What To Do In The Off-season

Happy Monday!  We are having a lovely week up in Northern Michigan.  The weather is beautiful and a complete change from last year when we were here and surrounded by 12 inches of snow.

I have been getting a lot of questions lately from clients in regards to off-season training.  Marathon season has come and gone for the most part.  And even the athletes who were moaning and groaning the most about how they hated marathon training are starting to question what their next race will be.  The addiction is real, my friends!


So where does this leave you this time of year?  I like to think of training as a “choose your own adventure” and the off-season is very much a part of that adventure.

The first step is to figure out if you had any nagging injuries during your last round of training.  If the answer is yes, you then need to determine if this is still an issue or if you are still injured.  Any injuries that are still hanging around need to be dealt with first.  That means you might want to spend a little bit more time resting and cross training until you feel 100% again.  You might want to consider reaching out to a physical therapist or trainer who can help you heal those injuries in the proper way.

If you did deal with nagging injuries and especially any overuse injuries, this is a great indicator of where your training should be headed this winter.  If for example, you were dealing with hamstring of IT band issues, you would benefit from some strength training exercises to help balance you out a bit more before you begin another round of training.  Focusing on squats and other exercises will help you avoid such issues in the future.

Two years ago, Rock had a rough training season coming into the Chicago Marathon.  But he arrived strong and was ready to take on the race.  He called me from mile 18 and was so frustrated to tell me that he had random hip flexor issue come out of nowhere.  It was incredibly annoying, to say the least.  But he got on a strength training plan all winter and worked his core and lower body like never before.  By spring, he was a much stronger and healthier runner.

Keep in mind that you do not need a gym membership to get the benefits of strength training.  In fact, I prefer to do all of my workouts at home, watching mindless television.  Simple exercises like planks, squats, and plies will change your running for the better.  No equipment is necessary!

And apparently, you can eat breakfast at the same time too!

And apparently, you can eat breakfast at the same time too!

The next step in your off-season training adventure is to determine a healthy amount of mileage for you.  You certainly do not need to continue logging 60-70 miles per week.  Maybe your body feels good on 40 or even 20 weekly miles.  It is totally up to you to find a healthy balance.  It is best to not completely bag running for several months and then try to jump back in again but at the same time your body needs a break from that heavy mileage.

Your running can be maintained over the winter months on nice short runs of just 3 miles, if you choose.  I recommend aiming for three weekly workouts of about 3-5 miles at a time.  Try getting a longer weekend run in of 7-10 miles to keep your legs and endurance going.

But don’t forget about cross training.  If you find yourself feeling a bit out of love with your running, embrace some other workouts and keep that endurance strong.  Hit the elliptical (I used to love doing this with an US Weekly in hand!).  Take a spin class or try swimming.  Yoga is a great form of exercise and my local studio offers a cardio yoga class with weights.  Sometimes enjoying other forms of exercise will bring back that love and adoration you feel is missing from your running.


Keep in mind that off-season training should be about healing and maintenance.  Deal with past injuries, get yourself stronger, and keep moving.  By the time training starts back up in the spring, you will be more than ready to get back in there.

25 thoughts on “What To Do In The Off-season

  1. I am trying VERY hard to respect the off-season right now. I’ve continually been training for the past 18 months, and I know my body and my mind need a break! I have taken almost three weeks completely off from running and have already felt a difference in the way I feel. I am less run down and actually get more restful sleep! I think my break was long overdue 🙂

  2. I’ve been taking it easy the last week only because I’ve been sick but I think it’s been good for my body to have a break. This winter is all about continued running, strength training and being out in the shoe skiing and snowshoeing! Great tips!

  3. I spent a week doing whatever I want, and now I am going to keep the theme going but start (hopefully) running EASY miles this week. I really think in order to be successful, you need a good break from it all to let your body fully recover!! Great post and great cross training tips!!

    • I completely agree. It is nice to have a break and do some easy running. We can’t always be on the go. Enjoying the sport for what you came to it for in the first place is good for you.

  4. Apparently, I force myself into an off season with ridiculous injuries like spinal problems and stress reactions… while not training. I think that off seasons are dangerous for me!

  5. Great post! There is so much focus on how to train – and rightfully so – but it’s nice to have a blueprint of what to do when you’re not “on.” And we can’t be “on” all the time (at least I can’t). I’m just getting a week between my goal half marathon and beginning training for my spring marathon due to the timing of races, but I’m planning to take a full week of no exercise. I just hope I don’t get grumpy 🙂

  6. I love to incorporate easy exercises at my desk every 30-40 minutes at work. I use the Stand Up app on my phone to buzz every 30-40 minutes and will do single leg squats, stretches for my hips, single leg romanian deadlifts… basically anything I can comfortably do in my cubicle for 20 seconds 12-15 times per day. It really, really helps!

  7. My off season is the spring/summer so right now I’m in the heavy racing season, lol! But i totally agree we need some time to chill and focus on things we don’t for whatever reason when we’re training. I’ve actually been doing some home strength training like some of the things you mentioned. I know that that’s something I really need to do so I try and do a few things before bed

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