Runners Not Running: The Off Season
Here’s a fun fact for you – taking an off-season is vital enough that if you don’t take one every once and a while, you will be forced to.
Trust me on this one, I am in the last camp. There are some people who can recover from race seasons faster than others, but something to remember is that even though you physically are able to push through is that you can lose a vital mental edge. Taking a bit of a breather from the vigorous training, early mornings and game face is helpful for a mental refresher and allows you to return stronger than ever.
Off season is tricky though and I have received a number of questions lately on how I am handling being off running for such a long period of time. How am I handling it emotionally? How do I stay fit? How do I keep from gaining weight?
I had some very similar questions myself when I found out I would be out of the running game for 2 – 3 months, especially because for most athlete’s the off season lands right over the holiday season which is a prime time of year to cast aside schedules and increase intake.
The first thing I did was mentally adjusted to the fact that although I was injured, I was not out only because of stress fractures, but because I needed an off season and I have treated the last couple months accordingly.
Training – The first couple weeks after I found out about my injury, I took off training almost completely. I taught my regular spin classes and went on a couple walks, but that was it. Slowly, I incorporated regular swimming into the schedule, increased my biking and as impact would allow, strength training and elliptical. I am now back to regular walk/run intervals and am slowly ramping up my cardio hours to about 8 – 10 so I can focus on Boston training at the end of December. (I aim for 10 – 15 hours during my training season). It has been a gradual build and I have used this time to focus on strength training, flexibility and core work. We lose a lot of muscle when we are doing cardio regularly and I wanted to weep this past week when I was struggling with 10 pound weights in a Body Pump class at Goodlife Fitness.
Schedule – The schedule was a key thing for me. I am a list maker, a planner and overall, pretty darn Type A. The first thing that happens for me in off-season is that the plan goes out the window. I focus on listening to my body and I only do workouts that sound fun and what I want to do. This helps infuse balance and competition back into my training when I return.
Sleep – This is my NUMBER ONE health struggle, but something you should focus on making sure you have lots of during an off-season. I have the fear of missing out and I love the idea of being alert for as much of my life as possible. Unfortunately, I need a solid 8 hours to feel my best in terms of everything and I get an average of 7 hours. It is the unwritten 6th goal every month.
Social – This is my favourite part of off-season. I have gone to lots of parties, stayed out way past my bed time and danced for hours with people I love. I need a time of year when I am not framing all of my decisions around my next workout. I am not a professional athlete. I am a human girl person who needs lots of social interaction and fun.
Nutrition/Weight gain – Food is a fun one. I remember when I learned I was cutting essentially 80% off my training and was out for coffee (lattes!) with a fellow running friend. I lowered my voice and asked her how she manages to stay lean and strong during a time where you are undoubtedly losing top end fitness. She made some great suggestions of cutting out sugar and upping cross training and I promptly did neither.
Here is what I did do: I didn’t worry about it. I naturally started eating a little less, but I still eat as often. (Read: all the time). I kept sneaking spoonfuls of nutella when I wanted them. I asked my naturopath about supplements I should be taking during this time to restore and rebuild. (I will be doing a post on this in the future). I went to holiday parties and ate what I wanted, but just not as much as I did during training. That chronic hunger that comes from burning a squillion calories disappeared for a while and it feels good. I did lose muscle mass which actually translated into losing overall body weight. I think it is important to make sure your off season is fulfilling for you and focusing on making it fun so you don’t turn to food as a filler for your loss of running.
Motivation – I have enjoyed my off season. I truly have had a wonderful time not running, even though I have a much better time when I am running. Running adds to my life, but it is not my life. I think that this is one of the important aspects of the off season – to point out the richness of other things in our lives outside of training, schedules and workouts. Having that time to reset allows you to make sure you are at the top of your mental game when you return to your racing. It also gives you a chance to sit back and re-focus on what you want to achieve in the next year and MAN! it’s going to be good.
Do you take an off-season? If so, what do you do?
Don’t forget to enter my LOVE GROWN foods giveaway which will be running until this Saturday. And if you like the sound of the recipe, help a sister out and vote here and here.