Tips for “OFF Season” Training & Recovery for the Runner

By Natalie Johnston

Natalie Johnston Running

Here are some tips to make the off season more productive and help get you prepared for this year.

  1. Actually take time off from running. Typically, I have my athletes take off running 10-14 days after a Marathon, about 4-10 days after a Half/10miler, and 1-3 after a 10k/5k.
  2. Keep moving. Just because you’re not running, doesn’t mean sit on your butt and do nothing. Do low intensity training for short durations, 30 minutes is a good measure. You can cycle, do yoga, swim, light resistance training, etc. Goal is to produce blood flow which will promote recovery.
  3. Come back slowly. Don’t rush back to high intensity training. I give my athletes training for marathons a month to recoup their bodies. We introduce running back slowly and keep the paces controlled and conversational. Use this planned recovery time off to rejuvenate your body so you can start chasing your next big racing goal.
  4. Focus on your nutrition. Refueling accurately and consistently after workouts/races will restore muscle and liver glycogen stores, replace fluid and electrolytes lost in sweat, promote muscle repair, and bolster the immune system. After a marathon, restock your muscles with carbs stores you lost, along with protein to repair muscles. To restore muscle glycogen and promote protein synthesis, consume 0.8g per kg of body weight of carbohydrate and 0.2g per kg of body weight of protein within 30 minutes of finishing. Try to get in as soon as you can, like 30 to 60 minutes; and be sure and eat a real meal within 3 hours. I also find that tart cherry juice helps with muscle soreness. Is it placebo? Research says no, and I continue to believe so too. Remember, protein is extremely important throughout your daily training as well, generally you want to get 1g of protein per pound of body weight. Now that’s typically tough to obtain, but you get the idea where you need to be.
  5. Introduce strength training exercises again. We all know that once marathon training comes around, our strength routine falls to the wayside. Start slowly and work with a coach to help you transition back, and learn some new exercises to boot.
  6. Stay clear of NSAIDs. They only take the edge off your pain, and they interfere with the healing process. The body is stronger than we give it credit for.
  7. Wear compression socks. It helps to deliver graduated pressure. This helps improve circulation in the surrounding muscles and pushes blood back toward the heart. Healing in a muscle begins when there is increased blood flow to the affected area.
  8. Elevate your legs. Elevating legs can help to reduce swelling, but is not clearing waste or lactic acid.
  9. Foam roll and gently stretch.
  10. Get a massage. Not deep tissue, keep it light after a marathon.
  11. Take warm epsom salt baths.
  12. Take time to relax. Practice taking a deep breath and calming yourself down. You can do this anytime and it is good for your nervous system.
  13. And our biggest defense is sleep. This is super critical. I make sure that I get 8 hours of sleep every night. Other things to consider before putting your head on the pillow to get sound sleep:
    a) Reducing disturbances by sleeping in a cool, dark room.
    b) Avoid light exposure from electronics in the hour before bed.
    c) Avoid stimulants such as caffeine.
    d) Alcohol in the evening may decrease your sleep quality and duration.

Take your rest and recovery seriously. Most of us are Type A and can’t sit still, so try not to take on new projects, or find new ways to stress your body out again. Running is stress on our system, take time to heal it. Instead, plan massages and lots of downtime, put your feet up and really unload fatigue. Be sure and recover as hard as you train.


 Natalie JohnstonNatalie Johnston has been running since she was 13 years old, and has been a competitive athlete since the age of 3. She competed in sports ranging from horseback riding, competitive swimming, to dance. However, running was the one sport that stole her heart! She says,”Running frees my mind and soul, you can just grab your shoes and run anywhere!” Through many ups and downs in her life, running was the one place for her to let go, meditate (aka release her emotions), and grow as a person.  She believes running is more than just getting fast times, it’s about connecting to something deeper in yourself; She believes that running saved her life in many ways. Through High School and College all Natalie thought about was being the best and getting fast, since then she has changed her way of thinking, and believes that you should train like you want to run until your 100. With that mindset, she has been able to run faster, be less stressed, and enjoy her runs even more now than she did before! Learn more about Natalie and her coaching at RUN F.I.T. Coaching.