Gimme A Break!

AJW writes about his annual break from running.

By on January 27, 2017 | Comments

AJW's TaproomBack in early October, after returning from his whirlwind trip to Alaska, Bryon Powell wrote an excellent column on the importance of taking a planned break from training. In the column, he spoke of his years running and the benefits he has gained from taking these planned rest periods to re-energize both his body and his mind. At the time I read it and thought, This is great and just what I need! It’s time for me to take a break. I even commented on the column about how much I was looking forward to my break.

But, alas, running got in the way of my break. After finishing the West Virginia Trilogy in early October, I fully intended to settle into a nice stretch of unstructured training. But, wouldn’t you know it? Just then, my wife Shelly asked if I wanted to do a half marathon with her up north. So, we did. I hadn’t done a road half in years and it hurt even more than I thought it would. Then a friend suggested I do a great little trail 25k in West Virginia at the end of October with free beer at the finish. Couldn’t pass that up! And finally, a group was assembling at the JFK 50 Mile on the weekend before Thanksgiving to celebrate Ian Torrence’s 200th ultra finish, so I had to run that, too.

Then, finally, it was Thanksgiving and the holidays, the perfect time for my much-needed break, right? Not so fast. Because, of course, I started counting up my miles and vertical feet for the year. My annual ritual of seeing what I could squeeze out of the last month of the year was on in full force and so I continued, just running for the joy of it and stacking up the miles right up until New Year’s Day. And for some reason that I can’t fully explain, I just kept on going after that until, finally, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I said to myself, Now, now is the time!

And here I am. As you read this, I am now 12 days into my three-week break from structured training and I feel great. Sure, I’ve tacked on a few pounds, but after my experience at Hardrock in July when the doctor told me I was too lean, I figure that’s okay. I have gotten outside a little bit every day, mostly for relaxed walks around town and have, occasionally, slipped into a jog for a mile or two. I miss running, for sure, but it also feels nice to sleep in a little bit every day and take care of other things in life with the extra time I have. I feel a few of life’s inevitable niggles slipping away and I have energy and focus that were lacking there for a bit. In short, this break thing seems to be working.

A few of my friends have asked, “Why a three-week break? Seems a bit long.” And perhaps it is. But for me, with over 25 years of running on my legs, I figure longer is better and if in that third week I feel like a horse in the starting gate of the Kentucky Derby, I’ll chalk it up to smarts and rest just a little bit more.

I have some big plans for the year ahead and I am looking forward to pushing myself more than I have for the past few years, so I figure I need to be ready, physically and mentally. It feels like this time off will do this. Don’t get me wrong, February 6th can’t come soon enough, but I have to believe that the mental benefit of forcing myself to not train may ultimately be more beneficial than training, as counterintuitive as that seems. I’ll keep you posted!

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week

Alpine Beer Company Captain StoutThis week’s Beer of the Week comes from Alpine Beer Company in Alpine, California. Earlier this week, I had a chance to sample their Captain Stout, a chocolate oatmeal stout that is simply delicious. Weighing in at 6% ABV and 30 IBUs, it is the quintessential breakfast stout with just the right kick. Not too much chocolate and just a touch of coffee. Yum!

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • Have you taken a break from running this year? If so, what was your break like? Did you take time off from running entirely? Did you do other sports? How did you fill your time?
  • Has your time off from running evolved from year to year or as the years progress? Maybe as a result of your current health, the aging process, an increase in the number of races available in winter, an increase of recreation users on trails making them snowpacked and runnable even in winter, or something else?
Andy Jones-Wilkins

Andy Jones-Wilkins is an educator by day and has been the author of AJW’s Taproom at iRunFar for over 11 years. A veteran of over 190 ultramarathons, including 38 100-mile races, Andy has run some of the most well-known ultras in the United States. Of particular note are his 10 finishes at the Western States 100, which included 7 times finishing in the top 10. Andy lives with his wife, Shelly, and Josey, the dog, and is the proud parent of three sons, Carson, Logan, and Tully.