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What's the Next Step?

by Coach Tim Cary

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Fall signals the changing of the seasons.  Hot summer turns to chilly autumn.  The trees change from green and lush to a menagerie of colors and falling leaves.  And many runners transition from training for a half or full marathon to…well, what now? 

After you complete your goal race, you'll likely feel a void.  For the last several months, your schedule has been planned out for you.  You knew what you were doing each and every weekend. Now you feel like something is missing. 

Believe it or not, now is the perfect time to start outlining your next goal. When framing a training year, you need to be smart about your schedule and incorporate periodization into your training.  Many fail to follow periodization properly; consequently, they deal with injuries and setbacks that could otherwise be avoided.

Periodization has three main phases: transition, preparation, and competition.

The completion of a goal race marks the beginning of the transition phase. The transition phase is all about kicking back, relaxing, and letting both your mind and body recover from months of training. Many runners don't properly heed the transition phase.  They either don't take enough time off, or conversely, they take too much time away from running.  How long the transition phase should last depends on the person.  Typically, I recommend runners take one or two weeks off, just to chill out.  A couple of weeks is doable, even for the most serious of runners.  It allows plenty of time for your body to heal itself from the stress of training and racing.  It's also long enough to serve as an “emotional breather,” which can help fend off burnout and let the “running bug” work its way back into your system.  At the same time, it’s not so long that you’ll feel like you’re starting from scratch when you do start running again. 

While the transition phase can be overlooked or overdone, the most commonly neglected training phase is the preparation phase.  In the preparation phase, you prepare your body for the upcoming training (competitive) season.  The preparation phase is when you need to strengthen your body's weaknesses and loosen what's tight. This is the time to fix the weak links in your kinetic chain—you know, those trouble areas that hold you back during training and racing. The problem is that all too often runners try to combine the competition and preparation phases. But trying to fix your weaknesses in the middle of training throws too much at your body. It sets you up for failure. 

Fixing your weaknesses doesn’t mean not running. It means you must simply change your training focus. My advice is to keep running the same number of days per week, but cut back on the mileage. You want your body to stay accustomed to running even while you’re focused on adding strength and flexibility. The preparation phase is when you'll add an extra day or two per week of supplemental training. It's this supplemental training that allows you to be prepared to tackle bigger, faster goals when the competition phase starts. 

Give yourself a couple of weeks to mentally and physically recharge, then take advantage of all the Fleet Feet Training Center has to offer. Fix those weak links and build a better, faster you for the next training season.  The Fleet Feet Training Center is training centered on you; this is the time to take advantage of our philosophy and benefit from our classes, workshops, and assessments that will help you make the gains you need to tackle your next training season. 


Tim CaryTim Cary is Head Track & Field and Cross Country for Lindenwood University at Belleville and the former Fleet Feet Assistant Training Manager.  Over his more than two decades of coaching, Tim has coached athletes to three national team championships, five national individual championships, two national records, and numerous All-American and All-State honors.  Click here to subscribe to our email newsletters.

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