The pre-season is the time dedicated to returning to training after a break and, in most cases, it is based on a set of exercises and training sessions that are less specific than those done during the season.
In athletics, each athlete plans his/her season in a specific way, and it is difficult to know when he/she is in pre-season or season. Some prepare autumn marathons in the summer while others spend the whole month of August without putting their running shoes on. Others rest for three months while others do not even stop for one day throughout the year. Therefore, the recommendations I make here should be adapted to each person’s characteristics.
If you have rested for less than two weeks, it is highly likely that your form will hardly suffer and you can resume training sessions with a very similar routine to the one you had before. If you have rested for more than three weeks (more so if you have not run for a month), it is most likely that your usual pace will have slowed considerably. Don’t worry, you’re in the right place to do pre-season training.
As I explained in previous articles, not all the structures of our body are irrigated in the same way, so its adaptation to training will also be different. While our muscles adapt quickly to a workload, the tendons, meniscus and cartilage take quite a lot longer. Therefore, our pre-season training should be gradual.
We also know that the most common injuries in distance runners are due to over-use, i.e. those that appear as the result of the repetition of a gesture, thousands and thousands of times. In our case, this gesture is the impact.
Although it might seem to us that running for 30 minutes is not very traumatic, in truth our joints suffer quite a lot, and more so if we run for an hour. Therefore, we need to prepare our body so that it can handle these one-hour sessions (and longer) without getting injured. Here are some tips.
- The 10% rule: this rule recommends that the number of kilometres should not increase from one week to the next by more than 10%. We might exceed it sometimes, but it is a good guideline to stop us going too quickly in our preparation.
- Avoid asphalt: not all surfaces are equally hard, so it is better to start with the softer ones (grass, beach, paths, trails…). You will run slower than on asphalt and tartan, but you will give your body more time to adapt.
- Do slopes: the faster we run, the harder the impact on the ground. To reduce this, you can do your first training weeks on slopes. You will run a bit slower (but will gain in strength) but the slope means that the ground is closer to you, reducing the force of the impact.
- Sign up for a gym: perhaps you already joined, but now is the best time to do a couple of sessions per week. Strong muscles protect joints; here are some tips:
- Start with general exercises, with light weights, and get to know them.
- Gradually increase the weight as the weeks go by, until you find it hard to do ten consecutive exercises.
- In the following week, reduce the number of kilos by half and do the exercises as fast as you can.
- After three weeks you will have done enough in the gym. You can either stop going there or do a weekly session as a reminder.
- Enjoy: during the season it is possible that you will have long, demanding and monotonous training sessions. Take advantage of the pre-season to discover new routes and new friends (if your friends don’t like running, ask them to accompany you on their bikes).
- Do race technique: minimalist running shoes are now very fashionable. The pre-season is a good moment to introduce them into your routine, but remember that any changes should be made slowly. Add one day to your warm-up week with them (i.e. half the time you usually dedicate) and put them on to work on technique: climb stairs, jump hurdles, multi-jumps, skipping, etc.