How to Plan Your Running Off-Season
The winter is a great time to take a break from running and training. With so much focus going into goal races in the spring, summer and fall, it’s nice to have some downtime.
That being said, it’s hard to sit still for very long. After four years spent training and racing at a pretty intense clip, I’ve found that my off-season planning is sometimes just as important as my in-season training.
When to Plan for Your Next Season
The timing of my off-season depends on the last race of the year. It used to be after TCM when I was running the 10 mile, but I don’t run it anymore (I’m too busy cheering others on!). So my off-season is much earlier than your typical runner, usually after the last triathlon of the season in August.
This year, my off-season officially started the first week of September and is going like this:
2-3 Weeks of Complete Down Time
No swims, no bikes, no runs. I usually go on long walks, do yoga, anything but swim/bike/run. Although this year – I ran at least 1 mile each day to keep my streak going! My purpose is to completely check out from anything related to triathlon.
6 weeks of fun time
I’ll start running and biking during my ‘fun time‘ but the workouts are light, easy and completely unplanned/unstructured. Easy runs and leisurely fall rides on the bike. There is no purpose or goal of the workouts – I go out when I want and I stop when I want. The purpose of this phase is to just keep my body moving and fitness level somewhat stable.
During this time I aim for about 4-5 hours of activity a week (about 30% of my normal training volume). It’s during this time that I’ll also plan for the next year. I look over what worked/didn’t work in the previous year.
I’ll plan my race calendar and start structuring and logging all my workouts for the next season into Training Peaks – I plan each and every workout for the year. The planning alone can take me upwards of 40-60 hours, but I’m an ‘organizer’ so I still consider all the planning part of the fun!
8 weeks of prep time
I split my prep time into 2 four-week phases.
The goal of my Prep 1 is to get back into the swing of things. I get back in the pool and have a little more structure to my run and bike workouts. I’ll ride my bike on an indoor trainer to get my body used to the positioning again (the saddle and aero position can take getting used to!).
I also add strength training and cross-training (fat biking, snowshoeing or skiing) to help me aim for 6-8 hours a week of activity (about 50% of my normal training volume) without getting focused on triathlon based workouts too early.
The goal of Prep 2 – is all about skills and drills. Focusing on swim form and bike pedaling skills are a big (boring) necessity to prepare myself for training that starts the first week of January. I still do strength training and some fun cross-training (fat biking is number one on the list!) to keep myself sane during the winter months, aiming for around 8-10 hours a week of activity (about 60% of my normal training volume).
Full on Base training starts for me January week one!
Your Off-Season Planning
Regardless of when your last significant race was, you can follow a similar schedule. If your last big race was the Twin Cities Marathon or Monster Dash, hopefully you took 2 – 3 weeks to just relax. As you jump into your fun and prep time, ask yourself these questions:
- What do I want to accomplish in 2015?
- When do I want to accomplish it?
- What do I need to do to get there?
Take the answers to these questions and work backward to help build out your training plan. Spending time in the coming weeks planning out 2015 will not only help you reach your goals – it’ll more than likely help you stay motivated and focused during the winter months!