It’s a new year. If you’re stuck in a rut with your training, you may want to use this year as a time to shake things up. You may find that a departure from your normal routine is just what you need to take your running to the next level this year and beyond.
1. WORK ON YOUR WEAKNESSES
Every runner has weaknesses. For some, it’s physiological, like a low VO2 max or slow lactate threshold speed. For others, it’s metabolic, like burning too much carbohydrate at marathon pace instead of relying more on fat. Still others find that injury woes keep them from being their best. And most of us have some psychological barriers when really pushing ourselves to the limit.
In all cases, this year is a great year to tackle your issues. For me, the next 12 months are all about injury-proofing my body. That means hitting the gym twice per week to shore up my strength and flexibility and improve my overall athletic ability. I also want to improve my fat-burning. Like most speedster-type runners, I tend to rely too much on my limited carbohydrate stores. This is fine for shorter races, but when I move to longer distances, I need to spare these stores and burn more fat. I’ll be doing more long, easy runs without ingesting carbohydrates to help spur my body to do this.
This is also a good time to start identifying and working on fixing imbalances through “prehab”, which can improve your running performance as well as keep you injury-free. If you are looking for a prehab routine, our 3HAB Pre-Run Routine of the Week delivers a new, fun follow-along video routine to you each week focused on a different area of your body. It’s your prehab stretching, mobility, and strength training rolled into 3 simple movements that you can do before runs (or check out our other Strength and Prehab Programs).
2. FIND FUN NEW CHALLENGES
In a non-championship year, pros also experiment with new events. You’ll see some middle-distance runners trying longer races. You’ll also see track athletes competing on the roads and marathoners returning to the track. Find a distance you’ve never run or haven’t focused on for years. These events can boost morale if you set new PRs, and they allow you to unload the usual competitive expectations and simply see what happens. It’s liberating.
I plan to race on the track–it’s been more than a decade since my last track race. I’ll also return to cross country, my first love in running, and I plan to do some epic trail runs like a rim-to-rim crossing of the Grand Canyon. All of these get me excited and will certainly require a mixture of training to get ready.
3. TRY A NEW TRAINING PLAN
There is no shortage of new training methods these days. Though I find that most of them are just new packaging, you can find some differences of opinion among successful coaches. Many pros experiment with new training ideas. Why not do the same? Try something counter to what you’ve done in the past. Pick a completely new plan to follow, or simply insert some different workouts that you find intriguing into your current plan.
For example, if you’ve been a die-hard mileage junkie, how about spending a portion of the year running lower mileage, but more quickly on each run, and doing more speed work? If you’ve never tried high mileage, why not carve out a month or two when you do no speed or races and up your mileage by 10 percent per week until you reach a new high that you can sustain for a few weeks?
What about specialty workouts? Have you read about a workout that an elite runner or famous coach uses? Insert it in your plan a few times and see how it goes. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel, but you can use this year to be creative and take some risks.
I’m going to read a lot from coaches who have philosophies different from mine–the more they vary, the better. As you look ahead through the next 12 months, mix things up a bit. As an added bonus, you’ll find it is fun to break up your routine and maybe even improve your performance.
Mix and Fix
Here are some common problems runners face, and possible solutions to try during the new year.
Problem: I’m losing my speed.
Solution: Race. A lot. Using more frequent racing (particularly 5Ks) is an easy way to wake up your fast-twitch muscles.
Problem: I’m hurt too often.
Solution: Lower training volume by 10 to 20 percent and use that non-running time for a daily injury-proofing session.
Problem: I’m getting burned out.
Solution: Go goal-less. Take a break from specific training and just run (and race) for fun. Two to three months of goal-less running usually helps.
Problem: I’m busy and can’t train like I want to.
Solution: If you can’t run a key workout during the week, then use weekend races as your speed work. Two to four races per month will do wonders for your fitness.
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