How to Stay Motivated in the Off-Season – Marathon Training Plan

marathon training plan

The off-season time is somewhat of a necessary evil for enthusiasts and professionals alike. It’s a chance to take a break, reset and hit the refresh button but for many, it can be a testing time both mentally and physically. After all the excitement of race day has subsided, you’ve left with the long slog of training again and it can be easy to lose motivation.

Training in the off-season can not only be difficult to stick to, but also quite boring. You don’t have the excitement of an upcoming race to keep you going and motivation can quickly dwindle. Adverse weather conditions, long hours of indoor training, and the general feeling of “being in a rut” can all contribute to making the off-season a tough time.

However, the off-season provides something unique that a lot of us don’t take advantage of – the chance to reflect and learn from the previous season. It’s a time when we can analyze our performance, what worked well and what didn’t, and use that information to improve for next time.

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What’s there to look forward to?

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In this blog post, we will be going through useful tips, so you don’t become a victim of the off-season slump! Rather use this time effectively to set yourself up for a successful season ahead.

Set Smart Goals

“Train Less, Run Faster,” you’ve heard the refrain before. It’s a long-time favorite of snake-oil coaches with credentials from Charlatan University. Of course, real runners know that to get faster, you have to log more miles and run intervals until your rear end is dragging on the track behind you. (1)

If your next competition is about 8 or 9 months away, throughout this time you may struggle to find the level of motivation you had leading up to your last event. It’s normal to feel a sense of post-race letdown, your goal has been achieved and now you are in the middle of the training process again with nothing to show for it (yet).

This is where you need to be careful and not let your motivation drop too much. Setting SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic & Time-bound) will put you in a much better frame of mind and help you stay on track.

For e.g, a swimmer who’s just completed a season of long-course races may be looking forward to some well-earned rest but before long the itch to train will come back. Rather than just getting in the pool and swimming aimlessly for hours, set SMART goals to give your training some direction.

For this athlete, a goal could be to swim 3 times per week for 60 minutes, with the main focus being on improving their technique. This goal is specific (swim 3 times per week), measurable (60 minutes), achievable (the athlete is capable of swimming for this amount of time), realistic (the athlete can fit this into their schedule) and time-bound (the goal should be completed within 8 weeks).

But when it comes to the marathon, there’s a slight difference as the goal is not just to finish, but to finish well. A marathoner’s goal for the off-season could be to run 3 times per week, focusing on quality over quantity. And as the season gets closer, the goals can be tweaked and more specific, such as running a certain number of miles per week or completing tempo runs at a certain pace.

The key is to have something to focus on, rather than just going through the motions day in and day out. Individual training achievements should be the prior focus, not the competitive sport-specific goals to avoid mental and emotional burnout.

Winter Chill and The Snowy Slopes, Adapt and Overcome

If you’re someone who enjoys being outdoors and loves nothing more than a long run in the fresh air, then the prospect of winter training can be quite daunting. As the temperature starts to drop and the days get shorter, it can be tempting to just stay indoors where it’s warm and cozy. 

However, proper training and workout sessions even in winters are crucial for your development as an athlete. To make the most of the situation, you need to be proactive and get creative with your off-season training. Adverse conditions present the perfect opportunity to work on your mental toughness, get comfortable being uncomfortable and develop the mindset that you can overcome anything.

Seeking out winter-specific sports or activities, such as cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. These alternative workouts provide a great sense of adventure, help you to stay in shape and give you physiological goals while also giving you a break from the monotony of traditional running workouts. It’s a fun way to be active and explore different types of terrain, all while getting a great workout in.

Stay Competitive and Experiment

You can’t put a limit on how much you can improve and how much you can do. There are no limits on what you can be, do, or have in life. Try new things, explore different avenues and don’t be afraid to fail. Embrace the off-season as a time to try something new, whether that’s a new workout routine, a new piece of equipment or a new race distance. 

Just because you’re not competing doesn’t mean you can’t still push yourself and strive to get better. Whether it’s switching brands of running shoes or trying a new type of workout, experiment with different things to see what works best for you. The off-season is the perfect time to do this as you’re not under any pressure to perform and can take risks without consequences. Doing so will not only bring focus, but will allow you to learn more about your own abilities and limits.

Challenges Are Just Opportunities In Disguise

While most people think of the off-season as a time to rest and recover only, it is also the best time to work on your weaknesses and get ahead of the competition. It’s an opportunity to reflect on your previous season, assess what went well and what didn’t and make the necessary changes. Creating a balanced training plan, doing indoor and outdoor workouts, looking at your nutrition and supplement intake, and setting personal goals are all important aspects to focus on during the off-season. 

Remember, training in tough conditions will make you tougher and better prepared to face anything that comes your way during the season. So, don’t let the cold weather or shorter days deter you from putting in the work. Embrace the challenges and use them to your advantage.

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