Why We All Need an Off-Season

Recently I have been writing a lot about motherhood things, but today I would like to spend some time on running.  It has been nearly two months since the marathon, which is a bit crazy to me. Time is moving. In those two months, my running has been very minimal.  I have been very slowly returning to it. I still take a few days off from running per week and have only had two longer runs (10 and 12 miles, respectively) since the race.  And I am totally good with this slow return back to higher mileage and greater intensity.  I am embracing this off-season. I am approaching this topic of the off-season from a running perspective, but the truth is, no matter what we do, we need time to step away from the high intensity of it all.

Just within the past couple weeks I have become more consistent with my runs.  I have mentioned this on here before but I will map out when and how much I will run on Sunday before the week gets going.  Even if it is just me writing down mileage in pencil in my floral planner, you better believe I will hit that mileage.  If it is written, it is happening. It is this type of intensity and commitment that really got me through the tough days of marathon training when I did not have a team or a coach.  

Mother and son in the ocean together.
Recently, I have been doing a lot of this.

Make Adjustments

Two Fridays ago, I adjusted my mileage.  That day I was supposed to run 6 miles.  The run started later than I typically like, and it was already incredibly hot out.  I was pushing the jogger and within my first few steps I could sense it was going to be a bad run.  That first mile is usually a pretty good indicator for me on how the rest of the run will go. In mile one, I already felt so sluggish and weak.  I could have pushed through and ran the full 6. Instead, I listened to my body and in the middle of my park loops told Hudson that we were running home.  I told him that mommy was hot, tired, and weak. I made an adjustment.  

In college, it was all about pushing and proving.  This mentality is something that is still within me.  To some degree, I love this about myself, but there are days where I need to remind myself that I am not a collegiate runner or a pro runner.  I am a mom. I can have days off, days where I run less, days where I just jog. This holding back and listening to my body is hard for me. I am running such low mileage right now without any workouts, and if I am honest, I feel guilty. It feels like I am slacking, and that I should be doing more.

Female runner running in sports bra on running trail.
And not a lot of this.

Make Future Goals

These feelings are rather funny because I literally have no need to run at all. I have no coach or team, but these pressurized feelings that have been placed on running seem to not easily be shaken. And I am okay with this to some degree.  I feel like I still have a lot left in my legs. I want to still push and prove; however, it is just going to look different and there will be more adjustments, especially in these months where the focus is not all about training. I have a few other things on my plate right now that I am prioritizing over miles.

Right now, I am just running to run, but currently trying to figure out a couple races to put on the calendar before Boston!  That is one big, exciting thing that I have not mentioned on here yet. Two weeks ago, Lance and I registered for the Boston Marathon.  This has been the goal motivating me since the spring and it is so exciting to see it all coming to fruition. It is 7 months away, which worries me slightly because who knows what will happen in those months, but if it is aligned with God’s will, I can’t wait to show up to the start line at Boston.  This date of April 20th excites me because it gives me a clear indicator of something to train for and it will help pull me out of my current off-season.

All this to say, set big goals for yourself.  Chase after them wholeheartedly, but don’t be afraid to adjust along the way.  Don’t be afraid to run slow to eventually run fast. Don’t be afraid to run less to eventually run more.  It is so easy to let the dreams and goals take over. It is easy to feel like we should push, push, push. But we all need an off-season.  We ultimately, need to slow down.

Off-Seasons are for Everyone

This relates to you if you are a runner or not. We need time away from high intensity and high output. We need a season that is off. If you are like me, you will keep running, keep doing the thing that you love, but it will not takeover your days in quite the same way it does when you are in the peak of training.  These off-seasons are tough because it feels like too slow and too low, but I firmly believe it is these times that will ultimately allow for big things to happen for later seasons to come.  

Favorite Products for Training

One of the reasons my heart is so fond of running is the simplicity of it all. Compared to a lot of other sports, running does not require much. There is not a lot of equipment or gear required. You don’t really need to drive to a specific arena or location. All you need is to lace up shoes and make that initial step out the door. You, shoes, pavement, some level of commitment; that’s really all that is required. When you begin to start adding the longer miles, this simplicity remains the same, but there have been a few products we have used in this training block that have kept the legs feeling good and our bodies energized. We were fortunate enough for a few companies to send us free products as we trained for this marathon. Some unexpected, like coffee, but let me tell you, even the coffee you drink makes a difference. From coffee brewed at 5 am to protein smoothies post-workout, these little choices matter. The running part only can be done for an hour or two per day. Obviously, that part is largely important, but think of all the other hours in a day. There are so many things you can use and consume in and out of the act of running that will absolutely impact your performance. Here are some of the products and brands that sponsored us that we have really loved.

Photo Courtesy of www.maurten.com

Maurten Gels

Prior to marathon training, the only performance gels I had used were Gu Energy Gels. While I loved the different flavors of Gu, they always left my stomach feeling weird and my mouth feeling dry and dehydrated. Then enters, Maurten. If you haven’t heard of this company, you really should check them out. There is science behind their gels. They are specifically crafted in a way to avoid the GI distress that a lot of other performance gels, packed with sugar and extra flavors, can cause. They are still packed with carbohydrates, but the hydrogel technology of Maurten makes it soft and smooth on your stomach. For all of our long runs over 15 miles, we have been taking these Maurten gels. They give energy when mine begins to fade around that 8th and 12th mile. We really have been loving these gels and excited to use them come race day.

