After spending 18 months training for goal races, one runner decided to explore the off-season–and was pleasantly surprised by the outcome.
Learning To Love The Off-Season
Before November, I had never taken an off-season. Being new to the running world, it had never occurred to me that I would need to take an extended time of rest from running in order to become a better runner. I started taking running seriously in June of 2016, when I set goals to run my first half marathon and complete 30 races before I turned 30. To say I went overboard with my goals is an understatement.
In the span of six months I completed 10 races, including my first half marathon. I loved running so much that I couldn’t picture myself taking more than two days off from any activity. I tossed my name into the lottery for the New York City Half Marathon, along with the Chicago Marathon. To my surprise, I was selected to race both events. Training all winter for a half marathon turned into training all spring for another half marathon, and then I transitioned into training for my first marathon. On the day of the Chicago Marathon, it hit me that I had just spent the last 18 months training for large races.
My physical therapist warned me a few weeks prior to the marathon that once the race was finished I would need two weeks of complete rest, followed by an off-season. The thought of changing anything in regards to my training schedule put me into a tailspin. What would I do with my time? When would I run? How would I maintain my fitness? As you may be able to tell, it was a hard transition filled with lots of questions, a few hard conversations and lots of tears. But I eventually grew to love the off-season.
Over the last few months, I have been able to work on changing my running form, increasing my speed and working on my strength. I still work out five to six days each week, but instead of logging 25 to 30 weekly miles, I log about 10. I jumped headfirst into the world of CrossFit and learned just how far I can push myself to test my strength. I spent less time out running on the weekends and more time connecting with my friends and family. I have been able to fall in love with running again in a new way that has refreshed my soul.
I am now at the end of my off-season and can honestly say that I am sad to see this time end. I am struggling with the idea that I have to reduce the amount of time I spend doing CrossFit, yet I am extremely excited to be increasing my running each week. I have learned that the off-season is a time of rest, rebalance and growth, which I did not expect at all. As people continue to question what I have been doing the last few months, I honestly tell them that I am in an off-season and that it has been the best thing for me.
If you find that you have been in a constant world of training and feel like you may be hitting a wall in your running, it might be time to consider taking an off-season. As we are still in the winter months, you could take the next four to six weeks to focus on your strength training and running form before you begin training for those spring half marathons or fall marathons. This season for slowing down and refocusing is truly a gift in which you will quickly find joy.