Training in the Non-Competitive Season

Written by Stephen R. Santangelo for ATRA’s 2016/17 Winter Trail Times Newsletter.

There are two approaches to training; competitive season and non-competitive season. I have often found it rather ridiculous to refer to the non-competitive season as the “off season.” As athletes, we truly don’t have an off season.

All too often endurance athletes fall into the trap of obsessive running and continually train and run 6-7 days per week. First and foremost, most of us are recreational runners and compete for the enjoyment of running the trails and being outdoors while choosing a lifestyle which enhances our health. It’s not uncommon for runners to emulate how our idols train and this is a huge mistake! Their training regimens are designed specifically for them based upon how their genetic disposition responds. They are surrounded by a staff of professionals, such as coaches, trainers, chiropractors, massage therapists, nutritionists and most of all, sponsorships. Few of us have these luxuries on a daily, weekly or even monthly basis; we deal with the real world of living, therefore, must deal with real world training.

Training modalities must be evaluated throughout the year and the non-competitive season training needs exceptional attention. This is the “healing” period. The body needs to heal from the outside to the inside and it’s not just muscle recovery. Training athletes from many sports and primarily with runners from sprinters to distance, here are some of the more important considerations I have learned from world class track and field coaches:

  • The accumulation of by-products such as lactate salt and hydrogen ions in muscle cells and blood.
  • Essential nutrient depletion like muscle glycogen and blood glucose in the working areas of the body, not just muscles.
  • Changes in metabolic functions caused from increases in acidity or changes in the central body.
  • A limitation in nerve cell function caused by an abundance of extra molecules.
  • Disturbed body equilibrium caused by severe demands on hormones.

By season’s end your body has been beaten up and it’s time to rebuild. Every one of these aforementioned concerns must be addressed. Rest is recovery from metabolic fatigue caused by the effects of training. Rest is not a bad word. It is essential for longevity in a sport we love!

Rest, Restoration and Conditioning (RRC) is at the top of the list to insure coming back next season healthier, stronger and faster when the competitive season commences. Following are key points to incorporate into every one of your programs.

  • RRC Conditioning is what it takes to prepare the body for better performance and physical and mental health.
  • RRC prepares the mind and body to train to become faster.
  • RRC prepares and strengthens the body to be able to perform those skills at a higher level.
  • RRC builds strength in your weak links to prepare you for more intense workouts.
  • RRC eliminates and minimizes injuries and accelerates recovery.

The best approach is to choose activities such as volleyball, soccer, basketball, and for those of us who live in winter climates, add skiing and ice skating. The significance of these activities will train body mechanics in different ways than in running the trails. New muscle stimulation is activated while maintaining current muscle development from running.

Joint angles and muscle attachments are stimulated in ways running does not and cannot. This also trains the system neurologically as well as metabolically, just with different responses such as muscle fibers and energy systems based on specific chemistry. In essence, you are creating a process called Mitochondrial Biogenesis. Improving mitochondria improves metabolic functions of your skeletal muscles, therefore, making your body work more efficiently.

Choosing variety is an absolute necessity and by all means, take a few days off throughout the week! Depending upon how long your non-competitive season is will determine how often you use these activities on a weekly basis and monthly basis. If your recovery season is short, take more days off than on. If your recovery season is long, take fewer days off each week and vary the intensity of your chosen activities.

RRC’s sole purpose is to build the qualities which allow you to do a higher volume of high intensity training when the competitive season opens and allows your body to heal and feel vibrant!

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