8 Warning Signs It’s Time to Take a Break From Running

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We all have those days or maybe weeks that you feel less than motivated to get out for a run. That’s normal! However, if you don’t then, please share your secrets!

If your demotivation lasts more than a week or so then it’s time to pay attention. Running through small aches, pains or exhaustion won’t make you a hero.

Here are a few warning signs that it’s time for a break:


One of the most important reasons to stop running. Your body is excellent at giving warning signs before a serious injury. Most stress fractures don’t come out of nowhere and start off as small aches and pains.

As runners, we are great at thinking: “eh it will get better tomorrow” and continue to run. Don’t be afraid to take a few days off. You don’t lose fitness in a day or even a week, and you can save your training cycle by taking a few days off. As they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Frequent sickness

If you find yourself getting sick often, your immune system might be compromised. This is especially important if you suffer a lot from colds or flu.

Training while sick doesn’t make you a hero, and it will cause you to take more time to recover. If you find yourself sick often, take a look and see if your training is to blame.

Changes in heart rate

Changes in your heart rate at rest is a massive indicator if your body is under more stress. Many watches, fitbits, and technology gadgets have a heart rate monitor built in. Some even take the guesswork out and will tell you if your resting heart rate is higher than usual.

Whether you are training or not, keeping tabs on your resting heart rate can benefit anyone and prevent overtraining.


To build fitness as a runner, you must train. However, more isn’t always better, and it’s a fine balance between both pushing yourself and recovery. If you continue to push yourself without proper rest and recovery, you will over train and potentially lead to an injury or burn out.

Overtraining can be tricky to spot but here are a few things to look or:

  • Regression in either training runs, workouts, or races. Take an honest look at your workouts: Are you getting slower but putting in the same, or even more effort?
  • Fatigue: Are you more tired than ever? Do you find yourself sleeping more?
  • Always sore: Does it take you longer to recover from a workout and your legs are often feeling sorer?
  • Sickness: Are you getting sick more frequently?
  • Lack of excitement: Do you care? When I crossed the finish line of my half marathon last year and didn’t care I had missed my goal by over 5 minutes, I knew something was wrong.


Many runners don’t realize the importance of appropriate fueling. This doesn’t just mean “getting enough fuel” but also getting the right kind of fuel.

If you are often craving salty or sweet food, your diet might be lacking in essential nutrients. Getting enough fuel is an important topic in itself.

If you starve yourself or try and diet through the season, you will feel tired and won’t be able to reach the goals you hoped for. Starving yourself to lose weight may also lead to injury because your body isn’t getting the nutrients to recover appropriately.

Performance plateau

It doesn’t matter if you are elite or not. Most runners have a plateau in their career at least once, but it is important to recognize the difference between a plateau and regression.

If you find your training is regressing for no definitive reason, it’s time to take a step back. It could be for a number of reasons such as:

  • Lack of sleep, rest or recovery
  • Not enough variety


By nature, running can be a boring and lonely sport. If you find yourself getting bored take a look at why. Are you running the same route and doing the same thing? Here are a few ways to mix it up:

  • Run new routes
  • Run with new people. Did you know many running stores have group runs?
  • Run on a new surface such as trails, track, or heck even switch it up to the treadmill if you desire.
  • Cross-train
  • Find something new to train for

Low-quality sleep

Do you find yourself staying up late, unable to sleep, or waking up well before your alarm? Low quality sleep can often be a sign of overtraining or even improper fueling.

Any elite athlete will tell you, sleep is the best recovery. Some professional runners even brag about the amount they can sleep. Aim to get about 8 hours of sleep.

One thing I’ve personally found to help me is to try and shut off technology around 9 pm. Even if I’m not asleep, not staring at a screen allows my brain to just relax.

Overtraining and mental fatigue can be prevented by paying close attention to the little things. That way, you don’t find yourself in the middle of your training cycle burned out or even worse, injured!

Tell us below: Have you ever needed a break from running? How did you know?

Hollie Sick is an avid runner who’s completed more than 40 half marathons. Read her blog, or follow her on Facebook.

6 comments… add one
  • Chris June 14, 2020, 9:23 pm

    I have recently switched to morning runs before work and I look forward to it every day. On my rest/recovery day, I feel a little twinge of guilt for not running. But I do stretches and exercises. I have recently started adding strength training to my day. I’m not sure if I do too much. It’s usually a three mile run with 15-20 minutes of working out.

  • Olivia June 5, 2020, 9:13 am

    I have been running consistently since the beginning of the pandemic lockdown in March. About a few weeks ago, my whole body just crashed and I could barely run. Before I was running at 20+ miles, and those weeks my highest was 10-12 miles. This past week I have greatly increasing my mileage so that it is similar to what is was in March/April, but lately I have been feeling very tired and my runs keep getting slower. Should I take a rest and/or am I on my way to an injury? I am debating taking a day off, but I am not sure.

    • Gab April 15, 2021, 4:53 am

      That’s crazy I’m having the exact same issue. My pace dropped from being able to run 13 miles at a ten minute pace. To today I could only run 10 miles at a 14:40 pace. I think I should maybe take a few days off? But I don’t know?

  • Paul Lyons September 16, 2018, 8:24 pm

    I am 70 years old. I ran my 1st half marathon in 2015 in 1 hr 59 min and 30 seconds. In 2016 I placed 3rd but my time was 1 minute slower (2 hrs 30 seconds). I skipped last year because of what I believe to be a herniated disc. I just turned 70 in June and ran the 1/2 marathon today (9-16-2018) in 2hrs and 11 minutes…very slow. Because I was recouping from the disc problem I averaged only 15-18 miles per week (was doing 22+ miles per week). Do you believe reduction to 15-18 miles per week negatively affected my performance today? Thanks! Paul Lyons

    • Mark January 30, 2019, 3:50 pm

      Hi Paul, I do not think your reduction to 15-18 miles per week is the cause of your 2hr 11min half (which is NOT slow for a 70 year old…fabulous job).
      Try not to focus so much on how far you’re running and how fast. Focusing on these aspects will encourage you to overtrain and to train with poor technique in pursuit of better numbers. Try to focus more on how your body feels while you run. The better and stronger your body feels after a run, the more accomplished your run was. I haven’t kept track of miles in years and have since done nothing but beat my goal times when race day comes around.

      Happy running Paul! P.S. Don’t forget to cross-train!

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