The conclusion of the cross country season can bring out many emotions. The highs of a great victory or the lows of a bad day. But perhaps the most impactful is the awareness that the season has come to an abrupt end. All of the hard efforts in both training and racing are now a thing of the past and it is time to prepare for the next adventure. But doing so requires proper planning in order to be fully refreshed and recovered but without sabotaging all of the great work that was done prior to the end of the season. Here are the “4 Rs” that will allow you to be fully ready to attack the off-season healthy and ready to go:
- Rest: Take a break. Physical and emotional stress build up cumulatively over the course of a long and intense season. It is absolutely necessary that you allow the body and mind time to rejuvenate before jumping back into training. Taking two weeks away from running is a great way to allow this to happen. This break from the repetitive nature of the activity will allow overuse injuries to fully heal and be ready for an off-season of challenging training.
- Rejuvenate: Treat your body well. While a complete break from running itself is needed, your body will not react well to simply doing nothing. Injuries and pains will simply be waiting for you when you begin training again. Instead, focus on activities that will relax your body and aid in recovery. This could be easy biking or swimming if you have the itch to continue working out, but keep it light. Even more important is the need to focus on your recovery strategies that you had little time for during the season. Stretching, rolling, massage, physical therapy, etc. All of these activities will serve to truly repair and rejuvenate the body so it has time to properly heal and not simply rest and get tight.
- Reflect: Look back on your season. Many times we get so anxious to begin the “next thing” that we forget to reflect on what went well and what we could do better from the prior season. Whether it is reviewing your running journal, looking back through your workouts, or talking with your coach, it is crucial to your development to understand the strengths and weaknesses that impacted your season. This time spent on reflection will be invaluable to you as you begin preparing your training plans for the off-season ahead.
- Re-connect: Focus on relationships. There were many people supporting you and focusing on your development over the last few months. You may have taken for granted those sacrifices or neglected other relationships that exist away from the sport. It is essential to your emotional and spiritual well-being that you reconnect and invest back into those relationships. You will return to training with a new and healthier perspective on your life. Do not make the mistake of going through life without strong relationships. These are the foundation of your well-being and will be there for you through all of the ups and downs. Don’t waste this time to better your connections with those around you.
So, before charging full-speed into your off-season training, take a step back to rest, rejuvenate, reflect, and re-connect.
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Ben Tilus – Owner/Head Performance Coach – XLR8 Performance Lab