As the saying goes, if you fail to plan you plan to fail. Having a solid, long-term plan in place that accounts for running goals, important races, and time for recovery is the key to keeping your training on track. The lazy days and lighter race schedule of a hot Dallas summer makes this a perfect time to re-evaluate your running goals and map out a training schedule that will keep you motivated.
Training programs can be broken down into three cycles. First is the macrocycle, or a training program for a complete “season” of running. This is the big picture of a runner’s big goals. It includes training and time goals for all of the important races that the runner wants to compete. Many runners consider a full calendar year to be their “season” when creating a long-term program.
The macrocycle is important because it brings order and purpose to your training. Sure, it’s fine to run a few times a week and randomly compete in a race every month or so. But a specific plan and targeted training will result in stronger runs and faster times. It also can minimize burn-out. For example, it may be easier to stay committed to early morning and long runs during marathon training if you know that you can sleep in and focus on shorter distances after the race. Then following the marathon, this specific plan and a few strategically scheduled 5Ks will fend off the post-race blues and keep your recovery time from becoming a permanent break from running.
The macrocycle consists of several mesocycles, or complete training phases for specific races. A mesocycle includes periods of hard training, taper, competition, and recovery. Of course, a training phase will be different depending on the length of event and current fitness ability of the runner. If you are training for your first 5K, it’s going to take a few weeks to get your body ready to run the distance. Your training will focus on building up a mileage base and probably include minimal speed work. However, someone who just recently ran a marathon already has a mileage base that allows them to easily finish a 5K. This runner’s plan may include a couple speed work sessions a week in the month leading up to the race.
The third training cycle is the microcycle, or the nitty-gritty, getting-down-to-business part of the plan. The microcycle answers the question, “How far and how hard am I going to run today?” A microcycle, or training plan, will be different for everyone, depending on a runner’s goals and fitness level. A training plan needs to be tough. It must eventually include runs above and beyond the runner’s current ability or no progress will be made. However, the plan also must be realistic. The runner must have the time and ability to actually do the workouts. The plan also must include enough rest and recovery runs to minimize the chance of injury.
Speaking of rest, if these hot summer days sound like a good time to take a break you might be right. Scheduling rest and cross training days is just as important as scheduling your runs. In Dallas, it makes sense to take a break during the heat of the summer, just like runners in cooler climates may take time off from running in January.
Just don’t let a short break turn into an extended vacation. Cross train, stay active, and use this time to set goals and make plans for the next year. Find a local race calendar and schedule a couple long weekends for traveling to races in fun destinations, too. If the idea of creating a long-term training schedule makes your head spin, consult a RRCA-certified running coach who is skilled in developing personalized plans. Then by next summer you will be ready to take a little time off to rest and reflect on a year of successfully reaching your running goals.