Depending on where you live (or if you are primarily a runner or a triathlete), the race season tends to fall sometime between spring and fall, leaving winter as the off-season.
The off-season is a glorious time where you can sit on your couch and eat whatever you want and not worry about the fact that hey, you have some races coming up, but they’re far away.
Sorry, friends, that’s not true at all. Yes, during the off-season, you can relax and step back from the intense training, but that doesn’t mean you can spend all your time on the couch. After all, you don’t want to lose all the fitness you’ve built up, right?
To keep myself motivated, I like to sign up for races through the winter. These aren’t goal races. I’m not pushing to set any PRs. I just want to run strong and not feel like I’m dying at the end. For me, these races are half-marathons, but depending on your goals, 5Ks and 10Ks work too.
The important thing is the off-season training plan. You aren’t training like you do during race season. Maybe you add in an extra rest day. Maybe, like me, you pick up more strength work in the hopes of keeping at least some of it once race season picks back up. I still have some hard workouts on my schedule, but in general, the off-season training plan is a bit easier. My goal this winter was to work on my bike speed, so I have some killer trainer rides on the schedule, but I’ve also dropped down to one swim a week and am not doing any running speedwork. This is what works for me. It’s also what I like – I enjoy killer rides on the trainer.
Maybe your off-season training plan means trying something new, like picking up a class at the gym or taking up cross country skiing if you live where there is snow. Do something fun, something you enjoy.
During the off-season, it’s okay to skip an occasional workout. Not all the time, of course, but here and there, it’s not a problem. (Note – it’s always okay to skip a workout if you are sick or injured.)
Whatever you do, try to keep some level of fitness in the large gap between your big races. Not only is it easier on your body when you get back to your race season training, it’s also a lot easier on your brain. For me, an evening workout is routine, so making it a harder or longer workout isn’t going to be that big of a change. But going from spending the evening on the couch to a hard workout would definitely be tough.
But make sure to have fun too. Because why else do we do this?