Victoria Székely may not have officially started training for the New York City Marathon until June 2022, but it had been on her mind for the previous two years. Big fitness goals, like completing a marathon, start taking up your time and energy long before the first day of your training plan. So when you finally cross the finish line, and suddenly your calendar isn’t filled with long runs, strength workouts, and bedtimes at 9 p.m., it can feel a little disconcerting.
For many athletes, instinct is to immediately chase after the next goal. But Szekely, a physical therapist, run coach and certified strength and conditioning specialist, took a different approach after his run.
“Running is very important to me; it’s my passion. It’s part of my job,” she says. “It takes up a very big place in my life, but at the same time, I have to take some time off from it if I want to continue it.”
Hence, he decided to end what he affectionately calls the “Self-Care Era”.
He didn’t run a single run for three weeks, and instead focused on rest, recovery and all the things in his life that he had put on the backburner during his marathon training. While he doesn’t prescribe that amount of rest for everyone, he believes every athlete can benefit from the time off.
Why a ‘self-care era’ schedule?
Whether you’re a runner or a CrossFitter, if you love to be active, the last thing you want is to get injured. But going from one hard training cycle to the next is a quick route to the doctor’s office.
“What the off-season really does is prevent you from doing back-to-back training cycles,” says Szekely. “That can lead to burnout, injury and fatigue.”
Think of it this way the part An important part of your training cycle. Training for something like a marathon puts a significant amount of stress on both your body and mind. Establishing an off season gives your muscles time to heal and your mind to heal.
“Recovery is just as important if not more important than active training,” says Szekely.
you will power Maybe lose some fitness from taking a few weeks off. And that’s exactly the point: Most people’s bodies aren’t conditioned to be at their peak fitness level for months on end, Szekely says. This is why even professional athletes take time off. When you start training again, your fitness will return—and maybe even stronger than before because your body is recharged instead of burned out and exhausted.
“I want to lose fitness so that when I’m ready to get it back, I can have that energy and be at my best because I took that time off,” Szekely said.
It’s a concept that flies in the face of rush culture and much of what we see on social media. Slow motion may be less impressive, but it’s just as important.
what should are you doing
In short, commit to the basics: sleep, hydration and nutrition. If it feels good, spend a few minutes each day foam rolling and stretching.
This season is the perfect time to explore other types of movement that you don’t normally do but that can bring you joy, Szekely says. Try swimming, golf, Zumba, or any activity you’ve been curious about. Not only can this serve as meaningful cross training, but you may also discover a new passion.
A self-care era is also about nourishing other aspects of your life. Set up a coffee date with that friend you haven’t seen in forever. Pick up your guitar again. Take a road trip without worrying about squeezing in a workout.
This off-season can last anywhere from a week to two months, depending on how your body feels, Szekely says. Once you feel your mind and body are ready to start again, start with slow, easy workouts like unstructured, low-mileage runs. Ramp up slowly and follow your fitness.