Top Ten Spring Training Tips for Distance Runners
By Rick Morris
You’re a distance runner. That means there is no off season. You run all year long, but winter is still a time of year that you might back off on both quantity and quality for some needed recovery. There is also a tendency for our training to regress to lower quality runs and workouts because of the cold and snowy conditions that we may have to deal with. A lot of our training may have been done on the treadmill which just isn’t quite the same as free range running. Those 3 to 4 months of downtime means you probably need some spring training to work your body back into prime running shape. Here are our top ten spring training tips for distance runners.
The first step to spring training is to re condition your muscles. Start with some basic strength training and flexibility exercises to improve the fitness and resiliency of your muscles. Your muscles with thank you later by providing you with a strong and injury resistant base of strength and power.
After a lay off you should gradually work yourself back into full time running. Don’t start right in with a full power training program. Give your body and mind the time to get used to hard or long workouts.
Spring training is a great time to work on your stride and running mechanics. Focus on fixing any poor stride habits you have fallen into. A more efficient stride will result in higher performance and fewer injuries.
Hit the Hills
Hill running is a great way to work on muscle conditioning as well as running strength, running power, lactate threshold and running economy. Hit the hills early to help build a base for faster and more intense running later on.
Speed it Up
You probably don’t want to jump right into hard interval training right away but you do want to include some fast speed training workouts in your spring training routine. Start with some 400 meter repeats at about 75% of your normal interval pace. Gradually increase the pace of your speed workouts until you are ready for full effort.
Many runners do only long slow distance running during spring training in an attempt to rebuild their base. It is important to emphasize endurance running in spring training but don’t ignore stamina, speed, strength and power training. Include every type of workout at least once every 10 to 14 days to keep a nice balance of training and fitness.
Long and Longer
I favor multi pace training on a year round basis, but spring training is a great time to place more emphasis on building your base of endurance. A strong base will improve your fitness and help support your future training. Start doing your weekly long runs with the longest distance you have completed in the past 3 weeks and gradually build in duration or mileage.
Long tempo training runs are one of the more critical phases of your training. You can’t do long tempo runs until you master short and moderate distance tempo workouts. Include tempo runs of between 20 and 30 minutes in your spring training so your body and brain will be prepared for the longer ones in your regular training program.
It’s easy to get carried away with spring training. The weather is invigorating and your body feels great after the winter recovery period. Even though you feel like you can run forever you still need some rest and recovery time during spring training. Follow the same hard/easy sequence you use during your full training schedule and allow for the occasional complete rest day.
Form Before Function
Always place your spring training focus on proper technique and mechanics before pace, duration or intensity. Proper technique will keep you injury free and will maximize your fitness and performance gains.