Congratulations on an excellent summer and fall of running, most everyone with considerable improvement. With consistent improvement, anything is possible.
Looking ahead, continued improvement from now through your intended peak competitions in 2016 requires consistent quality training, and taking care of other things in life consistent with quality training. Particularly relevant is what you do, or don’t do, between now and when regular competitions resume next spring.
Over the winter months avoid the temptation to take break from training and maintain consistent quality training (with occasional competitions) to enable yourself to be running faster May 1, and much faster thereafter, than you are today.
If you have concerns or questions about what you are doing (or should be doing) in your training, now is a great time to address them.
Key Winter Workouts
Over the winter aim to complete two 60 minute interval workouts per week. Workouts with shorter reps, fewer number of reps, and/or greater recovery periods should be run faster than those with longer reps, more reps, and/or less recoveries.
If during or after a workout, you find that you could have maintained faster paces, do so next reps or workout. If during or after a workout, you find that you could not sustain the original paces, make that adjustment during the workout or in the next workout.
Over a period of time, you’ll learn by feel the maximum paces that you can run throughout various workouts (and races).
To round out your program so to compliment your formal interval workouts you would focus on four short 20 to 40 minute tempo workouts per week. The most important aspect of these tempo workouts is to understand that they are controlled tempo runs, run on recovery-adaptation days; so the pace and volume must be controlled to allow full recovery-adaptation between formal workouts and prior to competitions.
Rather than running long and slow on these days, aim to get in some training that contributes to performance with these short crisp tempo runs.
Recovery workouts or Aerobic Endurance Training are done once per week on Sunday and as part of your twelve warm up and cool downs before interval workouts and your six minute warm up and cool downs before tempo runs. These are slow continuous workouts at generally at a heart rate of 110-130 for experienced runners, 120-140 for runners newer to sport over longer distances.
While not as important to development as Speed, Speed Endurance, Specific Endurance, and Anaerobic Threshold training, properly applied Aerobic Endurance training aids warm-up & recovery and contributes progressively to performances at greater distances/durations.
These recovery workouts on Sundays should stay in the range of 90 to 120 minutes as high volumes of long-slow workouts lowers the natural growth hormones in the body, it detracts from the development of Speed, Speed Endurance, Specific Endurance, and Anaerobic Threshold characteristics, and therefore actually negatively affects development and causes decreases of performances in middle distance and distance events.
Once spring arrives you can start to add event specific endurance work with simulation workouts, replacing one formal interval workout every three weeks on terrain similar to your goal event.