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Six Running Tips for the Off Season

Photo by  Ryan McGuire

November and December can be a “down” period in the training cycle for many runners, as fall marathons end and spring marathon training is not yet in full swing. For some runners, this off season can seem aimless, with no clear goal yet defined. For others, the off season is treated the same way as normal training, which can be detrimental and lead to injury and mental burn out. Listed here are six tips for approaching the in-between months properly.

  1. Ditch the Watch The off season is a time to mentally reset. Leave your GPS at home and run for the sake of running. Map out a route beforehand, or explore a new trail. You’ll have plenty of time to worry about pace when your training picks back up again.
  2. Switch Things Up Seek opportunities to get out of your normal routine. Run with a friend who trains at a different pace than you. Discover a new part of town. Run a race distance you typically avoid. Give cross training a try. All too often, runners fall into ruts with their training and repeat the same routes or routines over and over. Change is good, and can make you a better runner in the end.
  3. Develop Good Habits Now is the perfect time to reflect on the past while looking forward to the future. Are there specific weaknesses you would like to address? Perhaps you have wanted to strengthen your core or improve your form, but don’t know how to start. If you develop good habits now, they will be easy to incorporate when you start training seriously again. For instance, if strengthening is a priority, commit yourself to 10 – 15 minutes twice per week of core work. After successfully completing a few weeks like this, increase the time spent on core to 20 – 25 minutes, or add an additional day. Once the habit is formed, it will be hard to break.
  4. Build a Base – But Don’t Ignore Speed The primary goal during down time should be to create a large aerobic base from which to build your spring workouts from. During this time, it is tempting to only go for slow distance runs and ignore speed work entirely. Instead, runners should incorporate strides and hills into their base building period. For instance, once per week finish a run with either 8 x 100 m strides, or 8 x 100 m hill bursts.
  5. Dream Big During your down time, allow yourself to dream about big goals. What would that Boston qualifying run look like? What would you have to do to get there? What would the process goals be? As you think about your long term goals set intentions for the upcoming season to guide your training and motivation.
  6. Have Fun Ultimately, have fun during your down time. Runners work hard and are focused for so much of the marathon training cycle that not allowing time to remember why you run in the first place would be a disservice to yourself.