Making the most of the off season – a talk with Dr. Aleck Wong

‘Tis the season! This phrase is heard ringing throughout our lives day-in and day-out this time of year. And while everyone is bustling about with the busy-ness of juggling life and preparing for the holidays, runners and endurance athletes are also typically finding themselves in the midst of another kind of season – the off season. I think of it more as a “reboot season” – unplugging for a bit and starting back up again after sufficient rest. It’s a crucial time for a runner, truly. A rich opportunity to let go of the rigors of training and racing in order to reap the benefits of and learn from the prior cycle or to address issues that have lingered from it. It’s a time to recharge our batteries on all levels – physical, mental and emotional.

This season can be welcomed and embraced by any level of runner, but it also oftentimes leaves us feeling a little bit lost and anxious to get back to the rhythms of training and racing. I have been wondering lately – what is the BEST way to approach this in-between time, to prime our bodies and minds for goals we have ahead of us?

How do we make the most of our time off from training? As a coach and an athlete myself, I have a lot of ideas and opinions about this. But I wanted to ask someone whose expertise and opinions I have always valued, to get a little more insight into it and to pass that wisdom along to you.

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training of another sort

Giving up sugar is NOT easy…but it’s after 8:00pm on day one for me and so far, so good.  I’ve had cravings today but haven’t caved to them.  After I eat my dinner every night I usually seek out sugar like I have some sort of microchip in my body that can sense where to find it in my house.  I am not thinking or if I do become self-aware in the moment I brush it off and convince myself that I deserve it or it is no big deal, I’ll try again tomorrow.  Sometimes it is very easy for me to find the sugar – cupcakes or cookies easily at hand on the counter – or sometimes it is harder and I eat something like graham crackers or the leftover Valentines candy that the kids brought home from school back in February (seriously, they got a LOT of candy from their classmates, ugh!).  Sometimes I treat myself to a handful or two of Enjoy Life! vegan chocolate chips (I love them).  But tonight when the sugar cravings hit I reached for a juicy plump ORANGE.  It was actually really satisfying and while let’s face it not as sugary-sweet as a cupcake or a cookie it was worth it because I had NO guilt AT ALL over eating it.

I feel good about my food choices for today.  I’m happy that I can say that, because those are not words I would have said yesterday or the day before that or really in I don’t know how long.

At least for today, I found that the best way for me to look at this was as an exercise in training my mind and my body.  I persevered through the hard parts, moments when I felt like putting it off another day, and I kept my focus.  You see, I am a FIRM believer that we can train ourselves to create healthy habits. Whether it is eating better or exercising more or whatever, our minds are powerful and the relationship between our minds and our bodies is not to be doubted or underestimated.  If you are a runner, you KNOW this.  When your mind is telling you to quit, your body WILL listen.  When your mind is telling you to keep going, your body WILL listen.  This does not just pertain to running!

One day at a time, I am going to train my mind until my body gets the message and bad habits become distant memories.  Who knows, maybe I will start craving fresh fruit every night.  That is the idea, anyway.

three things: training thoughts and an evening run

1. Last spring I became a certified running coach through the RRCA.  It was a wonderful experience for me and I learned a great deal about how to train and race smart.  I was excited to put my new knowledge into practice for myself as I trained for the MCM, but a few weeks later I found out I was pregnant so I decided to wait for the marathon in 2011.  Fast forward about a year later and here I am, 2 1/2 months postpartum, getting ready to train for MCM.  I am excited.  Even though I have trained for 6 marathons on my own and am an RRCA coach, I really want to be coached.  This is a unique year for me as I am a nursing mom returning to running after having a baby and I also believe that I can PR.  So I have decided to sign up for the =PR= (Potomac River) Running store’s Distance Training Program this year.  The program starts on June 18th.  I cannot wait.

2. In addition to my running program, I have been thinking about other ways I need to strengthen my body.  I am doing regular Pilates workouts at my sister Jodi’s studio Reston Pilates about twice a week and also do the exercises on my own at home.  My gym also offers a strength training program called TNT and I am going to start that in early May, once baby Gus is old enough to go to the gym.  This will be two 45-minute sessions a week focusing on weight training in the gym.

3. It is a beautiful day here today.  The sun is shining, the skies are blue and the air is crisp.  The high is going to be around 70 degrees.  Pretty much my ideal weather.  My husband biked to work today and tonight he will meet me and the kids at the baseball field for Abby’s 6pm tee ball practice.  I am going to put the running stroller in the car and take Gus for a run during the practice.  I can’t wait.  The evening bed time routine around here is always SO much more pleasant when momma gets a run in beforehand.

Happy Thursday, everyone.  The weekend is almost here!!