Do runners really have an off-season?? Does any athlete really have an off-season???
“Off” might not be the best word to describe what happens between the end of one season and the beginning of the next. Maybe down time or to use a more technical term: periodization.
Periodization is often used in the triathlon world to help them focus on the three different sports within their event. Runners also sometimes use the term in training, such as a base period, a hill period, and a taper period.
Webster defines the off-season as:
a time of suspended or reduced activity ; especially : the time during which an athlete is not training or competing
If you tear it apart and redefine it as: a time of reduced activity or a time during which an athlete is not competing, then we can have a real off-season. Most athletes of all makes and models probably don’t take more than a few weeks off with out any physical activity.
In college we would take 2 weeks off at the end of cross-country and then start base-building for track. Then when our track season ended we took 2 weeks off and started the process all-over again for cross-country. In our program we had some flexibility but that was the expectation and you suffered the consequences for your action or inaction!
So what does all this babble really mean to you and me? For the most part we should be doing some type of cardiovascular workout all year long. Lots of research has shown that two-three weeks is a safe amount of time to take off without any real detriment to your overall fitness. For some of us, after our fall races we’ll take some time off and then bounce back up and run all winter long. Most people cut back completely on their running. I think the key is to find a nice balance during the winter down-time. It is important to keep the cardiovascular system strong and healthy all winter long – so any type of cardio work is a must. This is a good time to let your legs, feet, hips, or whatever to completely heal. Use the bike, elliptical, or row machine.
I ran through the winter last year, trying to avoid the dreadmill at all costs. I was training for an April half-marathon so I needed to be running as much as possible. Beyond running though winter is a good time to pick up some other activities – here in Minnesota many runners cross-country ski to maintain fitness.
This winter I am really going to focus on building my strength. During our down-time, off-season, or winter period it is a good time to focus on the other important aspects of running. Things like a strong core that can really improve your running form and stamina. Or what about flexibility?
YES!! This winter I am going to work hard on my core and maybe hit some weights at the gym.
I have all the equipment I need at home to work on my body’s core. I just need the focus and determination.