10 Tips to Stay Healthy + Strong

Kinda true story: it feels like the sun sets around 3:30 in Denver these days. And come about 4 pm, I—Dimity—am ready for dinner, an episode of The Crown (just one: gotta savor them!), and bed. That doesn’t happen most days, but I still entertain an aggressively early bedtime, which, one would think, would make it easy to get up early and rally. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

The good news? During the off-season, it’s ok to miss a workout—or trade your HIIT intervals for a recovery yoga session. If you’re thinking, “I didn’t have a training cycle or race this year, so I don’t really have an off-season,” you’re wrong. Not in a tsk tsk way, of course, but we know that purposeful workouts wax and wane with the seasons, so whether you tapered or not in 2022, lean into this advice from Train Like a Mother Coach Jen Harrison, who shares 10 tips she wants her athletes—and you—to focus on during the offseason.

[Want more expert tips? Check out 10 Marathon Tips and 10 Tips from a Dietitian.]

#1: Re-prioritize
Now is the time to catch up on sleep, call your friends, go out, have fun! Turn off your weekend alarms! Don’t be so strict with your bedtime. Have you been craving that Netflix binge? Later nights out with friends? An extra 15-20 minutes to read in peace and quiet at night in bed? Do it with no guilt.

#2: Spice it Up
Mix things up, try something new. Always wanted to attend that TRX class? Go for a hike with a friend? Here’s your chance. Try a Pole Dancing class (yes!) or something more relaxing like Pilates. I also recommend runners get out on their bikes and soak up the fall colors and early winter crisp air on two wheels!

#3: Skip the Structure
Do as you feel, be flexible, don’t worry about a missed workout—or even the data for a while. Take a break from a structured plan for 2 weeks and do as you feel. If you feel like cross training do that. If you feel like going for a walk with your BFF, then go! Let it organically come to you each day and do not feel any pressure to follow a plan during this time or use data. If the data motivates you to stay active, that’s OK, use it. If you feel it adds stress to your down time, leave it out. Whatever you feel is best for you here!

#4: But not the Strength + Conditioning
Did you have a hard time finding the extra time for strength this season? Time to prioritize strength, body work and getting yourself stronger! Focus this off season on these key areas: mobility, functionality, core strength, and glute strength.

A little glute + core routine for those mid-December blahs: a good thing.

#5: Hang with Mother Nature—or Other Pals:
Nature heals: get out on the trails and let your mind wander and explore. Trails are a great place to unwind and rejuvenate. Soak it all up! Another option is a group run with friends. Have you been following your plan so much that you have not been running with others? Or slower friends? This is the time to join them and reconnect.

#6: Bring in Some Drills + Skills: If you are feeling a little antsy and want something to focus on, the off season is a great time to focus on drills that will improve your form, efficiency and overall speed.

Two of my favorite running drills include:

The key with this Karaoke drill is to have a higher knee with the trail leg. And, the focus here is lateral movement and opening up the hips. I do this one before ALL my runs and races. This drill also works the lateral plane: one we often under utilize in running.

Remember when you skipped as a kid? Let’s do that again as a runner and focus on the UP forward movement and really drive the knees. Check out this video for reference. Skip drills are great for focusing on the knee drive and working on power and strength while running. Focusing on single leg movements only improves our running form.

#7: Refresh + Recycle
Time to go through your old equipment and clothes. See what needs to be donated, recycled and replaced. I recommend replacing your running shoes every ~300 miles or every 3 months, whichever one you hit first. You can donate old shoes to your local run store for underserved communities and schools. Replace any batteries in your heart rate monitors, data devices or anything else that requires annual maintenance. Do your clothes have that dingy and sweaty smell to them? If so, let’s replace those. (Or give them a good washing with SweatX!) I also take stock of what I have and if I need another new sports bra or new socks I order a couple of pairs as something to look forward to when the running resumes.

#8: Head Out As mentioned on this Mojo is a Liar Podcast, it’s never as cold—or wet—outside as you imagine it will be when you’re tucked inside your bed or a warm living room. Invest in a good head light and lighted vest for safety and layer up. You’ll return to your warm house with a level of energy that matches the pink in your cheeks.

#9: Address the Niggles What bothered you this year on your body? Any consistent aches or pains? Now is the time to dive a little deeper with them. Some ideas:

  • Schedule a massage to work out some of the hot areas
  • Have your running form evaluated by a specialist. (Check out our Running Form Analysis!)
  • Or head to a physical therapist if you have been struggling with chronic aches and pains.
  • One of my favorite pieces of advice: hire a personal trainer for 1 session for a strength analysis. Ask them to provide 3-5 areas to focus on specific to you.

Want a little DIY to find your weaknesses? This video is super helpful–it’s one of my favorites.

#10: Plan for Next Year

This is a fun one. Do an honest evaluation of last year. What worked well? What did you enjoy? What did not work? What can—and do you want to—improve on? What excites you for next season?

[Ed Note: #11: Put Some Joy in It
Join us for Joy to the Run: a free, engaging month of December workouts that allow for snooze buttons and an extra glass of egg nog!]

What do you like to do during your offseason?

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