Structuring your training/season
Right, now we’ve broken down the specific elements and talked about the structure of a typically training programme as we would set it we want to talk about how this fits into your general structure for the winter that may include racing and different phases. For this we have separated it into marathoners and non-marathoners for simplicity but there will be some overlap because its running and it’s not that complicated.
If you aren’t a marathoner, the likelihood is as an endurance runner you will be gearing towards either a 10k, XC, Track or a Half Marathon or maybe you just want to give your training a boost.
At this time of the year winter training is starting to ramp up for almost everybody, dark nights and dark mornings mean many of us are doing our miles in the dark. Our first piece of advice for everybody if it’s possible is to join a group. Often groups meet up a few times a week in the evenings and it just means you have someone to run with to make it more enjoyable. Training with other people can also add an edge to your training as we often all run a bit harder when others are there pushing us.
In terms of a winter structure, we would suggest the period between now and the New Year is used to build up both your mileage and intensity and the focus should be consistency getting in good quality running. You don’t need to be forcing sessions and trying to run at race pace but occasionally tapping into it could be helpful but not essential. Lots of tempo pace work and productive long runs are great in this phase.
As the New Year comes in and spring races loom on the horizon it would be helpful to include a few more interval sessions but keep mileage at your higher level being careful not to push too much into a programme so you get ill or injured. This will help condition you a little to race pace so it’s not a shock. We would use January and February for this.
Come Mid Feb-March you will likely have a good idea of what your racing programme looks like for the next few months, so this is where if you are thinking of racing making those sessions and workouts count for a bit more. You could also include some smaller races to boost fitness ahead of your bigger goals. We are big believers in not dropping your mileage too much, but different things work for different people.
Throughout the winter we recommend having a structure of 2-3 weeks up and one week down… What we mean by this is having 2-3 weeks of heavy training followed by a week where you bring volume and intensity down a little. For example, if you run 50miles per week then doing a week where you run 35-40 could be beneficial and allow your body to reset and prevent injuries and illness from getting run down. It also gives you a chance to structure in all important family time and events etc, so you don’t feel like you are trying to do it all. We usually include a complete rest day into these weeks which naturally brings your volume down.
First of all, if you are coming off an autumn marathon such as London Marathon, Congratulations! Regardless of the result, hopefully you are fully recovered and not injured or sick and steadily rebuilding your training. I guess you’re starting to think about what’s next… So, we wanted to write down our thoughts and how we approach this with both our own programmes and the programmes of our athletes.
Your first priority should be health; physical and mental. Are you injured? Are you sick? Are you motivated to get back into training and new goals?
The answers should be no, no and yes. Any other combination and you need to step back and rest/get healthy. Once you have a no, no, yes you are ready to start your winter campaign towards new goals! We have many athletes focused on a spring marathon next year and we will spend between now and the new year working on improving their ability over 10km and half marathon so that they are fit and fast heading into their marathon training plans.
The next decision to be made between now and Christmas is what your marathon plan is going to be. We use a 12 week plan ourselves and with our athletes, but everyone has different preferences but start looking around or drawing up plans and decide on an approach. Things to think about and what you did well in your last build up and where you think you can improve. Pro Tip: You don’t always have to change things, sometimes you can just build on an already successful approach so don’t feel you have to change anything. Remember; consistency is key. Don’t fix what isn’t broken. At the same time don’t be scared to try new approaches.
More than anything, find what works for you. Find a method you’re happy with and feel confident in. The best training plans in the world only work if you believe in them 100%