Why is it so important to take a break? Our bodies are constantly trying to maintain homeostasis—remaining stable. When you're training, you're pushing your body out of homeostasis so it can adapt. If you are constantly "on," your body can't adapt. Therefore, recovery is an important part of getting faster and stronger. The magic happens when you recover. Taking a break in the off-season from being "on" allows for adaptations to happen, for you to reset your goals or for you to focus on weight loss and muscle gain.
Weight Loss and Muscle Gain1 of 9
Losing weight or gaining muscle is extremely difficult when you are training for races. For weight loss, your body is constantly stressed and needs calories to perform during the race season. For muscle gain, you need a mixture of a calorie surplus and resistance training while you are running. Both are possible but not plausible. During your off-season, hone-in what your goals are and commit 100 percent to prepare for returning to training.
Running Form Correction2 of 9
During my race season, I noticed the top of my left foot was slightly inflamed, my pinkie toe had a huge callus and all my running shoes were worn on the outside. It never hurt, but it was clear my running form was not correct, and I took the time to see a physical therapist to address it before it became a real problem. If something is bugging you, the off-season is a great time to fix it, so you can have a killer race season.
Catch-Up with Non-Running Friends3 of 9
We have all likely found ourselves in a similar situation: Demanding training schedules and weekend trips for races leave small windows for socializing. If you're in a training group, you get to spend time with our running comrades but often neglect everyone else. In the off-season, go to a work happy hour or see some old friends. After all, race season is right around the corner, and the window of opportunity to hang out with non-runners is dwindling.
Naked Intention Running4 of 9
No, not that kind of naked. Forget the watch at home. Take some time to go for a run that does not include speed work or a distance goal. There is no intention of when to start running, but you can "dress" your run to go faster or slower, take a new route or maybe do a few squats when you stop for water. Run because you want to, not because you have to.
Try Other Activities5 of 9
Famous words of every runner: "I want to try yoga." I say it every season, and I admit I never do it. Why? Because I do not like yoga. However, I do like swimming and cycling. As a runner, there is likely something else you've wanted to try. Take a chance on it this off season; try rock-climbing, aerial yoga or kickboxing.
Set Goals and Plan Your Calendar6 of 9
Relish your accomplishments from the last season and take that forward in your goal setting. If you had a great season, determine if you want to maintain or elevate your performance. If it wasn't anything special, look at the factors that contributed to the outcome of your past race season.
Get a Blood Test to Establish Your Baseline7 of 9
If you tracked all the miles and workouts you did last season, add another level by getting a report to understand your biomarker levels—from cortisol to vitamin D. Companies like BlueprintFit and InsideTracker have several packages and coaching to help you understand how your body is doing on a biological level.
Reinforce Good Running Habits8 of 9
During a period of high training volume, some runners get into bad habits like forgoing cool down exercises, eating unhealthy food or skimping on adequate sleep. Use this time to refresh your focus on the fundamentals. Be sure to get 7 seven to eight hours of sleep each night, cut down on the sugar and spend at least 10 minutes after a workout to bring your body back to homeostasis.
Whatever you do during your off season, the goal is to actually be "off" and allow yourself some well-earned downtime. Need some inspiration? Check out what professional runners do during their offseason.