Thanks for being patient with me over the last week. I think we are finally coming out from under the fog of moving and while I’m sure we will still have boxes laying around for a few more weeks I can finally say that our home is getting more and more livable by the day!
Have you ever seen those people who seem like they are always training for a goal race? Yup. They are out there but it’s not a smart idea. The truth is – we can’t always be in a race training cycle!
I get it though sometimes we feel lost without a goal race. Sometimes it even causes our motivation to tank. Over the years (and especially postpartum) I’ve really learned to embrace the “in between” training cycles for what it is and learned to have fun with it! It doesn’t always have to be some regimented and structured.
If you have just finished your goal race and are asking yourself the questions – what now!? here are a few tips to help you tackle your time between training cycles, maintain fitness, and even help to get you ready to go back to work when your next cycle begins!
First, let’s look at what your goals should be between cycles (yes – you can still have goals):
- Maintain Fitness – none of us want to lose the fitness that we have worked hard to gain so that’s usually one of the number one goals for runners
- Recover – you’ve run your goal race so you need to give your body time to recover
- Have some fun! – Even though training cycles can be so much fun it’s also fun to just go out without a plan and run whatever you body feels like!
- Focus on other fitness endeavors – have you ever wanted to take the new strength class at your gym but don’t have time to add it in with your running schedule? Want to add an extra strength training session a week? This is the PERFECT time to do all those things! Especially with less of a focus on higher mileage.
The above goals are simple, but I still see so many people ignoring them and later down the road burning themselves out. Trust me when I say you don’t want to burn yourself out. It is ugly and extremely frustrating, so what you do between your training cycles is very important!
Take a Break. No one wants to stop running. Trust me, I get it. But sometimes a break is just exactly what you need even when you don’t realize it. I used to give myself 2-3 days off after a marathon and then start running again. Now after learning the hard way I take a minimum of an entire week off.
Everyone is different when it comes to how much of a break you need. However; I highly suggest you take a break and rest. Your body won’t lose fitness in 1 week and it can help you in the long run to keep going after your big goals!
Recover, Recover, Recover. Eat well, take time to rest, drink lots of water, get enough sleep – do the things that allow your body to truly recover. Even if you feel great your body just went through a lot during your race. Give it what it needs to truly feel better.
Easy Running. Once it’s time to start running again it’s important to start easy. Don’t jump back into your workouts immediately instead just go out and run easy. There may be days when you go quicker because you are feeling better, but keep it steady and easy.
There will be a time in several weeks when you can add back in workouts but for those first several weeks just go out there and enjoy it. If you want to play it really safe, for every mile you raced take off that many days for hard running. If you ran a marathon take off 26 days. No, that doesn’t mean you can’t run just don’t add back in workouts for almost a month.
Strength training. Whether you love or hate strength training it’s really important to keeping runners healthy and even to help you become faster! During your off season is a great time to up your strength training. It’s easier to be sore when you don’t have a workout to to get ready for the next day!
If you can create a plan of strength training it will make it even easier to carry that into your next training cycle!
Run off of time and effort. Not distance. One of my favorite ways to train lately is by effort. It’s so freeing to not be tied to a pace and just run based on how my body feels. You’d be surprised just how well you can do! I also focus on running based on time – not distance. I’ll tell myself I’m going to run for 50 minutes easy and whatever mileage I’m at when my Garmin hits 50 minutes is it.
Stay Consistent. Consistency is the key to running. No really it is. It doesn’t matter if you are in the heart of marathon training or in the between races- you need to stay consistent. While I am a firm believer in taking time off after a marathon if you end up taking 3 months off instead it will make it harder to get back. Consistency is just as important when you are in between seasons. Find your “happy” mileage and stick with that during the off season. If your mileage for a training cycle is usually between 50-60 miles per week, then instead aim for 30-40 and be consistent with that once you are back to running.
The weeks between your training cycles will be vital to setting yourself up to go after your next goal. Should you do too much and burn yourself out it will make it extremely hard to tackle your next cycle. If you do what you need to do, recover, strengthen, and stay consistent then you will be on your way to bigger things!