Between Season Training

BY Hal Higdon

The most important program to follow between seasons is one that allows you to build base. Cover some miles without worrying how fast you're covering those miles, since cold weather and road conditions certainly will slow you down.

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My daughter just finished her high school cross-country season with a PR for 5-K of 19:59.8. Can you recommend a good winter training program for her so that she may have equal success this spring in the 800, 1600 and 3200 in track? Her goals are 2:15, 5:00, and 11:00 respectively. We live on the border between Michigan and Canada, so she is used to running outside in cold weather, although we also have access to an indoor 200-meter track.


Two-tenths under 20 minutes: That’s cutting it pretty close. Perhaps we should change your daughter’s spring goals to 2:14:8, 4:59:8 and 10:59.8. Those are very ambitious times based on what she ran this fall, but course and weather conditions can slow runners in cross-country. Most important: She has goals.

You might want to discuss this with her track coach. Some coaches accept outside help better than others. But living where you do, I would buy her a pair of snowshoes for Christmas. The learning curve is easier than for cross-country skis, although consider that as a winter cross-training option too. When the roads are covered with ice and snow, you simply switch workouts. Check out my Winter Training Program, which balances running with cross-training, both outdoors and indoors.

The most important program your daughter needs to follow between seasons is one that allows her to build base. She needs to cover some miles without worrying how fast she is covering those miles, since cold weather and road conditions certainly will slow her and render any GPS numbers meaningless. My between-seasons goal always was to enjoy winter, not fight it. I went to college in Minnesota (Carleton College) and some of my most enjoyable workouts were on cold, crisp days with bright sun on clean snow. I’m serious, you people in Florida. Much better than hot, humid runs in the summer. We all learn to adapt to our surroundings otherwise we never maximize our abilities as runners.

It is nice to have a 200-meter track nearby (or a handy treadmill) when the weather is simply impossible, too much speedwork can get you in trouble. Not merely because of the raised risk of injury sprinting around turns, but because you don’t want to peak too soon. Just spend time outdoors this winter enjoying the sport. Once the snow and ice disappear, then she can begin a progressive build-up including speedwork under her coach’s supervision.

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About Hal Higdon

Hal Higdon is a Contributing Editor for ‘Runner’s World‘ and author of 34 books, including the best-selling ‘Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide’. He ran eight times in the Olympic Trials and won four world masters championships. Higdon estimates that over a quarter of a million runners have finished marathons using his training programs, and he also offers additional interactive programs at all distances through TrainingPeaks. Hal uses TrainingPeaks to power his interactive marathon and half marathon training plans — check out more of Hal Higdon’s training plans on his website.