Building a Base after a Week-Long Break

Taking a week off running isn’t all that much. In fact, the drop in performance is noticeable only to a very small degree (more than 98% of pre-break fitness is retained). Even though that week felt at least like a month of slacking to me (the growing belly being the best indicator of just how eager my body was to burn that maddeningly excessive calorie intake), most coaches advise two weeks off to be the absolute minimum between seasons or longer training plans. Some elite runners even take up to six weeks off to let their bodies fully regenerate and their minds acquire a renewed taste for racing.

While I currently can’t imagine taking more than a week off, I do see a point in taking a break.

After finishing this past season, which I extended by a whole week and topped with a 5K race, my body and mind screamed for a long recovery period. As a result, I did absolutely nothing for a week following the race, except for stuffing myself with mounds of food.

So today, after putting on almost two pounds in a mere seven days, I woke up to a bleak and cold fall morning, ready to get back into training. Actually, ready would be an understatement—I couldn’t wait to start training!

Because I have some ambitious goals for next year (and one small goal for December: I want to break 20 minutes for a 5K), I decided to commit at least three weeks to base and strength training, with special emphasis on weight training during the two first weeks.

I worked out a training plan that takes into account my level of fitness based on the most recent race result (43:48 for a 10K), the week-long break, and the two-pound weight gain. According to Daniels’ Running Formula, which I highly recommend, getting back to running should be preceded by calculating my current VDOT (value representing running performance) and adjusting the paces and mileage to reflect the drop in fitness induced by the break.

The calculation revealed a one-point drop in VDOT, which now equaled 47. Because the break lasted only seven days, I could get back to my presetback mileage in the second week of training. I’ll be aiming at the average weekly mileage from the three-week period before the 10K race and the final 5K race, and start building mileage gradually from there.

This is how my first two post-break weeks will look like:

Week #1:

  • Monday: 2.5mi recovery + full-body stretch
  • Tuesday: 2mi warmup + weighted leg exercises
  • Wednesday: 3mi easy
  • Thursday: 2mi warmup + core & upper body
  • Friday: 4mi easy + foam rolling & leg stretches
  • Saturday: 2mi warmup + leg routine from Tuesday (optional plyometrics)
  • Sunday: 4mi easy

Total: 19.5mi

Week #2:

  • Monday: 4mi easy + optional strides + stretch
  • Tuesday: 3mi warmup + leg strength routine
  • Wednesday: 5mi easy + 3–4 strides
  • Thursday: 5mi easy + core & upper body + full-body stretch
  • Friday: 3mi warmup + HiiT routine with leg emphasis
  • Saturday: 3mi recovery
  • Sunday: 6mi easy + 5 strides + foam rolling + stretch

Total: 29mi

Maja

Personal bests: 5K - 20:48 10K - 43:48

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