Post Season Blues

With the end of every season comes the finality of another chapter in our personal book of running.  A time to reflect on the season that has passed and to evaluate our progress.  Time to kick back a bit, relax, regenerate, and reward ourselves on another season, well done.   What do we do with ourselves now that we have so much free time on our hands?  Although we know this break is essential to our long term success it can still be a tough adjustment for many.   Here are some examples of how some of our folks make the most of their down time and deal with the in-between season blues.

Michael Lombardi:  “Hitting the weights extra hard during the in between season always cures the blues for me!”

Christine Carbonetti:  I look forward to the in between because I use that time to focus on cross training and getting stronger in the weight room. There does come a point, however, where I’m ready and excited to jump back into training. I think having that break allows for us to get recharged and ready for what’s to come.

Alyssa Risko:  “In the off season I welcome the needed rest but not the little aches and pains that come with the lack of movement/mileage!”

Erin Wrightson:In the off season, I drink more wine and eat more pizza & tacos!”

As we look back at the season it’s important to ask ourselves some important questions.  Did we reach the goals that we had set for ourselves?  Were our goals and plan something that worked well with the rest of our lives and could be repeated going forward?  How can we be more efficient and do it better while still enjoying the process?  After all, we want to be sure that the journey is as enjoyable as possible and is sustainable over time.  Setting sensible goals that fit our lifestyle will put us in the best possible position for success.  We are not professional athletes and therefore we will have many priorities that rank above and beyond that of our running.   Take advantage of the free and get caught up on everything.

Jaclynn Stankus:  “The time in between my marathons where my body is recovering helps me to reset myself physically and mentally.  It lets me focus on other areas of my life and take care of myself in ways that I may neglect during hard training.  I begin the new season with a new attitude and a clear head.”

Emily Camenga:  “In between seasons, I really miss the focus and motivation that comes with following a specific training plan. In planning each day with specific intent and purpose, all other areas of my life are better organized. When the methodical training season comes to an abrupt end, it’s hard not to feel a little lost and disconnected.”

Danielle Turk-Bly:  “Running is one of the few luxuries that we are given that bridges the agony of pushing past what is comfortable and the reward of doing something you didn’t think possible. The off season can be daunting, because you know you are in the pursuit of more, but the immediate task of holding back leaves you craving the pain and the accomplishment it brings when you can push past it.”

The in-between seasons break is a great time to catch up on things that may have been neglected while we were in serious season training.  It’s time to prioritize different aspects of our life and restore some life balance.  Not only will this please our family and friends but it will do wonders for our own body and mind.   Keeping the peace in our households is always a must if we are going to be able to sustain this pursuit towards our goals over and over.

As we runners we have the tendency to think that more is always better and that rest periods will only lose us fitness.  The part about losing fitness is correct, while more is definitely not always better.  I frequently have new athletes to our program that don’t understand the importance of this lower volume training period and letting go of some fitness.   We are so consumed with the daily runs and the desire to always be improving that it’s tough to embrace the down times.  Make the most of the down time by recovering your body and tending to the rest of your lives and get back to the start line better than ever.

Embrace the in-between seasons and make them as productive as possible.   There is no reason for sadness or the post season blues.  Consistent improvement in your running is not a linear journey and there will be many ups and downs in training, racing as in life.   Navigate your way through the peaks and valleys with a disciplined approach and reap the rewards of another great chapter in your personal book of running.

The Roller Coaster of the Marathon Season!

Each year I work with beginner to veteran marathoners as they enter into their next marathon season.  Whether in search of a Boston qualifier, a PR, or to just finish it’s going to be a long grind.  It takes patience, consistency, and the ability to adapt to the unforeseen circumstances that will come their way.  Programs will last anywhere from twelve to eighteen weeks, depending on experience and the goals of the athlete.   In the northeast you can settle for the fact that you will be building your base in the heat of summer or in the ice and snow of winter.  The fact remains that you will face your share of adversity in all of your marathon campaigns.  Many of which they will have absolutely no control over and be forced to make the best of in order to conquer your marathon goals.

Each week you will spend between six and fifteen hours of your life grinding it out on the roads, trails, or treadmills.  This doesn’t account for prep time, fueling, refueling, strength, rehab, or recovery time.   The commitment here is real and it takes a special athlete to manage everything that life will throw in your way.   There is work, family, friends, sickness, injury, and the weather all to be accounted for.  Then there are the completely unforeseen life tragedies that will come our way and leave us wondering if it’s all worth it.  Below is a collection of quotes on how the adversity of the marathon season has affected these prospective spring marathoners.

