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Training tips: Structure your training plan

running diary

With the upcoming race season now just a few months away, it’s time to start thinking about how you plan to train for your upcoming goal race.

running diary

With several weeks of base training and mostly easy mileage behind you, you are now ready to begin tailoring your training more specifically.

In order to peak at the right time and run your best come race day, you’ll need to structure your training plan to develop and improve key areas of fitness.

new training pyramidPhase 1: Base Building 4-12 weeks (or more)

As mentioned, the base building phase of training is done first and involves several weeks or even months of mostly easy, comfortable running to develop your aerobic/cardiovascular engine. This lays the foundation upon which more specific training is done. There is no minimum or maximum length of time that can be devoted to building a base, but be warned that without a sufficient base, you are much more susceptible to injury.

Phase 2: Speed 4-6 weeks

Traditional models suggest that strength should be the second phase of training, but growing evidence shows that a speed phase early on will have greater benefits and outcomes. In this case, speed refers to dedicated workouts of short, fast repeats between 200m and one mile, run at 10K pace or faster. The volume of the speed work should be relatively low, between 4 and 8K worth per workout, and all other running should be easy including a weekly long run. To prevent injury and burnout, you shouldn’t do more than two dedicated sessions of speed per week. Strides however, added towards the end of easy run days, are also a great and effective option for further developing speed.

Phase 3: Strength/stamina 4-6 weeks

With a healthy dose of speed developed, it’s time to maintain that fitness and further fortify your running repertoire with targeted efforts that develop strength and stamina. To do this think hills and tempo efforts including longer efforts at goal race pace (or slightly faster). Running hills is essentially a form of speed training done on an incline and at a slower pace but which reduces injury risk and builds strength. Tempo runs train the body to run at a comfortably hard pace for prolonged periods of time and are great preparation for racing. One or two workouts can be safely done each week in addition to the long run.

Phase 4: Taper/race 2-3 weeks

This final phase of training involves gradually reducing the overall volume of training (running less) in order to allow the body to fully rest and recover from previous training. This should leave you feeling healthy, refreshed and ready to race. Peaking for a goal race should still include some intensity once or twice a week, but should occur simultaneously with an overall reduction in training duration and time.