This is what I plan to do with my running for the next few months so that I will get faster and stronger by spring time. Brief explanations are included.
My workouts will be more targeted this winter. I will not do shortish long runs due to pain from longish speed work and longish recovery runs. I will not do slowish speed work due to too much speed during long runs.
Monday: off (I strength train Mon, Tues, Thurs, Fri in 15-20 min sessions but more on that another day)
Tuesday: 2-5 mile easy jog. The distance will depend upon how my body feels and if I'm hurting a lot or feeling like I'm pushing the line for over trained then I'll skip this run and do yoga or rest. 20 minutes is the minimum time or this run.
Wednesday: Speed work day. For me, instead of trying to do lots of long intervals and tough it out and shorten the rests, which makes the workout tear up my body while rarely hitting a really high level of intensity, I will be focusing on short and intense workouts. I am an endurance athlete, I'm already good at going long and not resting. Speed work will be a 20 minute warm up followed by 30 seconds at 95% of my max (yup, a 200 meter sprint). The rest period will be 3 minutes of slow walking. I will do 6 reps. I realize this seems like a long rest period and a short work out, but again, the goal is a level of intensity that will cause real physiologic change in terms of aerobic enzymes and transport proteins. I did not invent this approach. Going into the science behind it would not keep this blog readable and brief so I'm leaving it out. If you run into knee trouble and just really can't get outside some weeks then I suggest doing these on a bike stand or elliptical and just going really slow during the 3 minute rest.
Thursday: 2-7 miles easy jog. This run too is more about loosening things up and getting light cardio. If I have any kind of nagging troubles this is one that can be skipped or cut down to 20 minutes or replaced with cross training. If you have to limit your total mileage or have time constraints or are a multi-sport athlete then Tuesday and Thursday can be used to cross-train.
Saturday: Either trail hill repeats or a trail tempo run, alternating each week. Hill repeats for me will be on the long hill on the BBA course near the beginning of the loop where the trail used to be road. It's a quarter mile long and runnable. Any runnable hill will work as long as its trail, even if it almost flattens out in places. I used to do 2 hours and try to keep my effort even. Now I will be trying to do these as intensely and painfully as I can with pauses at each end for the first hour. After than I will jog another half hour or so of them. I have reached the conclusion that I will be faster over all in trail races at this point if I can move up and down hills a bit faster without getting too winded, which means that jogging up hill needs to be a lower percent of my max, which means my max needs to go up. What will I do when it snows?!? Take shorter steps, much shorter, and be prepared to fall up hill. I am preparing to trail race. I will practice paying attention to my footing and bending my knees. If you find you have trouble with the muscle control then slow down and bend your knees more. If you can't do that then get your butt to a trainer or PT and learn to do squats and deadlifts properly and then do them and get stronger so you don't wind up seriously damaged.
Trail tempo runs are done by effort, not by pace. If you run trail you have to learn to gauge your effort because courses vary widely. Even the same course may vary widely day to day. Tempo runs will involve a 20 minute or so warm up and 20-45 min warm down. The tempo portion will be 60-75 minutes. I have trouble maintaining effort (hard but sustainable) so I will do them on a 1-2 mile tail loop, pausing for a minute after each loop to sip water and check my effort level. In my case I will use the ledges loop in the CVNP.
What about falling on technical trail trying to go fast? If you are a trail runner and the pace you are able to maintain for an hour in a row is one you can't maintain safely on trail then you need to do some strength and agility training and you need good trail shoes and a shorter stride. What about in the snow?!?!!? Yes, even in the snow. I will take very short steps and turn my legs over faster. This will mean my effort level is maintained.
Sunday: Long trail run day. For me this will be 25-40 miles and they will involve absolutely no getting out of breath. This is the endurance day and it is done on tired legs. If you can keep moving for 30 miles on trail the day after hill day then you are ready for a 50 mile trail race. If you can do 24 miles then you are ready for 50K success.
My total weekly miles aren't all that high but my one long run will stay long and steady. There will be much hill walking. Every 3rd-5th week depending on how my body feels, the long run will be at the shorter end of the range. For anyone trying to follow my general training schedule, the long run should be what ever is long for you. If you are training up to 50k then your long run might be 15-25 miles. I will be running a 100 K in mid January and a 100 miler in June. These are not new distances for me.
What about snow on the trails making it too hard to get the miles done?!!? When it snows I run time and not distance. How ever long it generally takes me to run about 30 miles in training, that's how long I'll spend that day if 30 miles is what I would have done. Sure its a guestimate but heck, so are some of the race distances (thank you Rob Powell, I recommend Forget the PR 25K to people all the time). I will not go run on pavement just to get miles in. That does not help trail running at all. I will have strong legs in spring! The number of miles doesn't matter when it snows. If you find you have to take tiny steps and make it 2 miles in an hour because of a foot of snow on the trails when you could have done 6 miles out on the road, don't fret. If you want to run well in trail races, stay out there on the trails year round. If you can't figure out what to wear, google it and read blogs and post on trail running fb pages and try things out on short runs close to home.