The Dream Season - Page 6
1. Calculate the amount of time before race day
Get out your calendar and count the number of weeks you have before your race or races. Make sure that you have a reasonable amount of time for the proper training, and, if you’re peaking for several races, you allot enough time for recovery between them. Cram training will only lead to injury and poor results. At the same time, be sure not to begin your race-specific training prematurely. A training cycle that lasts too long is a quick recipe for mental and physical burnout.
2. Assign training phases
As mentioned, base training is the most important and prevalent phase of your plan. You can always race well off of a solid endurance-based background. Before launching into any race-specific stamina or speed work, a minimum of 12 uninterrupted weeks of base training and a month of pre-race specific work should be done. The workouts and how they are arranged during the training cycle’s final months will depend, again, on your specific race and strengths and weaknesses. In general, in order to avoid fatigue, the length of any one zone of training should fall within these time frames:
- Endurance training: Can be done indefinitely and will benefit any race distance
- Stamina training: 6 to 8 weeks
- Speed training: 4 to 8 weeks
It’s important to place race-specific workouts closest to your goal race. For example, a runner training for a trail 10K or half marathon would arrange workouts so that speed-based training takes precedence during the final month of the schedule. Conversely, a runner preparing for a trail marathon or 50K would assemble a mix of tough endurance and stamina-based workouts in the final months.
If you find it difficult to recover from speed work, develop injuries or despise the thought of it, simply de-emphasize or eliminate it from the program in favor of endurance and stamina workouts. If you are willing to work on or enjoy speed and stamina workouts, allocate more time to these training zones.
Don’t forget to allow a few weeks for a proper peaking phase. Continue with your race-specific training, but drop the volume of each run by 35 to 50 percent two weeks out and then another 20 to 25 percent from that during the week of your event.
Finally, designate a purpose to each week in your plan: Base, pre-race and race-specific and within those—endurance, stamina, speed and peak.
3. Compute weekly volume
In order to keep you accountable and injury-free, chart your weekly mileages beforehand. Scheduling a recovery week, when volume is cut 25 to 50 percent every three to four weeks, is an excellent way to enable your body to absorb recent training and gear up for the subsequent weeks’ workouts.
Use your own running experience, injury frequency, age and target race to determine the most advantageous mileage you should cover in your plan. New runners must take a conservative approach, keeping in mind that an uninterrupted, injury-free training cycle will get you to the start line with the best chance for success. Runners who have completed several training cycles and have a year or two of consistent training volume under their belt can and should explore higher volume.
4. Schedule your long runs
Research suggests 90 minutes is the minimum length long run for a trained athlete, but the upper maximum is limitless. Manage your long runs according to the following criteria:
Time vs. miles: Mountain and off-road running are relatively slow-going, so running for time alleviates the pressure of having to cover a predetermined distance.
Adjust the length of the long run to gel appropriately with your most recent (roughly the last 10 weeks) training load.
Training on the same terrain as your race is key, but don’t let terrain specificity rule your long-run location choices. Variation in topography allows for both mental and physical reprieve.
The frequency of tough long runs can be altered. Many runners have been successful with as many as 10 to 14 days between long runs.
Though this topic is up for much debate, here are guidelines for optimal long-run distances relative to popular trail-race lengths:
- 10K and shorter: 90 to 105 minutes
- Half-marathon: 2 hours or 12 to 16 miles
- Marathon and 50K: 16 to 26 miles or 3 to 4 hours
- 50 miles and 100K: a 50K race or 4 to 5 hours as well as back-to-back long runs
- 100 miles: a 50-mile or 100K race or 5 to 6 hours as well as back-to-back long runs
5. Distribute the quality workouts
Most athletes can complete one or two quality workouts, not including the long run, in a week’s time without risking injury. The primary workout should match the week’s designated phase and take priority in the schedule. If you’re in a speed-based phase, then a VO2 max workout is in order. If it’s a stamina-based phase, then a lactate-threshold workout should be the focus. Vary these primary workouts on a weekly basis in order to eliminate training drudgery. If training has advanced enough, you may use a secondary workout to remind the body of past training phases, prepare it for the next, or utilize it as time to prepare for race specific challenges—like hills or working on a finishing kick. Remember that these workouts shouldn’t take focus away from the primary workout.
6. Fill it all in and account for life’s responsibilities
This is the time to make note of all of the other important life obligations, family responsibilities and things that keep you motivated, happy and healthy. Examples might be:
- Vacation and family time, work, anniversaries, weddings, volunteer responsibilities, etc.
- Regularly scheduled recovery or off days
- Non-goal races
- Strength training, spin class, Boot Camp, Pilates or yoga classes, etc.
Once you plug these commitments—along with your long run(s), your primary and, possibly, secondary workouts—into your plan, the rest of your weekly volume will come from easy and recovery runs and cross-training activities. Review the entire plan and assess it. You’re now looking at a realistic balance between essential goal race training and life’s duties.
Stephanie Shepherd, who trains regularly on the trails in North Carolina’s Umstead State Park agrees, “It is difficult balancing work, family and daily life while training for and achieving my racing goals. Planning my schedule for the weeks and months ahead is the only way I’ll know I’ll get my running in.”
Jason Penticoff, who participates annually in Illinois’ Rock Cut Winter Survivor Race Series, echoes Shepherd’s praises for training structure: “I follow a plan because it gives me a focus. Without a plan, I feel like I’m swatting at a piñata blindfolded just hoping to hit it.”