Summer is peak racing season and as such, it’s not uncommon to have a race almost every weekend. Although frequent racing is a great way to improve speed, it also disrupts training cycles because you are constantly preparing for and then recovering from a race. This is not unlike the challenge I face as a high school cross country coach: how do we continue to have good performances every weekend AND make progress towards the State Meet. In past years, we’ve used Friday’s as our “shakeout” day, with a short run and striders before we head to our pasta party. This spring, however, I’ve been personally experimenting with other prerace routines and will be implementing the following both for my own races and for the team this fall.
First, do an easy run for whatever your daily mileage is supposed to be minus 1.5 miles then hit your local track. For all laps, aim to maintain light, smooth form. All of these paces should be effort-based; the purpose is to remind the legs of all your gears and get the legs ready for a race effort.
Lap 1: Jog the curves and run the straight sections at regular run effort.
Lap 2: Jog the curves and run the straight sections at tempo effort.
Lap 3: Jog the curves and run the straights at interval paced effort.
Lap 4: Jog the curves and run the straights at all-out effort.
When you finish your last lap, cooldown to home or your car.
One of the biggest barriers that I see as a coach and experience as an athlete is difficulty in changing gears from an easy running pace. Many of us can go from “slow” to “fast” without a lot of thought, but the ability to click through other efforts is lost for many of us and inhibits our ability to execute smart races or cover opponent’s moves. Doing this workout regularly before races helps create neuronal circuitry and muscle memory that will reap benefits through a racing season.
When Do I Do This Workout? This workout is great for the day before races up to a half marathon in length. If you want to use it for a marathon, change the paces to regular run – marathon pace – tempo pace – half marathon pace. This workout is also a great way to come back to speed work in general; it helps you to remember your paces and gives enough stimulus for positive adaptation.