As you set your goals for the New Year, consider planning beyond your next race or even your next season and choosing an ambitious long-term target.
"If you're just looking at lots of short cycles, it's hard to reach your potential," says Jess Cover, a running coach at On Track Performance Coaching in Burlington, Vermont. You can lose motivation once you hit a short-term goal, letting the fitness you've built lapse. Or you can train or race too much, burning out before you peak.
By setting your sights on a macro-goal in the future, you can string together shorter training cycles and smaller victories in a way that builds toward a big win.
6-Month Goal: Increase Short-Race Speed By 1 to 2 Percent
If you haven't been running regularly, spend 1 to 3 months building a base of at least three weekly runs, working up to at least 6 miles for your weekly long run, says Tim Bradley, M.S., C.S.C.S., the assistant cross-country and track coach at St. Louis University and owner of Big River Personal Coaching. Then add one speed workout per week: After a 1- to 2-mile warm-up, run 6 to 8 30-second repeats at goal race pace or slightly faster, with 1 to 2 minutes of jogging in between.
Each week, either speed up or lengthen your repeats until you're running 30-second intervals at your mile race pace ("as fast as you can run while still feeling like you have another gear you can change into," Bradley says) or 2- to 3-minute intervals at 5K or 10K pace. If you've been training consistently, do one speedwork day per week during the first three months, plus a long run and 1 to 3 easy runs.
Beginning in the second month, swap one easy run for a tempo run each week. By race day, you'll have honed your speed—and built the endurance to maintain it. (Try these 4 Moves Guaranteed to Make You Faster).