Conquer Your Biggest Run Challenge This Winter

The off-season is the perfect opportunity to hit reset and make smart decisions going into next year.

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You are … A beginner who wants to get faster

Fix it: If you’re new to running, your priority has likely been building endurance. That’s the best way to start, but in order to take it to the next level and gain speed, you need to stay consistent and start incorporating “speedwork” or interval training. Just don’t try to build endurance and speed at the same time, advises coach Dave Sheanin of D3 Multisport in Boulder, Colo. “You want to build distance and intensity parallel but separately. If you’re taking your long run from 50 to 60 minutes, extend the distance but don’t add intervals. For my athletes, I adhere strictly to the 10 percent rule—don’t increase volume by more than 10 percent per week.”

Start out with a short speed workout one day a week to get your body used to running at a faster pace. Try this simple session: Jog one easy mile to warm up, then do 5×1 minute at a faster pace, jogging for an easy 1–2 minutes between each interval. Cool down for 5–10 minutes with an easy jog. Every week, increase the total amount of time you’re running at a faster speed, varying the amount of interval time (e.g., for a total of 10 fast minutes, try 3×2 minutes followed by 4×1 minute, all with equal recovery).

You are … Lacking motivation after your last race of the season

Fix it: It can be challenging to muster the drive to get out the door and train again after finishing a goal race. “Embrace that,” Sheanin says. “There is absolutely something critical about having an off-season and being ready to come back. A mistake people make is finishing a race and keeping up that schedule because that’s been a part of their lives. But then you don’t have any unstructured time off and you wind up burnt out because you’ve been at it mentally for a year straight.”

Here are some ways to mix up your running routine to stay motivated: 1) Register for a race that is either a different distance, format or terrain than you’re used to, which will keep you pumped for a new challenge. Disregard time. 2) Mix up both the days that you run and the time of day that you run. A mundane routine can discourage even the most dedicated athlete. 3) Try joining a local running club where you can feed off of other runners’ motivation. 4) Ditch running for a few weeks and focus on one of the two other sports, or swap it for equivalent time on your feet hiking or walking your dog. 5) Try a frequency over volume plan for a month, where you run five or six days a week for no longer than 30 minutes.

You are … Afraid to lose your speed

Fix it: Experienced runners know that taking chunks of time off and going slow in training is just as important as going fast. Take a note from the pros and focus your running efforts on maintenance work for at least a month or two. “Some people need permission to let themselves take time off,” Sheanin says. “This is a great advertisement for coaching—some people need a coach to tell them not to do anything to feel like it’s OK. But it’s not just the physical break that you need; it’s the mental break as well. That’s the weakness in triathletes—a lot of us are Type A and have to be going all the time.”

If you’re addicted to speedwork, shift your focus to form work and do at least one session a week solely focused on drills, mobility exercises and functional strength training so you go into next season both stronger and more efficient. Quiet your ego by keeping your long-term goals in mind.

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