Break From Running: 8 Runner-Friendly Tips for an Offseason

Need time off? Maybe you need to take a break from running.

Maybe your race season is over. Maybe you're injured or bored. Or maybe you've been training hard for months, and you're ready for a change?

A break from running typically happens in two ways...

  1. Intentional, usually after a long and/or difficult race.
  2. Unintentional, brought on by injury, illness or hardship. 

Usually, breaks are somewhat long - at least several weeks, even months. Perhaps a running break can be better defined as a hiatus or sabbatical.  

Or… a vacation!

Yes, let’s call it a vacation instead of a running break. Consider it a chance to:

  • Get away
  • See new sights
  • Try new things
  • Experience different cultures...

So you can return happier, refreshed and ready for the rewarding, challenging, wonderful work of running.

No matter how the running break came to be, it’s important to make the most of it in ways that are feasible to you. 

Here are eight things you can do during your running break or vacation from running to stay productive, fit, happy and involved in the running community.

1. Cross train

Sometimes a running break is caused by serious injuries that limit cross training activities or completely eliminate them altogether. 

But if your situation allows, it's important to find an aerobic activity to keep the heart healthy and blood pumping similar to the way running does.

In other words, don’t become a couch potato just because you’re not running.

—Brynn Cunningham

Great aerobic activities can include:

  • Walking
  • Swimming
  • Cycling
  • Skiing, and many others.

One of my personal-favorite cross-training activities: Whitewater kayaking.

I’m not sure it’s super aerobic. At least my Garmin fenix 6s tells me my heart rate never touches what it does while running, even if I’m sweating while attaining (paddling upstream) or surfing waves.

Nonetheless, individuals can find what works for them, from cardio gym machines to outdoor activities.

👉The key to a productive running break: Do something enjoyable that gets the happy, feel-good endorphins flowing.

Author kayaking the Lower Youghiogheny River in Ohiopyle, Penn. (Photo/Colleen O’Neill)

2. Strength train

Taking a running break gives you a good opportunity to experience your body in new ways.

Add strength training in the form of weight-based training with:

  • Dumbbells
  • Kettlebells
  • Barbells or machines

Or try body-weight strength training with:

Strength training can reveal weaknesses and ultimately balance your body’s musculature. 

Plus, weight training is a great way to increase bone density and body awareness at the same time, key components to being a healthy runner.

Some of my favorite strength training resources that I use at home with dumbbells, bands, ankle weights, swiss ball and kettlebell include:

Strength training is a great way to increase bone density and body awareness at the same time, key components to being a healthy runner.

3. Do yoga

This is an extension of number two.

Yoga can act as your go-to body-weight strengthening practice... and so much more.

The ancient mind-body-soul system also improves: 

  • Balance
  • Coordination
  • Mobility
  • Flexibility
  • Stamina
  • Breath control
  • Stress management

Use yoga to relax & reduce stress

More than anything, yoga incorporates breathing in a way that activates the parasympathetic nervous system, putting the body in a state of relaxation. 

Pairing deep breathing with movement minimizes stress on the mat and ultimately off the mat, in all aspects of life.

Pairing deep breathing with movement minimizes stress on the mat and ultimately off the mat, in all aspects of life.

—Brynn Cunningham

Yoga can be as athletic as the practitioner desires, with: 

  • Handstands
  • Push-ups
  • Lunges
  • Arm balances

But it can also be useful for decompressing with:

  • Forward folding
  • Supine stretching

Yoga combines all the essentials runners need in one sweet practice.

No matter what caused your running break...

Yoga is accessible to every single person or condition.

  •  If certain movement is not possible, start with meditation and breathing exercises, known as pranayama, which tones the core at the deepest levels and does wonders for the nervous system. 
  • Visualization, one type of mediation, is a proven method for reaching running goals. 
  • Yoga can be tailored and modified to suit anyone’s needs, on any given day. If you’re new, find a quality instructor or studio, try different types, and forge your personal path toward mind-body-soul health, something that will benefit you now and later, especially once you return to running and possibly highly demanding training. The app I use for my 60-90-minute daily yoga practice offers:   

  • Vinyasa 
  • Ashtanga 
  • Yoga conditioning (including weights within a yoga flow) 
  • Yin 
  • Kundalini 
  • Hatha 
  • Restorative 
  • Meditation 
  • Breathing exercises.  
  • In addition to yoga, it features pilates, barre, fusion classes, weight-based strength training and cardio. 
Author doing dancer’s pose along the Youghiogheny River. (Photo/Colleen O’Neill)

4. Volunteer

Running is a community, and when we are not running, we miss that community.

One way to stay in touch: Volunteer.

Opportunities abound, from joining trail maintenance teams for the long term to trail clean-up days to volunteering at races. 

Find your niche, and give back to the running community that gives so much to you.

Cunningham, part of the Ridge Runners volunteer trail crew, spray paints fresh blazes on the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail. (Photo/ Meg Best)

5. Read running books & stories

Indulge yourself in some good running literature. 

Here are the books I’ve read this year and recommend:

And my favorite running stories: 

Need to take a running break? Indulge yourself in some good running literature.

6. Watch running movies

Weeviews writer and Ambassador Evan Jensen gave us a quality list in Need a Boost of Motivation? Top 10 Movies About Running.

7. Support racers

Running and racing typically go hand in hand. 

Most of us love to toe the line with our friends, family or even complete strangers in new lands. It’s the spirit of the community that brings us to the start line, and we can miss that when we’re not running. 

Rather than wallow in self pity that you’ve missed your favorite race, get out there with your pom-poms or cowbell and give your fellow runners some love! 

  • Attend a local 5K or marathon just to clap and give high fives from the side lines, even if you don’t know anyone running. 
  • If a friend or loved one has a big race coming up, offer to crew for them like Lucie Hanes did when her friend Genevieve Harrison ran the Leadville 100-Mile Ultramarathon.
Genevieve Harrison finished the Leadville 100-Mile Ultramarathon with help from Lucie Hanes and a crew of pacers.

8. Get a massage

Chances are pretty good you already know a good massage therapist.

If you don't, ask your running friends for recommendations. Then book an appointment for a 30-60 minute massage.

It's a proven way to:

  • Speed recovery (after a hard run, training week, or race)
  • Relieve muscle tightness
  • Restore range of motion in joints
  • Improve circulation
  • Reduce stress
Getting a massage is a great way to take a running break and help speed recovery.

Ready for a break from running?

Well, I hope this list inspired you to fill your time off during a running break with fun, meaning and purpose. FYI...there are many other ways to take a break from running to recover and recharge.

Time for a running break? Tell us how you take a running vacation in the comments.

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Brynn Cunningham
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Trail runner, ultrarunner, white water boater, cyclist (mostly MTB), swimmer, triathlete, cross country and backcountry skier...


Marci McGuinness What a great community and lifestyle. I love the volunteering opportunity aspect. That would open up things for shy folks to ease into a group.

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