How Runners Can Maximize the Off-Season

Molly Hurford
by Molly Hurford
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How Runners Can Maximize the Off-Season

So you finally made it to the off-season … But what should you actually be doing other than reading books about running, Netflix-ing and feeling a little bit lazy? Assuming you’re a regular runner, the off-season means you’re gaining back anywhere from 5–15 hours per week, so if you take 2–3 weeks off, you could have 20+ hours to use wisely. Remember all runners need some time off to avoid overtraining.

Here are a few simple ways to make it count:


Err on the side of sleeping in an extra hour if you usually get up early for your run or take a midday snooze during your typical lunch run. While studies have shown you can’t ‘make up’ lost sleep, you can let your body finally get the recovery it needs. Look at the extra hours of snoozing as experimental: assess how much better you feel on seven hours of sleep versus six. Sure, it’s not always possible to meet the 7–9 hour recommendations, but if you know you feel your best after eight hours of shut-eye, you might actually start turning in earlier.


Yeah, yeah, we know runners should strength train. Maybe swim. Maybe bike. There are so many new and different activities and classes to take advantage of. Well, here’s your chance. In other words, give your feet a break and try some new sports or activities you can’t seem to fit in when you’re running hard.


Those exercises the physical therapist keeps begging you to do? That yoga class your friend won’t stop talking about? Now is the time! When we’re already deep in a running routine, adding even a few minutes of stretching or mobility can feel like a lot of work, but when we don’t have any runs on the calendar, it’s much easier to make space for another type of movement. Starting now can help you get into a routine that actually helps improve your running once you come back!


Not just for the week: Use this time to meal prep for a while by doing things like making your own bone broth or vegetable stock and freezing healthy meals for more hectic points in your year. These extra hours also might let you finally get in the weekly meal prep groove, since you’ll finally have time on a weekend afternoon to figure out the best way for you to meal prep for the week.


Expired gels? Hole-filled running tights and socks? During the running season when you’re just trying to get through your workouts for the week, your gear probably falls into a state of disorder. Use this time for a serious clothing sort, getting rid of the running kit that no longer fits right or works well. Do the same for shoes, running food and any accessories.


Don’t frantically pick goal races for the new year, instead use your free time to get inspired, and to start making plans. This may mean talking through the season with a spouse, and then starting to look for good flights, hotels or other accommodations.


Luckily, the holidays coincide with most runners’ off-seasons, which means you have plenty of opportunity to catch up with your non-running crew. Bask in the glory of not having to set your alarm for 5 a.m. to get in your usual morning run, and stay out a little bit later than usual having those catch-ups. Often, we get so focused on our training during the racing season that our friendships and relationships suffer. Use this time to make it up to them — and yourself.


Build a snowman. Go sledding. Go for a long walk in a park you normally sprint through. Take a class you’ve been curious about. Play hide-and-seek with your kids without stressing that it’s taking away time from logging miles. This is a golden opportunity to reconnect with your playful side, and that might actually have some benefits when you get back to training — after all, fartleks are basically the same as a game of tag.

About the Author

Molly Hurford
Molly Hurford

Molly is an outdoor adventurer and professional nomad obsessed with all things running, nutrition, cycling and movement-related. When not outside, she’s writing and podcasting about being outside, training and health. You can follow along with her adventures on Instagram at @mollyjhurford.


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