Boosting Fitness for that Late Season Running Race

Women running during a race
November 20, 2016

Mike Ricci



For many triathletes, fall is a transition period. Shifting from a routine of daily double workouts and weekend races to a less rigid schedule with fewer specific goals can be both a healthy freedom and a frustrating feeling at the same time. For me, this fall break is a chance to concentrate on my primary love, running. Whether running is a strength or weakness, fall is an excellent time to pick a 10k or half marathon to train for before the less runner-friendly roads of winter appear. Why not mix up your training this fall and try a routine you haven?t used in the past. Just as students regularly have to learn new test taking strategies, athletes ought to experiment with different patterns of training. If you always follow the same routine, how will you know if you can improve or if the plans you follow are indeed ideal? Regardless of the training plan you choose, the key workouts of speed, endurance, and strength should remain staples throughout the plan.


We all know that endurance workouts are the foundation for one's training. According to Jack Daniel?s Running Formula, each week?s long run should be about 25-30% of one?s weekly mileage. If you are training for a 10k, your longest run will be no longer than 70 minutes. A half-marathon racer will probably go no longer than 10 minutes longer than their anticipated goal time. While long runs are a great opportunity to catch up with a friend and 'zone out', we should not become so distracted from what our feet our doing as to forget our cadence. Take time during your long run to focus on being light, 'running over the ground' and 'not into it', Daniels says in his Running Formula. Ideally you want to be running 185 steps per minute. Don't forget to include an occasional 20-30 minute tempo run at the end of your long run. This teaches you to run fast when you are tired, similar to the end of a race. Of course one would want to build up this tempo addition gradually. For example, imagine you are scheduled for a 90 minute zone one run. Make the last 10 minutes a run at tempo pace (zone 3). Give yourself a week or two before, moving up to 15 minutes of tempo.


Running a variety of hill repeats are a great way to build strength which helps to ward off injuries. Hills are speed work in disguise. One can vary the following workout by running different hills and playing with the intensity by changing the length of the repeat and the recovery time. Make note of how far you get on each repeat. As you gain strength, you will be able to see improvements. Have fun with these by recruiting friends to form relays. The recovery time becomes however long it takes for your partner at the bottom to reach the top. Practice running fast both up hill and downhill.

Try running 4 x (3 x 2 minutes), where the first hill is aerobic with a form focus and a fast run downhill. The second hill is at tempo pace, and the third is at race effort. Don?t neglect your form! Focus on leaning forward, lifting your knees high, bringing your heel to your butt, and driving your elbows back. Recovery time for the second and third is jogging back down. If you decrease the number of repeats above you can add 4 x 30 seconds surging up hill at a faster pace.


Yes, despite the popular belief to wait until the end of one's training program to add speed, you should be incorporating increments of speed workouts at the beginning of your program. Keep the fast twitch muscles awake! They don?t have to be fully revved, just percolating/alert enough to turn on when asked. While some athletes have more than others, we all have fast twitch muscles and should not neglect them or the conditioning attention they deserve. A basic speed workout would be to do 100 meter or 200 meter repeats. According to Daniel's Running Formula, these repeats should be at a pace six seconds faster per 400 than a quarter run at 98-100% of maximum heart rate (zone 5). You should provide yourself with full active recovery time in between repeats. This may mean recovering for as much as two to four times as long as the work interval. The goal is to perform these repeats with efficient form so as to expend minimal energy. They will not only improve your speed but more importantly engage the muscle fibers to improve your running economy.

Try the following 100 meter repeat workout. After a thorough warm up and stretching, run for 20 minutes on the track where you are surging on the straight aways and jogging the curves. You can mimic this on a flat course in which you are surging for about 25 seconds and jogging for 35.

Now it's time to start creating! Seek variety in this fall?s training program but don?t forget to base your workouts on the three staples of endurance, strength and speed. They should be the building blocks of your plan.

Coach Mike Ricci is the Founder and Head Coach for D3 Multisport.  His coaching style is ‘process-focused’ vs. ‘results-focused.’ When working with an athlete, their understanding of how and why they are improving is always going to take precedence over any race result. Yes, there is an end goal, but in over 2 decades of coaching, experience has shown him that if you do the right work, and for the right reasons, the results will follow.

Coach Mike is a USAT Level III Elite Certified Coach, Ironman University Certified Coach, and Training Peaks Level II Certified Coach. He was honored as the USAT Coach of the Year.

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