Managing Changing Seasons!

 Coach Jeanelle Hazlett

Fall is in the air… the mornings are crisp and cool (for those of us in Western Canada at least), our stores and social media channels are being bombarded by all things Pumpkin Spice and Halloween, beckoning a shift of focus and intention. It’s soon time to bring out headlamps, carry wind or rain jackets, and consider proper gear and extra layers for any early morning or evening adventures.

For the sun and summer lovers, this shift of seasons can be a struggle, but there are definite positives to embracing change and diving into other focuses and intentions. 

Here’s our 5 tips for optimizing the fall/winter season:

  1. Embrace Rest & Recovery – Every athlete is different, but everybody benefits from some amount of “off” time in the year. Much like you wouldn’t dare go a year without taking a vacation from work, it is important to adopt this same mindset for your running and training. We recommend a minimum of 2 weeks – to upwards of 8 weeks – away from racing or structured training (specific workouts, tasks, schedules). This downtime is extremely beneficial for preventing excess fatigue, burnout, and keeping keen interest and focus on training when you’re back at it. Schedule this time in the fall / winter season when you have fewer races and when daylight and weather starts to become less welcoming for training.
  2. Welcome Strength & Cross Training – This rest and recovery period can be a good time to try out or dive back into all those other activities that take a back burner during your run season, with the caveat being that at least 2-8 weeks of that time, those activities are simple passive movement, not being used as an intense outlet for all that energy you feel from not doing run workouts. The fall and winter season ideal to let your body do other things like biking, swimming, hiking, snowshoeing, skiing, etc. It is also an important time to ramp up your strength training.

    As mountain and trail athletes, core and stability strength as well as mobility and muscular endurance help you feel fluid, stable, confident and strong while running. This is also critical for longevity and injury prevention and maintaining health in our sport, especially as we age. The off season is the time to focus on all of the above! Increase your strength sessions to a minimum 3-4 times a week – with 1-2 of those days addressing core and mobility and 2-3 of the days performing multi-planar, unilateral, full body movements (ie. squats, deadlifts, lunges, push pulls, etc.) with moderate to heavy load to help build muscle when you have the capacity to do so from a decreased run load. Ensure that you work up to appropriate load and lifting heavier weights if it has been a while. If strength training is new to you or you just need support, reach out to our team at Ridgeline!

  3. Practice Fall/Winter Gear & Safety – This shift of season is a great time to refresh yourself on trail etiquette and safety. Ensure you’re carrying appropriate gear for your adventures, as the risk and consequence of injury is often increased in the fall and winter months. If you’re out in the fall or winter for over an hour, or anywhere at all remote, and in early morning hours or in the evening, dress sensibly and carry the appropriate gear! Check out this video from Gary.
  4. Ensure Seasonal Run Specificity – Fall and winter, at least for us in the more northern hemisphere, means less daylight hours and usually colder, icier, dodgier trails and running conditions, with limited safe alpine access on foot. This is a great time to focus back on base easier mileage, simply getting out when it makes you happy, and especially not fussing about maintaining a rigid run/workout schedule. Once your proper “break” occurs, keeping quality and intensity training in your plan is helpful through this season for run form and baseline fitness, but efforts should be shorter and as conditions allow, or transferred to treadmill or cross training modalities.
  5. Reflect and Plan – One of our favourite things about fall and winter is it provides time and space to think about your previous training, adventure, race season, and reflect on the highs and lows and use those learnings to then decide what you are driven and excited to do for the next year ahead! Many race registrations open between November – January, so reflecting and planning is something best suited for the start of your off season so you can ensure you have your race or adventure goals sorted before those registrations start! It is helpful to have at least 2-4 months of training (depending on how long a break you took and your season opening race) before your first big race of the season. That’s when you can dive right back into the more build focused work of your training to prep for all those big goals ahead! 

Seasonal variation is essential to embrace both in training and racing. Variation will only lead to improved strength, decreased risk of burnout, and improved longevity in our sport. Don’t be afraid to become a bit of a hibernating bear for a while in the off season, as that time will go by fast, before you know you will wake up ravenous and stoked to take on the year ahead 🙂

Reach out to Janelle and the rest of our Ridgeline Coaches for help with planning your off-season or next season’s training goals!

Consult a Coach!

We offer 45min phone consults to help you prepare for races, plan a training block, or discuss equipment. These are a great opportunity to talk with a professional who can point you in the right direction!

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