There are strategies to tackle all things running—including the off-season.

Taking Time Off

In triathlon, there’s a distinct “off-season”—a time where athletes don’t train as hard, don’t work on their strength and conditioning as often and inevitably fall off the workout and nutrition wagon a little.

Running is interesting because there is technically no off-season. You can run and race year-round. There are races held in ice and snow, at Disneyland and all over the globe.

The question is: When do you choose to have your off-season? And if you don’t, should you?

Proper execution of the off-season is really difficult, I’ll admit. Timing the off-season with the mayhem of the holidays can be a recipe for nutrition and workout disaster. However, I have found a few easy tips to help you embrace the off-season from a good place.

Pick a few small goals and make them happen.

Sometimes we set huge goals for our training and racing—and that is amazing. But we can’t run all year with “A” races around every corner. There must be down time—at least with regard to racing and training. I like to focus on smaller goals to distract from the big ones. Hear me out.

The small goals that we often gloss over are sometimes where the magic happens. Setting smaller goals and targets that are outside of our exercise and fitness regimen matters. For example, getting up 15 minutes early to read or journal, going to bed 15 minutes earlier, cooking a big meal with lots of leftovers for the week, etc.—those things can actually pay off in the long run. And guess what that means? We have more energy to tackle our bigger goals—like our next running race.

Give yourself a true break.

The idea of the off-season is to mentally and physically rest, recover and get stronger in some of our weaker areas. This is the time to take these things to heart and give ourselves a bit of a break. And yes, that also means a break from ourselves and all the pressure that we can often place on ourselves. Again, implementing those smaller goals can truly catapult this habit and give us the permission we need to take a rest.

Forget about your resolutions.

One of the worst things we can do, I believe, is wait until January 1 to set goals. Waiting on a specific date to effectuate a life change is not a good way to make permanent changes. Why? Well, because while we are waiting for that date to come, we are wasting time that we could be spending bettering ourselves. And not only are we wasting that time, but we are often giving ourselves an excuse to continue some form of not-so-great behavior. By forgetting “resolutions” and just aiming to refocus our off-season on health, wellness and rest, we start sooner and hit the New Year with a far better start than we ever could have imagined.

Meredith Atwood (@SwimBikeMom) is a motivational speaker, IRONMAN triathlete and author of Triathlon for the Every Woman: You Can Be a Triathlete. Yes. You. The completely updated and revised second edition is being released in early 2019. She is the host of the podcast The Same 24 Hours, a show which interviews interesting people who make the best of the 24 hours in each day. You can download a free triathlon race-day checklist here. Meredith lives in Atlanta with her husband and two children and writes about all things at MeredithAtwood.com. Her next book, The Year of No Nonsense, is due out Fall 2019.