May 2016 - RUNNING & TRIATHLON
12 Keys to a Successful Season
By Shelly Binsfeld
Ruth has run races for the past 20 years. She has great workouts and motivation however, she has gotten comfortable with the usual that surrounds her: Wednesdays with the running club, long run on Saturday, and comfortable paces at the local races. The routines are supportive and helpful, but she wants to have a great season, and a faster half-marathon in her 50s. Pausing to look through her planned training season will greatly benefit her desired results.
Jeff seems to always suffer from an injury each spring as his excitement for the triathlon season gets into full swing. It causes him to reduce his training and worry all season if he will make it to his “A” race. The emotional toil that he goes through each season causes him more pain than the injury. He doesn’t understand why it is always him that struggles through the season and not his training partners who seem to sail through.
The desire of all athletes is to perform at our optimal level. Whether it be hiking the Adirondack peaks or capturing our best 5K time, we hope to gain from our training and perform well. With many different aspects of the body to consider, it is advantageous to step back and look over your planned training to see how you can safeguard it, and boost your performance this season.
Here are 12 Training Keys to a Successful Racing Season:
Purpose – The first question to ask yourself is, “What is the purpose of this workout?” If the exercise is for technical improvement, rest is a vital element. Continuing to do the activity during a state of fatigue will only cause poor neuromuscular training. In another instance, you may desire to work at a high level of intensity but the workout’s purpose is endurance. In order to fulfill the purpose of this workout and achieve desired training benefits, stay in an aerobic state with a lower heart rate. With a vision of what needs to be accomplished, you can rid yourself of guilt and indecisiveness, staying on the right path to your goals.
Base Phase – Many athletes want to jump right into hard workouts once they have set their competition goals. However, a strong base of body preparation can reduce injury and heighten the enjoyment of the sport. For runners, I recommend four to six weeks of easy paced base mileage.
Quality One Workouts – Perform one workout each week that is of the highest priority. You may be able to get in a second or third quality workout, if your schedule and body will allow, but that “Quality One Workout” is of importance. Schedule it on a Monday or Tuesday as long as you didn’t have a competition the Sunday before. If you do have a competition on the weekend before and are resting up from intense activity, plan your Quality One Workout for Wednesday or Thursday. The key is to keep your focus on completing the workout at your best ability.
Training Partner’s Workout – Everyone is individual and unique. Use caution when training with others who are faster or slower than you. Your body needs you to perform the workouts slightly above your current level of fitness. Working at a different level can cause a high amount of stress and quickly lead to injury or overtraining.
Long Activity – A slow and easy paced movement within your sport, over a long period of time, builds the base fitness your body needs to withstand the stress of workouts. It is important to plan extra hours of recovery immediately following a long workout. For runners, I recommend a one-to-one ratio of time running to time resting.
Monthly Competition – Competition needs to be practiced. Keeping your mental abilities strong, through periodic use, will sharpen your competitive skills. When tackling competitions often, pacing and problem solving become familiar. Practice using your mental strategies to dig deep and finish off the race with a strong push.
Flexibility and Strengthening Routine – The key to flexibility and strength is routine. Frequency and consistency pay off in the long run. Often athletes will perform yoga or Pilates exercises weekly to help complement the work they do in their sport. Bodyweight strengthening often found in Pilates exercises will balance the muscles and reduce injury. Using plyometric jump exercises for the experienced athlete can give them the needed strength to excel in their sport. Foam rolling daily and a deep tissue massage help to keep the muscles flexible and encourage a healthy range of motion. Most of all, the consistency of flexibility and strengthening exercises – not the high degree or amount – will balance the athlete’s body.
Overtraining or Under Recovering – Listen to your body and value the signals it gives you. If you are extra tired, look at your training log, and see if there is a reason for it. Have you logged more miles or added an extra workload? Letting your body have the needed rest can result in recovery and a lasting desire to participate. According to “The Athlete’s Guide to Recovery” by Sage Rountree, know the signs of overtraining: loss of interest or focus in training, loss of appetite, disturbed sleep, clumsiness, bad mood, irritability, heavy legs, weight loss, thirst, raised resting heart rate, frequent illness, slow healing or amenorrhea. If you recognize these symptoms, you could be overtraining with too intense or too many workouts, or under recovering with a lack of sleep and poor nutrition. It is critical to schedule extra sleep hours when adding in workouts to your weekly training.
Valuing Rest and Recovery – It is during rest that you become stronger. Allowing the body an opportunity to adapt and prepare itself for the next challenge is the physiological basis of fitness. Rest sometimes means naps, reading books, or playing board games. Other times it means a gentle walk with stretching to circulate the blood and help the body to refresh.
Tapering or Peaking – Tapering or peaking is when athletes reduce their training volume, therefore capitalizing on the overcompensation of the training effect. At the end of a training season, you should feel rested and ready to take on the world. For those who routinely practice their sport, the art of peaking during the last month of the season can be lost. They don’t want to miss out on their usual activity with friends or they fear loss of fitness. However, leaving your training group in order to reduce your training volume can result in successful peaking, and your best competition performance. I suggest getting guidance or mentorship in this area. The accountability of having a guide to help you reduce the activity load to appropriate amounts, can give you the needed rest, and confidence before competition.
Sleep and Nutrition – Guard your sleep time and count it as precious and integral to your training. Value the food you put into your body, seeing food as nutritionally significant. Will it help to build and repair your systems or is it a wasted opportunity?
Coach or Mentor – Trusting an experienced coach or mentor who will take the time to listen and provide input will be the glue that helps keep it all together. It is easier to see an optimal path from above the forest than from within the forest. Allow a coach or mentor to understand your desires and guide you. You will learn an immense amount about yourself through their expertise.
Look over your training schedule and goals, and decide if you are addressing each of these areas. Applying these keys to your training will increase your enjoyment and success this season. The 12 keys to a successful season are not additional workouts, but ways to shore up the great training you have planned.
Shelly Binsfeld (firstname.lastname@example.org) of Clifton Park is a competitive runner, wife, and mother of four children. Her running joy is to guide others through their training as a USATF coach and Pilates instructor.