Keeping aerobic work in the training recipe during the racing season

I received the following questions from Patrick Carroll via the “How can I help you?” post.

I would love to better understand the importance of Tempo/Threshold work in the competition and peaking phases. Where and how do you fit it in for your athletes late in the season when the focus is more geared towards races and race-specific work?  How does it differ for a miler vs. a 5k-10k runner?

Great question Patrick.

First, you must keep the quality aerobic running that you been doing leading up to this point in the recipe.  That said, most of the time you’ll want to shorten the duration of this stimulus, but not the intensity.  For example, if an athlete does 4 miles at 6:00 pace every other week as their threshold run, then in the final weeks of the season they may only do 3 miles at 6:00 pace.  So the intensity stayed the same, but they ran 25% less.

Coaches: be creative with this challenge of keeping the aerobic work in while still doing all of the necessary work to get the athlete both metabolically and neuromuscularly ready to race to their potential.  With that in mind, here is a list, from least creative to most creative, of workouts for the competitive phase of the season.

1.  Long Run.  Gotta keep the long run in the recipe.  Simple.  Keep it in.  Now, can you tweak it?  Absolutely.  A shorter long run in the final 4-5 weeks of the season makes a lot of sense.  You want the athlete to spend less time on their feet than they did earlier in the season.  This is a great time to do progression-long runs, as long as you keep those runs controlled.  So if you’re a miler and your long run was 16 miles during the season, now you might do 12-14 miles, making the last couple of miles a bit faster, yet still feeling like you could run your normal 16 mile run at that pace.  If I was the coach I’d probably have the athlete run 12 and say “from 8-11 get a bit faster each mile, then cruise in easy the last mile to get to 12.”  But no matter what, keep the long run in.  If you take it out you’re setting yourself up to race less than your best in the final meets of the year.

The four other things to consider are:

2.  Threshold Run and Strides.

3.  Middle Distance Fartlek.

4.  A, B, C workout of Race Pace (A), Threshold (B), strides (or 200’s) (C).

5. Canova’s Aerobic Support and Horwill’s 5-Pace System.

I’ll explain these last four in tomorrow’s newsletter.   They are all great tools that coaches and athletes can use to keep the aerobic metabolism stimulated in the final weeks of a season or in the final weeks leading up to a key race.

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