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Coach Culpepper: Take Advantage of the Summer Months

How the summer months could give you a jumpstart on your training.

Summer is right around the corner and will again present a great opportunity to take advantage of more daylight, fewer weather constraints and a more laid-back attitude in general. There is no better time of year to shift your focus or rededicate yourself to training. Think about what resonates with you at this point of the year and choose one of three elements listed here to focus on so you can have your best summer of training and racing yet.

Get Fast

Many athletes neglect speed as they age and move up in distance. There’s a natural tendency to shift toward those aspects of running that feel the most comfortable, such as running slower and/or longer. This is often the demise of many runners. Don’t let moving up in distance and slowing down your pace be an excuse for doing less speed work. Done properly and carefully, speed work can benefit you in many ways. Include shorter, faster sessions once a week—such as one of the four listed at the beginning of this month’s training section—shift some workouts to a nearby track or force yourself to decrease your mileage and intentionally increase the pace of your daily runs. You’ll get faster, improve your overall athleticism and have more fun.

RELATED: Speed Workouts You Can Do Anywhere

Get Strong

Summer can also be a great time to get strong. By getting strong I do not mean going to the gym, although it’s not a bad idea. I’m referring to getting strong in the aerobic sense. Since summer weather is typically more favorable, take advantage and run a few more miles. A summer base-building phase is an excellent way to elevate your fitness for the fall racing season. The base phase is one of the most neglected aspects of training. Many athletes go from race to race or marathon to marathon and fail to take a significant chunk of time to focus on their overall aerobic development. Over the summer, gradually increase your mileage for 10–12 weeks; include some solid long runs and strength-focused workouts such as tempo runs or long intervals. A good base phase can be a game changer, regardless of what distance you’re training for.

RELATED: The Basics of Base Training For Runners

Race Often

Racing more often can be a great way to break up your summer and test yourself in different scenarios. One week you could line up for a long trail race, the next week a faster 5K or 10K. Many local track clubs offer a summer track race series, which is a great way to enjoy a different type of racing. Travel somewhere fun or include a race in your vacation plans. Racing does not always have to be centered on setting a personal best—you can use races for long runs, speed work or one of your hard workouts for the week. Races allow you to get in a good effort and simply enjoy the event atmosphere.

RELATED: 36 June Races to Sign Up For