"Harder, better, faster, stronger."
So you’ve trained and raced hard all summer, scored some PBs and generally enjoyed running with the sun on your back. But as the daylight starts to get shorter and the temperatures start to edge down, your thoughts should be turning to what you can do this winter to improve your running in nine months time. Now is the time to take a step back and lay the winter foundations for spring and summer success.
Recharge the batteries
To some runners, the word ‘rest day’ is anathema. Runners want to run; the idea of rest is alien to them. But now is the time to recharge your batteries and give yourself a physical as well as a mental break. Keeping on top of training, month in month out, is not just demanding on the body, it’s demanding on the mind too.
Taking two weeks out now, before you start to get into your winter training programme, is the perfect opportunity to freshen those legs and ensure your grey matter is equally capable of taking on the challenges you’ll be putting yourself through as the winter starts to bite. It doesn’t have to be bed rest either: if you want to stay active, ride a bike, go for a swim or pick up a paddle. Just don’t lace up your running shoes on the sly!
Now that you’re fully rested, it’s time to think about what that winter foundation might look like. Most successful training programmes are broken up into separate phases, but the majority of coaches agree that the first phase of any training plan should be a base phase. What does this mean? Well, it’s like making a cake: if you don’t grease the tin, the cake will get stuck and you’ll create an inedible mess! The same is true of running: if you don’t lay a solid base phase down, you’ll create all sorts of problems and end up failing to hit targets, or worse still, end up injured, because you’ve been playing catch up.
Credit: Red Bull
Strength & Conditioning
The most successful base phases combine a good deal of steady running with strength and conditioning work. Too often, runners eschew the benefits of the latter and invest too much time in the former. Particularly as runners get older, the benefits of strength and conditioning work should not be overlooked.
The two elements work in tandem: there is no need to put any stresses or strains on the body at this point, because your main goals will be later in the season. Running 20, 30, 40 or more miles a week gets your body strong for the sessions that you’ll be doing in phase two. And there is no need for the mind to get bogged down with hitting times. It will also mean, in theory, that you can train significantly harder when the programme demands it.
Running shouldn’t be about chasing times 12 months a year. You have to take steps back to take more forward. The best – and most successful runners – tier their training so that it gets progressively harder but is interspersed with periods of rest and recovery, whether that’s a week of easy running or some cross-training. You can’t train hard all the time. But laying a foundation in the winter will help you cope with the rigours of training as you up the intensity – and ensure that you come out in spring with renewed confidence and increased physical fitness ready to nail that new PB!
Credit: Red Bull