4 Focus Areas for Runners to Stay Fit Despite Marathon Uncertainty

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For everyone’s safety, organized racing has been limited this year. Marathons, with their larger crowds of runners and onlookers, have all but disappeared. And right now, you may have less time or resources than you did previously, and running may feel like more of a luxury. But even with less time and no races on the horizon, you can still stay fit without pounding the pavement for endless hours each week.

Albert Wong, a physical therapist at AdventHealth, says, “During this time when runners aren’t training for a specific race, they can concentrate on specific performance areas, like speed, strength or endurance.”

4 Key Training Areas for Runners to Focus On

If you’re struggling to maintain a balance between life and work and running, know that there are a few simple principles you can apply to maintain your fitness without feeling overwhelmed.

When it comes to staying fit in times of racing uncertainty, focus on four key areas: prioritizing consistency, adding variation to your routine, making time for a long run and maintaining a little speed work.

1. Prioritize Consistency

Consistent running is the key to maintaining and building fitness. Consistency doesn’t mean that you don’t take downtime or days off, but you plan them into your schedule. When you take long breaks away from running and then try to ramp back up, you’re at a higher risk for injury than if you cut back on your volume while maintaining a similar frequency of runs.

If you can’t run six days a week right now, cut back to five or four. Similarly, if fitting 45 miles into a week feels like too much, reduce it to 35. The key is to pick a sustainable level and stay there. This will help you stay aerobically fit and avoid the need for a large-scale increase in your training when it’s time to race again.

2. Add Variation

When you add variability to your routine, you’re less likely to get stuck in a rut. While you want to aim for consistency in the days and volume that you run, include variability in the runs themselves. Variability can mean differences in your paces and effort level, and in the terrain that you run (such as trails and hilly routes).

It’s also a good idea to avoid running the same route at the same pace, day after day. Ideally, try to rotate between different types of shoes, depending on the goal of your run (lighter for days with faster running, or more cushioned for longer runs). Keep in mind that 75-80% of your running should be done at an easy effort, but your paces can vary within the runs between recovery efforts, steady aerobic runs and faster workouts.

3. Make Time for a Long Run

Most runners are limited by their lack of endurance. Speed can only be built on a solid foundation of endurance, so long runs should remain a priority even if you’re not racing. But a long run should be simply the longest run of the week — it doesn’t have to be a daunting 20-mile trek.

Make sure your training can support the distance of your long run and avoid being a “weekend warrior,” where your long run makes up more than half of your total miles. Try to strike a balance between your weekday runs and long runs and keep your long run to no more than a third of your weekly volume.

4. Maintain a Little Speed

If you have cut back on intensity due to a lack of time or upcoming races, you can still add some short, fun workouts to your training. As you vary your running paces, try to include some faster, neuromuscular workouts (like strides) at the end of your easy sessions, while adding in a longer workout one or two days each week.

Steady, aerobic efforts can help build your fitness. These require a little more of a push than an easy pace but are still slower than a marathon effort. Short workouts, like structured fartleks and tempo intervals, will push you to run at a more challenging, but sustainable, effort. These can all be fit into a condensed running schedule and will help you maintain speed, even when you’re not in the midst of intensive, race-specific training.

Extra Training: Strength and Mobility Workouts

Although you may have reduced your running volume with no upcoming races, you can still support your training with short strength and mobility workouts at home. These may be easier to fit in than a lengthy mid-week workout or long weekend run.

Strength training and dynamic mobility work are not so much extras as they are essential elements to support your training. As with running, remember that consistency is more important than volume. For example, three or four 15-minute workouts each week are better than an hour every couple of weeks.

Consistency, variation, long runs and a little speed should be a part of your running routine, whether you’re racing or not. Stick to these focus areas and you’ll be ready to transition back into intensive training when a race is finally on your calendar, again.

Here to Support Every Runner With Expert Care

As your partner in health care, we want you to have the tips you need to keep going strong, despite the uncertainty of this year, along with access to sports medicine experts who put you first. For more information about how to reach your goals and recover safely, visit AdventHealth Sports Med and Rehab to speak with a sports medicine expert today.

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