Returning to Training: How to adjust your training intensity after a training break

As runners, few things are more frustrating than being sidelined with sickness, soreness or injury. There will often be an itch to get back into training that gets stronger with each day of scheduled training you miss. This can result in a significantly higher motivation to train once the body rids itself of the sickness, soreness or injury. However, after a training break, how much fitness and conditioning do you actually lose? And how does this affect your training paces and intensities once you are able to return to training? With the help of legendary US distance coach Jack Daniels, we investigate.

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Adjusting your Training Paces

Using the table below, we can objectively advise how much you should adjust your training intensities based upon how many days you have been unable to train for. The great thing about this table is it accounts for whether you have been cross training in this time or have been completely rested. The table, as well as two examples of how the table works, can be seen below.

Please note that this table refers specifically to your aerobic training paces (zones 1 -5) that are derived from a 30min Critical Velocity Test (Vcr). To learn more on these zones, please see HERE

  • Adjustment 1 to be used if the runner has NOT been aerobically cross-training
  • Adjustment 2 to be used if the runner has been aerobically cross-training
Training Break Adjustment 1 (%) Adjustment 2 (%)
5 days or less 100 100
6 days 99.7 99.8
7 days 99.4 99.7
10 days 98.5 99.2
14 days 97.3 98.6
21 days 95.2 97.6
28 days 93.1 96.5
35 days 91 95.5
42 days 88.9 94.4
49 days 86.8 93.4
56 days 84.7 92.3
63 days 82.6 91.3
70 days 80.5 90
72 days OR more 80 90


For example:

  1. If a runner has been using a Vcr pace of 4min/km for their aerobic training sessions, has been sick with a virus and has not trained at all in 2 weeks, then we would take 97.3%
    • 4min/km = 15km/h
    • 15 x .973 = 14.6km/h
    • 6km/h = 4.07min/km
    • new Vcr pace = 4.07min/km
  1. If a client has been using a Vcr pace of 4min/km for their aerobic training sessions, has had shin pain and has not run in 2 weeks BUT has been cycling regularly at a moderate to high intensity in this time off, then we would take 98.6%
    • 4min/km = 15km/h
    • 15 x .986 = 14.79km/h
    • 79km/h = 4.07min/km
    • new Vcr pace = 4.03min/km

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Key Points

A couple of key points that can be noted from the table are highlighted below:

  • If you miss 5 days or less through sickness or soreness, there is no need to adjust your training intensity. So long as the body has fully recovered, then you can return to your normal training paces.
  • The positive effect of cross training becomes more important the longer you have off. This is quite obvious for most people; however the table can provide some objective numbers on how much fitness you will save if you cross train. For example, if our Vcr pace = 5min/km and we miss 4 weeks of training but did perform cross training, our Vcr drops 11s/km. However if we don’t cross train in those 4 weeks, our Vcr drops 22s/km. I.e. cross training leads to a saving of 11s/km when returning into training.

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Whilst injury prevention through load management should always be your first priority, injury and sickness do occur during the course of a runners training towards their goal event. Understanding how to adjust your training after these breaks from training allows for the most effective transition back into training, without the risk of over or under working your body.

We trust you now have a greater understanding as to how you can alter your training intensity after a break from training. If you wish to know more about this topic, or anything to do with your running training, please get in touch with our expert coaching team who are ready to assist you towards your next running goal! Please email or see our website.

Running Regards,

Front Runner Coaching Team