Now that December is here, winter winds and snow are coming. For most runners, winter provides an optimal time to take a step back and evaluate your training program. Whether it’s completely taking a break from running or simply reducing your mileage and running easy for a week, off-season training is important for refreshing the body and mind. I’ve listed out some of my favorite ways for off-season training.

Take Time Away From Running:  

If you’re a weekend warrior like me, I like to mix up my training routine almost every eight weeks to ensure my body is constantly challenged in a new way. This type of workout rotation allows mix-up my routine to prevent mental and physical burnout. While eight weeks of no running might be a little drastic for those who thoroughly enjoy running, it might be beneficial to take two weeks to be active in other ways than running. Two weeks is long enough to give your body and mind a break, but not long enough to lose much, if any, endurance. Whenever I take two weeks off from running I try to dedicate my workouts to something new and exciting I’ve always wanted to try. By the time the two weeks come to an end, I’m ready to get back on track, no pun intended.

Decrease your mileage and intensity:

If cutting out running terrifies you, I encourage you to spend two to six weeks and take the intensity down a notch. Plan to run at an easier effort or decrease your mileage. Off-season training is all about re-evaluating your training program, reflecting on your achievements and setting new goals. Personally, I will try to run three times per week with one session of biking, two sessions of strength training, and one session of yoga or pilates. I take the time I would’ve spent running to write new goals for myself in the coming race season. Working backward, I make a new workout and nutrition schedule that will allow me to be fully prepared to achieve my goals.

Cross Train: 

Believe it or not, there are some muscles and tendons we tend to neglect when on an all running workout routine. These muscles and tendons are important for preventing injury and performing everyday activates. For example, when I was training for my first marathon I solely focused on running during that last two months of training, because frankly, I didn’t have time to do anything else. However, in the weeks leading up to the race, I found my core was becoming weak and my shoulders and chest started to ache more when I ran. The weeks leading up to the race I started to re-integrate strength and balance training into my routine and the pain went away. The off-season is the perfect time to build total-body power and endurance by replacing some running workouts with cross-training. I personally love Zumba, CrossFit, and Swimming.

Revamp Your Training: 

We are creatures of habit. Once we get into a routine or habit we like, it’s very hard to change. Training plans are no different. I often find myself not wanting to change my routine because it’s become second nature and easy to implement. However, this reason is exactly why we need off-season training. When you spend time away from anything, it is much easier to ask yourself, “Was that training, person, or activity helping me reach my goals?” If so, it is ok to return to your routine. But the extra time away can spark creativity and motivation to create an even better exercise routine. Changing your routine will cause you to think critically about your training routine to ensure future success. 

Stepping away from training is hard. Worries of losing endurance, speed and strength flood my mind when I decide to take a break. However, it’s important to note off-season training doesn’t mean you’ll be on your couch binge-watching Netflix and Disney plus. The off-season is meant to give your body a break from the same-old-same-old routine. It’s time to develop plans to reach new goals, heal from the high demands of training, and revitalize the mind. As you plan for the coming year, I encourage everyone to seek the benefits of an annual off season. I’m confident it won’t disappoint. 

Tessa Heitkamp, CPT


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