Achieve this year’s race goals with these eight simple tips to get you started:
1. Start by debriefing the previous 12 months
Look back at your training log and take note of your best races and most consistent weeks of training. Also note the poor performances—those workouts that didn’t go so well—and any missed training due to injury or illness. Make lists of the things you did well and where you need improvement.
2. Find a coach or mentor
Not every runner needs a coach, but no runner knows it all either. Seek a mentor or someone you trust and respect to bounce ideas off of and get objective feedback on your training and racing goals.
3. Set process goals
At the outset of a new year, most runners will first set racing goals. Alongside those outcome goals—qualifying for Boston, running your first ultra, setting a personal best—be sure to set process or actionable goals that you commit to regularly, such as strength training twice a week, taking a complete rest day each week, etc. Achieving these process goals will put you in a better position to achieve your outcome goals.
4. Plan to rest
The only thing runners hate more than being forced to miss a workout is actually planning to take time completely off from training. Don’t wait for injury or illness to knock you to the sidelines for a week. After a peak race or long training block, plan to take a seven- to 14-day break to rest and recharge before going after your next big goal.
5. Work on your weaknesses
It’s easy to fall into the trap of training for the same types of races because those are the ones you’re good at. Work on your weaknesses by spending two to four months training for distances that you don’t typically run. For example, if you’re a half marathoner or marathoner, spend a couple months working on your speed by training for shorter races such as 5K, 10K or cross country. If you’re a short-distance specialist, training for a longer race during the off-season can help develop newfound strength.
6. Go in over your head at times
There’s a fine line between optimal training and overtraining, but chasing folks who are faster than you from time to time can help take your own training and racing to the next level.
7. Race more
The truth is you can only be in peak form a few times a year. However, using less important races as competitive training sessions is a good way to hone your racing skills while still getting in a good workout. The key is identifying the races you want to peak for and being OK with “training through” the other ones.
8. Look into the future
Don’t just think about what you want to achieve in the next 12 months. Adopt a long-term approach to training and set goals two to four years down the line. Look at 2016 as step one in your overall evolution as an athlete.