The content of this post came to mind last week while I was out on a run. It was Wednesday afternoon and I was aiming for what I hoped would be at least 7 miles but ultimately, I ran 8.
Mid-run I was questioning myself as to why on earth I was pushing myself to run 7, or more, miles when I have NOTHING on my race calendar. With an imminent move out-of-state on the horizon, I’ve been reluctant to commit myself to an event for fear that I’ll not be able to fulfill the entry.
As I thought a bit deeper on the subject, I rationalized my mileage for two reasons:
- I want to be a stronger runner. The only way I will get stronger is by RUNNING. It may seem more like maintenance than training, per se, but as long as I feel like I’m working (and not slacking off), I know I’m contributing to my overall fitness.
- Should I have the opportunity to race in the near future, it is going to be on very short notice. The better the shape I’m in will make a huge difference if I decide to jump in on an event that is a mere two weeks away.
With that in mind, I came up with a few tips for surviving a period in which you find yourself in the training mentality but you’re NOT actively training.
- Get S T R O N G! Even if your mileage is high, it likely won’t be as high as if you had an actual race coming up. So use the extra time to build strength. It will make you a better runner and help prevent injury when you do ramp up your mileage again.It has become a higher priority for me in the past few weeks and I’m already seeing some improvement.
- Switch gears. With my attention turning toward trail running and perhaps an ultra race at some later date, I’ve set a goal to run on a single-track, and somewhat technical, trail at least once a week. Additionally, instead of being concerned about my mileage or pace on those runs, I’m focusing on time spent on the trail. This could be applied in so many different ways but switch it up! Find some new routes, run with a friend or group you normally don’t, ditch the Garmin (I CAN’T BELIEVE I SAID THAT!), add a track workout, hit the trail… whatever offers some variety to your regular routine.
- Focus on short-term goals. I just (finally!) received a copy of the Believe Training Journal and I’m so jazzed! One of the features I’m already in love with is that each week there is a space to write down your focus for the week. While long-term goals are so important, I think short-term goals have a bigger impact because they aren’t necessarily as lofty. They are more like the steps you are going to take to achieve the ultimate goal. I’m aiming to pick one or two things each week that will get me closer to the dream. For example, this week I set a goal to revise my standard strength training routine and incorporate some new exercises and combinations.
- Embrace the space. I have a feeling that taking some time away from racing will reignite the competitive fire inside me. And when I do put something on my calendar, I’ll be ready to dive in and work.Take time to consider what it is that you love about training and racing. I think it’s a fairly safe assumption that it will become a priority again when the time is right. In the meantime, embrace the little bubble in which you don’t have to worry about getting a long run done every. single. weekend. Or, how you’re going to fund multiple race entry fees. Or how you are going to balance work, family, training, etc. Embrace the space!
- Plan for the future (as best you can). My immediate future is so up-in-the-air that I don’t know what state I’ll be living in two months from now. But what I do know is that I’m going to run some great events at some point. In the meantime, I’m educating myself, staying focused on my goals, researching possible events, connecting with other runners in various circles, and holding onto the idea that the training I’m doing now, while I’m not actually training for something, will only better the outcome down the road.
Everyone will have their own different approach to the “off-season” or a break from training or racing but it doesn’t mean that you can’t gain fitness and keep working toward whatever dreams you hope to achieve in the future.