Running in the off/pre season

Right now is just a beautiful time to be training!  The sun is up early, the daylight is hanging around longer.  So more time in the sunshine to train – stunning!  Now this post is all about what to work on in the off season or preseason.  I am a firm believer that running or any endurance sport is all about consistency – that is adaptations and changes to your body will happen with a dedicated and continuous approach.  Having said that you can’t train hard all year around, well you can but it is very taxing on your body emotionally and physically.  Hence, why many people get sick after a big event such as a marathon, but that is another topic!

Now is the time to reflect.  Look back.  How did I go this year?  Did I achieve the goals that I set out to at the start of the year?  If so, awesome, how did I do this?  Was it because I was disciplined and trained through the cold winter mornings, or because I went to bed 30mins earlier and got up 30mins earlier to fit that 5km run in?  Congratulate yourself if you have ticked the boxes!  We all need this.  But if not, why not?  Don’t be too annoyed at yourself, as life can and will on occassions get in the way.  Be structured with your analysis and appraisal.  Clearly identify what went well, congratulate yourself! But you also need to critically analyse the points to improve on.

Start planning your 2013 year now!  Look at the races coming up and map it out.  Now there are a few ways that you can go here.  If you are planning on just having fun and competing in events without the want to go faster then by all means you can race all year.  Just ensure that you have adequate recovery and rest between events.  It is very difficult to taper for many events throughout a year.  Personally I like to have 2-3 big goals or A grade races every year.  For me this year that was the Burnley half marathon, the Shepparton half Ironman and then it will the Ironman Melbourne in March 2013.

The off season or pre season can be time to correct the issues that are standing in your way from achieving your full potential.  This may be trying to move into a more minimalist shoe, getting stronger in the core and gluteals or trying to improve your speed.  Each individual will have thier own specific weak links that need to be addressed.  You should identify these in your appraisal.  If you struggle to get up early and train, now is a perfect time to get into good habits while the sun is up and about early and the weather is significantly better.

What I am getting at here is don’t just keep plodding on….. think…. where can I improve?  If you keep getting overuse injuries – get it sorted…. if you know that you keep dying in the last 4-5kms of a half marathon, work out why.  If you have wanted to try and move into a more minimalist shoe for a few years but have been doing too many km’s or hard training to make the move, well now is the time to make the move, that is if you are biomechanically sound.  Refer to my previous blog post.  If you struggled with a certain injury throughout the year square it away now, before your training needs to get more serious into Jan-Feb next year!  Too often do I see runners coming into see me with an overuse injury that keeps occurring 4-6 weeks out from a major event.  Address the issues now!

So this blog is certainly not a recipe for what every runner should do in the off season.  What you should do is very specific to your goals, failures and success’s over the previous running campaigns.  The key is to reflect, analyse, plan and then impliment a structured set of goals that are going to propel you to the next level.  By all means if you are happy to just run then ignore what I am saying…. but don’t be surprised if you do not progress as quickly as some.

On a side note…. a very common pattern that I see is people will train up for a certain event such as the Melbourne half or full marathon.  After the race finishes they stop running…. only to do the odd session over summer before smashing back into it in Mar-Apr the following year.  This approach is certainly not recommended, it will lead to minimal improvements as you will be losing all the fitness over the summer, with training only to bring you back to your previous fitness level.  That is you will not get a continued push in the upward direction that a guided and sensible approach that I mention above could provide.

As alway, shoot me an email at ross@free2run.com.au if you have any specific/personal questions.  Enjoy the reflection/planning and enjoy the sunshine.

Happy running!

Ross Kinsella

Sports Physiotherapist and level 2 running coach