Even if you’re mostly in it for the medal and the shirt I’m here to tell you that you should still run outside race and training season. Not only should you run outside race season you should run in all the seasons! I get that it’s hard to do sometimes but running (even outdoors) year round is the best choice for you and your next race season. Just to be clear no one says you have to run as far, as fast or nearly as often as you did in training. That’s probably a bad idea too, but if you only run because you’re training you’re selling yourself short in a lot of ways. Some are big and some are small but running just because you want to go running is pretty awesome too!
Consistency is healthiest
We’ll talk about the general health benefits in a minute but consistency is the best way to stay healthy as a runner. Lots of runners deal with injuries and while they almost always get better they often don’t go away entirely. Many runners will say that stopping and starting really aggravates an old injury. I find the very same thing in case you’re interested. No one says you have to run multiple times a week or very far at all but running regularly can prevent a flare up. Personally I make it a goal to run (hopefully a 5k) once a week all year long. If you suffer from shin splints after a period of in activity if you stay consistent that will literally never happen! No it’s not fun in January and February but running year round is actually what keeps me running the rest of the year too.
Start training strong next year
We don’t lose fitness as fast as we think we do or as fast as it feels like we do but it does wain over a longer time. Some months of the year when it’s dark, cold and wet I’d much rather be sitting in my chair and sipping a tea while knitting something fuzzy and warm. But I do occasionally at least, put on all my running clothes, 4 lights and 2 layers of gloves and get out there. Don’t worry I’m totally dramatic about it when it happens though. Just as much as I don’t want to go in the coldest days of winter I’m desperate to get running when it’s sunny and 18 c with an ocean breeze come May. In training that year I might even want to tackle a new distance or go for a PR.
Staying running all year round totally helps me come the next training season. Instead of having not run in many months it’s a gradual ramp up to a regular training volume. That’s way less intense and can take place over a shorter amount of time. Plus it’s a lot easier to get out there on the harder days of winter when I remind myself that this will all pay off in spring.
Get the most health benefits
As much as I love racing, getting more medals and rising to challenges I mostly run for the health benefits. All of the things that you think of like cardiovascular health, being strong and having lots and lots of energy but the stuff you don’t think of too. The mental health boosts like a better mood and the lower levels of anxiety and depression that running is proven to bring are also things I want year round. So I run both to add days to my life and life to my days.
Running in the relatively few months of race season only really means you’re missing out on A LOT of that! Even though I work physically year round running is my main way of exercising and staying healthy. It even helps my control my weight with all that storm day baking!
Keep a routine
Well routines are usually considered a good idea overall, running regularly has it’s own benefits for your running plans next year. It’s a really hard thing to go from not running at all to four or five times a week. That’s a hard thing to do physically and it’s hard to rearrange your life that much to get back to training. It’s hard to get up that early in training, it’s hard to clear a big portion of your weekend for long runs and it’s hard to be as organized as you have to be in training. By staying in a running routine year round you never have to start from scratch for all of those things. You might even argue that staying in a running routine keeps you in the running mindset. You’ll stay tuned into the running world, hear about news and maybe even stay a little more passionate about running overall.
Winter/spring and fall special moments
Training season is basically just summer which I personally do think is the best running season. You get post run ocean dips, running skirts and relatively light laundry loads and wearing just sports bras. But there are some pretty great running moments in all seasons really. Yes even in the dead of winter! In fall I love looking at the leaves and that perfect moment when a gust of wind makes them fall all around you on a narrow path. Plus you really can’t beat the temperature! In the winter I feel super tough running as the first flakes of snow fall around me. I also love being the only one running on a deserted beach and leaving just my footprints in the snow. In spring I watch certain trees closely for the progress of the buds and the greening up that reliably happens every year even when you’re starting to doubt it. Plus you get to appreciate leaving behind all the things that are not so great. One day you’ll be running in the spring and be pretty sure this is the last time you’ll have to deal with snow and ice until next year, that’s a pretty great day. You get to leave your slow but grippy shoes behind one day and get instantly faster. But the best one might be the first day of the year you get to run in shorts again and start working on this year’s weird tan lines.
Last but not least running all year round, and in all the weathers, means lots more running outfits! If you only run in training season you don’t get to experience running jackets, cool vest lights and plain old puffy vests. There will be no insulated running pants, no fuzzy sweaters or mittens, no ponytail hats and no neck warmers in your life. Some of those things you’ll want to live without but the big fuzzy headbands and pink light sets are pretty cool. Plus more shopping for winter tech. If I didn’t run year round I wouldn’t have an excuse to own ice spikes, headlamps, three running jackets, two puffy vests or reflective thread. Sometimes even when I’m not running it’s nice to have those things. And if nothing else winter running gear gives me more pockets while I’m out there.
Running in training is a great thing that really keeps you motivated and on your way to accomplish something huge. But running without immediate goals is pretty freeing too. Plus all that extra running sets you up for an even better training season next year. If you want some help designing your off season check out this post on creating your perfect winter maintenance plan. Are you a year round runner or mostly just an in training runner?
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