Off season?

As winter approaches, I’ve been reading a lot of articles talking about the benefit of runners taking an ‘off season’ of sorts.  It is a time to scale back the weekly mileage and the intensity of the workouts, as a way for your body to recover from a season of hard training.

In theory, an off season for a runner is a fantastic idea.  A runner’s ‘season’ can be much longer than a lot of other sports.  My first race of this year was the beginning of March (but my race-specific training started the end of January).  My last race of the year will be the beginning of December.  I will run a total of 27 races this year.  That is a long time to pile on the miles and a lot of high intensity events.

So, logically, my muscles, bones, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, etc. could use a bit of a respite from the hard work I’ve put them through.  Right?  Then why I am struggling with the idea of letting up?

Is it because I’ve had such an amazing year?  I accomplished a TON of goals this year.  I ran a sub-2:00 half marathon.  Then I did it 6 more times.  I ran 2 half marathons with Tim.  I ran a total of 13 half marathons.  I ran a 5K with Jaden.  I will end up with more than 1500 miles for the year.  I PRed at every distance I ran this year! 

With all that going for me, it can be hard to want to put the breaks on.  I don’t want to scale back because I don’t want to lose fitness.  I don’t want to slow down.  And, I don’t want to have to start over again when it comes time to start training for next year’s goals.

It might also be because I just have a hard time on the days when I don’t run.  I typically take one day off a week.  I hate those days.  My psychological well-being depends on me getting a workout in before the rest of my house wakes up.  It is better for them if I do!  How will I adjust my mental state, if I take 2 or 3 days off a week?  How will my family cope?  They will probably start begging me to go for a long run!

Somehow I need to find a balance between what I know my body needs (rest) and what my mind needs (running).  I am going to have to sit down and take a look at the calendar and figure out my goals for 2014.  What will probably happen will be that I will take 6 weeks or so and just lessen the intensity and duration of my typical workouts.

That might mean that instead of 30-ish miles a week, I run 20-ish miles a week.  It might mean that I trade running for the elliptical one day a week.  (I live in Wisconsin, so going for a bike ride in the middle of winter isn’t really an option.)  I would like to incorporate a core workout at least once (maybe twice) a week.  Maybe I could do a little bit of strength work.  All of those sound like good ideas, but none of them excite me the way running does.  I’ll  probably spend all my extra time working on training plans to help me reach my goals for next year!

When I look at the calendar, it makes sense for me to take my off season from the beginning of December through the middle of January.  I’ll probably have to pay a little bit more attention to what I eat.  If I’m not putting in the miles, I can’t eat like I am.  Why does the off season have to coincide with the holidays?

What do you guys do for an off-season?  Do you let your mileage drop?  Do you cut out the speed work?  Do you sit on the couch and drink beer?  Help me out on this one.  How do you keep from going crazy?

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4 thoughts on “Off season?

  1. Off season??!! This is a good post and I’m coming up on an “off season” after I run the Icebreaker Indoor Marathon in Milwaukee in January. But, like most winters, (and like you say), I don’t ever take “off”. I get the miles in and am content to be flexible with slower times in the slush, snow, cold and dark of Indiana winter. What I do know is that come the spring races, I’ll be glad I got out, bundled up and all. But, yes, the brain needs to run and regularity is key!!

    • I have a friend who will be running that same race. It will be her first marathon! Enjoy the time off after it. At least you have a bit of an excuse to enjoy the special holiday treats. I’m going to have to exercise some serious control. 🙂

  2. My off season basically mean doing some cross training and doing less speed workouts, I tried to keep the mileage up or else I’d be miserable for the first race of the year.
    Resting is also part of working out, your body needs it.

    • I want to keep a decent base. I’m considering a half marathon PR attempt in April, so I certainly don’t want to have to start from scratch! But, cutting down on the speed work is probably a good idea.

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