Runners, Here's Your Guide to the Off-Season
After any long training block there is always a period of time after your goal race that you may feel lost. You put in all this work for a prolonged period of time for one day of activity and now it's behind you. So what next? A lot of times there is a blank space of anxiety and you may feel lost. Sometimes you may feel totally burnt out because you gave it your all, which is great. Sometimes you may have not hit your goal so you are mentally ready to try again asap. Other times you may have smashed your goal and you're ready for a nice long break. Whatever the situation, the Off Season is an essential part of your running career and should be planned for accordingly.
The off-season for a runner is a key time for you to reset the body. Not only from a physical perspective but emotionally as well. Things like rest, recovery and reflection are essential during this period to make the most of the down time. Here are some simple things that you can work on during your off season.
Allow yourself to actually not do the sport. Take a step back and give your body a break from the miles. This will help you reduce injury risk and burnout while giving the body a chance to figure out what you just put it through. If you are feeling like you need to do something, a low impact activity is perfectly fine. (ie: swimming, cycling, yoga)
Reflect on your past cycle and the goals you set. Evaluate the process and the things you achieved and areas you can either improve on or ones you did well. During this time of reflection try to also consider how you mentally handled the training block, don't think of it just from a physical perspective. Use this time to miss the sport and the grind that comes with the miles. Mental recovery is just as important as the physical. Based on your findings, set new goals and establish a realistic and approachable plan of attack.
Focus on the "other" pieces of a successful run.
Create a plan for strength, mobility and nutrition training in the off season. This is the perfect time to create a new routine or work with a strength coach to build one. A strength coach can educate and work on the things you will need when you are ready to start running again. Starting the routine early will help you create something that you can stick with and build off of when you actually return to running. As you work on strength and mobility during this time don't forget about nutrition. This can be done as a reflection of how it went last cycle but also things you can improve on in the next one. Focus on small pieces during this time to help the body recover from the previous training load. Build a new fueling tool kit by practicing and testing in the off season so when it’s time for the next cycle you don't have to test out something new.
Talk to an expert.
One of the main purposes of an off season is going to be injury prevention. Don't let something that may have been a tiny ache or pain turn into something that is going to take you out on your next build. Use this time to address those small nagging aches and take care of your body. Just because you aren’t training doesn't mean you shouldn't be sleeping. Of course go out and have fun but make sure you are still recovering. Sleep is the number one thing you can do on your own to assist your body with recovery. Consult with a coach, physical therapist or physician to further your knowledge and make you a better athlete.
A key to remember during the off season is that it's all about balance. Setting up your mind and body with enough of a reset while taking steps to improve your foundation for the next cycle. Don't be afraid to consult with a coach or sports medicine professional during this time to help point you in the right direction.