Autumn is for runners. The colours. The cool weather. The start of a new season.
What is Downtime
Most or all elite track athletes take a transition period where we don’t run for two weeks (on average) after our last race. Thankfully, my season ended on my own terms, not because of injury or burnout. I ended purposefully at the Canadian 5k Road Championships. By the end of the season, I felt like I needed a break but I did feel good in that race.
I took twelve days completely off running where I got to do some things that I don’t normally get to do during the season like camping, hiking and completely ignoring eating healthy. Physically, I needed to come out of peak fitness and take rest. There is benefit to working yourself back into shape again after a period of rest and it’s the best thing you can do for the success of your next season. Downtime is also a mental mark to turn off your brain, not live like an athlete for a bit and get excited for next year. After twelve days, I started doing easy runs starting with 20 minutes and working up to 60. I did my first workout after two weeks of easy running.
As a post-collegiate that trains with varsity athletes, the first week is always humbling. It’s easy to start to feel like I need to be in peak fitness right now. But it’s so important to focus on my own long term goals. The outdoor season is months away and while it may be tempting to force fitness, I have time. I’m one month into workouts and I keep having to remind myself to be patient, and to not worry as the fitness will come.
What I Do When I’m Not Racing
This fall is a time to take care of the details that will carry me through the season. I’ve done a ton of work to make my stride more efficient, but there is always more to do. Right now, I’m working on my posture with Kris Sheppard because I have a tendency to lean back late in races. When you’re trying to move as fast as you can forward, leaning back isn’t conducive to closing fast. I also had a nagging hamstring all season, that while it never manifested into a bigger issue, it was something that would bother me after track workouts. I’m hoping this posture work will help strengthen the areas that typically get overworked during periods of high intensity training.
The fall is also a time to train for the love of running. I know my season will start in February for indoors, but until then, there aren’t any immediately races that I have to think about. In a way, the early fall is the track runner’s vacation, where we can do the work, but relax after.
While this summer was the most amazing and fulfilling season of my life, it was high stress. Not only was I worrying about my own ability to run the Olympic Standard, but I was stressing about others trying to hit the standard, placing top 2 at Nationals and then getting ready to run in the biggest competition of my life. While this is what I train for, it’s nice to have a few months to sit back and be a superfan of the University of Toronto cross country team.
Why I’m Not Racing Cross Country
I’ve chosen to not run cross country mainly because I felt the turn around from the long track season and late road race to the Ontario and National cross country championship was too short from a long term recovery and training standpoint. The coming track season in 2017 will be high intensity and high stress, similar to 2016 because of the World Championships. I felt that competing in November and trying to be fit at this time would take away from the focus and dedication needed to build a base of mileage, workouts and strength training that will hopefully lead to even better results next summer.