A lot of us have some big goals this Fall, whether it be a marathon or cross country season it may seem far away but these next few months of summer are an important part of an annual training cycle. Even with the uncertainty around racing this year it won't hurt you to be fit and ready. This is the time to build your aerobic base to allow for an easy transition into workouts and races in the Fall. While the training programs will continue with some “maintenance workouts”, this period of training is really about doing long slow distance. Yes, I am telling you to run slow!
Below are some general rules and recommendations to follow but this is where a personal coach and training program can be the most beneficial.
“Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up, it knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve. It doesn't matter whether you're the lion or a gazelle-when the sun comes up, you'd better be running.” ― Christopher McDougall, Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen
Depending on your location you are either having the nicest weather of the year or the worst. For those in the Southern United States you will be dealing with extreme heat and humidity. Becoming an early-bird and running early is one of the best ways to get your training done but don’t be afraid of that indoor treadmill either. Heat and humidity training is actually very beneficial but please be careful, stay hydrated, protect yourself from the sun, and listen to your body.
Your coach will give you safe weekly mileage goals adapting to your progress over the summer. A good general rule to follow for increasing your mileage is adding 10% each week. Once you have your first week of running complete, try and add 10% more to the next week. Example: If you start out at 10 miles comfortably, multiply that number by 1.1 [10mi x 1.1 = 11], next week go to 11, then next week go to 12+. After three weeks of increasing, back off and do one week at a lower mileage before resuming your buildup where you left off.
If you have a few years of healthy running you can start your first week with higher mileage but a max of 30mpw is about as much as you want to begin with. If the body is feeling good and strong keep increasing mileage but always listen to the body. It’s always best to take one day off than to be injured for the season.
As mentioned above, this is one block of training you don't want to be pushing the pace. There are many adaptations that are happening during long slow distance. The benefits include:
Cardiovascular system improvements - your bodies ability to supply blood to muscles
Cellular adaptations in the muscle - increasing the size, amount, and distribution of mitochondria (the furnace inside your muscle)
Increased ability to process oxygen through oxidative enzyme activity
Increased capillaries for more oxygen to the muscle
Muscle type conversion
Fat adaptation (your bodies ability to use fat as fuel, over glycogen)
Mental strength, forming habits, stress relief
Many of these adaptions don't happen, or have different results, when the intensity is too high. These changes and improvement also take a long time which is why a summer with less focus and distraction on racing is a good time to focus on building the aerobic base.
Racing during the summer is a great way to experience new places while you travel, meet fellow runners, and keep in touch with your speed. Throughout Europe, Canada, and the cooler parts of America this is the most popular time to race. This is also a good time to experience the mountains and trails. If you have some goal races through the summer be sure to take enough time off between your Fall season or talk with your coach to plan so that your fitness can carry forward without burning out. Of course amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and the post-COVID world we will be seeing a shift to racing less, or at least in large numbers. Organizing a time trial event can be a great substitute and a goal to work towards.
Another option that is growing in popularity is summer camps, usually run by elite athletes in exotic landscapes in small groups, it provides an opportunity to train like an elite for a week and learn from the best. Look for Hardloop training camps coming soon.