SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

October 25, 2012

On the Run: Enjoy your down time ... but not too much

On the Run Jay Kumar
The Salem News

---- — Many runners plan their training around big events in the spring and fall, be it a marathon, half-marathon, relay or other race. But what happens after you’ve accomplished that goal and you’ve got several months before your next big event?

There can be a big letdown. You’ve trained hard for months and you ran hard on race day, but now you want a break. You’re sore and tired and ready to take it easy. There’s a spring marathon on the horizon, but you don’t have to start training for that for another 10 weeks. At the same time, you ease up on that healthy diet you’ve maintained and start to indulge in some of the things you’ve been missing for a while: junk food, dessert, just lying around on the couch. Before you know it, you’ve gained 10 pounds by the time training starts again and you’ve got an even bigger challenge ahead of you.

So how do you avoid that letdown and maintain your fitness while still enjoying a little physical and mental relief?

First, ease back, but don’t stop running. You’ve earned a break from the punishing long runs. There’s no need to push yourself beyond 10-mile long runs until your next training program ramps up. Have some fun. Run shorter distances at a faster pace. Sign up for local 5Ks. Just get out and enjoy yourself. But keep moving.

Second, be smart about your diet. Just because you don’t have a big race on the immediate horizon doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat smartly. Loading up on junk food is an invitation for frustration.

Next, start thinking ahead to your next “goal” race. Even if your next big race seems way off in the distance, it’s never too early to start planning. The prep work can be more fun than the training. Think about your goal time and how you’ll achieve it; research the various training programs and choose the one that works for you. Or read about a different approach. And if you’re doing a destination race that requires you to travel across the country (or the world), there’s no time like the present to make your travel arrangements. The more you get settled ahead of time, the less you’ll have to worry about when you’re putting in the serious mileage.

Also, find a training partner. Even if you usually run by yourself, it helps to go through the grueling months of training with someone else. When you’re struggling through that 20-miler in the middle of March, it’ll be nice to have someone to share the experience with. And it’s a lot easier to get through those long, lonely miles with some encouragement.

Staying mentally and physically invested in your running even during that down time can pay off in the long term and will make the transition to the start of serious training that much easier.

Starts and stops

If you’re female and still looking to get a long race in before the end of the year, it’s not too late. The All Women & One Lucky Guy Half Marathon will take place on Sunday, Nov. 4 at 11 a.m. at Newburyport High School, 241 High St., Newburyport. The race is New England’s only all-women’s half marathon. The rural course runs through Newburyport and West Newbury. For more information, visit www.allwomenshalf.com.

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On the Run is a biweekly column about the North Shore running scene. Send any questions, comments, or news to jay.kumar@gmail.com.