What To Do in the Off Season

Fall races are behind us now. The next race on many calendars isn’t until March or April and training for a spring race like the Ottawa Marathon at the end of May won’t really start until the middle of January. That often leaves runners asking, “what now?”

My goals for the off season are simple:

  • Get and stay healthy. Rolling into the new year and into marathon training with a nagging injury that I didn’t bother to get figured out is a recipe for disaster. That means maybe a visit or three to the physio to get some therapy on those mild shin splints and some regular stretching or other exercises to strengthen any weak areas.
  • Maintain the base. The marathon training schedule calls for just 10km Sunday runs early on, but things escalate very quickly in the first month. Not running enough over the next two months means I’d be playing catchup from the start. Not a great plan!

My off season training schedule usually includes three or four runs a week (instead of five). I also ease back the weekly mileage to about 30-40km instead of the 50km+ I run in the middle part of the marathon training schedule. “Long” Sunday runs tend to be in the 12-15km range and during the week it’s more about easy 5km or 8km runs than it is about tempo pace or hills.

A good time to try something new

The off season is also a good time to experiment with some cross or strength training. I tend not to change things up in the middle of the training cycle to avoid the potential for injury. While I’ve decreased my mileage, there’s more time to do things like hop on the stationary bike, summit trainer or rowing machine for a bit to get some different muscles activated.

Treadmilling during the off season, enjoying some hockey.

Some other ideas to consider for the off season include trying pilates or yoga to strengthen that all-important core. Ask around and see if there’s a yoga for runners class in your area and give it a go!

You might also want to try out some new gear. Give a different brand of shoe a go, or try out that new pair of socks to see if there’s something out there that might work better for you than your pair. Maybe experiment with different gels, sports drinks or food.

If you end up with a blister, or some gastro issues from the change, it won’t affect your training like it might if you ran into trouble while running a five-day-a-week schedule.

Get back to running for fun

Most of all, the off season is about running for enjoyment. Get out and put in some easy miles without the stress of a training schedule. Freestyle a route, hit the trails, or play around on the treadmill or indoor track. Rediscover your love of running so you’ll be excited and ready to start the training journey in January.

What’s your plan for the off season? Are you nursing a nagging injury? Are you having trouble staying motivated? Let me know in the comments.