While a period of rest is definitely necessary for both body and soul, off-season run-focused workouts can play an important role in next year’s performances.
To come up with an off-season run plan, consider the distances you’re training for, as well as your experience level and injury status. From there, mix and match the following advice from running experts to devise a plan to stay injury-free and run faster than ever come race season.
The Approach: Cut the mileage and intensity but keep the consistency.
After the competitive season, running coach Brendan Cournane, prescribes between one week and one month off running, followed by a period of easy running. “After a break, I have athletes start some ‘off-season’ condition- ing, which is usually two to six months of continued running, but at lower intensities and distances,” he says.
Apply it: Reduce your regular running mileage by 50–60 per cent and cut out much of the higher intensity work. “These are more maintenance workouts,” explains Cournane. “They reduce stress on the body, allow for muscle recovery and simultaneously keep the routine of exercise on a consistent frequency.” If you were previously doing two or more hard workouts a week, reduce that to one hard workout amid the easy, reduced mileage. As a result, you’ll maintain fitness but give your body and mind a break from the daily grind. This means fresh legs and renewed motivation when the season starts.
The Approach: Work on skills and technique.
“Have someone look at your running form and consider injuries and biomechanical issues, then commit to doing the drills that will help address those,” says Bob Hanisch, an exercise physiologist and certified coach at Peak Performance Professionals.
Apply it: While every athlete is different, Hanisch often suggests high knees, butt kicks, skipping drills, lunges and dynamic stretches. Find an area 30–40m wide and do these exercises two to three times per week to foster better knee drive, arm carriage and overall efficiency. “Improving form can help reduce injuries and increase strength and flexibility for the upcoming season,” says Hanisch. Since you should also be running less mileage, these 10–15-minute sessions are easy to fit in and will pay off big.
The Approach: Concentrate on core and flexibility work.
“Most triathletes have a lot of muscle imbalances when it comes to running, and I see fewer injuries when the season starts again if they’ve been working on strength and flexibility,” says Joy von Werder, certified coach.
Apply it: Von Werder suggests focusing on the entire core, including the hips, obliques and lower back, as those tend to be problem areas on the run. Rotational exercises with a medicine ball, lunges, and good old-fashioned push-ups and sit-ups are a great place to start. When you’re warmed up, include some light stretching for the hip flexors, IT bands, hamstrings, quads and any other potentially tight areas. Von Werder says that including strength and flexibility two times each week in the off-season will not only help you skirt injury, it’ll also assist in getting you back in peak shape sooner once the season begins.