Photo Courtesy of www.primalkitchen.com

Primal Kitchen Collagen Fuel

I have finally found a protein powder that I can feel good about. In college, our training room fridge was always stocked with Muscle Milk drinks, so that is what I drank. It was accessible, free, and convenient. I did not particularly love the flavor and I tried to just not look at that long ingredient list that I could not pronounce. Then enters, Primal Kitchen Collagen Fuel. I love this protein powder for two main reasons. For one, it is both dairy and soy-free. This is a big deal in the protein world, where it seems like tons of protein powders are milk-based. For most of my training I have needed to be dairy-free. Primal Kitchen’s collagen fuel has been the perfect dairy-free recovery drink. Primal Kitchen’s protein powder is coconut-based, which gives it a really yummy and natural flavor. The simple ingredients and very natural coconut flavor mixes really well in smoothies and even coffee. I usually put the vanilla flavor in my smoothies and it adds a really nice creamy flavor. Secondly, I love that it is collagen-based. If you are unfamiliar with the benefits of collagen, you can read about them here. Collagen is amazing for your hair, skin, nails, but I mostly love the way it makes my joints feel smooth and strong. I typically have issues with my lower back and hips, but the pain literally went away once I began consistently taking the collagen fuel. Everyone’s body is different, but I know that collagen is key for my body, especially when it is under the pressure of a ton of miles.

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Photo Courtesy of www.zensah.com

Zensah Compression Socks

Of course the running shoes are important, but you can’t forget about the socks. Good quality socks matter. They are even better if they help promote faster recovery and prevent injuries like shin splints. Prior to this cycle of training, I never wore compression socks much. Now, after trying out Zensah’s compression socks, I am a huge believer in the value of them. There are tons of compression socks on the market, but I really love the quality of Zensah and the super fun designs. They also sent me a pair of race socks with flying pigs on them, which I am pumped to race in. I have really noticed a difference in my legs from wearing these compression socks. I have even done a couple tempo workouts and a long run in them. I actually felt faster wearing them. I love how my legs feel so much more supported. After super hard workouts or the really long runs, I would go to sleep in the compression socks and definitely noticed a difference in the freshness of my legs the next morning.

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Photo Courtesy of www.mrespresso.com

Mr. Espresso Coffee

Dreams really do come true. We are officially coffee sponsored! For the past 3 months of training, 4 bags of free coffee beans have been sent to our house. I will always run if free coffee is on the line. In all seriousness, Lance and I have become huge fans of Mr. Espresso coffee. When getting prepped for marathon training, you might not be thinking about what coffee you are drinking, but all the details matter, and if you are a running, coffee drinker; you know the important role coffee can play pre-run. Let’s just say, coffee is absolutely necessary for any day, but especially prior to runs. It is part of the routine to get ready for a run. I really am not that big of a coffee snob, but quality does matter to me when it comes to coffee. You can taste the quality in Mr. Espresso. We have really enjoyed tasting their variety of flavors. Just by a quick look at their site, you can tell that they take coffee really seriously. They are all about quality and the taste of their beans really sets them apart. Our coffee for the past few months has absolutely been better than our typical Trader Joe’s coffee. Morning routines matter pre-run, find a coffee that can help get you energized and ready for the miles.

Photo Courtesy of www.tracksmith.com

Tracksmith Singlet and Shorts

In high school, it was green and gold. In college, it was crimson and white. These were the colors on my singlets that I raced in. Now, it is Tracksmith. To say I’m excited to race in our beautiful, cream-colored Tracksmith jerseys, is an understatement. If you haven’t heard of this running apparel company, you need to click on that link above and read all about them. Their mission, their high-quality, their unique style, and overall love for the distinct running culture, sets them apart. One of the many reasons I love this brand is how deeply rooted they are in the running culture. This is a brand for runners by runners. As someone who is not an elite runner, but takes running seriously, their brand and mission really speaks to me:

“We honor the Amateur Spirit upon which the sport was founded and champion the Running Class — the non-professional yet competitive runners dedicated to the pursuit of excellence. We offer well-considered and authentic products for training, racing and recovery. In everything we do, we aim to celebrate, support and add to running’s distinct culture.” -Tracksmith

The non-professional, yet competitive runners dedicated to the pursuit of personal excellence. That is me and I love how they put language to my relationship with running. Tracksmith has much more than just racing singlets. They have a wide selection of running gear that all gives off that vintage, running feel. I am obsessed with the style. It is simple and classic. Their products really are beautifully designed and their packaging is top-notch. You feel important as you open their boxes. Every detail is carefully thought out. I could not think of a better brand that I would want to represent in our race.

Like I said at the beginning of this post, I love the simplicity of running. You don’t need much. I am all about running and training with a minimalistic mindset. I don’t want to be overloaded with unnecessary products. Every single brand I mentioned above, I believe in and highly value their quality. You don’t need much to run well. Just you, shoes, pavement, commitment. But hey, a good cup of coffee, gels that don’t kill your stomach, well-designed compression socks, dairy-free protein powder, and a beautifully-designed singlet, can’t hurt either.