The runDisney race season starts in November with Wine & Dine weekend and ends in April – with what’s now the Springtime Surprise weekend. (Veterans of runDisney will remember that this used to be a Star Wars themed weekend – as Springtime Surprise it’s now the race weekend each season with an ever changing, “surprise” theme – and this year it was Pixar.)
The season includes 13 in-person races here at Walt Disney World – 3 over Wine & Dine weekend (5K, 10K, Half Marathon), 4 over Marathon Weekend (5K, 10K, Half Marathon, Full Marathon), 3 over Princess weekend (5K, 10K, Half Marathon), and 3 over Springtime Surprise weekend (5K, 10K, 10 Miler).
And whether you ran every one or just one or two, the season ended for all of us this past weekend after the conclusion of the Springtime Surprise 10 Miler.
I’ve written before about the natural crash that tends to happen after finishing big achievements like the Dopey Challenge. You can find that article right HERE, and it might be worth a read if you’re feeling that crash that often follows major milestones that we’ve worked hard to achieve.
But beyond that…what do you do with yourself at the end of the season when you’re so accustomed to running dozens of miles a week and forever looking to the next event?
Step 1: Celebrate!!
You did it!! You accomplished the goal that you set for yourself. Give yourself a minute to soak that in before you run (pun acknowledged but not intended lol) to the next thing. Taking the time to celebrate ourselves will remind us what we’re working for the next time around.
Step 2: Rest & Recover
After a long season of racing, it’s important to take some time off to allow your mind and body to rest and recover. Taking a break can prevent burnout and injury. Give yourself a week or two (or more, if you need it) before you plan to resume any sort of training.
Use the time to reconnect with family and friends, indulge in neglected hobbies, and mentally reset. Engaging in different pursuits can help you maintain a well-rounded and balanced lifestyle, reducing the risk of burnout and ensuring that running remains a source of joy and fulfillment. Whether it’s hiking, painting, dancing, or playing a musical instrument, make time for the other hobbies that bring you happiness and personal satisfaction. Don’t set your alarm for those predawn runs unless those wake-ups are natural for you and you have other ways that you’d like to fill that time. Read a book. Stretch. Get a massage. In short, just treat yourself like you’d treat your best friend if they showed up at your doorstep after running a marathon.
Step 3: Reflect On Your Season
And while you’re at it, give yourself some time to reflect (with grace) on your completed race season. What went well? What could have gone better? What did you learn about your body’s need for hydration, fuel, and recovery that you can use going forward? Running is such a personal sport, and we are forever learning our own bodies and minds and their unique needs. Reflecting on your performance throughout the running season can help you to identify areas to work on during the off-season.
Step 4: Focus On Your Nutrition
Don’t let your break from training also mean a break from properly fueling your body. You’ll recover just fine from a little break from running – especially if you’re not dropping the ball in the meantime on your nutrition.
With the absence of intense training and racing schedules, you have the opportunity to explore and experiment with different dietary approaches to optimize your well-being and perhaps also even enhance your performance next season. This period also allows you to experiment with different dietary approaches and identify what works best for your individual needs. It’s also a great time to address any nutritional deficiencies, such as vitamin D or iron, that could impact your performance. Needless to say none of this should act as a substitute for advice from your doctor about your personal needs – but all in all, this time that you’re giving your body to heal is also a great time to nail down how best to fuel your body, whether it’s running or not. Prioritizing nutrition during the off-season will ensure you’re well-prepared, both physically and mentally, for the next season and beyond.
Step 5: Cross Train
Give those running muscles a break and some backup by incorporating cross-training into your routine. Cross-training can help to maintain your fitness level and prevent injuries during your time off, and can address many of the issues that you might have noticed during your training season. Activities like yoga, strength training, swimming, and cycling will make you stronger – and the variety can help to prevent overuse injuries AND boredom…making you more likely to stick with running, uninjured, when it’s time for the new season.
If you’re interested, I’m going to be starting this 30 day program by Yoga with Kassandra tomorrow. I looked at it a bit going into this weekend and love that the routines are short and simple and geared toward easing into the day. If you are new to yoga it’s a perfect starting point. She also includes a corresponding mental component/theme to explore each day to accompany the yoga routine. There are a few yogis on YouTube that are wonderful but Kassandra is doing this video series right now and I love how current and connected to the present it feels and, having just dropped my Peloton subscription, I’m grateful that this is completely free for all of us to access.
Step 6: Stay Socially Engaged
Even during the off-season, it’s so important to stay socially engaged with your running community. Connect with fellow runners through online forums, social media, and local running clubs. Sharing experiences, tips, and motivation with others can keep you inspired and accountable throughout your off-season. You can also use this time to volunteer at local races, supporting others in their running journey, and giving back to the community that has helped you throughout your season.
Step 7: Embrace Mental Training
While physical training is a significant part of preparing for a race season, mental training is often overlooked. The off-season is an excellent opportunity to work on your mental game, building resilience and mental toughness to tackle future challenges. You can explore various techniques, such as visualization, mindfulness, and positive self-talk, which can vastly improve your mindset – and even your performance – in the upcoming season, not to mention in life in general.
Step 8: Expand Your Knowledge
As your expertise as a runner grows, so do the levels at which you can enhance your performance. Details that didn’t matter when you were more of a novice might be more on your radar now.
Take advantage of this new curiosity. During the off-season, take the time to learn more about running, training, and performance optimization. Read books, watch videos, listen to podcasts, or attend live events to expand your knowledge and stay up-to-date with the latest research and best practices in the sport. The more you understand the science and nuances behind running, the better equipped you’ll be to make informed decisions about your training, nutrition, and race strategies going forward.
Step 9: Set New Goals
Use the off-season to set new goals for the upcoming season! Look back at what you’ve done and the different things you learned over the course of the above steps and think about where you’d like to be a year from now when we close out the 2023-2024 season. And like any goals, make them SPECIFIC and MEASURABLE to make them tangible and help keep you motivated and focused moving forward.
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The end of the race season offers a valuable opportunity to pause, reflect, and recharge. It’s important to recognize your accomplishments and celebrate your hard-earned achievements. Ensure you take the time to rest and recover, reconnecting with family and friends and indulging in your other interests. Regroup, cross-train, and think about the season ahead – but, more importantly than anything, take this time to appreciate your journey, learn from your experiences, and prepare for an even more rewarding and exciting time ahead.
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If you’re missing home (or love someone who is) and are looking for a way to bring the magic home, I’d love for you to check out my Core Memory Candle collection right HERE. And as always, stay safe and be kind, my friends.