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Create a Seasonal Framework to Avoid Strength Training Burnout

(Original Post Date: 9/21/22)

As a PT I know that strength training is one of the top things that runners can do to help decrease their risk of developing an overuse injury. 

I’ve personally learned to love strength training over the years, however it still is not my preference over running. 

One of the ways I’ve found helpful to stay motivated to stick with strength training is to break my year up into seasons, similar to high school/college athletes. Each season I’ll have a different focus and priorities for my training and activities. My training seasons are not based on actual seasons, but rather around the times of year I want to be in peak performance.

I find this framework to be key to avoiding strength training burnout. I talk to a lot of runners who inevitably get burned out from strength training even though they know how important it is. Their time set aside for strength training often fades from their priorities once they are injury-free and running more miles. 

Below you’ll find my personal seasonal framework for the last few years. I encourage you to read through it as an example and then to follow the 3 steps to creating your own seasonal framework. Hopefully this outlook helps you to stay on track all-year round while allowing yourself scheduled time off to emphasize relative rest & recovery. 

Kelton’s Seasonal Framework:

  1. Spring Running Build = Mid February – Mid May. During this season I’m working on building my base running mileage, keeping my running intensity relatively low and emphasizing building up the duration of my runs. Strength training is a significant focus at 2-3x/week. This is often prime ski season, so that often helps keep my running to 5 days per week. I’m typically enjoying some backcountry skiing around 1x/week and nordic skiing around 1-2x/week. With a spring marathon on the schedule this year I’ll likely shift this season forward by 1-2 months - with more emphasis on the running portion. 
  2. Summer Race Season = Mid May – Early August. I’ll typically emphasize a few mountain/trail races and a few road/track races ranging from 5k-half marathon. I’ll typically spend more time running in the mountains. Strength training is only around 1 time per week, allowing me to be fresh for the harder running efforts while still being enough frequency for maintenance.
  3. Marathon Build = Early August – October/November. During this season I emphasize building my running mileage while getting in 2 strength sessions per week. Injury prevention is the main focus of these strength sessions - so I’ll try to target my known weaknesses and stay ahead of the inevitable niggles that pop up. The strength sessions fade to once per week in the couple weeks leading up to the marathon, with nothing but some lighter work in the 10 days leading up to race day.
  4. Recovery & Strength = October/November – End of the year. Recovery and strength are the name of the game for these couple of months. I’ll take a week entirely off post-marathon, and return to strength training the following week - listening to my body and keeping it easy for another week. 2 weeks post-marathon is the start of my main strength focused training block of the year, consisting of 3+ days per week.
  5. Strength & Skiing = December-Mid February. This time of year I’ll continue running - but it is entirely based on what I enjoy & feel like doing. Sometimes that’s as little as 8-10 miles per week. I’ll emphasize getting out into the snow on backcountry and nordic skis, as well as a solid few months of strength training at 2-4 times per week in preparation for the spring running build. 

As you can see there are relatively large breaks from each of my main activities (running, skiing, and strength training). This helps keep me enjoying all of my activities while also staying injury-free!

3 Steps to Creating Your Own Seasonal Framework:

  1. Write out all of your desired activities in a given year, ranking them by their importance to you. Does their ranking vary depending on the time of year? Make sure to note that. 
  2. Come up with your 1-2 peak performance time frames for the year. This helps you see when strength training will likely be more for maintenance (~1 time per week) rather than your top priority. 
  3. Find 2+ times per year when strength training can be one of your top priorities. During these training blocks strength training should happen 2-4 times per week, which is required to get the many benefits of strength training!

Interested in getting an individualized strength program to help you achieve your activity goals? Contact us today!