What does off-season mean for runners? Unlike many others, running is one of those sports without a typical off-season. Think about it – hockey, soccer, baseball – these athletes do not play their sport all year long, and in fact it is what they do during their off season, that can make or break their actual season. But runners tend to run all year long – that’s the joy of running – especially in a city like Vancouver! However, it is also the main reason why runners tend to develop nagging, chronic injuries – simply because we never stop running!

How do we define off-season? If you are a marathon runner who runs two marathons a year, let’s say one in the spring and one in the fall, then we can classify it as the time between finishing one race, and the early stages of starting to train for the next.

The following are some simple tips for you to stay injury free during your off-season.

  1. Discover your weaknesses. This may sound odd, but trust me! Running injuries are very often a cause of something weak somewhere in your body. For instance, weak hips, or weak feet, or even a weak and lazy big toe can all cause knee pain! You will likely need some help determining which of these is causing your knee pain though. Off-season is a perfect time to have a sport physiotherapist do a head to toe assessment of your body to find out where your weaknesses are, so you can turn them into strengths, and hopefully become a stronger, more injury free runner.
  2. Stop ignoring your injuries. Most distance runners think pain is normal. Most normal people know the difference between good pain and bad pain. Don’t ignore the bad pain – use this off-season time to go see a health care professional who understands running and running injuries to help you figure out what the source of the problem is and get you on a good rehabilitation program. A part of your program will likely involve a regular routine of self-soft tissue massage with foam rollers or massage sticks, as well as strengthening your hips and stretching your calf muscles – all common areas of concern for runners.
  3. Rest! Rest is just as important as training. This is hard for runners to understand. During our rest from running is when our body recovers and is able to rebuild and get stronger. The most common mistake I hear is the runner who said they jumped right into training for their next race, the week after they finished their last marathon. Take the time to recover. Do a different activity like biking, swimming, deep water running, pilates, cross country skiing – anything that is a rest from actual running. Your body will thank you.

 Timberly George works at City Sports & Physiotherapy clinic in downtown Vancouver. She is one of only 26 registered Sport Physiotherapists in the lower mainland of BC. Timberly loves to run and cycle and is passionate about injury prevention in the sporting community.