Wait a minute. We’re barely into the new year and we’re talking “off-season?” At the very point on the calendar, when we should be embracing coming adventures, events, and opportunities, we’re getting into rest and recovery? Why, yes. As a matter of fact, we are.
Whether you trained full-tilt during the holidays, or still can’t recall where you put your shoes after that last long run or race of 2022, the “off-season” can mean different things to each of us. This also means it can be just about any time for any runner, and for any reason. No matter why you take time away from running – and most of us should – there are better ways to make the most of it. We mined some of our favorite Charlotte area coaches for these bits of gold.
Reflect and Recover
Take the appropriate amount of time to reflect and be proud of both the training cycle and the race before moving on to the next one. Not only are we pushing the body physically over an extended period of time (training), but we are pushing the body mentally. There are psychological and physical changes happening in the body.
Regardless of the outcome of a race, it is so important to sit in recovery and reflect. What were the things you learned you need to work on as you got further in the training cycle? What were the things you did better this training cycle? Each time we prepare for a big race we are already better prepared for the next. Experience builds confidence. – Coach Jen Dufresne, Cross Conditioning Training @crossconditioningtraining
Assess the Situation
It’s very important to have an off-season after a season of building fitness and going after PRs. Athletes typically dial back (but don’t eliminate) their volume and intensity and focus on recovery, strength training, etc. For example, if coming off a marathon training cycle, the first thing that I do is take a full week off with absolutely no running. This allows me time to assess injuries I might not know I sustained during the race once the normal soreness goes away and gives my body the much needed rest that it has earned. Next, I reverse taper for about a month to ease back into my normal base mileage. After a month, I start adding back running workouts.
For some, this is also a great opportunity to remember why they enjoy running, which can be forgotten in the throes of the training season while focusing on race goals. The off-season is a great setup for the next season of PRs! – Coach C.J. Langley, @unc4me82
Mix It Up, Slow it Down
Now is the time to mix in things you don’t normally get to do – take some yoga, go for hikes, play pickleball, etc. Reconnect with family and friends during this time, too. It’s ok to enjoy a little of what you normally do in season (for example if you’re a triathlete, then swim, bike, run) just to keep up your technique, but the ultimate goal is to keep everything at a super low level for the next few weeks. Take advantage of this post-season time; it’s all about mental and physical rejuvenation. After a few weeks of this, you should feel ready to start easing into a structured training routine again. – Coach Karen Wood, @karenwood1003
Stretch and Strengthen
The off-season is a great time to create a stretching routine that works for you. Dynamic stretches before starting a run, and static stretches after are a great way to boost your recovery. Improving flexibility and mobility can only help you and your stride, as well as reducing the risk of injury. Strength training. As a personal trainer, this one is near and dear to me. When I was in high school and college running cross country, no one emphasized the importance of weight lifting. It helps keep your bone density strong, helps develop muscle strength, balance, and core stability. All of these things can assist your running! Incorporate 2 days of strength training into your maintenance training, and grow those fast-twitch muscles that will help you kick to the finish line when race season begins again. Coach Kate Hamilton, @k.ham5
Ditch the Numbers
Every athlete’s post-seasons look different based on a variety of factors. Overall, it’s essential to take a few weeks without any structure and then gradually get back to some structure. The post-season is a good time to lose the metrics, run by feel, get on some trails, and remember the reason why you do this sport in the first place. It’s also a great time to do some different activities such as yoga, hiking, or cycling.
In order to have long-term sustainability, it’s important to reset. Once athletes take an appropriate amount of time off, then it’s time to start being a healthy human exercising (not training), and doing what feels good to them. I think it’s essential to embrace getting out of shape. It sure feels good to start getting back in shape during the pre-season. Coach Meghan Fillnow, Fillnow Coaching @fillnowcoaching
The spring running season will be on us soon. Yes, the 2023 Six Pack Series begins March 11 with the Shamrock 4-Miler. If you’ve yet to take time away from running and training, you know the drill. The best time to start was yesterday. The second best time is today. For now; rest, recover. We’ll see you at the races this spring!