Optimize Your Training During the Coronavirus Racing Drought

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With nearly all the country’s trail races cancelled or suspended until further notice due to the coronavirus pandemic, it’s a good time to remember that trail running is about more than just racing. We can use this time to take our running back to the basics and to focus on training smarter. Many of us have hopped into races we haven’t fully prepared for, or don’t normally have the time to complete multi-week/month training cycles with specific goals to improve our running fitness. Now is the time to put in the training and take your running to the next level. Listed below are my top five things you can do in your training to return to racing feeling stronger than ever before.

Find a Coach
If you don’t already have a running coach, now is the perfect time to find one. From my own experience coaching athletes in trail running, I can say that training plans work best when the coach and athlete have sufficient time before races to prepare. Rushing training cycles for upcoming races can often lead to burnout, plateaued performance or even injuries if the coach and athlete aren’t careful. With most trail races not expected to be staged until at least June, you have at least three months to prepare for your next race. This allows plenty of time for your body to adapt to the training stimulus and get stronger. Find out more about my coaching services at tayteontrails.com or check out my own coach, David Roche, at Some Work, All Play (SWAP). For a comprehensive list of trail running coaches check out our directory here.

Embrace the Benefits of “Base Training”
Base training is a period of training that involves increasing general aerobic and cardiovascular fitness. This training method was pioneered in the 1960s by New Zealand’s legendary distance running coach, Arthur Lydiard, sometimes referred to as the “Father of Modern Distance Running.” The basic idea of base training is to avoid race specific training and spend time building fitness through increasing your weekly running mileage, incorporating hills, and other specific techniques. Proper base training can be lengthy, often taking weeks or months, but it can set you up for a great racing season. To learn more about how to base train in the style of Arthur Lydiard, see my article published in January.

Incorporate In-Home Strength and Injury Prevention Exercises
One of the most neglected parts of our training are strength and injury prevention exercises. Many of these exercises are quite simple and can be performed anywhere, without a gym or equipment. Doing these exercises consistently can gradually improve running efficiency and prevent injuries. Check out the videos below for exercises ideas you can do from home:

Foot Strengthening Exercises

Hip and Quad Strengthening Exercises

Dynamic Core Routine for Injured Runners (great for non-injured runners seeking to prevent injury too)

Focus on Pacing
The practice of social distancing means that many of us will be doing more running alone than in groups. Although it’s great to run with others, there are specific training benefits associated with running alone, including the ability to internalize specific running paces. When we run in a group, it’s easy to get pulled along by the group and lost in conversation rather than tuning into how our body feels and what a specific pace feels like. On your next run alone, try thinking about your pace and how it feels. Do you notice yourself frequently accelerating and decelerating? Does the pace seem consistent? What happens to your energy levels throughout the run? A GPS watch is a great tool to track your pacing. You can compare the GPS data to how you feel to determine your ideal training paces.

Go For FKTs and KOMs
When you find yourself needing an extra challenge in your training, I suggest going for Fastest Known Times (FKTs) and Strava’s “King of the Mountain” segments (KOMs). Not familiar with these trail running terms? Learn more about them and other essential trail running vocabulary in our article here. Both FTKs and KOMs are essentially speed records set on specific trails or segments of trails. These records can give you extra motivation to push harder and satisfy your competitive side by seeing how your time stacks up against others who have run the same route.

PRO TIPS: Be safe as we continue to navigate this uncertainty. In the meantime, continue to follow the recommendations and updates from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), including proper hygiene practices.

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