You triumphed through your running goals this last year. Whether you ran your first 5K or 10K or set a new PR during your last marathon, you can look back on a great season and begin thinking about what’s next.
The off season comes quick, and now with colder temperatures and less daylight, it’s nice to hit snooze at 5 a.m. instead of lacing up your running shoes for a few mornings. Those few mornings turn into a couple of months and before you know it running season is back in swing — and you’re back at square one.
Instead, resolve to make the most of your time off by switching up your routine and working in new activities to up your mental and body fitness and start the season in even better shape that you did last year.
First, Relax and Recharge
Yes, that’s right, take a break. As an athlete, you’re conditioned to focus and make training a priority. The “no pain, no gain” style of self-discipline that’s so popular in the fitness world might help you push through an important training cycle or race, but it’s not sustainable.
Take anywhere from one week to a month off — completely — at the beginning of the off season. This approach gives your body some time to adjust hormonally and helps heal the injuries (and the burnout) that comes from constant training.
Afraid that you’ll lose all of your progress if you take a couple of weeks off? Don’t be. You’ll likely find that exercise is easier after a break, even if you do experience some muscle soreness when you get back to it.
Resolve to make the most of your time off by switching up your routine and working in new activities to up your mental and body fitness and start the season in even better shape that you did last year.
If you must exercise during that time off, make it something simple that’s both easy on your body and mind, like walking, light jogging or aerobics classes at your gym.
Get Some TLC
Your body takes a beating during race season, so use the off season to both rehab it back to health — and pre-hab it for the season ahead — by adding some restorative work to your schedule.
Take yoga classes a couple of times a week, followed by regular manual massages and foam rolling for best results. Also consider adding mobility exercises or Pilates reformer classes to your schedule to help increase flexibility and address muscular imbalances you developed during race season.
Venture into New Parts of the Gym
You might be partial to the treadmill in the off season, but your body can benefit by developing endurance from other activities, like kickboxing, cycling and even bootcamp classes. These activities work the entire body in different ways than running, giving it a new challenge that can help conditioning for the season ahead.
Speaking of new challenges: Cross-training in the weight room is vital for all runners looking to avoid injury and strengthen important muscle groups (like glutes and quads) and the hip flexors. The stronger you are, the easier your body can bounce back from injuries — and adding strength and some muscle mass can help prevent those injuries, too.
That said, you also have to maintain the right right form when lifting weights to avoid adding new injuries. Consider getting a strength coach during your off season to help build you a strength training plan tailored to your running goals and help maintain good form.
Plan for the Season Ahead
A new race season is a fresh start and an opportunity to make — and crush — new running goals.
Use some of that time (and your rested and mentally balanced mind) to contemplate the year ahead and what you want to accomplish. Planning your race calendar and getting ahead on your travel plans can help ease some of the stress that comes when your training ramps back up. With a firm plan in place, you will have plenty to keep you motivated to reach your running goals and lots to look forward to.
And, best of all, it gets you itching to lace up those running shoes again.