Hard to believe fall is just around the corner, and racing season will soon be under way. Most Austin area runners serious about their fall fitness have maintained a decent base throughout the summer. The question now is, how do you peak for fall racing, and how long can you maintain that peak?
To answer that, you have to think of your training in terms of cycles. The summer has been your base training. Now you move in to more of a strength/stamina-building phase, which will be followed by a speed/racing phase.
There are some specific types of workouts that will yield very positive gains during the current period. Many coaches agree that focusing on hill training before moving into speed (the next phase) can be very effective. According to elite coach (and former Austinite) Greg McMillan, athletes risk peaking too early when they try to rush their training.
McMillan says that rushing race-specific training to achieve fast times early in the season (something high school and college coaches frequently do) often leads to peaking too soon. The antidote, says McMillan, is to add more hill training instead of the race-specific training in the early season. An exercise physiologist, McMillan notes that this will help strengthen muscles, ligaments, and connective tissues, which prepares the body for the demands of fast running.
“High school and college coaches can apply this idea to their training schedules, and road racers who want to run well later in a long season can also use more base training and hill training to help them peak on time,” says McMillan.
When fall racing is really underway, you’ll be in your peak phase and many of your workouts will be short and fast, designed to fine-tune your speed.
It’s true that maintaining a high level of fitness at all times allows you to peak for races in a short period of time by increasing your training and including race-specific workouts. In fact, you can peak for a 5K with as few as four weeks of training, but that may not be in your best interests long-term.
Of course, you’ll want to peak for certain individual races, but in reality, most runners take a more seasonal approach—in this case being able to maintain a peak more or less throughout the fall. Most elite runners take this approach.
Experienced runners are familiar with building off of a “maintenance” training level of fitness and typically use the seasonal approach. It’s simply more effective than using a separate plan for every race.
Upcoming races: Saturday, August 18, Michelle’s Hot Peeps Beat CC 5K at 7:30 a.m. at Murphy Park in Taylor. Saturday, August 25 at 8:00 a.m., the Rattler Run 5K at San Marcos High School- 2601 Rattler Road in San Marcos.