A large number of runners have asked us for advice on what to do during the off-season for a variety of reasons (maintain fitness, prevent weight gain, etc).
The best and worst thing about the off season is the absence of a goal race. On the one hand, it’s not always easy to get up and run amid shorter days and lower temperatures. On the other hand, it’s nice not having to focus so much on pace, distance, and frequency of workouts.
The following are what we do while waiting for training season to begin:
No goal races, no target paces, and no specific distances means you get to run whenever you feel like and as fast or as slow as you prefer.
As a general guideline, we recommend keeping up your base mileage to help you prepare for the upcoming season. For example, if you averaged 75 km/week with a peak week of 96 km, you might want to consider averaging slightly less than that without too much fluctuation in distance. For example, maintain running between 68 to 73 km week.
We also recommend mixing up your paces. On days you feel great or jumpy, run fast. On days you feel relaxed or among a big group, run slowly.
Lastly, we recommend running frequently. Personally, I prefer to run shorter distances 6 – 7 times per week than longer distances over 3 – 4 days.
Hit The Weights Room
Does anyone really call it that anymore? The “weights room” could be your neighbourhood gym, your basement, or at a friend’s place. The off-season is a great time to build some muscle, strength and power and spread the focus from your running muscles to your entire body.
A good strength program works your whole body and will make you more resistant to injury as well as build power that helps you run faster.
Running isn’t the only activity that builds endurance. This is a good time to explore alternatives to running…maybe try something new like the Bionic Runner or stick with something more traditional like swimming, inline skating, biking, martial arts, or any team sports.
Not only with these activities keep you in shape but it will also prevent burnout from too much running.
Another great area to focus on during this period is mental development. The brain, mind, and body all have to work together to be successful.
Meditation is a great way to train the mind. Functional MRI (fMRI) has shown that brain activity and blood flow increase significantly during meditation. People who meditate regularly report that they’re able to focus their thoughts better, manager emotions more effectively, and are able to remain calmer and more relaxed in tense situations.
It isn’t very difficult to get started. Pick a quiet spot, close your eyes or look for a spot on the wall, then concentrate on your breathing. Start with 5 minutes per day and build it up to 30.
Addressing your brain, on the other hand, requires you to keep it active. Maybe start delving into the science of running to learn why training at the proper paces is more effective than running at marathon pace all the time. Or learn a new language, start a blog, or read a book.
Though the brain is considered an organ, it behaves like a muscle because regular “training” and stimulation will make it stronger and more resilient.
It’s not always easy to keep active during the off-season, especially heading towards the end of the year, what with Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s all coming one after another. Hopefully, you can use the tips above to help maintain all the hard-earned fitness you achieved over the summer.