How to Cope if You Can't Run for a Week or Two During the Holidays

How runners can deal with an imperfect training schedule during the busiest time of year

During the holiday season, reasons to take a break from your normal running routine pop up all over the place. From mandatory holiday parties that go late into the night filled with alcohol, sweet treats and greasy foods to days packed with travel where the only chance you have to exercise is walking from your car to a rest area on the side of the highway or sprinting through an airport to make a connecting flight, it's a busy time of year.

These are the realities that most runners face during the chaotic holiday season. As a result, there is no doubt that many of us will have to make some tough decisions when it comes to our training schedules.

More: Stay in Running Shape During the Holidays

But don't start researching how to make bib transfers in an upcoming race just yet. In fact, everything you've worked for up until now won't be completely lost if you have to miss a few weeks of training. According to Adam Lesser, a Road Runners Club of America certified coach, if you have a lifetime of aerobic development to pull from, there's no need to panic.

Lesser says if you aren't able to fit in a workout for a week, you should treat it as a "lost week" and resume training the following week at the same level you would have as if you didn't take any time off.

"Within 5 to 7 days you'll lose some fitness," Lesser says. "But not so much that it would force you to alter your schedule."

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That's good news if you're only forced to take one week off. But that's not always the case for if you get bogged down by travel plans or infinite social requests. One week may turn into two weeks and before you know it, you have no idea where to begin training again. In this case, Lesser recommends adding a "transition" week to get back to previous training levels.

"Jumping right back into previous training levels can overstress your system," Lesser says. "This leaves you with the all-too-familiar case of the 'toos'—too hard, too much, too soon. Instead, take a few weeks to steadily progress back."

More: Do Your Running Goals Match Your Reason for Running?

Lesser says the first week back, you should complete easier runs at your previous frequency, incorporating strides at the end of some of those runs. In the second week, you should start adding in a little more quality by including a tempo or interval workout. Lesser warns runners to be careful, though, when it comes to pace.

"As always, gradual progressions back from periods of inactivity require patience and consistency," Lesser says. "Keep the pace moderate, not on the faster end at first. After that transition period, you will be safe to resume training, assuming your body is responding well to the return to running."

Of course, the other option is to forgo a "transition period" and avoid losing any of the hard work you've already put in the books. Besides, that extra glass of eggnog and batch of cookies you devoured in one sitting will taste much better after a good work out anyway.

More: 4 Eating Tips for Runners During the Holidays

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About the Author

Jamie Corey

Jamie Corey has been running since kindergarten. After making the move to Washington, D.C. to pursue a career in politics, she began training for marathons and hasn't stopped. Follow Jamie on Twitter @dcrunster, and read more about her running adventures on her blog

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