By Kirsten Todd: Hooked on Running


Sometimes the “silly season” gets a little to well…silly. Somehow it seems harder to fit your training in around the Christmas/New Year holiday period than it is to fit it into your regular busy schedule.

Sound familiar?

If you’ve had a little training hiccup over Christmas, read on.


How Quickly Do You Lose Fitness?

That’s very dependent on your level of fitness prior to taking a break. The longer you have been consistently training, and the fitter you are before you take a break, the less dramatic your fitness loss.

If you’ve only been training for a couple of months and have a week off from training, you’ll most likely find your regular route is a bit tougher next time round. If you’ve been training consistently for 6 months or more and you’re at a high level of fitness, the fitness you’ll lose from having a week off will be negligible. (Of course, if you’re carrying around a bit of extra Christmas cheer on your waistline, that’s going to make it a bit tougher as well!)


What Happens To Your 5k Race Time?

If you’re a 30 min 5k’er, after an 8 day layoff, your race time will be around 20 seconds slower, but if you have 10-14 days off, you’re likely to be turning in a time about a minute and a half slower. Let that break blow out to a month, and your 5k time will be around 34:30.


20 min 5k’ers can expect to add a minute onto their time after a couple of weeks of no training, and another 2 mins after a month off.


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How Quickly Can You Get Your Fitness Back?

If you’ve been solidly training for 4-6 months, and you have a couple of weeks off, you should be back to pre-layoff fitness within 2 weeks. Even if you’ve had 2 months off, if you were well trained before your layoff, you’re likely to have retained about 40% of your fitness that you gained through training.


If your training had been less consistent prior to Christmas, and your training slipped a bit more during Christmas/New Year, it is going to take you a bit longer to get back up to where you were. It’ll probably take you up till around the middle of February- that is 4-5 weeks of consistent training- to get you back to your pre-Christmas fitness level.

It won’t happen overnight… but it will happen if you put in the effort.


How to Get Back to Your Pre-Break Fitness Level

Whatever fitness level you were at pre-layoff, it’s important to remember you will NOT be at the same fitness level you were before your break. The fitter you were before taking a break, the quicker you can get back to your pre-layoff fitness level.

Anything over a couple of weeks’ break means you need to start your training at a lower level of volume and intensity than you were training at before your break. As with everything to do with running training, there’s no one size fits all approach. It’s a good idea to be conservative for at least the first week after a break. You could try a couple of run/walk sessions. If you were doing 2 * 30 min runs and a 60 min run before your break, plan to still spend the same amount of time on your feet moving, but don’t run the whole way.

Change from running to walking before you feel you need to, walk for a couple of minutes, and pick it up to a run again. For a 30 minute run, this might look like

  • 2 min walk
  • 8 min run
  • 2 min walk
  • 8 min run
  • 2 min walk
  • 6 min run
  • 2 min walk

If that feels ok, you can step the next session up a bit.

Even if you’re an advanced runner, employing a run/walk strategy to get back into it is a good idea. People have run Olympic marathon qualifiers walking through drink stations, so if it’s good enough for them, it should sit ok with we lesser mortals.

Is Taking a Break a Good Idea?


It’s a good idea to have a couple of weeks off from training every 5-6 months to freshen up both mentally and physically. You’ll often find you make greater fitness gains after having a couple of weeks off, even though you will lose a bit of fitness during the break.



The author, Kirsten Todd, has over 15 years’ experience in the health and fitness industry. She’s on a mission to have more women astounded by their own achievements.

In 2007 she founded Hooked on Running, in response to the growing demand from busy women in their 30’s, 40’s and 50’s, to train smart and make the best use of their scarce training time. As a small business owner and mother of two, (and a past life working in the corporate world) she knows first-hand the juggling act that’s required to fit training around family and work commitments. She coaches women online locally, interstate and internationally, runs weekly group interval training sessions in Sydney and conducts Learn to Run training courses for running novices.

>>More blog posts by Kirsten Todd