Off-Season Survival Guide
Here in RVA, our racing season starts with the Monument Ave. 10k and ends with this past weekend’s Richmond Marathon (and Half Marathon, and 8k). First of all, congrats to all finishers this past weekend. This was my and Stanley‘s first Half Marathon, and JasonYu finished a marathon of his own (see his piece on recovery).
Now, we’re in the off season. That’s not to say there aren’t races that happen all through the bitter winter, but the weather’s passed its prime, and now’s when we start wanting to sleep later, eat heavier, and shudder at the thought of heavy respiration in the frigid air.
Though the onset of the off season is a relief to some degree, I’ve also been dreading it with a Half Ironman looming in the distance. How do I take advantage of an off season when there’s no room for slacking? In that regard, then: how does one encourage others not to give into the wily ways of down comforters and hot mugs when there are calories to be burned in the great outdoors?
Winter Diet Does Not Equal Summer Diet
For starters, let’s not kid ourselves. No matter how much we want to, we’ll probably do a good job of slacking compared to the summer months. Don’t deny it and keep the summer lifestyle going on when you’re not exercising as much. Cut back on the booze, cut down on the carbs, and fill those heavy food cravings with root vegetables and (not cream-based) soups. Your metabolism naturally wants to slow down a bit in the winter, so take that into account with your diet.
You’re Not a Bear. Don’t Hibernate.
Old Benjamin Franklin was right. Early to bed, early to rise. Especially with the dreaded time change we’ve all been adjusting to. Light comes and goes earlier, but our work schedules stay the same. There’s nothing wrong with an early bedtime so you can get your day started in time for a run or a trip to the gym. Even if you only force yourself to adhere to it a few times a week, you’ll at least stay in the habit of going.
Sun Getting You Down? Compensate.
Melatonin, melatonin, melatonin. Great stuff. Inexpensive, helps you sleep, and helps keep your circadian rhythm in check so your humanity doesn’t suffer in the low light of winter. Take at the same time daily, about 45 minutes before going to bed. You can find it in the vitamins & supplements aisle of your grocery store.
Bend and Snap!
(don’t really do it like that)
Strength train! With less calories being burned on the bike or by foot, you can keep your calorie burn up this way instead. If you don’t feel strong enough or confident enough to take on free weights, machines are a great way to get your muscles used to the burn. They may not be as effective as dumbbells, but they get the job done. Just remember that if you move up to free weights from the machines, cut all the weight you’ve been lifting significantly while you build up the core strength to manage them.
Two Wheels Are Better Than Four
Commute via bicycle. Yeah, it starts off chilly, but if you’ve got the proper gear (and I don’t mean you have to shell out hundreds of dollars on fleece and chamois winter suits – personally, I just wear jeans and pajamas over my summer shorts) you get nice and warm by the time you get to wherever you’re going. Just keep in mind that when you’re biking, it’s colder than if you were to walk. Increase your sock and glove thickness, wear chap stick, and get some facial moisturizer. Other than that, it’s just like diving into a cold pool. The first few minutes hurt, but then you’re golden.
Fine, Stay Inside.
Lastly, if you just simply can’t stomach the cold or getting up early, then hit up your gym for classes. There’s always great group exercise classes that can match the intensity level you’re used to, and you might even make a friend or two on the way. If you love the outdoors, working inside might be unforgivable, but at least you’re working out.
In short: put down the bisque, put on a jacket, and grin & bear it. You’ll thank yourself once spring comes around and you’ve got a head start.
Tom loves triathlon training, and shares his adventures on Twitter. In his spare time, he works with coffee and watches Doctor Who.
Our fitness expert discovers a local running group with an emphasis on fun and staying on shape.May 30, 2012
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