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Off-season: the official love-hate relationship of running.

(I feel like this should be a running-reality tv show...)

Most runners strongly dislike off season because:

  • of the post-marathon blues

  • maybe fewer or no races on the near horizon

  • not to mention weather changes that make running challenging (hello dread-mill).

Some runners love the extra down time, increased cross training, new running adventures...

(yup, I'm THIS weirdo runner...whose with me?)

The problem with loathing your off-season...
It's what makes you a better runner.
So ignoring it, could actually lead to you sabotaging your own race goals.

But let's back this bus up real quick…

What an off season is:

  • Rest time + reverse taper time

  • (aka: time you take off from running + time you take slowly building your mileage back up + a possible emphasis on cross training vs running)

Why you do it:

  • To ensure FULL recovery from the stress/load of your last training block

How long it can be:

  • 2-8 weeks.

Want the full scoop instead of the cliff notes? Read more HERE!

BIGGER question: What do you DO during your off season?

You lay the foundation to becoming a better runner.

But you have to admit…"be a better runner"…

Is kind of vague.

It makes sense on one hand!

You want to be a better runner compared to last race season, or when you first started running, or maybe you're determined to finally run that sub 4-hour marathon because you were SO CLOSE!

There's quantifiable, objective, data-driven ways to assess and improve your running performance:

  • Decrease your mile time by 10-30secs

  • Run your first sub 50min 10k

  • Run your first marathon

  • Complete 1 half marathon every month, etc

There's NOTHING wrong with very specific, number-focused running goals.

  • You need 6-12 weeks to prep for a marathon

  • You HAVE to do a long run around 20miles

  • You need to be able to be on your feet for up to 4+ hours etc

But the ULTIMATE secret to truly becoming a "better runner" in your own words.

Check out you all said over on Instagram.

"Being a better runner" to you all means:

  • "getting stronger"

  • "avoiding injury"

  • "getting faster so I can be closer to where I was before having kids"

  • "Learning about and understanding my own body"

  • "Being empowered with the knowledge to assess my own weaknesses"

  • "having knowledge/exercises to work on my weak areas and how to make proper changes in my body"

You know what's so cool about these?

One of you wrapped it up so well:

"I’m still new to running so I don’t know what success is (other than a number)."

All of those quotes above: are amazing ways to be a better, successful runner WITHOUT numbers!

When asked what being a better runner means, nobody mentioned a specific NUMBER. Now, you might have a specific number (race length, pace, etc) in mind, and that’s GOOD!

But you become a better runner on your way to achieving that number-goal. Because you don't achieve that number-goal, unless you ARE a better runner.

Read that one more time.

Now for example, You finally ran at that new fast, blistering pace because:

  • you got stronger

  • you understood your body

  • you didn't get injured because you had the knowledge and knew what mobility exercise's you needed, etc.

Can you start to see the connection?

So challenge yourself.

Dare to Train Differently and let your off-season be about:

  1. Laying the objectively stronger, data-driven, solid-foundation for your next and improved race season

  2. But let it also be about becoming a better runner by embracing the process.

Point #2 is hella vague, right?

Well, the process starts here with a checklist.

You can't get to where you want to go if you don't know where you've been. And lucky for you, you just finished a race season so you have TONS of both objective and subjective data to pull from.

So let's get started!

HOW TO BECOME A BETTER RUNNER (and not just by the numbers)

First step in becoming a better runner:

You need to identify the areas where you excel

And the areas where you don't.

(harsh? Maybe. True? Definitely.)

It's from this assessment that you create a plan--a method to make you stronger, pain free, faster,…whatever it is you want!

(And...since this exact frame work is actually part of my job as a physical therapist….it obviously works!)

If you're serious about upping your game next season and making this off-season count,…then you have to write this out in your training log.

(yes, really. Pen and paper if your training log is old school like me or even the note section of your phone. Don't cheat yourself of these invaluable lessons.)

Evaluate where you felt STRONG during your last training block: (remember, your race counts as part of the training block!)

  • Examples:

  • The final kick

  • Consistent splits

  • Mid-race mind games

  • Consistent strength work

  • Worked on pacing

  • Running form

  • Fueling strategy

  • Write down anything!

Evaluate where you're felt WEAK during your last training block:

  • Examples:

  • Any of the above

  • Was it challenging to warm up; and why?

  • Cool down (and why)?

  • What areas were you just plan NOT motivated to do? (ex: strength work) Could that have impacted your race performance?

  • did you take enough recovery time?

  • Write down anything; there's no wrong answer!

After evaluating everything above, in what area below did you struggle the most?

  • Training

  • Racing

  • Recovery

Action Steps: WHAT can you do next??

  • Do you WANT to work on your weak areas?

    • List 2 here; no more!

    • HOW? What do you need (knowledge, tools, coach/accountability) to maybe this happen?

  • Do you WANT to maintain your strong areas?

    • List 3 here; no more!

    • HOW? What do you need (knowledge, tools, coach/accountability) to maybe this happen?

Congratulations: you've just created an off season plan ;)

Now it's time to WORK THE PLAN

This off season is your chance to become a better runner.

But a better runner the way YOU define it; not how the watch defines it.
Preventing future injury: is a success.
Feeling stronger: definitely a win.
Being able to post that slooowww run to strava and be PROUD of it: another victory.

Off season is your time to choose to be empowered, create your battle plan, and start executing it.

Race season might hold all the glory with the shiny medals and finish lines, but it's the steps you take now and the future workouts you put in the bank that pave the way to your next PR.

Dare to Train Differently,

Marie Whitt, PT, DPT //

P.S. Want to get started Working the Plan? Grab my FREE running guide with hip mobility, full body strength, speed exercises and cross training ideas! It's a plan for your plan ;)

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