The athlete who trains the same, stays the same. In order to make progress, or at least avoid slowing down, one should change the direction of one’s training and plan the remainder of the year. Any particular routine loses its effectiveness after a few months, so it is best to have three or perhaps four phases during the year. In December and January, when the weather is at its worst, you will probably go into ‘maintenance mode’, then work on either endurance during February and March, then race-specific training during April and May, which will lead you into competing through May and June. Those who are looking for an autumn event, with a 3-month build-up, will start this in July or August, peaking for an event in October or November.
If you are a serious cross-country runner you may start your racing year in the autumn, have an easy period over Christmas and then get back into cross-country from January to March. If your interests are in track running rather than road or trail events, you will need to start track training as soon as the weather permits – maybe one or two sessions in February, one a week in March and two a week in April.
Maintenance training means doing three or four sessions a week, to avoid losing too much fitness. At least two of these should be steady three or four mile runs, and the other days might be 30-minute gym sessions, involving some all-round weight training and ten or fifteen minutes on the treadmill or the exercise bike.
If you want to make real improvement, I suggest that you try one or more of the following routines:
1. Hill training, running fast up the hill and jogging slowly back. The length of the run can be anything from one to three minutes, and it should be repeated weekly over 8-10 weeks, gradually increasing the number of repetitions. Sometimes one can alternate ‘short hills’ and ‘long hills’.
2. High mileage training. If you are one of those putting in 25 to 30 miles a week, try building up to a half or full marathon, increasing the weekly mileage gradually until you are doing 60 or 70 miles a week and running a long race at the end of it.
3. High quality training. Too many of us just ‘go for a run’, which is probably no faster than marathon race pace and does not take you any further forwards. During my track career I relied largely on interval training, doing three sessions a week plus a race.If you go to the track and do 12 or 15 x 400m, with a 90-second recovery, you will find out exactly how fit you are. The next session would be 6 or 8 x 800m, and the hardest sessions will be reps over 1200 or 1600m (1 mile). Once the number of reps and the recovery time are fixed, you try to get faster week by week
4. Training camps. If you can’t get away for a week in the spring, you can always try a hard training weekend with your club, putting in a good session on Friday night, two sessions on Saturday and either two sessions or a long run on the Sunday. This will give you the boost you need to raise your level of fitness.
Bruce Tulloh – Your Coach
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