Football players have it. Likewise do basketball players and professional fighters. So why shouldn’t runners have an offseason? Mention “offseason” to serious runners and watch them wince. If possible, they wouldn’t do it. An offseason may mean missed opportunities to get better; improve times or set personal bests. However, planned properly, an offseason can make you a faster and stronger runner.
What Is An Offseason?
Offseason is the period that comes after the race or the entire running season. For the last three to four months you’ve been preparing for the race. You’ve logged in the miles, put in hours in the weight room, spent time with your massage therapist, and stayed true to your diet.
The objective? To turn in your personal best or quite possibly win the race. Training for competition entails a lot of sacrifice. People who have never competed before think the hardships are all physical.
The truth is, it’s not just the physical training that wears out runners. There are emotional and mental factors that add to the difficulties of regular training.
Dealing with injuries, nagging pain, spending precious time away from family, missing out on important events, and having sleepless nights are just a few of the emotional and mental stresses runners go through when preparing for a race.
After three to four months of training and personal sacrifices, it’s time to r
eset, relax, and recover. Offseason training for runners is important because it helps them prepare better for the next running season.
8 Top Tips On How To Make Your Offseason Running More Productive
In the same way you approached pre-season training, your offseason should have a plan as well. The offseason is a crucial period to address injuries, health and strength issues, and problems in running technique. You must approach it with thought, strategy, and purpose.
If you have a running coach, he/ she will probably map out your offseason running program for you. Nonetheless, you will find value in the eight top tips you can use to make your offseason running program more productive.
Set Your Offseason Goals
Goals are not limited to the race itself. You must set goals for the offseason as well. Goals will give you motivation and your program direction. Offseason goals will be different from one runner to another.
The best way to identify your goals is to make an honest assessment on your last race or the season that was:
- Did you tend to fade during the last few miles of the race?
- Are you constantly feeling pain on your feet, shins, and knees?
- Were you having difficulty “breaking past the Wall”?
- Are your lower back and hips bothering you?
- Was your cramping getting worse?
The answers to these questions will help you figure out what you need to do during the offseason. Should you focus more on improving running technique? Should you add sprints in the program to give you a stronger finishing kick? Should you include more minerals and salt in your diet to prevent cramping?
A running coach can help you assess your race and give you valuable advice. He/she can design an offseason training program for you.
Heal Your Body
Running generates tremendous forces that can severely impact the health of your joints, muscles, and organs. This is one of the most important reasons to have an offseason training program for runners. It will give you the time you need to heal your body.
It will not matter if you bought the most expensive running shoes. Wearing the latest and most high- tech running gear will not prevent injuries or nagging pain from happening. Pain is the constant companion of runners. It will get you before, during, and after running.
If you have an injury or have pain that won’t go away, you have to get extended rest. The body needs time to heal itself. Sometimes a few days off from physical activity are all you need to recover properly.
After a particularly gruelling race, a runner should get at least 10 hours of sleep to speed up recovery and healing.
However, if the pain persists or gets worse, have it checked right away. The longer the pain stays with you the worse it may get. The last thing you would want in the offseason is to exacerbate pre-existing conditions such as injuries.
Do Rehab Work
It is not entirely over between you and your Massage Therapist. You still need to see him/ her to help to improve your health and recovery. Otherwise, getting back into running shape will be hard.
Massage is known as an effective procedure to treat tired, painful, and tight muscles. It has other proven benefits as well. These benefits include improved blood circulation, removal of dangerous toxins, reduce stress levels, enhance mood, and speed up the healing process.
You may also want to see a Physiotherapist and a Chiropractor who can spot and fix imbalances in your body. If these imbalances are pronounced, they can result to dangerous shifts in bodyweight during the run which could lead to serious injuries.
See Your Doctor
It is always a good idea to see your doctor after a race. As we mentioned earlier, running can affect your internal organs. This happens when your body is constantly in a state of extreme fatigue or dehydration. It could affect how your kidneys function. Training intensely too frequently may lead to irregular heartbeat especially if your quality of sleep is already compromised.
Your doctor will run a battery of tests on you. This will include blood work so that he/ she can check if there is damage to your internal organs. Other tests may include a treadmill stress test to see how your heart is functioning.
If you have chronic pain on your hips, knees, shins, or feet, the doctor may recommend an MRI or Magnetic Resonance Imaging. This will show the doctor if there are potential tears or signs of progressive arthritis.
Relax Your Mind and Spirit
Training for a race takes a lot of time. Sadly, the casualties of your need to spend time on the road include your family. It is not easy for runners to sacrifice time for family. In fact, in many cases, runners view time away from family as one of the biggest stressors during training.
You will never get those lost hours back. The only thing you can do is to move forward. Use the offseason to make up for lost time with your family. Set aside running, training, rehab, and other activities related to race preparation and give them your undivided attention.
Spending time with your loved ones will help relax your mind and spirit. It will make you feel better and give you a better perspective on how running fits into your life.
Don’t worry about how you can maintain fitness. Take care of your mind and spirit; not just your body.
The offseason is also used by runners to get stronger. Regardless of your sport, strength is a valuable attribute. Contrary to popular belief, strength is not a birth right. Anyone can become strong. It is a learned skill. You have to keep working on it to get better.
There are many ways a runner can get strong. You can do interval training. This is a technique where you alternate short, bursts of explosive activity with an extended rest period. Pre-season sprint workouts are a great way of building power, strength and conditioning for the final leg of a race.
For example, you can alternate 20-second sprints with 40-40 second slow walks. Another good example of interval training is to alternate 400 meter runs with 200 meter walks. In the offseason, you can still run and maintain health and fitness.
You can also lift weights. Don’t believe the myth that weight training will make you slow. In fact, weight training can make you a better runner by strengthening your bones, ligaments, and muscles. It can also enhance your tolerance to lactic acid build-up, increase mobility, flexibility, and improve coordination.
Strength training is a smart approach to getting back into running shape.
Work on Technique
Another valuable aspect of offseason training is that you can use the time away from joining races by fine-tuning your running technique.
Again, if possible, hire a running coach. He/she has the experience to spot flaws in your technique and offer suggestions on how to improve it. You can also do research by visiting running websites or watching videos on proper running technique.
You may also want to attend running clinics or communities where you can get valuable advice from experts.
Running is a great sport; not only is it an excellent form of physical activity, but it gives you a few hours to be by yourself.
Eventually, the hours can take their toll. Some runners cannot deal with the offseason because running has become a big part of their lives. For them, an offseason will take away their identity.
Having an offseason is not just good for the body. It is likewise beneficial for your mental, emotional, and spiritual health. You will come to realize that running is not life but just a part of it.
Best of all, it will give you the time you need to become a better runner.