Races are fewer and farther between in the winter months, and it’s the perfect time to sit down and plan your next running season. There are so many options and types of races or running adventures to jump into, and it can be tempting to hop into every available race when you’re feeling fit. Here’s how you can set yourself up for a solid season, and maybe even a few PBs.
Reflect and assess
Recognizing where you are at and looking at how your past season went is essential. Whether you felt like you ran the best season of your life or you faced some serious setbacks, accept where you are as the perfect place to begin. Making a list of things that went well for you (be as specific as possible) and things that challenged you.
Give yourself credit for small successes–did you master some technical trails but DNF due to fueling issues? Both of those are important things to recognize to help you learn where your skills lie and what you need to work on for next season.
Pick 1–2 key races (with a few shorter races as training)
We know, it’s really hard to limit yourself to only a couple of big events. Make sure there’s adequate time in between races for you to fit in a full training block, including recovery, a build, and a taper–and make sure to ask for support and advice from veterans of the sport (or a coach) if you are jumping into new-to-you distance or terrain.
I’ll aim to run a fast (for me) marathon in the spring, and have my peak ultra-distance race toward the end of summer, leaving lots of time for recovery, training, and smaller races.
Shorter races where you plan to jump in and run for fun, rather than race intensely, can be a great way to learn and expand your skill set. Have a healthy awareness of what your intentions are heading into the race and avoid getting caught up in the competition. Short, local events are a great way to participate in your community and can be used as fun training sessions.
Factor in your off-season and build-up
Allow time in your season to rest, both mentally and physically, and then a period of base building. Despite most runners’ inclination to immediately get back to training hard, some time off will help you stay injury-free and motivated. Use the time (ideally two weeks minimum) to rest and recover.
If you feel like you have to stay moving, try something new–head to a local spin class, go skating or learn how to play pickleball. Yes, pickleball. You might find an activity you really enjoy, and when you start running again you’ll feel refreshed and ready to focus on your new goals.