In a perfect world we could just run and race at our highest level all year long. We would run constant PRS and be at the top of our game for every race throughout the season. There would be no reason to even have seasons as we wouldn’t need any down time and we would just keep cranking out HUGE performances all the time. Honestly, wouldn’t things get pretty boring if it was that easy and that was the way things were to go?
Then we “WOKE UP” and realized that we’re not all superman and just like in every other sport there is an off season, pre-season, competitive season, and a championship or peak season. A periodized string of phases are essential in bringing us (the athletes) to our peak levels of performance a couple times a year. The RECOVERY and BASE phases of your season will turn out to be two of most important times of your training block. In many cases we will target two main seasons in a year where in which we will attempt our peak half/full marathons. Along the way, we will recover from the preceding season, rebuild our base, strategically target our weaknesses and quickly refine our strengths. All this in hope of creating the newest and strongest version of ourselves in the new campaign.
Unfortunately this new version of ourselves is going to take time and nurturing to top that finished product of the past season. It’s going to take a strategic approach, discipline, patience, and a killer work ethic to get where we want to go. The BIGGEST mistake that we see made all the time by coaches and runners all across the land is that they race far too much and never let they body come down for much needed rest and regeneration of the recovery phase. Check in with these guys and see what Alberto Salazar, Brad Hudson, Greg McMillan, or Joe Vigil are doing with their athletes after a long enduring season. Do you think these guys are sending their folks out to do 20+ mile long runs, speed work, or racing while in these recovery phases?? I can guarantee you that Galen Rupp is resting and relaxing following his 2nd place Boston Marathon performance and getting ready to begin to re-establish his base and tackle his next marathon.
In a perfect world we would get anywhere from 3-5 weeks of RECOVERY following a long and enduring half/full marathon season. Our structure of the skeleton, muscles, ligaments, and tendons all need a break and this recovery season of lower stimulus will be just what the doctor ordered. Then we consider our minds, the psychology, and the mental stress associated with the grind of a hard season. Every part of us needs a break and when we neglect this RECOVERY phase we will set ourselves up for a less than spectacular upcoming season of performances. In this recovery phase there will be no racing, a serious decrease in weekly and long run mileage, and NO speed work. In fact this is the time to get some extra days off, catch up on some things that we may have been missing in our lives, and just chill a bit. As we physiologically mature and develop as a runner it will take us less and less time to get back into the racing shape of the past. This is time to let your body absorb as much rest as possible and get ready for the new base phase ahead.
As we enter this new BASE PHASE it’s key that we understand the main objectives here. The main goal of the base phase is to lay a foundation of easy miles to then build upon. In this time period running that accumulates lactic acid will be detrimental to future seasonal aerobic development. During this time our goal is for the development of a rich capillary network and powerhouse mitochondria. This is achieved with a steady diet of long slow distance and intensity levels appropriate for our base phase. By doing longer intensity speed work and irresponsibly racing we can drive down our blood PH and put ourselves in an early season aerobic deficit. Our base must be solidified before we introduce longer duration intensities above the intensity of our lactate threshold or 85-92% of MHR. Shorter duration CP system work, hill reps, and steady state runs can be ideal for this time period of training as they don’t facilitate the production of lactate and allow for our mitochondria network to flourish.
The discipline, patience, and commitment displayed in working our RECOVERY and BASE PHASES will produce the running rewards that most only dream of. Being intelligent and selective in our approach to training will be the key to our longevity and accomplishing all of our goals. Sure, every race and every season is not always going to go exactly to the plan as we have intended but these strategies above will keep you one step ahead of your competition and on course for amazing things!