Staying in Shape While Taking a Break

By Debbie Perry

People might accuse me of not understanding this one, but I have to confess that I have just taken a break for 12 months. That’s right, 12 months! Now, I realize that “break” is defined differently for everyone, but in my case it means no races (None! Nada! Zero!) Hardly any workouts over 90 minutes and most all weeks of training staying in the 4-6 hours a week range. I have gotten lots of extra days off too! So, I think I have come to understand, at a much deeper level, how to maintain fitness on very minimal time per week. Now, some of you might disagree with me on the concept that 4-6 hours is minimal time, but reality is that if you want to “stay in shape”, then you will need to commit at least the 4 hours. And that gives plenty of room for a couple days off a week. So here are some tips on how to maximize the time you do put in so that all that hard-earned fitness doesn’t fade into the shadows of fall and winter.

  • Make sure that you do take at least a 4-6 week recovery/transition period every year. During this time do activities and exercise you wouldn’t normally have time to do. When you do run, bike or swim then, stick to some slow and easy workouts. Here is an important article about Stage 1 of off-season training.


  • Commit to two 30-60 minute quality strength worka week in the winter (one in the summer) followed by a slow 30 minute run/bike or swim. This strength work could be in the weight room or in the form of classes like Crossfit or Body Pump or just by yourself with P90X. Keep the intensity challenging, but not too hard or too long!
  • Commit to two aerobic sessions a week of running or biking and make it more intense, but keep it under an hour. Here are some run workout ideas: Mile repeats, speed work and hills.  You can always shorten the hard parts of the workouts when you are just not ready to do it all on that day. But a little bit of hard is way better than a lot of bit of easy. You maintain fitness very easily when you focus on intensity.
  • For swimming, focus on technique.
  • If you do want to go for a longer run or bike, the keep it to once a week and keep it to 90 minutes or less for the run and 2 hours or less on the bike.
  • Work on your flexibility as much as possible and do a yoga or at home stretch session on some of your rest days although don’t count this as part of your 4-6 hours of working out even though it is essential.

Well, that’s it. 4-5 days a week of some strength, speed and a long day are all it takes to maintain some great fitness for a couple months.  It is emotionally, mentally and physically refreshing to know that you can focus on other important things in your life while spending minimal time training.

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