I sit here about to run my first track workout since January. It's been a while! I feel like I'm crawling my way back to fitness. And I have to admit, I kind of like that feeling. It's great being completely in shape. But coming back from time off or an injury is like discovering your body again. New sensations! Aches! Lungs burning! (and also, the good parts... flowing on a run, seeing times drop dramatically over the period of a few weeks, getting back to the satisfied exhaustion after a hard workout or run).
One key to the progression period after down time is being a bit creative with the types of workouts. I want to start pushing myself, but going straight to mile repeats would just mean I compare times with when I was in shape, and come out feeling bad. Instead, here are some ideas for these "connector" training, to make the jump from easy runs to key workouts.
Most people know the fartlek. It's an early season staple. Some other comeback workouts that I like:
Find a 250-300 meter section of hill. Run up, and jog down. Repeat 8-10 times. A variation on this, if there is a loop trail (I'm thinking of one we had in Bend) you can run up one side of the hill, and jog down the other. This makes it feel more like a tempo run.
Decreasing Pace Run
Only rule for this one is that each mile gets a bit faster than the previous. Start at the pace of your initial easy runs, and decrease 10 seconds per mile for the run (this can be long run, or normal length). If it's long, maybe the final miles will only be 5 seconds faster. But try to maintain the cut downs. This should be hard by the end. Not tempo pace, but not conversational. Daniel Goetz always says... it's underestimated how good of shape you can get in from just hard aerobic running (paraphrase! I hope that's okay Daniel!).
Another way to get an extra stimulus normal run. Starting after halfway through, do a set of 6 pickups. Increase pace to a comfortable stride for 30 seconds. Then return to your run pace. Scatter these, leave at least 60 seconds, but no more than 4 minutes in between.
This one is the best. It's hard (wear a HR monitor! you'll be around tempo heart rate). But the rests are so frequent that it is doable. Find a stretch of 80-90 meters. Stride the length, rest for 15 seconds, and stride back. Repeat for 10 minutes. That's it.
Another alternative for the one above, do this on a football field inside a track. Stride the diagonal, and jog across the endzone, then stride the other diagonal). Again 10 minutes...increase to 15 if you want.
Okay, that's all. Enjoy the process.