As the race season starts to unwind for the majority of endurance athletes now is a perfect time to reflect on your accomplishments and begin planning for next year.  After months of intense training, it is not always easy to switch gears. As much as some might see the off-season as punishment, it really doesn’t have to be.

So, hit that snooze button a few times; eat some carbs and stay up late… It’s the off-season!!

I know, I know. It’s not that easy. For those of us who need some structure below are some guidelines that should help you re-focus, stay active, recover and primed to enter next season in great shape.

Get some rest: Both mental and physical rest. Sleep in, put in some easy miles at a comfortable pace. Leave the GPS at home and just go enjoy your favorite trails without worrying about your splits.  Maybe even invite a friend along and catch up as you run at a conversational pace. If you really find the need to race, do one of the many short distance holiday “races” around town with friends and family.  This might fulfill your urge to pin on a race bib. But remember, just run for fun!

Set new goals: This is a good time to reflect on the season – highlights and lowlights. It is a good time to consider working with a coach if you are not already doing so. Work with your coach to plan out next year’s races and redefine your goals. With most popular races selling out months in advance the off-season is when you should try to secure those spots. Keep in mind that this is actually one of the busiest times of the year for most coaches as they are doing just this, planning.

Try something new: Get in the pool, on a bike or into a yoga class. Cross-training and strength training should be incorporated into your race season.  However, as life gets busy it is typically the first thing to be put aside in an effort to get in the rest of your training. In the off-season, refocus your efforts and try something new. I recently heard about something called “Yoga Sculpt”, it is Yoga on crack! A fast paced yoga class with weights. The benefits of the deep stretches and lower body workout along with the added resistance is a perfect combination of low impact strength training us runners and triathletes need. Give it a shot, it will make you a stronger and less injury prone athlete.

Taking this needed time off is essential in preventing not only injuries, but also to avoid developing a pattern where your body plateaus and the risk of injury, fatigue and overtraining can quickly set in.  Simply said, continuous racing will eventually break your body down and lead to a perpetual cycle of frustration.  There is a reason why we don’t have the NFL year round, as much as some might like to see that, professional athletes need time away from high performance training. Just like you… So, go sign-up for that yoga class and enjoy your off-season.