Making the Off-Season Your Best Season
Off-season is here. The Spring, Summer, and Fall of racing has come to an end. Sure, there are some brave souls that do winter races, but that is far from the majority of runners. For those of you doing winter races, revisit this during your off season. For those who take winter as the off-season, read up! If you are ready to use this time to become a better athlete come Spring, you will need a plan. And, if you have a plan, and you work to stick with it, you will achieve your future goals. You will prepare your body to be in a better place than ever before, reaching potential you didn’t know was possible. The combination of trying your best and having a great plan in place will help you show up to your first Spring race ready for anything. Consider the steps below to help you make the most of your off-season training through nutrition.
Step 1: Determine your off season and future racing season goals.
What do you want to accomplish next season? If we don’t have goals to shoot for, we are less likely to make steps in the direction we want to go. Whether it be a PR, a new distance, a race victory, a goal to make it through a season un-injured, or anything else, decide what you want to work towards. Then, once you have that goal, determine what your progress goals are. What do you want to accomplish this off season that will ultimately help you accomplish your future goals? Measurable and realistic goals are best, so don’t take this lightly. For example: “My future goal is to run a 100 mile race.” “My off-season progress goals are 1.) To lose 5% body fat so that I am at a more comfortable spot while running long distances. 2.) To gain 5 pounds of muscle in order to give me the strength to push through 100 miles. 3.) To improve energy levels throughout the day and prevent mid afternoon crash.”
Step 2: Work with your Coach and Dietitian to come up with a plan.
Now that you know what you want to achieve, write out a training plan and a nutrition plan that will help you achieve those goals. You may want to reach your goals, but without the right plans for both areas we may not get there. For example, we can’t build muscle without strength training, but we also can’t build muscle without proper nutrition before and after strength training. However, we can build muscle if we properly strength train AND we implement the proper nutrition. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and advice from those who are specialized in these areas. By first coming up with your training plan, you can then talk with your dietitian about the best ways to adjust nutrition accordingly. What, if anything, should change on long run days? On strength training days? On high intensity training days? On weekdays versus weekends? The off-season is the best time to try out new foods and new ways of timing when you eat and what you eat before and after being moderately or intensely active. Take this time to learn what your body does or doesn’t like. If you find a combination of meals and snacks that work better for you now versus peak season think how much better you will feel and how many less trouble you’ll encounter come racing season. In addition to that, establishing healthful nutrition behaviors and habits during the off season is extremely beneficial. It will allow you to stress and think less about it once training ramps up and life gets busier again.
Step 3: Be specific with short term goals and keep track of those accomplishments.
Determine a preferred method of actually tracking your goals, such as a table of tasks to accomplish each day. Use your off season and long term goals, training plan, and nutrition plan to come up with a list of daily tasks. Having concrete tasks helps us stay on track and remember all the different parts. For example:
Step 4: Measure your accomplishments.
Whatever your goals may be, track and monitor them. There is nothing more motivating than seeing progress. If your goal is to lose weight, take monthly measurements. If your goal is to have more energy, rate your energy levels each day on a scale from 1-10 and watch as the average number slowly goes up over time. If your goal is to gain muscle, write down the weight you use each time you strength train. Watch as the size of the weights increase as time goes on.
Now that you’ve learned some key steps to making next season your best season, what are you waiting for?!