Tis The Season For Improvements

I hate to say it, but fall is quickly slipping past us.  Most runners have just finished or are about to wrap up their racing season.  Marathons and half marathons are quickly winding down and so is the excitement of race training.  Most of us look forward to a little break this time of year.  Everyone should take some time off at some point.  This might involve a brief hiatus or a switch to cross training for a few weeks.

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Training for races can be exhausting both mentally and physically.  This is the perfect time of year to take a moment to allow your body to recover.  A break can also help bring back the excitement to run, which might have waned during your training.

The “off season” can be a restful time for some and difficult for others.  Many runners feel frustrated without a race on the horizon or some direction.

As a coach, I think this is a wonderful time in your training.  Many runners come to me when they have a race in mind and we build a plan and work together toward that goal.  However, we are limited by their current running status.  While improvements can be made, changes in gait, form, and even speed can take a much longer time.  In fact, much of this takes quite a long duration and I think it is rather unsafe to start working on changes in gait or form during a training cycle.  There is far too much opportunity for injury.

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I absolutely love working with my runners this time of the year.  The off season is an amazing time to sit down and look at your big picture goals.  You can then break those larger goals into much smaller, easily attainable plans.  This will help you maintain your enjoyment of the sport as you continue to find motivation along the way.

Off season running should involve fewer but much more intentional mileage. More of your time can be spent focused on strength training and conditioning.  Less time needs to be spent on long runs.  Many runs should focus on easy, slow paces to increase aerobic efficiency.  One or two runs per week should be focused on speed work and interval training, if that is your goal.

That extra time not spent on long runs can be focused on strength training that will make you not only a stronger runner but also healthier and less susceptible to injury once you begin race training again.

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My other favorite form of cross training!

Any inefficiencies that you have noticed during your training can now be attended to if necessary.  However, I often recommend that unless you have a quirk in your running that is debilitating, consider making either minor adjustments or none.  For instance, I supinate when I run.  It is obvious, but has not inhibited my running in any major way.  The time spent changing my gait would take away from other goals and those adjustments, even minor ones, could lead to injuries along the way.

The off season is also a great time to work on a fueling and hydration plan.  Focusing on drinking throughout the day and eating a healthy diet is much easier to do when you are not ravenous in the midst of training.  Taking the time now to work on healthy habits will make everything much easier in a few months.

Off season running doesn’t need to be boring.  So many improvements can be made with short mindful workouts.  Over the next few weeks I will be adding various posts on how you can make small improvements before spring races and training return.

How do you like to approach the off season?

9 thoughts on “Tis The Season For Improvements

  1. I think I am blessed to not be a race-focused runner in many ways – sure I could probably be faster than I am if I had that mindset … but at the same time I don’t know too many people who have run for 28 years without an injury. So like anything there are trade-offs.

    But back on topic – I find that I have three seasons “ahh shorts and t-shirt” season, “what the heck do I even WEAR” season, and “ok, one last layer and I can still move my limbs” season … but no off season. 🙂

    And I think that what you say is important – very few of us are anything but hobbyist runners, and therefore we should be trying to fit this hobby into our lives in a way that allows us to maximize our enjoyment and experience, without destroying other aspects. So the ‘off season’ is a great time to learn perspective, to build the habits that we carry into the training season, and so on.

    • You have an awesome mindset when it comes to your running and I love seeing you long run posts. I am not a fan of that “one last layer” season. I’m much more of a shorts fan! I think all of life is a balance. For those of us who do choose to race (and I’m not talking about BQ’ing here….but simply signing up for events) it is nice to vary our workouts, seasons, and perspectives. Kind of like the way we should approach much of life.

  2. I like the idea of improvements (you know me, holidays equal embellishments and all of that) rather than “fixes” or detoxes or whatever. Let’s work with what we’ve got and make them even better!

    • Rock and I have been talking a lot about this lately. I have been thrilled with how many runners want to work through the winter and focus on this. I think they will be so happy with their time well spent.

  3. Great tips! I’m happy it’s the off season. A time to rest and do other activities. I’m big on variety: soccer yoga, and now barre snowshoeing, skiing and some weights/plyometrics. However I will run 2-3 times per week for enjoyment.

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