Tips for the Trail – How to train for back-to-back races – Xterra – 4-22-2011

By Rachel Cieslewicz

published in Xterra 4/22/2011

A life worth living is one where dreams are created and experienced, and goals are set. It takes a lot of work, sweat, planning, and perseverance to reach achievements along the way. Sometimes stepping back and re-directing, before moving forward once again, leads us to our greatest self.  Running is a great way to practice this mantra of life.

For many runners, several races early in the year lead to our big events at the end of the season. It can become a more enjoyable journey when you learn how to balance training, racing and recovery. This can be quite tricky when you schedule races close together, perhaps even on back-to-back weekends.

Before we get into that, here is a brief description of my typical training week before the race season starts:

” Saturdays and Sundays are my huge training days (if I’m not racing), with long intervals on the trail or the road. Sometimes Sunday has to be an active recovery day if Saturday was too much, but I usually like to hit it hard both days.

” Monday is usually an off day or active recovery day. Yoga, a bike ride or light run.

” Tuesdays I do speed work either in the mountains or on a track, then add another run or yoga session later in the day.

” Wednesday is a long interval day, either on a trail or on the road.

” Thursday can be an off day to recover from Wednesday, or I’ll just do yoga or a light bike ride.

” Friday is usually an easy run or bike to prepare me for another huge weekend of training.

Of course, this schedule will change when you have races on back-to-back weekends. Here is how I normally adjust:

When I have a hard race on a Saturday, I make sure I do all I can to speed recovery. Of course, proper food and hydration are the most important. I take an ice bath, put on my CW-X compression tights and nap, if possible!  Adapting this routine or something similar will set you up for a great training week.

When you wake up Sunday, how do you feel?  If you are one who knows your average waking heart rate, your body can tell you if it is ready for much, if anything, other than super-easy active recovery.  Take your heart rate upon awakening. If it is more than 3 beats per minute higher than normal, take it easy so you can fully recover.  Otherwise, go by overall muscle soreness, etc.  I do suggest moving your body in some way to help the blood cycle.

Monday morning, check how you are feeling again.  If you are fully recovered, go on with your planned week of workouts to be ready for your next weekend of racing fun. If you are still not recovered, take it easy again. Make sure you eat good fats, proteins and low glycemic carbohydrates so your body has nutrients to rebuild. Remember hydration as well. Monday is also a great day for a massage!

Tuesday, unless I am really hurting from the weekend before, I will typically still do my speed work.  I find that quality over quantity is always best. And yes, I learned this the hard way! For trail running especially, I would suggest going by time rather than miles as we all know 6 miles of work on a trail does not equate energy wise to 6 miles on the road.

Wednesday, check in with your body once again. If you are going to do any more speed or hill sessions before your Saturday race, this is the last day to do it so you can be fully recovered by race day.

For Thursday, I would suggest taking it off for a Saturday race or use it as the last possible speed/hill day if racing Sunday.

For Friday, going easy with a few efforts is perfect to get everything going for a race the following day. Foam roll, stretch, tune in to what is going on with your body.  Mentally prepare and be excited for your race!

If your race is not until Sunday, use Friday as a recovery day and then Saturday as an easy day (foam roll, stretch, mental preparation).

This is a training/recovery schedule I have followed for some time now. The benefits showed greatly when I raced in the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship in Hawaii last December with a 5th place overall female finish and age group world title. The very next Sunday I gave myself a birthday present of racing my first ever road Marathon in Honolulu. I finished 8th female overall and was the first US female to cross the line.

Be excited, dream big, reach beyond what you ever thought possible by finding balance and keeping the joy in trail running and all of your endeavors.

Rachel Cieslewicz is an elite runner and triathlete based in Salt Lake City, Utah. She won the women’s division of the XTERRA Lake Las Vegas Trail Runs last year, and placed fifth at the 2010 XTERRA Trail Run World Championship in December at Kualoa Ranch, Hawaii. She is a talented sports massage therapist, Pilates and yoga instructor and is a certified running form coach. She can be reached at rcanyon1@gmail.com  or visit her website atwww.newageathlete.com or follow her on www.twitter.com/newageathlete