minutes per mile blog

should you take a vacation while marathon training?

Hello!0916150711Easy miles today. I’m actually feeling a bit under the weather so I kept my run short and sweet. Seems like I’ve come down with a bit of a cold (maybe it had something to do with sitting on planes for 19 hours and then running 19 miles as soon as I landed? duh, Mary.)0916150727But hopefully I’ll get over it soon. Highlight of my run: Spotting this super chill red robin. (sorry to my email readers who might have seen the wrong photo here! fixed now :) )0916150732He was just hanging out on the side of the road, completely unphased by traffic and runners. What a guy.

Coming off our vacation, I’ve been thinking: How do you guys feel about taking big breaks during marathon training season? Before our trip, I had a few moments where I got nervous about losing fitness during the two weeks we’d be gone. I know that a lot of runners (including me!) sometimes get a little frantic about maintaining high mileage all the time, every week. I mean, it seems simple to think that the more you run, the better runner you’ll be.

“Many athletes mistakenly believe that the path to ever increasing fitness, speed or strength is to maintain an increasingly higher volume and/or intensity of training without interruption, fearing that any break will result in a setback. ” (Read more)


Taking two weeks off to walk around Italy and drink wine does not sound like a solid training strategy._DSC0032But… I kind of think it is. After eight marathons, I swear that I get faster by running less and taking more time to recover, relax, and do more cross training. And what better time to do those things than while you’re on vacation?! :) (eating gelato counts as cross training btw)_DSC0495There’s quite a bit of science to support the idea. Scheduled (and unscheduled) rest weeks are a key part of periodization training. I like how Jeff Gaudette puts it:

“I like to visualize the body like a sponge, and your training like the water coming from a faucet. When you start training from scratch, you are a like a dry sponge; you’re ready to absorb all the training (water) that you can handle. So, you open up the faucet and let the training flow into your body and you soak it all up. However, just like when doing dishes, too much water too fast can saturate the sponge. Therefore, you need to turn on the faucet gently for best results (read: start slow and gradual with your training).

Over time, if you keep filling up the sponge (your body) with water (training) soon it won’t be able to absorb anymore no matter how careful you are with the rate of water flow. Actually, you could turn the faucet on full blast and not much would happen. This is when you need a down week in your plan. Now, I know taking a week off from hard training is one of the hardest things for a runner to do.”

Before we left for our trip, I had some pretty tough workouts and high-mileage weeks — three weeks in a row around 45 miles, which is a lot for me. Plus, my hip was acting up a bit. It was time for a couple weeks off — I could literally feel it in my bones! Although we stayed active while we were in Europe (in fact, we did some sort of walking, hiking, swimming, or running every day), I definitely didn’t have a set workout schedule or target paces to put stress on me mentally or physically. And now that we’re back home, I’m ready to get back into training mode for the next four weeks.0909151235This is the second marathon training cycle where I’ve taken a big break in training — the first time I tried it was two years ago during our wedding/honeymoon weeks. When I returned from our honeymoon and got back to training, I felt ready to get back into running and didn’t suffer burnout. And on race day, I set a new PR!marine_corps_marathon_2013_2So basically: I’m a believer that you should take a two-week vacation during every marathon training cycle. Even if you can’t jet across to Europe (though I highly recommend you do so), at least enjoy a “stay-cation” at home with some wine and an empty training spreadsheet. Your mind and body will thank you for it!

  • Have you ever taken a big break during a training cycle?
  • What’s your dream vacation?
  • Do you know of any other training tips that don’t seem to make sense but actually work?

7 thoughts on “should you take a vacation while marathon training?

  1. When I go away, I rarely run. Sometimes I have to – like last year’s CDN thanksgiving was on my 20 miler run weekend. I was only running one 20 miler in my cycle and knew I needed a loooong taper, so I had to do it then. It worked out because my parents were there and taking 4 hrs to run wasn’t a big deal.

    One thing about vacations is that if you are going on a vacation with lots of sightseeing, you will totally walk for miles. It is it’s own workout!

  2. That does make quite a bit of sense. That little red bird is a male cardinal. I hope he flew away and did not get hit by a car. I try to keep my training really lax, maybe I just don’t care as much as I used to. Maybe I am in burnout mode. Anyway I am glad you had a great run and vacation

  3. Taking a break is a good idea – your body needs time to recover to build back up again. Unfortunately you cannot maintain peak for week after week….

    Glad you had fun on vacation – the pictures were beautiful!

  4. The vacation looked like a blast! And I think breaks are good and when your body tells you to take one you best do it!

    That’s a male cardinal by the way, sorry to correct, I just work with birds at an aquarium. He didn’t seem hurt did he?

    • oh yeah! i meant cardinal. i need to brush up on my bird skills. i don’t know if he was okay. he seemed really unphased by runners, cars, etc that were blowing right by him :(. i hope he was just extremely laid back and not actually hurt!