It’s hard to believe we’re in the final months of 2021. It feels like just yesterday we were heading into spring with fresh trails, rested legs, and a season full of races! Unlike 2020, many of us were likely able to run at least one or two races this season, as the regression of COVID-19 and increasing vaccination rates gave race directors the confidence to host events. But here we are with only a few fall races left, wondering as always, how to take advantage of this slower, colder season.

Easing into the off season is difficult. Full stop. But make no mistake, taking a few months to regroup, rest and cross train will be more beneficial than anything else. This is especially true for those who are looking ahead to races next spring.

The first, most obvious, thing you can do is lower your mileage, but this doesn’t mean less activity. You should instead focus on cross-training. More strength training, stretching, yoga, Pilates, HIT, spin – anything other than running, will allow your running muscles to heal and lose residual fatigue. The benefits of cross-training, like lifting weights and focusing on strengthening your core, carry over into your running and ultimately make you a stronger runner for the spring season. Heading into the gym may still not be advisable for you, but there are plenty of online options to help you keep your fitness levels up. More trainers than ever are providing instruction via Zoom or YouTube, and it’s a great way to try something out safely, from home.

Off season is also a time to explore winter activities and sports. Our favorites are cross-country skiing (which is easier on the runner’s body than downhill skiing), snowshoeing, ice skating, and all the other fun snow-related sports. Not sure how to get started? It’s always easier with friends, so hit up Runaways, Portland Sweat Project or Trail Sisters, and see who’s game for some non-run fun! There’s no better motivation than friends, and that’s true no matter the season.

Overall, you should head into the off season with the intent to rest and rehabilitate after a spring, summer, and fall of heavy running and racing. It’s a time to take care of yourself and let your body adjust to the colder, darker days ahead.