Five ways to improve your running this off season

IMG 1507 300x224 Five ways to improve your running this off season

Bike feeling neglected? Dust it off and use it during the off season.

I feel pretty safe in saying that for most runners, the season is pretty much over. Ok, you Rehoboth Beach and CIM people still have 26.2 to run this weekend, but the rest of us are pretty much footloose and fancy free right now. (For some of us, that’s forced footloose, ahem). ANYHOW–in my opinion, there’s lots that can be done during this “downtime” to help prepare for the 2014 year of running. My top five tips for making the most of the off season:

  • Strength train/rehab–This is the perfect time to get stronger for next spring. No more “saving the legs” excuses. If you’re not racing any time soon, you don’t have to keep anything in the reserves, so use this time to concentrate on your strength work. Had a niggle last year and suspect it originated from an area you neglect? Perfect time to rehab as well.
  • Crosstrain–Normally I’m a sport specific advocate–to get faster at running I believe you should run. But the off season is a great time to spend some time doing other activities, both for the mental and physical break. This will also fine tune some supporting muscles that don’t get much play from daily running, something that helps build a better overall machine.
  • Sharpen your nutrition–Tough to do during the holidays, I know, but during the offseason you probably have a bit more time to concentrate on your cooking and your diet. Put into practice any changes you’ve wanted to make but haven’t thanks to your busy schedule. If you’re local, my RD friend Becky has a great session on off-season maintenance eating this Saturday–check it out! 
  • Lay down a base–you know I’m a believer in low heart rate training to establish a base. I did it last summer and trust me, it’s a tough time to do it. But the off season, when the temperatures are cooler and when you don’t have a race right in front of you, is a great time to take this valuable step. It’s something I will do faithfully every year now post-season to ensure my body knows to use fat for fuel in the coming season.
  • Rest up–We all need a period during the year where we give ourselves permission to sleep in on occasion, yes, even skipping a run or two (or three). It’s good for the mind and body and keeps us fresh and wanting to get back at the harder training when the time rolls around again. Do it!

Sometimes, we are our own worst enemies, not allowing ourselves this off season. But trust me, in order to continually move forward, sometimes you need to go a tiny bit backward and allow a small loss of fitness. It keeps the body fresh and the mental fires burning for those days to come when we dream of a little downtime. Don’t miss your chance!

How do you spend your off season? 


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  1. All of the above and a trail race series! It’s nice to have a little off season but I’m anxious to start training again!
    Jill @ Fitness, Health and Happiness recently posted..Tips To Stay Healthy and Fit During the Holiday SeasonMy Profile

  2. Great tips! I do more weightroom training.
    Kristina Walters @ Kris On Fitness recently posted..California Dreamin’…My SpinMy Profile

  3. I’m rebuilding…working on cross training more consistently,
    AmyC recently posted..Salomon XR Crossmax 2 Trail ShoesMy Profile

  4. Thank you. I really needed to read this today. After my two big races in Oct I promised myself an off season. I have yet to really take some time off. I have a 5K this weekend and then nothing until a half at the end of Feb so I really need to take this advice. Instead of my run and then cross-train today, I’m going for a swim!
    Allie recently posted..Running Video – Hill Repeats!My Profile

  5. Yeah, whatever. If you’re able to go out and ride a bike, or crosstrain, you can go out and run, and that’s what I’m going to do. And that’s all I’m going to do.

    • And forgive me if I’m a little dubious of the doing MAF, seeing as how your season ended.

      • MissZippy says:

        Well…I think that things might have been different had I stuck w/ MAF all the way. I took an educated risk when I switched over to speed work mid-September. It’s the runner’s fault, not the method!

  6. Great tips! I really need to dust off my bike & get back on the trainer. Thanks for reminder that a few missed workouts is ok. I’m struggling a bit with this as I fight a nasty cold this week.
    Nicole @ Work in Sweats Mama recently posted..O (Fake) TannenbaumMy Profile

  7. Ive signed up to volunteer with a local at risk youth running group here in oakland (crazy I know) so my crosstraining will now be RUNNING.
    MIZ recently posted..Accidental goal achievement.My Profile

  8. Crosstraining is key. We’re looking to ski more this winter and the kids also want to try cross country skiing and snowshoeing.
    Kovas recently posted..Mizuno Wave Rider 17My Profile

  9. this is great! i’m really trying to focus on the strength training these next few months as I continue to heal up!

