For most of us race season is over and we get to spend a few months during the winter going into ultrarunning hibernation. You can’t blame us, for the other 9 months of the year we trained hard and raced harder. It is time for a little R&R, some downtime, a few weeks to a few months to not have to focus on the next ‘big thing’. But what is there to do if we are not running? As hardcore trail junkies we don’t know what to do with ourselves in our newly found free time. While there is truly an endless list of non-running associated activities, I would like to share three that can be of particular use when you jump back into training again.
- Read a Book – There is significant proof that physical activity will help make you smarter, but will doing the opposite, reading and studying, make you a better runner? While I have been unable to find any official studies, it seems apparent that a learned mind would, in fact, make for a better runner. Those who take time to read and study will undoubtedly be more self-aware, understand the sport better, and have a clearer mind during critical situations. So while you are taking time away from running it can be highly beneficial to immerse yourself in the written word.
- Take a Hike – We are trail and ultrarunners, why deny ourselves of our true nature. While you may not be focused on training there is really no better time to be out on the trails and in the hills. The leaves have fallen and your area may even have some snow. Go enjoy the beauty this time of the year provides. Take some free time to find new trails or just reconnect with nature. You may find a whole new level of motivation you lost while focused on running faster and farther.
- Have a Bar–B-Que – Wait! This isn’t summer, BBQ season is over. Or is it? There is no better time to rally the troops to plan out next year’s activities. Get your running partners and local trail crew together for a night of scheming. I did this recently with my group of running friends, the Wasatch Mountain Wranglers, and it was exciting to see what everyone wanted to do next year. We not only had a great time, but made some amazing plans for the coming months. We plan to have a couple more to refine them, especially during this ‘race lottery’ season.
While I generally run through the off-season, I tend to not focus specifically on training and pushing speed and distance. I run when it sounds fun or if I’m heading out with friends (yeah, so I’m still getting out nearly every day, sue me). But I’m actually enjoying the lack of focus. I am spending more time with my wife and kids, reading a lot, and the lack of pressure I’m putting on myself is a reward in and of itself. Try it, you might like it.