Diane Harris: “I have faced the largest adversity that I’ve ever seen in this training block.  Between my travel schedule and awful weather there have been moments that I’ve just wanted to give up completely.   But by keeping in contact with my coach to adjust workouts and having a super-strong running support system it has helped to keep me focused on the goal.”  #Bostonbound2018

Ariane Hendrix:   “I have to remember that one bad run, race, or injury does not determine the entire season.   we have had terrible fires out here in California this winter and many days where I just could’t run outside.  I have to remember to keep fighting because In the end it will all be worth it!”
Adrienne Ruscika:  “I remind myself that comparing myself to others or even my past self when coming back from injury is completely unnecessary and detrimental to my current training. Everyone is different and every training cycle is going to be different. What matters is being smart, putting in the hard work, and working on mental toughness so that I can execute on race day.”
 Kim McGregor Law:  “As I get older I have had to reevaluate some of my goals, and as a runner I have found that having a good plan, working smarter, listening to my body is the key.   I can still have big goals and patience will get me there!”
Christine Carbonetti:  “Learning that not every run should be at medium to medium hard pace has been very beneficial in my training.  This was especially true in my last training cycle for Philly.  Keep the easy runs EASY so that you can perform and hit your paces on your hard days.”

Jessica VanKirk:  “Every season is completely different and I never know what to expect.  This season has been particularly tough for me, but I’m trying to remember that I want to be a lifelong runner not a once in a lifetime runner.   I have to allow my body time to heal from injury and I will run again stronger and faster than before.  My friend told me that I’ve encountered a few speed bumps which lead me on a detour.   I will make it to my original destination, it may just take a little longer than expected.”

Mike Routhier:   “Just because you have been a runner for more than 20 plus years, doesn’t mean anything.   I’m glad that I finally decided to try something new and get the perspective of training through the guidance and support of someone else.  This has been hard for me since I had always done my own training plans and have always been in absolute control.”

Michelle Davis:  “It seems impossible until it’s done. It seems unthinkable until you find yourself doing it. 🏃marathon training” 💪

Zach Hill:  “Winter Marathon Training: Just… git… er… done!!!”

Top 10 Winter Recovery TIPS!

 

The RECOVERY season is upon us and it’s time for a much needed break from the fall racing season as we prep for an amazing spring campaign!  In this article we will give you our  Top Ten recovery Tips to help you maximize your winter recovery/running and have you ready to crush all of your spring goals.

Everyone knows how much we all love running through the winter in upstate New York!  The temperatures are brisk, winds are strong, and the snow is flying.   How can we make the most out of this time of the year and get ourselves optimally prepared for spring racing?  Is it possible to race hard all year round and expect ourselves to be at our best when it really counts in our peak spring season?  How can we optimize this time of the year and get ourselves optimally prepared for the upcoming spring racing season?   Here in Albany we have the Winter Series and supported long runs throughout the coldest months of the year.  It doesn’t get much better than that as they are a great resource for runners here in the capital district to get great supported long runs in with a gang of folks.

At Nark Running we always designate December through mid-January as one of our two annual RECOVERY BLOCKS of the year.  The other of which is from mid-May through the end of June and corresponds with the end of the spring racing season.  These blocks depend on which peak races we have run and what races our annual plans consists of.  These recovery blocks are one of the most important and most commonly neglected time periods in most training plans.   There is no better time to begin to apply our  Top Ten Recovery Tips than when the holiday season is upon us and the first snows of the season are falling.  Our training volume has decreased, races are sparse, and speed work is not a priority in our weekly running schedules.  Here we go!

Top 10 RECOVERY TIPS

1.   Mental Healing:  As runners we are psychologically and unable to maintain our highest levels of mental fitness all year long.  In order to be in top shape for our peak races we must have give our central nervous system (CNS) a break.  The mental stress of hard training and racing takes a toll and must be honored if we are going to smash our goals in the spring.   It’s these down times that allow us to rest and regenerate our minds and give us an opportunity to get sharp again in the new season.  After all it takes great focus, motivation, and determination to execute our plan and complete a long enduring season.

2.  Less Is More:   Although training volume and intensities are significantly reduced at this time it gives our body’s a chance to absorb all of the past season’s exercise stimulus.  At this time we adapt to all of the training stress that our body has endured over the course of the past season.   Most folks have the hardest time understanding that losing fitness, gaining some weight, and shifting priorities for a short time is a good thing.  During this recovery time the “Less Is More” principle is such a great concept to embrace and to allow ourselves to reap the rewards.