  10. I’m footloose over here! I’ve found my trainer again. I’ve also really been enjoying lifting heavy again on leg days. No need to worry about DOMS for a speed session the next day. Although I miss running, I really have enjoyed the break. But you know I’ll be lacing my sneakers up for a run as soon as I get the ok!
    Angela @ Happy Fit Mama recently posted..5 Tips to Stay Fit During The HolidaysMy Profile

  11. tis the season to set up your bike trainer, yes? hehe. I embrace the off season. WE sure do need it and it helps our running in the long run!
    Lindsay recently posted..Life is like Gluten Free & Dairy Free Oreo “dirt” PieMy Profile

  12. My two thoughts:
    - Intentional eating – don’t deny yourself things over the holidays, but rather be accountable for the portions and also the ‘grabs’ and ‘tastes’ you take along the way.
    - Improve mental toughness – running outside in extreme cold challenges your body and mind in a different way than in normal climates. Or, do other things that take you outside of your comfort zone.
    Michael Anderson recently posted..Truth for Tuesday – What I Hate About Running in the Extreme ColdMy Profile

  13. I try to embrace off season too when the cold weather hits. I do more strength training, work out tapes (Physique 57), and yoga that I can’t find time to do otherwise.

  14. I am looking forward to downhill skiing + snowshoeing this winter. Also going to Pilates twice a week instead of one. Thinking of it more as “active recovery”. Of course during this time I will also be planning my 2014 race schedule :)

  15. My off season was shortened this year because crazy me decided to do a destination race the first week of February. What has usually been a time for a few fun short races is now currently owned by marathon training.

    I know when February rolls around I will enjoy a month of off season before plowing back into the thick of things. I have vowed to relax and enjoy and to NOT have a big winter race next year!!
    Sarah MomRunningonEmpty recently posted..Weekly update and a Diet-to-Go 24 Hour GiveawayMy Profile

  16. This is definitely where I’m at right now! Great tips… and it’s nice to be reminded that I’m doing all the right things, even if it is because I’m forced to. :)
    Laura @ Mommy Run Fast recently posted..Two words for a healthier holiday seasonMy Profile

  17. Great tips! I’m determined to use this time to get stronger and get back to my yoga practice!
    Michelle @ Running with Attitude recently posted..#OneSmallChange Week 9My Profile

  18. Such great tips. Now that I’m not totally immersed in yoga, I’m excited to vary up my routine again and get back to strength training and re-establishing my running base. Of course, yoga too :-)
    Christine @ Love, Life, Surf recently posted..9 Things I Learned During Yoga Teacher TrainingMy Profile

  19. I am not a runner BUT I do know the importance of cross training & knowing when to take it easy. I see way too many running injuries out there in blog world from over ding it & not listening to the bod.. to stay healthy for the long term, ya got to listen to that bod.. this old broad knows that! ;)
    Jody – Fit at 56 recently posted..Shoes & Underwear Oh My!My Profile

  20. YAY for crosstraining!! I just got my new bike! And my new bike trainer! SO EXCITED!!
    Krysten Siba Bishop (@darwinianfail) recently posted..Birthday @PolarGlobal LOOP Giveaway!My Profile

  21. Thanks for your tips! I really like the one to sharpen your nutrition. That’s a great idea and something I haven’t tried in the off-season.
    I’m all about resting up, cross-training, and strengthening. Hopefully it pays dividends come spring/summer!
    Abby @ Change of Pace recently posted..Tis the season – food & fitnessMy Profile

  22. I run year round, by my race training is never as intense as other people’s. I try to rest after a marathon and do slower miles before the real intensity of the marathon plan kicks in.
    Robin recently posted..My HeartMy Profile

  23. No office season here in the south….this is running prime time! =) Houston marathon in January, and then numerous other options for halves and fulls through April! But good tips nonetheless! I will be looking forward to the office season in a few months for sure!
    Crystal@TheFastFitRunner recently posted..Turkey Trot PRMy Profile

  24. Rest is so important. Listening to your body is key in any sport :)
    Kierston @candyfit recently posted..Just Because…My Profile

