In a typical year, we would be ramping up our training right about now, getting ready to peak for our A-races. If you are feeling a bit sad, anxious, or unmotivated about the state of your race, then it is time to kick the Training Plan aside and start a Training Project.
Although many of us will not be toeing the line at a race this year, keep in mind that endurance sports are about the long game. Very few of us are able to achieve our endurance potential after only one or two seasons. For most of us, accomplishing our goals requires long-term thinking - even a lifetime of dedication to our sport. In the grand scheme of our endurance journey, this year is a blip on radar.
With that perspective, it is time to create a project. Think about some of the limiters that you have in your sport, or even some of the things you love most about your sport. Your project should be motivating and should set you up to be a better athlete for when we get out of this current COVID situation.
Here are 10 Training Project ideas that will hopefully spark some creative thinking about your endurance goals.
Become a stronger hill climber on your bike with some big gear, sweet spot, and power interval training. Download a 4-week training plan here.
Run every street in your town, with the help of CityStrides. CityStrides links to your Strava, RunKeeper, or MapMyFitness account to track the percentage of roads you have covered per city. My husband, for example, just completed his training project of running 100% of the streets in Kenmore, Washington, the town that we live in. Here’s my CityStrides map, at a measly 17.8% of Kenmore - I guess I have some catching up to do! In completing this project, you are bound to encounter terrain you would otherwise avoid.
Do time ... in the saddle. If you are looking to improve your overall bike skills and strength, there is little replacement for time and experience in the saddle. Commit to riding a new personal-best distance - perhaps tackle a 100-miler for the first time, or multiple centuries if you are a cycling veteran.
Complete your planned A-race. This is especially easy to execute if your A-race was a half marathon, marathon, or bike event. If you received your race bib in mail, for commemorative purposes, you can even wear it while you complete your race. Map a course and ask a couple friends to come out and support you with cheers and snacks, while they maintain an appropriate distance from you and each other.
Ironman has gone virtual with their Virtual Club Races every weekend. These races include two runs and a bike, to be completed over the course of a weekend. They are free to participate in and will keep you feeling close to a community you are missing.
Build your run base by doing lots of long, slow runs at your aerobic max heart rate. Watch your pace drop while maintaining this steady heart rate. Building a run base takes volume and in “normal” circumstances, we are often too rushed in our lives to take time for the amount of slow running required to build a solid base. If you can’t run steady at 80% of your threshold heart rate, without walking, then you don’t have a run base. It is extremely common for athletes, even athletes who have been running for many years, to not have a run foundation.
Set a personal best time on a challenging hill on one of your favorite run or bike routes. Or, to make it social, have a Strava segment challenge with some friends for a QOM/KOM.
Commit to a sport-specific strength training routine. Don’t participate in every sit-up, plank, push-up, and squat challenge you see out there. There’s no sport-specific reason to be doing 1,000 sit-ups, squats, or push-ups every day. These exercises are a few of the correct ones to do, there is just not a lot of benefit to doing 1,000 reps, or even the “do as many as you can” mindset. If you are going to spend the time strength training, then set yourself up to become stronger at your sport for when it is time to race again. Structure your strength workouts to target a variety of muscle groups, especially your weaknesses. Luckily, there is overlap between run and bike strength training! Here is a Runtastic workout that offers a unique spin on some classic moves.
Improve your strength and flexibility with a regular yoga routine. Start with 20-minutes a day, 30-minutes twice a week, or even 60 minutes once a week. There are several great apps that provide varied and individualized yoga routines. My personal favorite right now is Down Dog.
If you find that you are moving around less during the day than usual, where you may be walking between buildings or meeting rooms, then commit to walking 10,000 steps a day. The 10,000-steps challenge is a great kickstart to any workout program, but also a good one for people who are already active. Standing up from your desk a few times a day to take a 5-10 minute walk will keep you limber and ready to perform during your workouts.
These training projects are a great way to keep your motivation up through our lockdown, but the rules of safe ramp-up still apply. Increase your volume gradually, no more than 10% a week. If you want advice on the right training project to tackle for your long-term goals, or how to put together a plan, I’m happy to offer advice. Feel free to email me at email@example.com.