As we’re in the full swing of the holiday season here in the U.S, most runners are in a transitional time where the racing season has come to a definitive close and it’s a natural time of year to back off of structured training a bit for mind and body rejuvenation. Here are some helpful non-running areas of focus for this time of year that can pay dividends in your future training and racing:
1. Embrace the recovery:
For most, now’s a time to relax and enjoy time with friends and family, or just take time to slow down a bit. With the shorter hours of daylight, it’s natural to feel a bit less motivated or a bit more sluggish in your running. Don’t beat yourself up if this natural cycle of the year is true for you too. It's not just the body that responds well to periodize training, so does the mind. Now’s the time to regain that feeling of “freshness” and excitement for running.
2. Reflect on your strengths and weakness:
Find some time to take an inventory of your last year. What worked well in training and racing and what didn’t? What have been your strengths and your weaknesses as an athlete? The answers to these questions will help structure your long term training plan and blocks within that training.
3. Strength, mobility, and pre/rehab focus:
With a bit less running and more time indoors for most this time of year, now's an opportunity to start or refocus on a strength and mobility program. It might be helpful to consult a Physical Therapist and/or strength and conditioning coach for additional guidance, especially if you came off of a year of nagging recurring injuries.
4. Eat the damn cookies:
Yes, this time of year usually involves more gatherings and if nothing else, more eating. No, don’t go wild and abandon all healthy eating principles. Yes, keep the foundations of a healthy whole food diet most of the time. But, let’s be clear: it’s ok to eat the cookies. Weight and fitness naturally fluctuate over the year for an athlete, and being in peak shape all year around is not sustainable nor healthy. A healthy relationship with food is important for every athlete, and it's absolutely ok to enjoy the foods that show up this time of year.
It only takes about 50-60% of your peak training volume to keep a vast majority of your fitness, so it’s absolutely fine to back off volume a good chunk. Fitness takes months and years to build and it also takes a long time to lose while also training to some regard. So even with consistent lower volume training you’ll still be developing as a runner.
Happy Holidays, and enjoy those cookies!