A blog by runners. For runners.

Off season for runners: take a break from running

take a break from runningI once heard the key to a long, successful running career was knowing when to take it easy. One easy run per week, one easy week per month, and one easy month per year. During these runs, runners shouldn’t focus on distance or pace. Their only goal should be … well, taking it easy.

Most of us have no problem with one easy run each week and one easy week each month — heck the majority of training plans call for cut back weeks every month or so. But an entire easy month? That’s crazy talk.

It’s true though, all athletes – including runners – can benefit from an “off season”. Taking time off from training can heal both the mind and body. However, staying fit in the off season is often easier said than done.

It’s important to get adequate rest so your body can recover from months of grueling workouts. But it’s also crucial to maintain a high level of fitness so you don’t lose the valuable gains you worked so hard for throughout training. Basically, there’s a thin line between running too much and not running enough.

These tips can help you strike the balance for off season success:

  • First, rest. Take some time off from running. If you just ran a marathon or an ultra, you may need to take an entire week or two off. Listen to your body and don’t run again until you’re fully recovered. If you have an injury, you may need even more time off. Easing back into running will only help you in the long term.
  • Reduce your weekly mileage, but keep running enough that you have a solid base. If you’re in between marathon training seasons, running 15-20 miles per week should be enough to keep you fit but not enough that you overdo it.
  • Keep long runs short. During this break, you’ll want to keep up your endurance but not overdo it so much that you burn out. Do one long run every week or two. Remember “long” just means anything that’s longer than your other workouts that week. If you regularly run 4 and 5-milers, a long run of 8 miles is plenty.
  • Rethink speedwork. You can skip the tempo runs and mile repeats, but you’ll want to pick up the pace now and again so you don’t lose all of your speed. Doing regular, short interval runs can help keep you fast.
  • Focus on strength training. We runners have a habit of letting weight lifting fall by the wayside during training. Which means now is the perfect time to hit the weight room. Taking the time to build stronger muscles now may equal faster race times down the road.
  • Get cross-training. We all have activities we’ve been dying to try, but when we eat, sleep, and breathe marathon training, there is never any time. Go ahead and try a Barre class or check out the new cycling gym in town.

Above all, the off season is time to reflect on your last round of training. Review what went right and what went wrong. Note your strengths and weakness. Ask yourself what aspects of training you enjoyed and which ones you disliked. Reflection can help you determine how to train next time around.

Tell us, do you take an off season? How many days do you usually take off from running after a big race?

Written by Jen Matz.