Running is a winter sport that is merely played out in the summer.
What this means is that the final long run you do 3 weeks out from your marathon that you spend hours trying to decide the distance of matters little.
The 4 month training plan you do before the A race of the year is important, no doubt. However it still may matter less than what you do during the 4-6 months before that training plan.
For many, the big off-season question is what the heck should I do?!?
And that's a completely valid question.
Many feel a bit lost, with no race in the immediate future.
So let us think this through a bit,
What exactly should you do in the off-season?
I feel the very best thing you can do while not training specifically for an event is to train your greatest weakness or to work on that which you've neglected.
For myself and the off-season, I have three goals.
1) Increase my average monthly volume. I'd like to come out of the winter being able to comfortably run a bit more than I have been doing during the summer. While the colder weather may make it tough for people to run more, I've also found that a lack of frequent races makes it easier to run more.
2) Work on my speed. At the same time as I increase the amount of easy miles I run each week, I'd like to make my 2-3 weekly quality workouts more geared towards the 5k faster running than the half marathon specific training I had been doing most of the summer. Last winter I worked on my mile speed. The faster I can run 3.1 miles, the faster you can run 13.1 miles and the faster your easy pace will become.
3) Get back into consistent strength work The closer I am to a goal race or if Im racing a lot during the summer, I tend to do less strength work as my training quality is quite high. Ive always found the winter allows me to almost reset on strength work. Our friends over at Kinetic Revolution have a number of progressive strength training programs you can start this off-season.
How about you?
Think about the last 6 to 9 months, what is something you have possibly put on the back burner with your training? If you're a triathlete, work on your weak sport. If you're a runner, focus on an aspect of your fitness that needs attention such as short course speed, general volume, strength work, work on increasing your run frequency but not necessary volume, improving your hill running ability, or doing more trail work.