Running: Step 2 ... The Four Seasons of Training

by Mike Naylor

Hi folks, Coach Mike here, and I wanted to talk to you this month about my Four Seasons of Training. In this article, I will outline each season, and talk a little bit about how to incorporate each season into your newly developed schedule.

I came up with this training idea years ago, and have stuck with it; even though the seasons in the Northeast have changed dramatically, with last year’s winter highlighting the most outrageously warm weather over the past four decades. (I think the scientists have a solid handle on climate change, although some politicians don’t feel there are changes to our weather pattern … lol).

Ok. First, here are the four seasons: Winter (distance, recovery, and an increase to weight training/cross training.); Spring (time for getting out and doing some long speed workouts, with a slight decrease in mileage (depending on your goals), and a slight decrease in weight training, etc.); Summer (time for picking it up a bit, with more interval training, speed workouts, and bringing your race times down to within reach of your Fall racing goals.); and finally, Fall (my favorite time of the year. The air feels clearer and crisper, the trees’ leaves are starting to change colors, and your race schedule is full with excitement and an eagerness to break or obtain some new running times and goals.)

Note: I am great believer in two-a-day workouts (Monday-Friday), even for novices. The first workout of the day could be a nice morning walk; a swim at the local Y; a mild weight training session (I’ll get into these in later articles), and my favorite … Yoga. If you are anything like me, it takes almost 40 mins to stretch me out, and get me relaxed for the day. Really, you can do whatever you like during this first period of time. Just do something. It will raise your heart rate, make you feel awake, alive and ready for the day. It doesn’t replace my coffee each morning but it’s close.

The second, workout is a more structured one. It may include some cross country running with stride outs after. Some mild to intense speed training, on and off the track. I will outline the various plans for a novice, intermediate, competitive, and professional levels in the months to follow.

In the past, winter time was a time for bundling up and fighting the cold north wind as it smacked you in the face, and cut through you like Elsa did to Anna (Frozen, the movie). However, over the past several decades, this long drawn out period, when the light of day was short, and, it was a struggle to get out the door, has been replaced by milder weather, and more enjoyable outings. The light of day has stayed the same, and one still has to be careful when heading out the door in early morning or late at night.

But even with this climate change we are going through, I still believe you need a time to recover, and to train with less stress, and the simplest way is to put in some easy long distance runs, with a limited amount of speed work. I feel one cannot continue to press their body every day of the year, and expect it to show positive results, and to be injury free.

The next season is really enjoyable, springtime. This is the time when we stuff our winter gear into drawers, throw out our warn, stained and smelly shoes, and head to the shoe store to purchase some very flashy and great looking footware to show off to our neighbors and running buddies. The light of day increases, and the weather becomes a bit warmer and one’s smile becomes a bit wider.

Training wise, you will continue doing a morning workout, which could include a morning run, followed by an increase in a more planned evening workout with friends or your dog. Note: if you do decide to start running two times a day, then be sure to buy another pair of running shoes; one pair will be for your morning runs, and one pair for your evening workouts. A complete set of workouts for each level of competitiveness will follow in next months’ articles.

Also springtime is the time of year to start thinking about focusing your training on becoming more competitive. It is the time to prepare yourself to beat that person who always seems to finish in front of you. It is the time to lay out your level of fitness plan that will start the progression process of getting your race times down, and maybe more competitive. It is not the time to try to get everything accomplished in a few short weeks, but rather the time to set the table for some intense more focused summer workouts. Note: as the intensity of your workouts increase; the weekly mileage should decrease.

Here I am going to walk a fine line between racing on the track and racing on the roads. Summer is the time; if you are a track competitor, you want to be ready to go. If you are a road racing competitor, you want to start getting the sense that you are almost at that next plateau that will spring you into the Fall racing season.

Let me stay with the summertime. Fall will be next. For the track runner, you will be doing intense speed workouts 2-3 times per week or more. These workouts are designed to show a progression over several weeks period (usually 6 weeks) that you will use to race competitively. There are several track races in the area, and depending on how good you get, you will find some national and world competition, too. I know I have ignored my novice friends, and I apologize. If you are a novice runner, you should introduce yourself to some mild interval training workouts that will give to you an idea as to how they are done and how they make your feel. I will outline these types of workout in next months’ article.

Back to our competitive road racers. Let’s just say, this is the time to work on your leg turnover. You will use interval training to begin the process of opening up your stride, and quickening your leg rotations. Sounds more complicated than it is, but these are necessary steps to prepare you for the Fall road racing schedule. I will outline example workouts for you in next months’ article.

Ahhh, the Fall season: the time when the track and road racers collide out on the roads to see who truly are the best and fastest runners. Fall is the time when cross country races and training pop onto your training schedule. I love cross country running and competition. The excitement of lining up on open field with sometimes hundreds of runners, and staring out in front of you to what seems to be an endless sea of green grass, colored fallen leaves, with family and friends lined up along the sides of the race course. It is awesome. For the most part you never really know where you are or how far you have gone (unless you by chance notice a mile marker on the ground, or nailed to a piece of wood), like on the track, or the more formal road race courses.

Also, this is the time of year when you are going to get some very cool T-shirts, long or short, to add to your collection. As time has gone by, one of the things I hate is that not only has the price of entry to a race increased, but also, the price of gear available at each event. I know some of the money is for a donation to a specific health topic, and other races need it to support security along the race courses. I know all these things, but I still miss the day when you would show up, sign up, and go out for nice country run. The award would be a trophy, medal, and a loaf of bread, a pie, or various other material items. And, you would even receive a free T-shirt. I still have my late 1980’s Falmouth Road Race T, even though it is a bit worn, with holes, letters missing, and various slight tares…I still try to fit into it (when my wife and kids aren’t looking), but for some reason it keeps shrinking more each year … lol.

Hey, I am really looking forward to outlining the various levels of competition workouts for you folks next month. As always, if you need a question answered or want some training tips or advise, feel free to contact me at

Hug someone you love. And Fight Hate with Love.


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