Hello there! Today I am writing this post from the perspective of an athlete that has two training cycles per year. Depending on your goals and the number of races that you are training to race, this may look different. This is just a quick overview! I could easily have a full post or more breaking down each different phase.
Since we are at the end of fall racing season, I am going to start with the recovery phase. If you are new to running – jump down to the base building header. We’ll pick up from the very beginning there.
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Let’s start with post-race recovery. This is such a key phase of the training seasons that should not be ignored. Remember, you have just spent 8-20 weeks of intensive training leading up to a goal race where you pushed your limits and depleted your energy stores. The initial period of rest will depend on your race distance and your fitness level but it may last anywhere from 1-4 days. During this period of time, it will be important to keep your muscles loose but you will not want to stress them. You can walk a mile or two, stretch, take a gentle yoga class, foam roll or get a massage.
After the initial recovery, you will want to use a reverse taper to gradually work your distance and pace back up to base levels. This may take 1-4 weeks, once again depending on your race distance and fitness level. Your reverse taper will consist of short easy paced runs in the beginning. As you continue, you will build back up to your “regular” mileage.
This phase will look different for those between racing seasons compared to new runner preparing for a race. The theory of base building comes from Arthur Lydiard. According to Lydiard, the purpose of this period of aerobic activity is to prime the body for the upcoming training cycle. It should be in the easy to moderate effort range and it can include some specific or quality workouts. This allows for a smooth transition into your training cycle and decreases you risk of injury as your training load increases. You are setting yourself up for success!
First, let’s look at what a base building phase might look like for an experienced runner between training cycles. I would only do a max of 2 “effort” days during the base building phase. This could include your long run, hill repeats or a fartlek run. The key is not to exceed a moderate effort for your short run or an easy effort for your long run!
The rest of your running workouts (non-effort days) would be easy effort runs at a conversational pace. If you choose to do cross training, you can add that in as well. Strength training would be a great cross training option during this phase.
You can still work on increasing your weekly mileage slowly over this phase until you are meeting the weekly mileage in the first 1-2 weeks of your next training cycle. Once again, your goal is to become comfortable with you base weekly mileage and set a firm foundation of aerobic fitness for your next training cycle.
If you are a new runner that is training for your first or second race, your base building phase is going to be all about increasing you aerobic capacity and setting a routine. You will most likely start out with interval running and may set a time goal versus a mileage goal. Over time, as you adjust to running straight for about 2 miles you can start to work on race specific mileage goals. If you plan on running a half marathon, this might look like two three mile runs during the week and 5-6 mile run as a weekend long run. Once again, you can supplement with cross training as another means to increasing your aerobic capacity.
Your training cycle will be divided into mesocycles (mini cycles) which are separated by a “cut back week.” A mesocycle usually lasts for three weeks. Research in to exercise science teaches us that a new stimulus will cause the body to react and increase fitness levels for a period of 3-4 weeks until you hit a plateau. Then we cut back to rest the body before pushing forward with a new stimulus. It is important to only change one workout variable at a time so that the risk for injury is minimized. Introducing to many changes too fast can lead to injuries.
Each one of the mesocycles will stress your body in a specific way to develop strength, speed and endurance. Your individual workouts will be based off of your ultimate goal and experience level. The progression of your training will always move from general goals to race specific goals as the training weeks pass. One of the best parts of training plan design is coming up with new and creative ways to keep runners challenged and engaged in their training.
If you are an experienced runner you will most likely do a speed workout, a tempo run, a long run, and fill in the rest of the days with easy miles. In contrast, if you are a new runner you will focus on easy miles for all of your workouts with the goal of increasing stamina and endurance to finish your goal race.
The last part of the training cycle leading up to race day is the taper. This can last from a few days to a couple weeks depending on the event you are training for. Shorter distances will require a shorter taper period while longer races get longer taper times. This phase allows your body to repair itself from all of the training in preparation for your peak performance. Proper nutrition and quality sleep should be a priority in this phase as well. Finally, if you have been strength training it is a good idea to put that on hold leading up to your race.
Think this is confusing?
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