  25. I love the off season. It’s only a couple of months but I try to use that time wisely. Lots of rest & I don’t worry about having to get runs in – if I feel like running, I run. I swim a lot and I get back to lifting heavy in the gym. Sharpening my nutrition is definitely something I have to work on during the off season – this time of year is really tough (I say as I stuff my face with a piece of gingerbread cheesecake :D ) The upside is that at least i have the down time to plan meals and cook!
    Phaedra @ Blisters and Black Toenails recently posted..The Last Hurrah: The Tannenbaum 10kmMy Profile

  26. I can’t wait for CIM to be over….it’s been a very long year of racing a lot of very long races!
    Jill recently posted..November: CIM – Half CommittedMy Profile

  27. I’ve had a bit of a lull in training post-Melbourne and I’ve been using it to recover from the marathon and rehab a few little niggles. And a couple of times I’ve skipped sessions just because I was tired or feeling a bit off and it’s been so nice to have those extra sleep-ins.
    Char recently posted..Naughty or Nice?My Profile

  28. CHECK all around!
    Kat recently posted..Keeping focused during the holidays! + Tis the Season #3My Profile

  29. Actually, I think I’ll be cycling less in the winter because I am more picky about the weather (and the road conditions) for cycling. On the other hand, since I’ve added spinning to my routine, I might cut out a day of running.
    Coco recently posted..Holiday PiesMy Profile

  30. Ironically, my season is just getting re-started! After down time through the hot summer and cross country, when I cut way back on my running, I am now starting to build back up, training for a February half marathon. Plenty of races to train for in California :-)
    Debbie @ Live from La Quinta recently posted..Mizuno Wave Rider 17 Review and a Brilliant RunMy Profile

  31. Since I don’t race and train I don’t really have an off season – I just keep doing what I do.
    Great tips – I’m all about the strength training!!
    Kim recently posted..Names – How do you Choose Them?My Profile

  32. Summer is more of a running off-season for me than winter, and with the next two months filled with 2 half marathons, a choose-your-own-distance trail race, and a 7.5 mile trail race in addition to one last adventure race for the year, I’ll be plenty busy. Since I adventure race, though (and have self-diagnosed athletic ADD), I pretty much cross-train all year long…and that’s how I like it. If I’m “stuck” doing one thing for too long I start to feel trapped.

    I *am* going to start strength training again in January. I’ve missed that.
    Kate recently posted..Thanksgiving BreakMy Profile

  33. i feel like all i’m doing for the next few months is building my base back up…but doing what you mentioned too-lots of pilates, flywheel, and hopefully getting back to yoga. Off to rehoboth for the 1/2 this weekend :)
    elizabeth recently posted..A Whole Lot of NothingMy Profile

  34. Nice post! I must admit I don’t have an off season. I just run all year round, preparing for and hopefully achieving my goals along the way. Because of our fantastic weather we have great races and challenges all year round.
    Johann recently posted..Throwback Thursday – My Oldest Running PhotoMy Profile

  35. Because I’m a low-mileage runner cross training is part of my plan year-round. I do plan on incorporating more massage into my life. That area is sorely neglected!
    Marcia recently posted..November Recap and a RecipeMy Profile

  36. Great tips:) I like to crosstrain but quit my gym so I mostly have to strength train at home. Thinking about joining a new gym to be able to do some spin or other classes. I definitely need to work on my nutrition this season!
    Rachelle Q recently posted..Cold Run Done!My Profile

  37. Ah, next weekend is my last half and I am pretty pumped! I have already started “off season” bc to be honest, I’m just over it. haha. I am loving heavy weights and focusing on muscle right now. A big change up after a year of intense racing!
    Taylor @ LiftingRevolution recently posted..Confessions of A Personal Trainer: Holiday EditionMy Profile

  38. This winter I’m banking hours not miles, building a really strong base for endurance by increasing time on my feet with long slow runs with walking intervals. I want to get comfortable with 15 hours on my feet in a day. I also go back to cycling, weight training and swimming. In the spring I’ll start re-introducing speed work and start cutting back on the endurance training in order to save my legs for ultra season in the summer :)
    Becky @ Trails and Ultras recently posted..Ultra fuellingMy Profile

  39. Great ideas, all of them. I’m back on my bike trainer, and slowly building my running miles back up. I have to get back to the pool too!
    TriGirl recently posted..Come Check Out My Guest Post. It’s All About Motivation!My Profile


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