Tips and Workouts to Prepare for Your First Running Race of the Season

Thursday, February 4, 2016 | By Bob Mittleman
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Tips and Workouts to Prepare for Your First Running Race of the Season

Heading into the last part of winter, your mind shifts into thoughts of the upcoming racing season. For many of you, that likely starts in just a few weeks. With that, what’s your plan for success? Have you thought out or planned your goal races for 2016? Hopefully you have and the next step is to consider what your race pace will be for such races. If you have not done this yet, don’t panic because you have plenty of time.

For both scenarios, this is an ideal time to evaluate your off season training progress as well as what steps are going to be needed to kick into gear. It’s also an ideal time to look into an early season 5k or 10k.

There are certain steps that a runner should look at when physically and mentally preparing for an early season event. Here are a few general thoughts as well as some training guides as well.

Be Realistic

Be realistic in your expectation for an early season goal. Too many times athletes I’ve worked with start off with grandiose and unachievable goals for themselves. I love the dream and I love process to get there, but in the end, the athlete needs to be true to themselves and what’s possible. That goes for the novice to the experienced. Working with a coach, there is a guidance and accountability that will go a long way to success.

Pick Out Two Races

Sit down with your calendar and pick out two races. They could be the same distance, but ideally they would not be. You want to do this for variety and to test your fitness levels at this stage of the year.

Don’t Aim For a P.R.

This is a big one. Typically, a runner will peak twice a year. It usually coincides with where they are in their training program as they head towards an event. With that, don’t expect a PR in an early season race or that you will be peaking by then. In fact, use the race as a non-pressure outing. I tell my athletes to look at the results as something they have earned and a starting point for what’s to come. Setting a PR is not necessary at this stage of the year.

Look at Your Workout Pace and Don’t Cheat Yourself

Preparing for an early season event involves proper pacing during your workouts. You want to make sure you are getting close to hitting your marks for pacing. With that, don’t cheat yourself by going to slow or to fast. Working with a coach would help with getting the proper timing for yourself. You can also use a multitude of running calculators that can be found online to help with getting a grasp with getting a good training pace for yourself.

Recommended Training Sessions

Let’s look at a some ideas for training as you head into the early race season. These are going to be geared for the 5k and 10k races.

There are eight types of workouts that I recommend for athletes.

1. Medium Long Runs

These runs can be timed or for distance. Eight to ten miles for distance and 70 to 90 minutes for time. Start the first portion of the run at an easy to moderate pace. The last portion, let’s say the final 2 miles or 25 percent of your time remaining, shoot for goal race pace plus 15 to 20 seconds. This is done to get some extra leg turnover while you are near the end of your workout. It help big time physically and also mentally.

2. Tempo Runs

Warm up for 10 to 15 minutes. Then increase your pace to race pace plus 10 to 20 seconds. Hold that for anywhere from 2 to 4 miles. The biggest mistake that occurs in this workout is the athlete goes out to fast. Don’t be that person. Doing this workout, you will get a good sense of what you can handle in terms of a race pace. Keep in mind that your adrenaline will kick in on race day so don’t worry about hitting a goal race pace during this workout. Stick to the goal race pace plus 10 to 20 seconds. Your cool down is 10 to 15 minutes. The warm up and cool down is standard for all of your workouts with the exception of the medium long runs.

3. Mile Repeats

For this workout, you want to hit goal race pace or close to it. Your recovery is walking 300 to 400 meters to get fully recovered. Start off with 2 mile repeats when you first do this workout and do no more than 4 as you progress.

4. Speed Work

There a bunch of recommended speed workouts that I suggest to my athletes. One of my favorite is one minute repeats with one minute recovery. These are done at 5k goal race pace. When doing this workout, 8 to 12 repetitions is a great number to complete. The other speed workouts are 400 meter and 800 meter repeats. Whatever you choose, your goal is 4 to 6 at goal race pace with a full recovery of a 300 meter to 400 meter walk.

5. Hills Repeats

Find a hill or use a treadmill and set the grade tt 3 percent to 5 percent. Work the hill at 10k pace. Again, a slow walk for recovery. As for repetitions, anywhere from 6 to 10 is fine.

6. Easy Runs

A 20 to 30 minute run at a comfortable pace. Easy means easy.

7. Cross Train

One day a week needs to be geared towards cross training. Good ideas are spinning, swimming, or yoga.

8. Rest Day

Do nothing. Refresh your mind and body.

Your week should consist of a medium run, a cross training day, one or two easy days, a tempo run, a speed workout, and one or two off days.

You have your road map and a plan in place to gear up for your early season races. Remember that the journey is as great, if not greater, than the end result or race day event.

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