Setting Yourself Up To Succeed in the Off Season

Setting Yourself Up To Succeed in the Off Season

As the holiday season approaches, most runners are settling solidly into the “off-season.” It is during this time of year when we reduce mileage, recover from a long season of training, and sleep in on a few Saturday mornings. This time of year may be a break from regular training, but it is often when the most important work is done: thinking and planning.

At the Pan Am Running & Gait Centre, we help runners identify suboptimal strength, flexibility, alignment and biomechanical patterns that contribute toward running injury. These four pillars of our program are important, however 60% of all running injuries result from errors in training. The better your strength, flexibility, alignment and biomechanics, the better able your body will be able to absorb a training error. The trouble is very few runners know when they are about to commit a training error and often their first feedback is pain. Prevention is key.

Training errors result most commonly from increasing mileage too much too soon. One can also commit a training error by increasing too much of anything too soon: speed work, hills, mileage in new shoes, and running on a harder surface to name a few. Training error also includes not building enough recovery and rest into your running program. Overtraining doesn’t result from too much mileage, it results from mileage not balanced with enough recovery or time to adapt to that mileage and can occur in even low mileage runners.

One can avoid committing training errors with proper planning and program periodization. This is important whether you run two or ten races a year. Taking the time evaluate your training patterns can set you up for next season with less chance of injury or runner’s burn out.

Start with asking yourself WHY you run? Every year I suggest making a new list, as the reasons why we run change over time. Then decide HOW you can accomplish that WHY in an effort to keep your run life in harmony. As Simon Sinek says, “if you are unclear about your why then what you do has no context.” It is only then that you can start to set A, B and C goals, plan your races and develop training plans to meet those goals. Your entire season will become a logical progression towards your A goal with all other races timed strategically to enhance your training rather than overload it. You may have more than one A goal, but as long as you plan properly you can avoid committing the training errors that sideline so many runners. If you have no idea how to do what I’ve just suggested, it might be time to consult a more experienced friend or a coach for some good advice.

This is not simply the ‘off’ season.  This is when the most important work is done.  As your race season winds down, take some time to critically analyze your running routines, only commit to races that you truly want to do, and then make a plan that sets you up for an amazing year of running in 2018!

Kim Sénéchal is a physiotherapist at Pan Am Rehabilitation Services and is also an ultra runner and run coach. You can find her at and