Since my last race for the year was the London Marathon way back in April, when seasons were just starting, this post seems mis-dated to me! Or maybe I was just following the schedule of someone in the Southern Hemisphere from memories of my 2 years living in Melbourne, Australia.
When I look back, I’ve never had an “off” season. I’ve had huge periods where I’ve been “off” training, but never followed a cyclic on-off pattern. In a way, I’m almost afraid of the off-season. I feel lost without a race goal and when goals are non-measurable like “Do strength training every week”, I tend to procrastinate and slack off. This year, I’m taking the off season seriously by not taking an off-season. I’m not going to be training for a race through Winter like I did last year for the London Marathon, or like two years ago when I trained for Dopey. But I am definitely going to measure my off season with some tangible goals.
With a plan in place for me, I’m excited to share my tips for training through the off-season for both running and triathlon.
The key to a successful off-season is finding the perfect balance between a loaded training plan and, getting really lazy. Just like you would plan your race season for you, so should you plan your off season. What you do during the winter should be based on your goals in the spring and the season beyond.
These are five of my Off Season Training Tips that I am following this year.
1. Strength Training
I have a love-hate relationship with strength training. While I no longer hate lifting weights and I’ve even come to like it, I hate that even after 6 years of being off the couch, I still don’t know much about exercises to do, muscle groups to target, etc.
Simply put, strength training strengthens muscles without putting them through the repetitive motion of miles and miles of running (or biking and swimming). It also reduces the likelihood of injuries by correcting muscular imbalances and also working on core body strength and stability.
2. Work on your Weakness
This goes without saying. Focus on bringing up the weakest link up to where the others are. For a pure runner, work on your core and flexibility. As a triathlete, focus on one sport add in the other 2 as cross training instead.
I’m weak in all areas – I’m a slow runner, inefficient swimmer, a poor biker and a horrendous core/strength activist. Hard to choose what to focus on!
3. Rebuild and Strengthen your Base
It is time to let your body recover and start strengthening the endurance base. Which means a lot of Zzzzzzzzone 2 runs! You can vary up intensity and distance so you are not tearing yourself up going hard every time.
Enjoy the trails. Run with your kids/dogs. Initiate a friend into the joys of running and triathlon!
4. Pause on that Spring Marathon
I will caution against signing up for a marathon. It sounds so reasonable – triathlon in summer/fall and marathon in winter/spring. Or a marathon in summer/fall and another in winter/spring. While I’ve seen many people do that, I personally burn out and I can never seem to properly recover.
That is why even though I felt like a lazy slob taking peak time off after the London Marathon, I did not sign up for anything else long.
5. Have Fun!
The most important part of any training for us non-elite athletes. We are not being paid to do this, we do these crazy sports because we love it and we are challenged by it. When we get too obsessed and let the sport take over our everyday life, that is when we need to take a few steps back.
Enjoy a game of tennis with your neighborhood team, go hiking on local trails, try some mountain biking, jive to some Zumba, catch up on your house projects. Do whatever it takes to give yourself a break. Your body (and your family) will thank you for it.
Whatever you decide to do based on your goals for the next year, if you take the time to shift your training away from hard long race-ready workouts, I think you will find that you are ready and rejuvenated for an early season buildup when the New Year rolls around.
What is your plan for winter training? Is winter off season for you or do you have a big spring race coming up?
What is your favorite way of working out in your off season?