I regularly get asked by athletes how they can maintain their fitness and speed in between races. If you stop completely your fitness will decrease but on the other hand you cannot sustain high intensity and volume without the risk of injury or fatigue.
When I was racing the World Cup circuit years ago (all Olympic distance) the races were sometimes only 2 or 3 weeks apart. To make things even more of a challenge they often involved many hours of travel to get to each race. In between races I needed to recover which could take up to a week if it was a particularly challenging course or the weather was extremely hot. I would then only have a week or so to put in some run intensity/quality before easing back for the next race.
A running session run at much faster than race pace but with fairly long recovery, I found left me with muscularly sore legs. I needed some pace so just running steady for weeks wasn’t an option. I have given an example of a session I used to call my ‘feel good’ maintenance session. At the time I was able to run 10k in approximately 33.30 minutes.
20-35 x 1 minute with 30 seconds jog recovery
For this session I would set my watch to beep when it was time to start and finish each repetition, therefore I didn’t measure the distance I covered during the repetition (you can do this afterwards if you wish). I found that not ‘clock watching’ helped me relax more so I could concentrate on feeling good rather than panicking how fast I was running. I also picked routes that I enjoyed and undulating ones so the 1 minute efforts were random, might be on an uphill, might be on a downhill. This particular session I found was less challenging both mentally and physically. It didn’t leave my legs tired even though I was running no slower than race pace, but instead left me feeling sharp for the next race.
Now I don’t expect anyone to rush out and try this work out and immediately ‘feel good’! It worked for me the reasons above and may be if it needs tweaking to better suit yourself you might want to give it a go?