Fall Training

The way I see it, there are three natural times of year for a reset. That is, a time when you can plan for a fresh start. The obvious one is the New Year…January 1, a new calendar; things are changing for everyone whether you like it or not. Spring, that break in the weather from the winter’s cold and the return of flowers and greenery, presents the second opportunity for newness. The third day is Labor Day. The end of summer “vacation” and back to school or work is time to get serious. Those three natural reset times are fairly evenly spaced about every four months. Your birthday is also your own personal new year’s day and another day that people tend to embark on establishing some good habits. So three to four resets per year depending where your birthday falls.

In training for goal races, runners and coaches use macrocycles. Okay, I’ll admit I was running and training for 20 years before I knew there was a term for it, but I did it. A macrocycle is the entire training period leading up to the goal race – a racing season. It’s 16 weeks to 6 months in duration. Most runners split their running year in two — fall racing season and spring racing season. Breaking it up this way allows us to build up appropriately with a specific goal in mind, analyze the results and reset as necessary.

Macrocycles are a good way to approach life as well; use those natural times of year that allow us to start over or reset goals from a new starting point. But even that can sometimes be overwhelming for someone who feels far from a desired goal. So break it down further. In training we use mesocycles and microcycles.

A mesocycle is a specific training phase within a macrocycle (a few weeks or a month) designed for a specific purpose; for example: building strength, endurance or speed. A microcycle is a series of days that make up a brief training period, usually a week. When we create a training plan around these cycles there are rules we follow like the “10% Rule” used for adding mileage from one week – or microcyle – to another. This rule says don’t add more than 10% each week. Doing so usually results in overtraining and injuries. Coaches will also build some flexibility into a training plan allowing athletes to increase or decrease the mileage or time of a workout depending on how they feel. This takes into account that there are lots of other variables an athlete has to contend with including the weather and what else is going on in their lives.

So do you have a big goal? Losing weight, learning something new, a career change, finishing a marathon? Decide where you want to be in a year. Then break it into three 15-week macrocycles. Decide what tasks you want to do in the first one that will put you toward your larger goal. Maybe before tackling a marathon next year, you need to know you can run a 5k first. Or maybe in order to switch to a new career you need to go to school to learn new skills. Whatever it is, break it down. Then break that down to a few mesocycles making those tasks more manageable and finally create a weekly – microcycle – routine that allows you to develop some good habits that help you get to all the tasks. At the end of the 15-week macrocycle (which, if you start now, will put you in the last week of the year), evaluate where you are toward your goal. Reset as necessary. Then develop your plan for the next macrocycle. Always remember “The 10% Rule” – don’t take on more than you need to; that’s when the body gets stressed. And be flexible. You have the weather to contend with. And everything else going on in your life. Roll with it.

“Running has taught me, perhaps more than anything else, that there is no reason to fear starting lines…or other new beginnings.” – Amby Burfoot

There’s a lot to be learned from running that can be applied to life. Whether you are marking the beginning of another year of school, starting a new “training” plan at home or work, or have your sights set on a big race, it’s a wonderful time of year for new beginnings. Good luck with your training.

And let me know if you need a coach.

img_4916Libertyville, Illinois. August 2016

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