Disclaimer: These thoughts are mine and based on my experience and research by done by people smarter than me. There happens to be many people who would agree and disagree. Most importantly, there is no secret recipe that works for everyone. We are all different and need different things. With this in mind I will do my best to be as general about things as I can except for when it is simply based on using myself as a lab rat. Listen to your coach, buy into the system and train smart and be consistent. If you think changes should be made I would suggest bringing the ideas to your coach and please avoid using, “well David Adams said!” :)
Many of you may have competed in the recent Footlocker Regional meets held across the country over the Thanksgiving holiday. What are you plans going forward and onto the outdoor track season? Some of you may be competing in an indoor meet along the way. This time of year, for those of us in the south can be great for logging milage to support the training and racing we have planned for the spring. In some areas the winter can be as turbulent for running as our humid summers are. Take advantage of this opportunity to set yourself up for a great track season.
Start working on your speed immediately! A few times per week you need to be doing strides after your easy runs, preferably before a workout or faster effort. These strides don’t need to be incredibly taxing or quick, especially at first. Start out by running them slightly faster than your 5k pace, somewhere around your 3200 meter pace. 60-100 meters is sufficient. Used the first and last 10-15 meters to build up to speed and to slow back down. Gradually work your way down to 800 meter speed over the course of this block of training. In between the strides give yourself time to recover. I suggest jogging back to where you started or standing rest for about 1 minute.
When thinking about a base phase of training we often think about slow easy running. While this should make up the bulk of your training during any phase, you should be working on building your aerobic (metabolism) system. The quickest and best way to do this is by challenging yourself regularly at a solid pace. The weekly long run is the other major piece and we will talk about that further in the next edition. Workouts that should take place over the next few months are Fartlek runs, progression runs and pushing the last mile or two of a long run.
Fartlek (speed play in Swedish - Random mix of interval pace and length scatter across a training run. This type or workout is best with a group. Each runner takes turns leading the repetitions and choosing the pace and duration. This causes the other runners to simply react and deal with the pace without knowing the length. If you are running alone you may also create a custom workout on your Garmin Connect profile (if you use a Garmin of course). This would allow you to experience the workout with some randomness.
Progression - Steady increase in the pace over the course of the run. For example, 5 miles: 8:00, 7:30, 7:00, 6:30, 6:00. More challenging versions could be extended over a longer run or with full minute drops over a shorter run. If I remember correctly, I ran one of these about once per week during my senior year of high-school. This was done in the morning before school and time was limited. It was completely based on feel but the general structure was in the neighborhood of: 7:00, 6:00, 5:30, 5:00. An easy 6 mile run or workout with the team in the afternoon.
Make sure you are taking your easy days easy, and your hard days hard. This can be challenging during the cooler months as long as you aren’t dealing with sloppy footing and snow. I know for me, I want to roll every run at 6:30 pace or faster because it feels so much easier than it did all summer. Impromptu progressions happen regularly if I don’t make the conscious effort to plan out my week and month. If you know a hard workout awaits the following day, you will be more likely to settle down today. Running by feel is the best way to go but choosing an even slower effort on purpose can really help your recovery and effort for the more challenging days.
***If I had a superpower in my high school days of running it was the ability to recover. I usually took Sundays off but two-a-days became standard. Throughout my senior year I was running quality workouts on Thursday or Friday before Saturday races under 15:30.
Incorporating these workouts into your winter training will help you get the most out of your limited buildup to your track season. In the next edition I will dive into this a little further and talk about: the weekly long run, rest and sleep, strength training and some other little but necessary things!