Who longs for crisp autumn air during swimsuit season? Runners with an autumn goal, that’s who. While it may be tempting to kick back during the dog days, summer is the time to get serious if you’ve targeted an autumn event. Staying focused on the big picture is very important It’s consistency over the long term that matters. Here’s how to work training around holidays and sweltering heat so you can have some fun and still nail a goal, run further, or take on a trail race.
AUTUMN FOCUS: FINISH A MARATHON
SUMMER SETUP: Runners aiming for a March through May marathon will do the bulk of their workouts in the summer heat. They are likely to face two seasonal hurdles: workouts sacrificed to holiday days, and superhot long runs. “Missing one day or one week won’t affect your training too much,” says Jeff Gaudette, author of Strength Training for Runners. If you miss a week for a holiday, resume training at the point you’d be at if you hadn’t taken a break; if you miss two weeks, reduce mileage by 30 per cent for the next three or four days, then pick up your training as if you hadn’t skipped any runs, says Gaudette. When a long run coincides with extreme heat and humidity, consider moving the run to a different day or splitting it in two and doing the second half of the run on a treadmill in an air-conditioned gym. (See “A Foolproof Marathon Training Plan,” page 29.)
AUTUMN FOCUS: FAST HALF-MARATHON
SUMMER SETUP: The keys to racing a half-marathon well are having the aerobic strength necessary for a marathon and the speed for a 5K or 10K. So if you’ve got a holiday on the calendar, ramp up both speed and long runs for three weeks prior to your break, and use your break to recover. Active rest, like swimming, yoga, and running easy, will help your body rebuild. If you’re forced to do speedwork under a blazing sun, reduce the distance of each effort and increase the recovery time to let your body temperature drop below the boiling point.
AUTUMN FOCUS: RUN YOUR FIRST 5K
SUMMER SETUP: Rather than look at the entire summer as a daunting training project, set a mini-goal to simply stick out two weeks of run/walking three times a week for at least 10 minutes. “Most people will notice a breakthrough after that window,” says Gaudette. So even when the weather turns you off or happy hour calls your name, you’ll be more likely to stay committed to your plan. Take it a week at a time, gradually increasing your run time and decreasing your walk time. “Time on your feet is the key as you get your body used to the demands of running,” says running coach Christine Hinton. Aim to be run/walking 30 to 45 minutes four days a week by the start of March.
AUTUMN FOCUS: RUN A TRAIL RACE
SUMMER SETUP: Schedule half to three-quarters of your weekly mileage on trails, says Gaudette. “You’ll learn to handle the terrain – hills, turns, tricky footing – and strengthen your ankles at the same time,” he says. “You’ll practise good form running hills and anticipating the optimal path through specific courses.” Plus, shady trails seem cooler than the open roads. That said, if you just can’t take another muggy slog through the bush, you may hit the treadmill – but be sure to adjust the incline often to match what you’ll encounter on your trail route.
AUTUMN FOCUS: RUN FURTHER
SUMMER SETUP: If you want to increase your endurance – whether your longest run is eight kilometres or 32 – consistency is crucial, says Hinton. To stay consistent, you have to stay healthy. So break each summer month into a build-and-rest cycle. Increase weekly mileage by 10 per cent for each of three weeks (the long run should make up no more than 25 to 30 per cent of your total weekly mileage). During the rest week, drop your total down by 10 or 20 per cent. Going further is tougher in the heat, so don’t worry about speed. “If you feel you’re running at an appropriate pace but your watch says you’re slower, don’t pick it up,” says Hinton. “As the weather cools in autumn, you’ll see the result of muscling through the summer – and find your pace increasing without any extra effort.”