and in later days and weeks until you feel that the traumatized body part is healed.
The logged information can help you handle future injuries. You'll have a permanent record of what helped you to alleviate knee pain or Achilles tendon soreness, for example. Some injuries seem to go away after a couple weeks of no training. Others disappear even though training continues.
The log book will help you remember how your own body responded to different types of injuries and will help you save a lot of worry, time, and maybe even some money on treatments in the future when similar injuries crop up again.
More: How to Run Injury-Free
When Inevitable Injuries Occur
When overuse injuries occur, a runner can't just keep training as usual. Something has to be changed. It may be a matter of reducing mileage or intensity of training; it may involve adding some stretching and strengthening exercises to the overall program; or it may mean having some corrective devices put in one or both of your running shoes.
Again, become familiar with you own body and try to avoid situations and correct problems that have caused injuries in the past.