Off Season For Runners 11289 700×394

5 Ways For Runners To Optimize the Off-Season

BY Bob Mittleman

Taking a break is necessary for all runners. However, even during your break from running you can still find ways to improve. Coach Bob Mittleman has five ways runners can stay fit and even improve without running a step.

So, the summer is long over. The fall training season is coming to a close. So too is the fall racing season. All that planning and work you have put into your fitness routine to prepare for the close of 2015 has either helped you or not. With it, we can add a lot of mental preparation too. And, without a doubt you have had to overcome some sort of obstacle that caused you an interruption or change. Through it all, you made it through to the end. Now, just around the corner, comes the off-season. What do you do now?

The off-season is a great time to recharge the batteries. That goes for your physical outlook and mental as well. It’s also a time to reflect on where you were at the start of the year and now where you want to go in 2016. It’s a great time to set up some realistic goals and work towards them. You either have a firm foundation to work off of or you are going to put things in motion to create one. It’s’ all good.

In no particular order, let’s look at ways to make the upcoming downtime as productive as possible.

Note to Self

I like to start things off by having my clients, as well as my high school team that I coach, write a note to me recapping their past year. I do this so the individual can clearly state any successes or failures they might perceive they had and how to also state their intended goals for next season. It’s a simple method to take what’s stored in one’s mind and put it into words. In the end, it clears the head and it helps with visualizing one’s intentions. It’s a great exercise. Keep in mind, the note can be as short or as long as you want it to be.

Cross Training Ideas

The next step is to come up with a something that you would want to try out as a cross training routine. It could be something brand new to you or it could be something you’ve tried in the past and now want to give it another whirl. Most runners never consider another form of training during peak workout times. It’s somewhat understandable due to time constraints or other factors, but now it’s the off-season and there are no more reasons or excuses.


Spinning is a great option. It keeps you off your legs and avoids the pounding running you can take on the whole body. This mode of training offers up a great cardiovascular workout. With a good instructor and class, you can keep up your fitness levels. There are various workouts to challenge yourself mentally and physically whether it be through interval training or hill workouts. There is correlation between running strike cadence and pedal stroke cadence. Bottom line, you will be saving wear and tear on your knees as well as your feet while getting in some excellent aerobic and at time anaerobic workouts.


Swimming is another form of training to look into. Like spinning, swimming gives your legs a break from all the pavement and treadmill running you’ve been doing as of late. Perhaps the best benefit is that it introduces several new ranges of motion and strengthens muscle groups that have not been used in a while. This will help with helping to avoid overcompensation injuries.


Yoga is often overlooked as a benefit to runners. But if you are looking to overcome a nagging injury or get that elusive personal best, look no further than getting into a Yoga class. Why? Yoga helps with mental sharpness, improves flexibility and strength, and creates a stronger core. That sounds pretty good to me and is typically found on any runners wish list.

There are certain poses that benefit runners more than others. Speak with your instructor and get help before a class starts up.

While your looking into a form of cross training, consider your options and plan out ahead what you would like to accomplish in 2016. There is no better time than the off-season to do so and the sooner the better. Because before you know it, the end of winter will be here, the start of spring will jump out at you, and the new racing season will begin.

As the racing season comes to a close or your training plans are wrapping up, or perhaps you weren’t in any mode due to injuries or other health concerns, consider your upcoming off-season as a new challenge to yourself. Change things up and come out fresh in the end. You will be thankful for it and will have set yourself up for a great 2016.

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About Bob Mittleman

Bob Mittleman is a USATF Level One Coach as well as a recommended coach with a TrainingPeaks Level Two certification. He has expertise in guiding runners to reach their personal best at any level: from the novice looking to reach the finish line for the first time to the experienced looking for extra guidance/accountability. Learn more about Bob at his website.

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