Last year was a mess. I don’t have to tell anyone that. Very few races happened in any way we would have pictured racing in 2019 or earlier. With that, for many runners, training changed significantly.
Maybe you focused on something you hadn’t done before. Maybe you continued training at least somewhat as normal (if so, I suspect you were in the minority). Maybe you took a step back. Some even took a step up.
Whatever you did, with some hope that racing will return to something more like normal by fall, if not (hopefully) summer, you might be wondering what to do now. Racing as normal might be some way off but it’s not too early to begin laying the groundwork, especially if you’re optimistic and holding out hope for some summer races.
With some time to go but the hope of an upcoming racing season, I’d like to suggest you focus on the fundamentals.
What does that mean in terms of running? It means you don’t worry about the details of complex workouts, don’t worry about the “little” things. Focus on the big things that get you 80-90% of the way to your best performance.
Start with simply getting out the door if you took a step back in 2020. Get back into routine and re-establish the habit of getting in regular training runs.
Once the habit is established, throw in a few strides to get your legs used to running faster. They don’t have to be anything too difficult. 50-100 yards at a quick but comfortable pace with full recoveries between work well when starting out.
Once your legs are used to some turnover, throw in some tempo running. Progression runs, tempo runs, “cruise intervals” of long repeats with short recoveries. The details don’t matter as much as just getting your body comfortable again with running at a faster pace for a sustained period of time.
As you progress, you can do shorter, quicker repeats with longer recoveries if necessary.
Through all of this, don’t forget the non-running fundamentals. Are you doing some mobility/flexibility work? Are you doing strength training? You don’t need a fitness center if you’re not comfortable in them or they aren’t open yet. A lot can be accomplished right in your home with just your body weight for resistance. Don’t overlook these workouts. In my opinion, lunges and body weight squats should be the foundation for any distance runner’s strength routine anyway. This is a good opportunity to establish that foundation.
Through all of this, don’t worry about the details as much as just getting the fundamentals down. As you get a more clear picture of when racing will return in a form that will motivate you, you will have time to fill in those details.