If you are in the southern hemisphere you nearing the end of the running season and also coming into the summer months. If you’ve set yourself a goal race in the early part of the year then training through summer and keeping a strong aerobic fitness base will be a priority.
This period of training has the challenge of the summer heat and also the Christmas break which can impact motivation and time to keep running.
Depending on how you feel or whether you have a race on the immediate horizon you may feel like you’ve earnt a short break before beginning a base building phase. Alternatively you may like to keep running through if you feel motivated. Both approach can work and it is up to each individual runner.
Running over the summer months is a great time to focus purely on building an aerobic fitness base and allowing you to start the year with strong fitness. This will have you ready to start the new year running well and ready to achieve your goals for your first races of the year.
During this period you should focus purely on aerobic running. This means you should be doing all your running in the aerobic zone with majority of your running at an easy pace. The hotter months mean it is more difficult to run intervals and hard sessions so put them on the shelf for a while and run easy.
Not all your running should be easy, however you should refrain from hitting hard interval sessions or tough tempo sessions. These won’t give you value in improving aerobic fitness so there is no benefit in punishing yourself through the years hottest months.
One of the goals to base fitness training is to learn and practise running to feel. With the technology of GPS watches in running these days this concept has virtually vanished from running but is a skill worth practising. With a focus away from faster, harder running this phase of training is a perfect time to reintroduce.
These runs should be over a variety of flat and undulating terrain. Running should be at a relaxed or conversational effort. These runs are great to unwind and tick off the miles, focus on your breathing trying to keep it relaxed and consistent. Change the screen on your GPS device and forget about pace. Have your watch on heart rate or better still just time of day and enjoy the run. Easy running should form 40% of your weekly mileage in the base fitness phase.
Medium paced running
These runs should accompany your easy runs and be run to feel. Also run over a variety of flat and undulating terrain. Medium paced running should not feel easy but when you return for a run of up to 60 min you should feel like you could do much more.
Again these runs should be run to feel and pace on the watch is not relevant. This effort you can run these medium paced runs will change with terrain and as your fitness improves. The focus is on feel not pace. Therefore again it is not necessary to view pace as a focus on your GPS device. Medium paced running should form up to 30% of your weekly mileage.
Fartlek running to feel
While running easy all the time can become tiresome, especially for experienced runners a weekly fartlek run can break up the weeks training. These runs should comprise of easy running with some fartlek pace increases throughout the run. The fartlek efforts should be anywhere from 30 sec to 3 min of running. The number of fartlek pickups can vary depending on how long they are. As a general rule the shorter fartlek efforts would have more repetitions and longer efforts less. Adjust your paces in the same way. They can be run at a variety of paces ranging from 5km to marathon pace. Use these fartlek pickups to practise hitting your paces over a range of distances.
Once again the goal of these efforts is to run to feel and learn you’re your race paces without being a slave to your GPS device.
These efforts will help improve your running efficiency and leg turnover. When you become more race specific later on with your training the benefits will be exposed. Fartlek runs should only be once a week at this stage and no more than 10% of your weekly mileage.
Every running training phase should include a weekly long run in order to build endurance. The long run in this phase at training should be at an easy running effort level. There is no benefit to doing these long runs at a harder pace over this phase.
You long runs again should be run to feel and they should feel easy and relaxed throughout the run. You will get real benefit in gaining aerobic endurance from these runs.
In summary the focus of the summer aerobic base building phase is building aerobic capacity. This is done through building fitness and endurance through repeated aerobic training. It is the time to use feel as a guide and abstain from measuring pace through most of your runs.
If you complete this aerobic base training phase as prescribed above you will be ready to attack some tougher more race specific training from the beginning of the new year. You will start the year fitter and more confident than you may have been previously and ready for the year ahead.