For a lot of runners, the winter months are the offseason. Your goal race may be mid-to-late spring, so the months of December and January are often the time to take a step back and relax your training. If you are like me, then your desire to follow a rigid training plan during this time is low. There are advantages to this – it allows both a mental and physical break after weeks of hard training and allows you to recover, rest and prepare before your next cycle begins.
But I struggle with this time because I still want to maintain a base that will carry me through the winter period while allowing me to start the next training cycle strong.
Basically, I want to take it easier but run just enough where I have a solid foundation. I find that it can be a tough balance.
Here are a few things I do:
Flexibility: There’s no reason you need to run “x” number of miles each week. Allow yourself some flexibility with regards to how often you run or how far. I generally have a range (anywhere from 2-4 miles each day) that I want to run. I also take more unplanned rest days during the offseason.
Unstructured speedwork: Instead of coming up with workouts that are very specific (set number of repeats, pace or recovery periods), incorporate unstructured speed workouts in your week. Fartleks are a great way to run hard but not have a workout hanging over your head. It’s as simple as running hard for a few minutes (or songs or lamp posts) and then running easy for a few. Repeat as many times as you’d like. No set pace, time or distance – just running what feels hard that day. Or you can try a progression run – start easy and have each mile be a bit faster than the previous mile.
Schedule more running dates: If you have a friend who is a faster (or slower!) runner, this is a great time to get lots of runs in together since you shouldn’t be so focused on pace or distance.
Head to the trails: I love being on the trails, but I tend to shy away from them once my training really starts to pick up. An hour on the trails is usually a lot harder on your body than an hour on the roads, so keep that in mind when you start exploring!
Run a race: I often skip races when I am not formally training because I am not in “racing shape”. But, even if it won’t be a PR, a hard-effort is still a solid day, regardless of the time on the clock. A couple of weeks ago, I signed up for a 25k trail race – and had an absolute blast while getting my butt kicked. Win-win.
Find a new route: Do you run the same loops or routes day in and day out? Although it may take a bit more time, consider hopping in your car and driving to a new location. If you are unfamiliar with the area, opt for an out and back route (rather than one with a lot of turns).
What do you focus on in the offseason?
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