By Alicia Shay
A solid foundation for your best summer of racing starts in the winter months. It is the perfect time to focus on getting in a good rhythm and building a great aerobic base that will carry through to strong summer performances.
–Focus on a gradual buildup in mileage. Don’t add more than 5 miles per week to decrease the chance of injuries or getting overly fatigued.
–Keep the intensity low. The bulk of training should be easy runs, light fartleks, low intensity interval sessions, strides and at least one longer run per week.
-Get started before winter is in full swing. If you wait until temperatures have fallen, it’s dark before dinner time and the ground is covered with snow it will be more difficult to get out the door to start building fitness.
HAVE A PLAN
Having a plan of attack will help you stay on track and progress at an appropriate rate. Whether it’s private coaching or something more informal, have a plan and do your best to stick to it unless changes need to be made for injuries, illness or fatigue.
–Proper progression. Have a plan that will progress you through winter, spring and peaking in the summer. Training too hard too early or not enough can change the course of your summer racing. So start modestly, build conservatively and stay consistent.
–Scheduling. Have a plan of how running will fit into your daily and weekly schedule. Morning or evening runs? Weekend long runs or mid-week? Unplanned training can easily get lost in the shuffle of a busy schedule so be intentional about planning running ‘appointments’ that are scheduled in your daily calendar. This is extremely important during the busy holiday season.
–Contingency plans. If you have to adjust training for weather, work or family needs, have a couple back up plans. If the trails or roads are not safe for training find a treadmill. If you can’t find a treadmill, look for some cross country skis, snowshoes or some other form of cross training. If you work late and miss your evening run, add in a little extra mileage throughout the rest of the week or switch around a planned rest day with the day you missed. It’s great to have a plan but it is ok to adjust every once in awhile because something will always be better than nothing!
STAY AHEAD OF INJURIES
Don’t wait for something to hurt or feel painful before paying attention to it. In order to avoid a big setback from an injury, listen to your body and give soreness or tight areas some attention before they become an injury. Pre-hab is always better than rehab!
–Learn self therapy. Active isolated stretching is a great way to stay loose and keep your body from getting overly tight. Foam rolling is also a good way to help with specific tight spots or knots. If have never heard of active isolated stretching or foam rolling, there are plenty of on-line videos and resources to reference.
–Regular massage and/or chiropractic treatment. If possible, getting consistent treatment from a doctor or therapist familiar with working with athletes can keep your body in top form and also help to catch small problems before they become larger issues.
–Don’t avoid the weight room. Regular strength training can take your running to a higher level and also help with injury prevention. Winter months are great time to integrate a strength training routine so that you have plenty of time to correct any weaknesses or imbalances and make strength gains. It doesn’t need to be a detailed workout but a couple short sessions per week could really change the course of your summer racing.
–Fast damage control. If you do experience an injury, address it as quickly as possible. Don’t run through pain or anything that changes your mechanics and running form. There is a time and place to be mentally tough and push your physical limits but not when it comes to injuries that could cost weeks or even months of training. Quickly find a doctor or therapist that can identify what the problem is and how to best treat it.
PRIORITIZE GOOD NUTRITION
Great training and good nutrition go hand in hand. Don’t make the mistake of overlooking the importance of fueling your body with nutrient rich foods so that you can train harder, recover faster and reach your ideal body weight. Just like training, consistency is the key to success with proper nutrition.
-Focus on healthy and balanced meals day in and day out. The best and most simple plan is a plant-based diet that is rich in vegetables, fruit, healthy fats, lean protein and whole grains. Keep everything in moderation including quantity and less healthy foods such as dessert, cookies, chips, etc. The most ideal nutrition plan is one that isn’t so extreme that it is difficult to maintain. Find a plan that is reasonable, sustainable and focused on real food that comes from the ground rather than a package.
–Use the winter months to work on performance of race nutrition strategies. When it comes to race day fueling, everyone is slightly different. Winter is a great time to practice what strategies will work best on race day. Pre-race nutrition, race day hydration/fueling and recovery nutrition are all components of performance nutrition that can enhance race results. If you can nail down these components before racing, you will have one less variable to be nervous about and can just focus on running and not trying to figure out how to best fuel.
–Don’t fall off the wagon during the holidays! Just like every other element of training, have a plan of attack that sets you up for success. Before the festivities begin, plan strategies for navigating all the rich foods and desserts. You don’t need to totally deprive yourself of your favorite holiday treats but do keep the quantity in check. Don’t graze on desserts or other unhealthy foods. Fill up on healthy and balanced meals with plenty of nutrient dense vegetables and then have one small serving of dessert.
Alicia Shay is the 2012 TransRockies Run RUN3 Champion and the coach of choice for the TransRockies Run. Training plans available at http://runsmartproject.com/coaching/transrockies-run.