How to Make the Most of Your Spring Training
With warmer weather and longer days right around the corner, spring training season is almost upon us. Whether you are ramping up mileage to grab that new marathon PR or spending some serious time on the stair master to prep for the high mountains, getting the most out of your spring training gives you a huge leg up on those big objectives later in the year. But what should you focus on over the next few months to make sure you are properly prepared?
Your Training Plan
If you're chasing big goals as an outdoor athlete, you're constantly having to find the line between over-training and under-training. Too much and a nagging pain can turn into a season-ending injury. Too little and you won't have enough gas in the tank when you need it the most. Spring training is the perfect time to map out your year. Start by calendaring your races and big outdoor goals as well as slotting in smaller tune-up events in between. Once you have the major blocks in place, you can begin deciding on your monthly mileage targets, with the goal of a smooth 10-15% ramp up month over month. Give special attention to your long mileage days, because getting behind in your aerobic base building can have serious repercussions later in the season.
Don't forget to factor in some significant time in the weight room, especially early in the season. Concentrating on a few keys lifts relevant to the muscle groups you frequently use during your outdoor pursuits will provide huge compounding benefits as your training load increases over the year. Weight training can improve your power, muscle economy, injury prevention, and time to exhaustion, so don't neglect this early-season opportunity to add some strength to your body.
Ever get halfway through a long run and realize those new running shorts love to chafe your inner thighs? What about those hiking poles that felt great in the store but are a little too tall to be effective on steep uphill trails? Spring training is the perfect time to test out and break-in all of your new gear in a low-consequence environment. Later in the season, you need to be able to depend on the consistency of the tools and equipment you use, so make sure to put everything through its paces early. This is also the time to restock on all the expendables you went through last year. First-aid supplies, headlight batteries, CO2 containers, anything small that is easy to forget about during the rush of summer season. Take care of these little pieces now so you can fully focus on your goals as the big days approach.
You've got your training plan dialed in, all of your gear feels good, now it's time to figure out what you're going to eat and drink to help get you to the finish. Nutrition is extremely personal. Everyone has different sweat rates, calorie consumption, flavor preferences, and stomach tolerances. But at the end of the day, if you aren't fueling and hydrating your body as you go, you are severely limiting both your performance and longevity in the outdoors. Similar to gear, you don't want to figure out the problems with your nutrition on your first big day out, so spring training is the time to try out a lot of options. How much water to drink every hour, how many calories can you stomach without feeling sick, what flavors taste the best when you're tired of everything else? These are the questions you want to answer as you figure out your personal nutrition needs.
Look for nutrition that is easy to carry and use on the go, replenishes both the calorie and electrolyte demands on your body, and is a flavor and consistency you can tolerate over the long haul.
Most athletes eagerly await the beginning of the summer season, looking forward to the long days in the mountains and the exciting race atmospheres. But spring, when you're not in peak fitness and are dealing with unpredictable weather, can still be a productive season for your training and later successes. Take some time to focus on your training plan, gear, and nutrition, so you're well positioned to enjoy the coming summer!
As always, get out there and nourish the moments that matter the most!