Is it Bad to Stop While Running? 5 Things to Consider
Our community of runners is VERY familiar with the feeling of wanting to stop mid-run. Even just a 5 second break. Doesn’t that sound like heaven during an awful run? Stopping while running is a completely normal impulse. Our bodies want nothing more than to be out of pain. But, is it okay to do?
It isn’t bad to stop while running, but it can be a sign of bigger issues with pacing, breathing, and physical and mental training. Stopping while running also makes it hard to see your progress towards your goals and set you up with bad habits for the future.
Stopping while running isn’t inherently bad. It can be nice to enjoy the scenery, respond to a text every once in a while, and be leisurely. But, if stopping while running happens consistently, it could be a sign of bigger issues that you need to be aware of.
Of course, if you’re injured or having an emergency, STOP immediately. We’re not talking about stopping for urgent reasons. That’s a whole different matter. What we’re talking about in this article is that nagging feeling you have to stop in the middle of your normal, average, every day run. If you feel haunted by the urge to stop, there are some key things that might be at play. We’ll dive into them, as well as how to address them so that you can continue running, stop-free.
1. Get Your Mental Training in Check
If you’re feeling overwhelming urges to stop while you’re running, it might be a sign that you need to do some work on your mental training.
It’s so easy to focus on the physical aspects of running without considering the mental aspects. There’s a LOT of mental training that goes into running. When you’re in pain, how do you push through and keep going? When you get bored of the countless miles, how do you distract your brain? When the boredom and pain become too much, how do you resist the urge to stop?
Running is a HUGE practice in pain tolerance. Your brain will do everything possible to get you to stop and relieve the pain. The trick is to calm your brain down, resist the urge to stop, and find a way to embrace the pain.
This isn’t easy. In fact, there are times that I focus on my mental training more than my physical training. If I can’t get my brain in check, I won’t be able to push myself physically. My brain and body need to be working together.
Take some time to focus on increasing your pain tolerance. Or, in the case of running, the more appropriate term is “discomfort” tolerance. How can you train your brain to be ok with being uncomfortable?
If you want an AMAZING guide for training your brain to handle the discomfort that comes with running, pick up Matt Fitzgerald’s book, “How Bad Do You Want It.” Sadly, there aren’t a lot of books about this very important subject of mental pain training. Matt’s book is one of the few books in this category and, luckily, it’s fantastic.
2. Your Pacing is Off
If you’re feeling the urge to stop while running, it could be a sign that your pacing is off. Even when you’re doing tempo runs and pushing yourself to go faster, you shouldn’t be running so fast that you wind up exhausted and needing to stop.
Be aware of how you feel when you stop mid-run. Are you appropriately winded? Or, are you huffing and puffing like you’re just done an all out sprint? If it feels like you have no choice but to stop and catch your breath, this is a good sign that you need to rethink your pacing.
Slow down your pace for the next few runs and see if that helps you squash the urge to stop. Make sure that you have a reliable running watch that you can use to accurately gauge your pace and keep you on track. If you need a new running watch that will track your every step, here are my top recommendations.
3. Your Breathing is All Over the Place
If your pacing isn’t a problem, but you’re still stopping mid-run to catch your breath, take a look at HOW you’re breathing. Yes, HOW you’re breathing. This simple act of breathing that we’ve all done since we were born is actually more complicated than you think. If you’re stopping a lot because you’re constantly gasping for air, that’s not good.
Rhythmic breathing changed my running life.
That sounds dramatic, but it’s true. Before I learned rhythmic breathing, I was stopping all of the time to catch my breath. It was REALLY frustrating because everything else was fine. My muscles wanted to push forward, but I couldn’t get my lungs to cooperate.
Once I learned rhythmic breathing, I no longer needed to stop mid-run to catch my breath. I also increased my SPEED, almost instantly. Yeah, I thought the only benefit would be reducing my amount of mid-run breaks but, in fact, dialing in my breathing made me a faster runner.
It makes sense when you think about it. Oxygen is a KEY ingredient for our bodies to function properly. Without it, we wouldn’t last very long. When we learn how to regulate our breathing as we’re running, we give our bodies a way to use oxygen more efficiently. In the end, our bodies reward us by working more efficiently and performing better.
Rhythmic breathing is a game changer. Runner’s World has a great book called Running on Air that will teach you everything you need to know about incorporating rhythmic breathing into your running routine. Trust me, you’ll learn something. Breathing is SO fundamental, yet we never think about optimizing it. When you learn how to breathe rhythmically, you’ll give yourself a HUGE leg up.
4. It’s Hard to See Your Progress
If you’re a runner who likes to take meticulous notes about your pacing and mileage, stopping can be a huge problem for tracking your progress.
I don’t know about you, but every time I stop, I pause my running watch. Once I get started again, I feel fresh and rejuvenated, which has a deceptive benefit on my speed and ability to run farther. Depending on how many times I stop during a run, this can end up having a big effect on my metrics overall.
When you’re trying to get an accurate sense of your running abilities, DON’T STOP. Stopping will only throw off your metrics by giving you the advantage of taking a little refresher mid-run.
Why is this so bad, you might ask? Well, you can only gauge your progress if your metrics are accurate. Having inaccurate metrics can set you down a path towards inaccurate goals, screw up your pacing, and even lead to race disasters. If your metrics are off and you head into a race thinking that you’re faster than you actually are, you might be in for some disappointment.
Sure, stopping mid-run might not have such a dramatic impact on your metrics that it radically impacts your perception of your pacing. Honestly, you might only see a slight difference. But, as we’ll talk about next, taking those breaks can easily become something you rely upon.
Not hitting the right pace? Take a break and start again fresh and faster.
Huffing and puffing? Stop for a few minutes to catch your breath and start again once you’re regulated.
If you stop your watch every time you stop mid-run, you might start using it as a crutch when you aren’t hitting the numbers you’d like to see. This can create a REALLY bad habit of stopping when a run isn’t going as well as planned.
5. You’re Using it as an Excuse
Excuses are the best. They let us get away with avoiding hard work. Laundry, taxes, car repairs, excuses cover them all. And yes, excuses apply to running too.
If you’re stopping while running, you might be ignoring a bigger problem like your breathing, pacing, overall endurance, and more.
Ask yourself if you’re stopping while running as an excuse. Is there a real problem going on that you’re avoiding? Stopping is easier than fixing your pacing, resetting your goals, acknowledging an injury, or dialing in your breathing. Taking a quick break is SO much easier than doing the hard work to fix the issues with your running routine.
Be honest with yourself about whether your running breaks are really just excuses.
Stopping while running isn’t inherently bad. Sometimes, it’s a way to enjoy a leisurely run. Other times, it’s a way to hide a bigger running issue. Whenever you take a mid-run break, be reflective and honestly ask yourself why you’re stopping. If you can pinpoint the reason behind your running breaks, you’ll nip a lot of your running problems in the bud and become a better runner overall.
Hey, I’m Diana! I’m an occupational therapist and a long distance runner. I’ve run more races than I can count from 5ks through full marathons, including the Boston Marathon. Right now, my PR for the marathon is 3:09 and 1:26 for the half. I’m a bit obsessed with running and sharing what I’ve learned along the way. Let’s crush some running goals together!