Losing vs. Retaining Endurance


When we were in Kenya, I didn’t run once. To be honest, we really wanted to run (after all, it’s our favorite way to explore new places!), but it just wasn’t an option. Safety was a concern and when we were on safari, there simply wasn’t a place to run.

Before going on our trip, I was averaging ~50 miles/week. But after two weeks of goose egg mileage, I was worried it’d be a little rough getting back into it.

The day after we landed back in the states, I went out for an 11 miler. And boy did it hurt. My legs were trashed by the end.

I’ve heard people say you begin to lose endurance after X amount of days sans-running. Have you heard that before? I was worried I had lost a lot of the endurance I had been building prior to the trip.

We’ve been back stateside for two weeks now, and I’ve been able to jump right back into my training plan mileage (~55 miles/week) without any glitches. My legs feel better than ever.

Maybe taking two weeks off from running doesn’t hurt your endurance as much as we all fear? Maybe distance runners can retain their base of endurance, even if we take time off because of a trip, or injury, etc?

On Saturday, we went for our longest LR of the training cycle yet: 19 miles. We started running at 5AM, and enjoyed the quiet city streets to all ourselves.
Then enjoyed a beautiful sunrise.
And once the sun was up, we hopped on some gorgeous trails.
Weez had to finish up a bit before me, so I was on my own for the last 5 miles. I so much rather enjoy his company, so I ran ’em quick to finish those last miles and turned it into a rewarding progression run.

I guess what last weekend’s LR taught me, was that it’s okay to take some time off running if you need to; that you won’t lose as much endurance as you think; and that your legs will know how to hop right back into training!

Does anyone know of any studies/research that correlates time-off with loss of endurance with distance runners? If so, share it the comments below! I’d be curious to know! 

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Kimberly says:

    Very interesting and good to hear!


  2. I don’t know about any specific stats, other than the fact that you start to lose muscle mass after two weeks of inactivity (you are fine there!). But on an anecdotal level, one of my closest friends/training partners travels to Afghanistan for work, often two weeks at a time. Clearly, running there (as a woman no less) is not an option. But it never seems to affect her in the long run–I think that yes, sometimes our legs thank us for the rest!

  3. Holly KN says:

    I shall now use a strategy that I dislike when my students use: “I don’t have an answer to the question you asked, but let me answer a slightly different one, instead!”

    Jack Daniels (my running guru of choice) makes suggests for adjusting both pace and volume after breaks of different lengths. To adjust volume after a 2 week break, he recommends 7 days at 50% load and 7 days at 75% load. I’m not entirely sure that I agree with him on this one – I think that many people can tolerate a faster return to mileage – especially since they’ll be coming back rested and refreshed.

    More interesting to me, though, are his pace adjustment recommendations. He makes his recommendations based on VDOTs, basically his way of categorizing a runner’s current fitness and his/her appropriate training paces. For a break of 2 weeks, during which you’ve been cross-training, he suggests that you adjust your VDOT as such: (0.986) * (pre-break VDOT). [Make that 0.973 if you haven’t been cross-training.] I don’t know if you’re familiar with Danials’ VDOT charts, but the practical implication is…your training paces won’t change much at all. To me, this implies that little aerobic fitness is lost over the course of an otherwise-active-2-week break.

    [That sounds more confusing than it was intended to be. Let me know if you want clarification. :)]

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