Improving Your Running with Different Training Seasons

The Different Types of Training Seasons

Today I have an exciting announcement about a new coaching service – I am introducing a year-round training group! Learn more about This Runner’s Recipes Training Group at the bottom of this post.

Tell me if you relate to this scenario: you train for races – including a marathon or two each year – and follow the basic formula of track workouts, a short tempo run, and a long run each week. After your last race of the year, you take a break from running and throw in a few easy runs sporadically throughout the busy holiday season.

If you are aiming at improving your race times, achieving a big goal such as a BQ, or becoming a faster runner, the above scenario is not helping you achieve those goals. In fact, it may be hindering your progress because it lacks the balance of race specific training cycles with recovery and base building periods.

By integrated different training seasons – recovery, base building, race specific, and maintenance – into your running, you will be able to run faster, achieve your goals, and avoid injury and burnout. So let’s look at how each of these different training seasons functions and when it should be included in your training!

The Different Types of Training Seasons

Recovery Period

When even elites take a week or two off of racing – and running is their job – you know that a recovery period is vital to improving as a runner.

Hard training and racing accumulate a significant amount of fatigue, microtrauma, and mental exhaustion. Your body needs to recover in order to avoid overtraining and injury, while your mind needs a break to prevent burnout.

The recovery period usually consists of time completely off of running. The distance of your goal race determines the duration of your time off – with the longest amount of time off for the marathon. Then, you ease back in with runs that were probably the distance of your warm ups during race specific training.

You can also use this time to do something other than running – hiking, swimming, cycling, whatever type of cross-training interests. You won’t lose your running fitness in just a couple weeks of recovery and cross-training – but you may find yourself feeling better than you would if you just jumped back into running a couple days after your goal race. 

Different Training Seasons: Recovery Season

Base Building

In a sense, base building serves as an “off-season” – no races, no 20 mile long runs or gut-busting track workouts.

Typical, base building occurs during winter, when snow and freezing temperatures prevent road races from taking place. No one wants to do a tempo run in the

For those of you who live in mild climates or despise summer, the summer months can serve as a base building season. Whenever you choose to have it in the year, base building often occurs after you have recovered from your goal race for that year.

Base building focuses on easy running, strength training, form drills and strides, and cross-training. The purpose of base building is to build your aerobic base and strengthen your muscles and smooth out imbalances to prevent injury, all while giving your mind and body a break from hard running.

Different Training Seasons: Base Building

Keep in mind that you are not training for any goal races during this period – that’s not the focus here. The focus is becoming a stronger runner in a sustainable manner.

Race Specific Training & Racing

The duration of race specific training varies based on your goal distance – you may train anywhere from 8 to 20 weeks depending on your goals and base. As a coach, this is my favorite training season – and as a runner, it likely is yours as well!

How your race specific training period is structured varies the most based on your background, current fitness, goals, schedule, and other individual factors. You want to progress from your aerobic base to race specific fitness, so that you are physically prepared for peak fitness on race day. The types of workouts you choose depend on the distance of the race you are running – preparing for a 5K versus a marathon requires two very different types of training!

Different Seasons in Training: Racing
Photo Courtesy of Jesica


The base building period usually extends for a few months, so what do you do when you have just a few weeks between your spring goal race and the start of training for your fall race? You don’t want to burn out by doing too many hard workouts or running too high of mileage, but at the same time you don’t want to lose your hard-earned fitness.

Ideally, you want a maintenance training plan – something that will preserve your fitness while giving your mind and body a break. Honestly, maintenance is one of the hardest training periods to master – it’s not as straightforward as base building but requires holding back a bit more than you would during race specific training.

[Tweet “Want to get faster? Here’s how different training seasons can improve your running via @thisrunrecipes”]

All of these different training seasons contribute to your improvement as a runner and serve as stepping stones to achieving your goals – which is why I believe that runners can benefit from year-round coaching, because a coach will guide you through each training season.

If hiring a coach year-round sounds expensive, or if you prefer the support of training group but want an individualized plan, I have an option that is perfect for you.

Starting today, I am launching a year-round training group open for all runners – beginner to advanced, 5K to marathon (and beyond), road and trail – whether you are training for a race, focusing on base building and maintenance, or running for health and fitness.

You can join at any point in your own training – so if you just finished your fall marathon and are wondering what to do next, if you are gearing up for a winter race, or if you want to continue your running for health and fitness from fall to winter, this group is for you.

What the Group Will Include:

  • Initial Consultation with Coach Laura
  • Access to Forums (Slack) for Communication with Other Runners and Coach
  • Final Surge Account
  • Individualized Training Plan with Workouts, Paces, Distances, etc. (Updated Monthly)
  • Biweekly Feedback on Training
  • Strength Training/Cross Training Workout Library
  • Group Support & Accountability
  • Office Hours with Coach twice per week
  • Discount Codes to Coach’s Preferred Brands
  • Discounts on Master Your Fueling & Hydration and Eat to Run e-Cookbook

The group costs $59 per month – but if you register now (before November 12), you can lock in at a price of $49 per month!

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The  group is for you if:

    • You’re a new runner: The group will provide you with individualized guidance from a coach along with the support and accountability of other runners.
    • You’re an intermediate or experienced runner: No matter how many years you have been running, you will always benefit from the guidance of a coach and the support of a community of runners.
    • You’re NOT training for a race: Working with a coach when you’re not training for a race offers numerous benefits. A coach will help you maximize your base building period while helping you recover from races and prevent burn out. This option is less expensive than working one-on-one with a coach during the off-season.
    • You ARE training for a race: Whether it’s a 5K or an ultra marathon, you will receive individualized guidance to help you achieve your goals.
    • You want to try working with a coach but want a more budget-friendly option.
    • You want to be part of a community of like-minded, hard-working, supportive runners.
    • You want to train smart throughout all seasons of training

[Tweet “Interested in year-round, individualized coaching? Check out @thisrunrecipes budget-friendly training group! #runningcoach #running”]

Want an individualized training plan without the group? I also offer one-on-one virtual coaching (both year-round and for races) with more feedback, more frequently updated plans, phone check ins, and more individual attention to you. Learn more about the one-on-one coaching plans here!

Linking up with Coaches’ Corner and Wild Workout Wednesday

How do you divide your running into different training seasons?
Which training season is your favorite?


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28 Responses

  1. Its nice to take time off in the winter and then just focus on base building. As much as I love marathon training ,the other training seasons are important too and a good physical and mental break from the higher mileage!

  2. I do have different seasons in my training. Usually November-January is my maintenance season. If I’m training for a spring race, I’ll usually start base building soon after. This year I kind of let the whole year be a maintenance season. It felt good to keep it light but I’m ready to be back on a plan again. The training group sounds awesome! Everyone needs a group for accountability!

  3. Yeah, I could see how the maintenance phase would be a bit tricky! Can’t push too hard, but can’t slack off too much. Great points in here, Laura!

  4. I feel like right now I’m in maintenance mode. Part of that is that I get scared of breaking every time I try new things, and I also just keep telling myself I’m base building. Without doing any of the necessary things. I blame the puppy.

  5. I absolutely love the idea of a year round training group. It is so easy to get off track after your goal race and motivation will wane. This will be awesome for helping with both!

  6. i honestly don’t mind training in the summer, because I know by marathon time in the fall it will be cooler. I always feel like I am training for something. I try to keep a good base of mileage so when I do have an upcoming race, it doesn’t seem like I am starting at square one with my training cycle.

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