Most of my dissolute youth was misspent cross-country ski racing. XC skiing is a great sport to train for; unless you’re Australian, it has very clearly defined racing, training, and recovery phases. For most of my ski career, training would build up through May; the summer months would primarily be spent on building up “volume” (many hours of low-intensity training); intensity training (shorter intervals) would ramp up in the fall, and by mid-to late November and into December we’d be in racing shape for the first races of the season. Racing went, usually, until early March, and then we’d enjoy relaxed spring skis in whatever snow remained in Ottawa until it finished melting out (in April, if we were lucky). Then some rest (for those who didn’t run track in high school…) and back to it in May.
I think that this seasonal variation, including rest, helped keep the sport fresh and the body healthy and uninjured, and I’ve tried over the last few years to mirror this in my running. I do very little intensity training through the winter, trying to keep putting in plenty of hours running, and long days of skiing on the weekends (convenient!) Then intensity starts, leading into the summer, which I consider the racing season. In the fall, I do a few more adventurous runs and fun races (check out the Gunner Shaw Cross-Country race at Jericho for a muddy good time), then kick back a bit for the shoulder season.
If you find yourself getting tired of the same thing all year round, or finding it’s hard to get in either time for long runs, or the energy for intensity, take a look at how you’re organizing your training the year round. Thinking out training plans can make a huge difference both in how the running feels, and in the results that come out of it.
I’m just starting the intensity block of my training – it’ll be nice to start feeling a bit faster after all the slower running!