It’s almost the holidays! It’s the perfect time good food and better company, a time for  generosity, good cheer, friends, and family. It’s also the perfect time to let your training schedule lapse just a little bit.


You read that right – I’m not just saying you’ll be forgiven if you fall a little short, I’m actually arguing that you should make sure you do.


I’ve been seeing a lot of articles floating around offering advice for how to push through and stick to your running plan despite the holidays, but they fail to ask one important question: should you?


No one can be on their game 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and it turns out, professional athletes and trainers alike swear by taking lengthy, strategic breaks. In fact, knowing how to relax and recover is every bit as important as knowing how to push yourself and your limits.


It’s not just about enjoying a vacation, either; good things are happening in your body and mind when you take a few weeks off. Three to four weeks away from your usual training routine is the optimal time for your body to do some deep healing, repairing all the micro strains and stresses of hard wear on your muscles and tendons. Not only will this put you in top shape, it will also help fortify you against future injuries that might take you out of the game in a much more damaging way.


While you’re resting, you’ll also be giving yourself some much needed time away from the discipline of training. Your enthusiasm for the sport can re-generate and build until you can’t wait to get back out and train harder than ever!


The best part? There’s no need to feel even the slightest bit guilty, because taking a break will actually give you some fantastic performance gains when you return. Your rehabbed muscles will be ready to leave your previous record in the dust!


If you want to see those gains even sooner, you can keep up a bit of light exercise during the break, so that you aren’t starting from zero when you return. Keep in shape with a layoff training program where you run about a third of the time you normally would, for about half the distance each time. At best, you should be focusing on maintaining your fitness, not improving it.


After a few weeks, gradually build back up to your pre-break training schedule, starting with about 75% of normal if you maintained some light running, or 40% if you went cold turkey. Add about 3 miles per week, and you’ll be back to (and better than) your old performance again in no time.


So instead of forcing yourself to stick to an unrealistic schedule during this busy time, take a few weeks to withdraw and refocus this holiday season. Catch up on your other hobbies, indulge in a few sweet treats, and spend your time and energy on what matters most — family.