3.  Musculoskeletal Healing:   Our muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones need a break from the constant pounding of the roads and trails.   The constant repetition of training and racing can eventually break us down if these recovery breaks are not inserted in to the plan.  This recovery time where we rest and reduce mileage gives our structure a much needed break and allows it to have a chance to regenerate.   While completing our running season and big races we do damage on a cellular level to our skeletal muscle and immune system.   Neglecting these breaks can lead us to be more susceptible to illness, over training staleness, and injury.

4.  Physiological Adaptations:   While running we use use three main energy systems to provide use with energy and power to propel us across the land.   Our aerobic, anaerobic, and creatine phosphate systems cannot function at their highest levels constantly throughout the entire year.  This is why in most training programs that a periodized approach to training is used to improve fitness levels towards a peak season of races.   We train these systems in a strategic order in hope of developing the highest possible levels of fitness and the fastest race times.  As our lactate threshold and Vo2 Max climb to new heights and we are able to sustain faster and faster paces over various race distances.  In our recovery phase these markers of fitness come back down as volume and intensity of running is diminished.  Our energy systems get a chance to stabilize to normal levels, get recharged, and ready for the upcoming season.  The mark of a quality training program is one that takes advantage of these down times as a calculated priority of training.   After your recovery is complete we begin to rebuild your systems towards the peak levels that will be needed later in the season.   You crush your big races at the end of the season, you reset, and start over again with this process.

5.   Don’t Race:   The winter recovery block is a critical time to limit or even completely eliminate hard racing and high intensity speed work.  Every season new runners come to me with misguided ideas of racing in their recovery and early base phases.   I highly encourage and recommend that the priority at this time of the year be rest and easy base building.   We always take advantage of the early HMRRC Winter Series for supported long runs but wait until February to begin higher intensity workouts or early season races.   Performing intense speed workouts or racing too early or too frequently in a training block lowers the body’s blood pH (a measurement of acidity levels)  and can sacrifice optimal seasonal gains later. (A. Lydiard)   Folks that abuse this fact may collect a pie at the Hangover Half but find themselves flat when the more spring serious races come about.

6.  Shift Priorities (temporarily):  This is the season to focus on some other things that may or may not be running related.   When we are in serious training there are many things in our lives that may get neglected just because of our training.  This down time is great time to catch up with family, non-running friends, and just do activities that you may just not get to in the regular season.   These fresh new activities will do wonders towards getting us refreshed and sharp for the season ahead.

7.    Goal (soul searching):    As we know, without goals we can’t be optimally successful in our training and racing.   Goals are an essential piece to the puzzle that give us direction, motivation, and guidance in our season.   Sometimes it can get difficult to decide on what our next season’s goals are going to be.  We lack clarity and the ability to decide on what exactly we want our priorities to be.  Sometimes a little time away from running can get us the clarity needed to once again make an assault on our best past performances.  This recovery time is a great time to rethink our priorities and get new, exciting, and challenging goals established.

8.   Get Strong:   Recovery time is the greatest time of the year to begin to get strong again.  Our muscle tissue takes a whipping during the regular racing season.   Our skeletal muscle fibers (fast and slow twitch) are pushed to the absolute max as we consistently train and race a variety of distances up through the ultra marathon.   A solid strength regime designed for runners can address this overall muscle fatigue and weakness that has developed throughout the season.   We recommend continuing strength throughout the season but it’s understood that sometimes as running volume peaks and the big races ensue it can be tough.  The recovery block is a great time to once again begin to prioritize the gym and address our strength deficiencies.   This is the time to focus on bolstering our CP (Creatine Phosphate) Fast Twitch system while fortifying a foundation of complimentary strength to assist our aerobic system demands.

 9.  Plateau Busting:   Plateaus in running performance will happen and sometimes they can totally halt your desired progress.   Our mind and body can get tired, overworked, and just plain stale.  The training and racing that we did before seem harder than ever while the results are not up to our usual standards.  The recovery block is a great time to address this issue and get the refresher that we need.   For longevity and consistency purposes in training these proactive breaks will keep us sharp while being able to once again regain former peak fitness levels.   Take a couple strategic annual breaks each year and train more consistently than ever in 2018.

10.  Injury prevention:  In order to be a successful runner we will need to stay injury free and consistent in our training.   The December/January recovery time is a great time to get any minor injuries or nagging discomforts under control.   In many cases a small break from training can be the remedy needed to get rid of any nagging muscle or joint soreness.   These recovery breaks will be essential in keeping an environment in place that promotes a trend of continuous improvements over the long haul.