Nick Symmonds is pursuing goals this year in an “off” year. He accurately states, “This upcoming year is what we in the professional track and field world call a “down year.” We work in Olympic cycles, meaning our aim is to perform well during the Olympic years (2012, 2016, 2020, etc.).”
Another point he makes in his article – please note; not all seasons, or years are treated equally by the vast majority of elite runners. Just like a mix of hard-easy workouts is how we improve our conditioning so too hard-easy months and seasons and years allow for recovery, decrease in burnout and injury.
So the fact that he is pursuing fast times this year is an exception to the “rule”. As such, I believe that very few runners can run not just consistently but consistently BETTER year after year. In fact just looking at annual best times of elite runners shows this is almost impossible.
The application to the age group runners out there cannot be lost. If the very best runners in the world cannot perform progressively faster/better year after year why is it that age group runners think they can? Certainly in early years of development (not age but first years of running life) you can progress most every year and it is certainly easier to do so. It’s a matter of going from couch potato to runner. There is a lot to gain in conditioning from sedentary to athlete. Even so, youth runners and other beginner runners do not progress every year. Maturational, hormonal and growth issues confound that steady progress in youth. And lack of variety in training plague most others.
The argument can be made that at the higher ends of the competitive hierarchy that it’s more difficult to improve. That is true. However, even then the vast majority of elite runners realize that in order to get the best out of themselves they have to plan cycles in training (daily, weekly, seasonally, annually and Olympiads).
Youth runners and all age groupers need to learn:
- That progression year to year is not linear.
- You improve more over your running career by training in cycles.
- Those cycles are follow the hard-easy principle but are applied not just to days but weeks, seasons and years.
- To change your training focus (for instance from 5Ks to half-marathons; from marathons to 5Ks; from triathlons to 5Ks; from 5Ks to 800s) in order to remain healthier, perform better long term and maintain interest through variety in both training and racing.
And note too that even Nick Symmonds adds variety and fun in his goals by adding a Beer Mile record pursuit.