A lot of runners (myself included) who take on more than one race in a ‘season’ (however you define it) run into a similar problem of training management. Our first race is done and dusted, it’s too soon to start formal training for the next race, and it most definitely isn’t the off-season. These I what I call the ‘in-between days’.
I’ve found over the years that the in-between days can be a dangerous time for me and that I can struggle with the delicate balance in that gap between training cycles where I either over-train or conversely fall off the waggon completely.
Personally, I can’t maintain full on, year-round race-targeted training week in, week out, without some kind of break. I need to give both my body and mind not only a rest but a change of focus and pace because as I wrote previously, there really is a thin line between a rut and a groove. Not only do I run the risk of injury without changing things up, but equally as dangerous, I have found I lose my edge, my desire drops off and the business of running that is usually one of the true joys in my life becomes something of a chore.
On the flip side, I’ve also learned that it’s a mistake to treat these breaks like they are the full off-season. In the past, I’ve dialled everything down to a few easy runs a week for a more protracted mid-season break, and all that I’ve succeeded in doing was to contribute to a decline in fitness that I had to work harder than I needed to recover from. Funnily enough, I also tend to suffer from the same ennui that I do when I train too hard for too long — go figure.
Here are a few thoughts on what has and is working for me as I bridge the gap between training cycles this year:
Rest is still part of the plan
Notwithstanding what I just said, rest is part of the in-between days’ program. It’s rest that’s planned and sometimes comes in a different form than simply doing nothing. For example, running speed intervals at the track, but running 6 rather than 12 intervals counts as rest for me. Maybe running 5 instead of 6 days, but maintaining some speed and tempo runs in there rather than just doing sloppy easy runs. To this end…
A little bit of structure goes a long way
I find it really helpful to keep things to a basic plan, and not let everything get completely loosey-goosey in terms of when I run, what I run, etc. I may not be in full-on training camp mode, but sticking with a program, whatever that is, I find very useful and keeps me on track, and the opportunities for excuses to a minimum. However you approach this time, (and this includes the rest piece), be intentional about it.
Mix things up
It can be hard to test and trial brand new things when you are fully focused on a set schedule of training for an upcoming race. Personally, it’s easy to get so laser-focused on the immediate goal at hand that I often don’t give myself the latitude within my program to try something completely new and different. The beauty of these in-between days is having the freedom to experiment, try new routes, try new speeds, try new nutrition and new workouts, without the fear that doing too much new stuff during your training proper will throw you off balance and get in the way of getting race-ready on schedule. Think of it like this – you’re training for the training – and done right, you can actually make your actual race prep that much better by incorporating some of the things you tried and liked in your in-between days.
Weights and measures
Speaking of introducing new stuff, now that I’m in-between days, I really have no excuse to not try and work in some lifting and body-weight strength training into my routine. I have always conveniently used the fact that I’m mid-cycle in my race-training to avoid starting on the strength and core work, and now there really is nothing but the dull stench of accountability to make this happen. I know it will make me fitter, stronger and a better runner, so I guess it’s time to get going on that front. I’ll report back in due course.
Of course, this is just what I’m doing and I really don’t know whether it’s right or wrong. What about you? I’d love to get some input from you on what you do to strike the right balance of training during the course of your season. How are you adjusting the dials to bring yourself to the boil at just the right time, without breaking down or completely losing focus?
Keep on moving my friends