Do Runner's Really Have an Off-Season? or What Do Football Players and Runners Have in Common?

For any and all of us who run, we know that running is more than a “sport”.

It is a thing we do because:

1. We love it. The freedom. The energy we feel.

2. We need it. The quiet. The time away.

3. We have to feel connected to ourselves on the inside, and the long roads and windy trails on the outside.

We don’t like taking days off. Running IS part of our routine. It is an essential part of our day!

While our “racing” season may come and go, there isn’t truly an off-season. Because we keep running. Maybe we run less. But we keep running.


So what really needs to change regarding this idea of an “off-season”?

Actually, it is more about what needs to be added to the regimen, verses changed.

Runners are good at changing their...Shoes. And milage (maybe). That’s about it.

Runners are terrible at doing anything other than...Running. Somehow, it has become ingrained in us that in order to be better at running, we need to run more.

However, this in fact typically leads to overtraining - being overtrained yet significantly underdeveloped at the same time.

So how do we improve?

How do we incorporate “seasons” and “periodization principles” into the running routine?


It is actually quite simple.

Strength training.

Something runners seem to be afraid of? Maybe we just have never experienced the benefit because we have never done it!

Here is the silver lining in injury: Ask any runner who has had to go through the struggle of recovering from injury and the subsequent rebuilding process. If you can't run due to pain, you are left with no choice but to strength train. This is both the remedy to injury as well as the key to reducing the risk for injury in the first place!

So why not make this a part of the regular routine?

So let’s talk about the science behind it.

Distance running is primarily limited by the delivery and use of oxygen. As you run faster, the demand for oxygen increases. Research, unfortunately, supports the fact that strength training does not increase metabolic efficiency. So, how then do performance gains come about?

Well, if the improvements in running economy do not result from cardiovascular or metabolic changes, then they are coming from neuromuscular adaptations related to power output!

Think about this: When you are running your foot is on the ground for less than a second. It is not about generating maximum force, but rather increasing the rate at which force is produced to maximize this small window of opportunity (i.e. a stronger muscle contraction in a shorter amount of time)!

Therefore, the best type of strength training for distance runners is ironically similar to what is performed by football players!

Power is the result of force (strength) and speed. To improve power, you must increase resistance (higher weight) and increase intensity (followed by or complemented with plyometrics).

So now that you are convinced that strength training is the right thing and you should do it, there is a big difference between DOING THE RIGHT THING and DOING THE RIGHT THING RIGHT.

The optimal time to do this type of training is not when you re logging high miles and focusing on endurance. It is during the off-season.

So.

1. You don’t need to (nor should you) simply stop running in order to have an “off-season”.

2. You should incorporate heavier lifting in conjunction with plyometrics during the times you are running fewer miles.