Eight Pro Tips for Off-Season Running Training
Winter weather is here, but that doesn’t mean your running needs to stop. Instead, make the most of your off-season by building strength, improving flexibility and more. Don’t just take it from me: these pros share their top tips for starting your next season stronger than the year before.
Train for a Different Distance
“For runners who live in areas that experience very cold winters, that means they likely do not have a big goal race for the next few months. With athletes I coach, I often like to do a short block of training focusing on something different than what they typically focus on in the warmer months when their races are at the forefront of their training. If you typically do a half or full marathon in the summer, the winter may be a nice time to develop some 5k or 10k specific fitness (and vice-versa).”
–Kyle J. Kranz, Running Coach, KyleKranz.com
Get Metabolically Efficient
“The offseason is a great time to work on becoming more metabolically efficient, which simply means becoming a fat burning machine. To become better at using fat as an energy source (as opposed to carbs or sugar) you need to run at an easy pace and the offseason is a great time to do this.
The more time you spend running in the "fat burning" zone the better the body gets at using fat as an energy source, allowing you to run longer and longer without bonking. This zone is different for everyone, but a good general rule is that you should be able to easily hold a conversation while running.
For competitive runners who know their average 10k pace, add about 20 to 25 percent to your per mile pace: a 10 min/mile runner would want to run around a 12:30 min/mile pace or a 7 min/mile runner would look to be around 8:45 min/mile pace.
Not every run needs to be done in this "fat burning" zone but the majority of your weekly miles should be to truly gain the metabolic benefit. So spend the offseason running easy with friends and become a fat burning machine, what could be better?”
-Brian Hammond, Head Coach at Tailwind Endurance.
Strength-Train Your Way to Improved Fitness
“Now is the time to find areas outside of running that will help you improve your running times, and one area runners often miss out on is lifting weights! Total-body movements are a very efficient way to train, and also using weights will strengthen your bones and connective tissue to make you more durable on your long runs! Here are some specific exercises that are helpful for runners:
- Lunges: Try reverse lunges if you have banged up knees
- Squats: Try all variations, including front squat, split squat, goblet squat, back squat
- Deadlifts: Trap bars are really nice for deadlift newbies
Using higher amounts of reps in each set of these exercises will even help to build your endurance for running.”
-Tyler Spraul, Head Trainer for Exercise.com
Avoid Over-Use Injuries
“Repetitive stress injury, also known as overuse injury, is becoming a significant concern for orthopaedic doctors, especially at a time where the number of duel-sport athletes continues to grow.
These overuse injuries only get worse and playing or running through the pain increases damage to the body and therefore recovery time. If you’re already have any persistent pain or injury, see an orthopaedic doctor immediately.
If you’re feeling good in the off-season, use this time to strength train, focus on speed, or try new modalities to avoid any overuse issues, in both the on- and off-season.”
Increase Your Speed
“I recommend that people use this time to focus on speed work—that's right, speed. By using the treadmill, you can build up your fitness and also improve your speed without having to worry about winter weather conditions.
The treadmill can be a great resource for progression runs (increasing your speed over a certain distance, like 30 seconds/per mile faster) or for kicking your legs into gear with speed work (e.g., start at a push pace and increase the speed by .1 for every minute).
It'll make sure that when you get ready for training or to jump back into running when the weather is better that you start at a better level of fitness than if you slosh through distance runs in the outdoors.”
-Lora Johnson, running coach and founder of Crazy Running Girl
Perfect Your Technique
“Runners can always work on improving their running technique, especially in the wintertime when it’s not as favorable to go outside. Practicing the skill of running through drills, even indoors, allows you to lay a concrete foundation of proper technique.”
–Albert Lu, Pose Method Running Technique Specialist
Improve Joint Mobility
“Every year, I hear runners say things like ‘I stretch my hamstrings all the time but they always feel tight!’ When I ask them what they do for their joints, most of them don't know what I’m talking about. This is important for runners because once the joint moves better, all the muscles that attach into those joints will also be more elastic, reducing your risk for injury and soreness. A joint mobility/flexibility program can also be completed three times per week for an effective use of time during the off-season.”
Be More Effective on the Treadmill
“If treadmill running is your only option, then there are some ways to make it more transferable to regular running. In running, we utilize our body weight to move forward by allowing our center of mass to rotate over a point of support (foot); this allows us to fall forward under the influence of gravity.
In treadmill running, this is largely negated because the belt is moving under our feet. A good way to control this is by setting your treadmill to a slight incline (3 to 5 percent) to allow your body to more naturally fall forward. Lastly, don’t be scared to incorporate speed and interval training in your treadmill work.”
–Bruce Tan, Pose Method Run and Sport Technique Specialist
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