As runners, our biggest nutritional concerns often center on what to eat to support our running: What should I eat before I run? How many calories should I consume during my long training runs? What are the best foods to eat for recovery after a hard workout?
But what about when you take a break from running? Most runners have a period of time in the year that is referred to as the offseason, when runners take a much-needed break after months of training and racing. This break often occurs immediately following a major race or event, like a marathon.
The initial break from running can last a few days to weeks, during which time you do very little activity as your body recovers from a long period of training. Then you transition into more of an "active rest," where you re-incorporate daily activity and maybe some light training. However, compared to structured training, the volume and intensity of training are both very low during the recovery period.
Offseason Target: Avoid Weight Gain
The biggest hallmark of the offseason is the overall reduction in energy expenditure that comes from a significant decrease in training. Many runners fear gaining weight during this period. This is especially a concern if you do not decrease the number of calories you eat to make up for your reduced activity. This can be difficult at first, but becomes easier as you begin to tune into your body's hunger cues.
Offseason Target: Weight Loss
The offseason may be a good time to target weight loss if a little is necessary. Trying to lose weight during the training season is not advised, as the calorie restriction necessary for weight loss can lead to long-term negative energy balance and reduced energy stores, which results in impaired performance and health.