Organizing your Running Off-Season
It’s the holiday season here on the East coast, the days are getting shorter, and the weather is getting chillier! As we transition into winter, this is my favorite season to unwind and take a break from running and training as intensely. With so much focus going into training for big races this past fall, it’s refreshing to have some downtime. That being said, it’s hard for us Type A runners to sit still for very long. After eight years spent training and racing at a fairly intense level, I’ve found that that organizing your running off-season is just as important as the in-season training.
And since organize is the Wednesday Word over at Deb Runs today, I am thrilled to share the details on how I am organizing my running off-season this winter. I am linking this post up with Annmarie at The Fit Foodie Mama, Nicole at Fitful Focus, Michelle at Fruition Fitness, and Jen from Pretty Little Grub for Wild Workout Wednesday, as well as Susie at Suzlyfe, Rachel of Running on Happy, Debbie of Coach Debbie Runs, and Lora of Crazy Running Girl for the Running Coaches Corner.
When Do Runners Schedule their Off-Season?
Well- this is a loaded question and tends to be a common question for most distance runners. And the quick answer is that each runners’ off-season will vary on how much mileage is being logged, the number of races in the season, and the intensity of the training. The timing of my off-season depends on the timing of my last race of the year. I usually try to run the Philadelphia Marathon each year, which tends to fall on the Sunday before Thanksgiving most years. So my off-season usually begins in late November-early December. This year, my off-season officially started the week after Thanksgiving and looks something similar to this below:
2 Weeks of Complete Rest
Not a ton of running. No real cardio. I usually go on brisk walks, do yoga, and some strength training at home or in the gym. Although this year – I ran 10 miles for our Thanksgiving turkey trot on Thanksgiving Day, which was 4 days post-marathon. While that 10 miler was not the best idea for my hip flexors, feet, and hamstrings, I did feel pretty refreshed after 2 weeks post-marathon with minimal running.
6 Weeks of Unstructured Runs
I enjoy some light running and doing some structured cardio with weights during the next 6 weeks or so after a big race, but the workouts are lighter, easier, and completely unplanned/unstructured. Easy runs are at a 10 or more average pace and I typically run without my garmin or watch these weeks. There is no purpose or goal of the workouts – I go out when I want and I stop when I want. The purpose of this phase is to just keep my body moving and fitness level stable.
During this time I aim for about 4-5 hours of activity a week (about 30% of my normal training volume). It’s during this time that I’ll also plan out my races for next year. I look over my racing schedule from the precious year to analyze what worked and what did not work.
8 Weeks of Prep
The goal of my Prep is to get back into the swing of my runs. I get back on the road and on the trails with my runs and try to just have fun. These are the weeks where I aim to have a bit more structure to my run and strength workouts. I’ll start to throw in some speed work here and there.
I also add in some cross-training (spinning, yoga, circuit training) to help me aim for 6-8 hours a week of activity (about 50% of my normal training volume) without getting focused on marathon based workouts too early.
Full on spring marathon training starts towards the end of January for me!
Organizing Running Off-Season
Regardless of when your last significant race was, you can follow a similar schedule. If your last big race was a big distance event, such as a marathon or ultra, hopefully you took 2 – 3 weeks to just relax and chill. As you jump into your unstructured runs and prep time, ask yourself these questions:
- What races do I want to compete in for 2017?
- When do I want to accomplish these races?
- What do I need to do in my training to get there?
Take the answers to these questions and work backward to help build out your training plan. Spending time this last month of 2016 will not only help you reach your goals, it’ll more than likely help you stay motivated and focused during the winter months! Happy training!