How to Survive a Career-Driven Break from Running

Flickr Commons Image by Divine Harvester.
We Salty Runners are ambitious, but that often means running must take a backseat. Flickr Commons Image by Divine Harvester.

If you’re a Salty fan, you probably know what it feels like for running goals to be at the top of your list of priorities.  But you also know that, for nearly all of us, running can’t be the top priority.  Sometimes life happens and you gotta take a break.

It seems to me that most breaks from training come when our bodies dictate a need, like during an injury or a pregnancy. Ginger just wrote about that yesterday, in fact. But there are lots of other reasons it might happen.  Maybe you have to take care of a sick parent, or maybe you’re preparing to move across the country. Unless you’re a pro runner or are independently wealthy, you also might need to take a break when your career requires more attention–I recently did.  And it might be heartbreaking to watch your running goals slip away even when your body is capable. But you can get through it! 

First things first: remember you can always come back
Having just completed a five month long job on a TV show, it’s good to finally be able to say this: I’m back, bitches!  It feels so good to be up to a kerjillion miles per week and to know I can train hard.  It feels good to browse with an eye toward actually running a race.  It feels good to write to you, my adoring Salty public, who I love so dearly!!  I missed you guys!

But back to you: I promise you’ll be able to return to training as soon as circumstances allow, so take heart – your old buddy running will be there when you’re ready for your big comeback!

When there’s no time, you make time
The great news is that when your break from training is “voluntary” (which, let’s face it, is a ridiculous word for a break from training, but you know what I mean), you can sneak a mile or two in here and there.

While I was “gone,” there was no time for track workouts, no energy for anything better than an easy pace really, and on work days, squeezing in a couple miles at lunch was the best I could do most of the time.  But hey, that’s 10 miles right there!   You have to get a little creative and run during times you normally wouldn’t, but you can still have a running life, even if it’s a little smaller.

A running lunch is a good way to squeeze in a few when time is tight.
A running lunch is a good way to squeeze in a few when time is tight.

Do what you can, and let that be enough.  
Often at the end of the week when I looked at my mileage and saw that I was running 15-20 miles per week I’d feel badly about it, but I knew it was the best I could do.  And you know what? My best is more than enough, and yours is too!  There’s no reason to feel guilty or to overdo it on the next run, and there’s no reason to put undue pressure on yourself.  Do what you can, and if you feel bad…

Identify your main priorities.
This may sound a little cheesy, but if you list your top five or ten priorities, it’s easy to remember what comes first.  While on the job, my top priority was making money to offset a very financially lean first half of the year, and the second was completing the gig to build my resume…running didn’t even make the list until number six!

Identifying that by putting it to paper really helped me when I had to choose between doing paperwork or running on my lunch break, or when it came to skipping a running commute to work in favor of getting an extra hour of sleep (can’t be late!), and it even helped me feel less race-envy when I was watching the NYC Marathon.  Having that list close at hand helped me feel completely at ease with my time off!


Have you ever taken a break from training because you had to spend time elsewhere?  How did you make it through?

Cinnamon made Salty Running, takes lots of pictures and drinks lots of coffee. By day she's a camera assistant for films and tv in New York, and by night she's on a quest for zen in the 10k. Her writing is a mix of satirical humor, finding wholeness as an average runner, cheering for runners at all paces and more.

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  1. Though I haven’t had to take a career break from running, I have had to take an injury break. I think a lot of the same applies. Also, I’m so adding #runch to my everyday vernacular. Great piece!

    1. Mmm, runch is the best lunch ever, especially when you’re stressed from work keeping you away from your run true love (get it? oh with the puns…). Thanks for reading! Glad you liked it!

  2. Great piece, Cinn! I found that this past summer when I was in transition from my business to re-entering the professional world that running was automatically demoted. I didn’t even have time to think or contemplate it, which was a good thing. Eventually, when things settled down, the passion came back. Looking forward to seeing you back out there!

  3. I’ve taken the injury break too often.
    I feel like I’m on a mental break right now. I’m only running short races and not getting too wound up about my training schedule. I’m just running when I feel like it.
    It may be because I do not have a marathon on my schedule, I ran ran to many marathons last year.