The first thing to do when planning part or all of your season is to take stock of the past year. Not only do you need to objectively analyse your successes, but you need to consider where you failed and why: too many races or races spaced too close together, not enough preparation or insufficient time for training, training area not similar enough to the race terrain, poor race pacing, etc.
Only then can you set your major goals (2 or 3 per year are more than enough, but this doesn't mean you can't participate in other races that may help you achieve these goals)
Preparing a goal is a two-step process:
1. Basic preparation
Basic preparation is about improving your VO2max (velocity at maximal oxygen uptake) by doing speedwork. A pyramid interval workout is a great way to do this: start with a 30 second sprint followed by 30 seconds of recovery, then 45"-45", 1’-1’, 1’30-1’, 2’-1’ and so on, up to 4 minutes of bursts at a time.
You can also do this type of workout on a track, with repetitions of 200m, 300m, 400m, etc., with sprint intervals up to 1000m.
You should also add hill work to your workouts to improve your VO2max. Find a hill with gradient of around 6% to 10%, and do reps of 30", 45", 1’ and 2’, running downhill during your recovery time back to your starting point.
You should be sure to give yourself at least 48 hours recovery between speed and hill work sessions. Other workouts should include tempo runs of 45 minutes to 1 hour, and an occasional long run (1 hour 30 min) on flat or hilly ground to build your endurance.
2. Specific preparation
Specific preparation is spread over 4 to 12 weeks depending on the race length.
For example, you'll need 4 weeks for a 10k and up to 10 or 12 weeks for longer races.
During this stage of training, your speed, terrain, gradient, etc. should be as close as possible to race conditions.
Your workouts will focus not on running as fast as you can, but rather on the pace you'll be running during your race, because "you're only as good as your training pace".
During your general or specific training periods, you should always respect the recovery weeks. This means setting up a 3-week training schedule (or 2 weeks for beginners) during which you gradually increase your effort, followed by an easier week (fewer runs per week, no speed or hill work).
By following a balanced training plan you can be sure to avoid overtraining, injuries and burnout and stay motivated.
You're now ready to take on any challenge you want! You just need to make sure you've got the right equipment for where you'll be running (on roads or trails) so you can stay in top shape throughout the season.
Wishing you a fantastic season full of sporting success!