Why have a training plan? This is a question that has been asked on many occasions. It was a question that I asked in the early days of my running.
I asked the question to my oracle (advisor and run and social manager, loving, supportive, and adoring wife) and her response was quick and decisive – “You can’t just rock up to a race and run it well without one”.
This made me think… How many times have I competed in an event and not been happy with my result? Why did this happen? What went wrong? On numerous occasions I did not have a training plan. I just turned up assuming I was fit, prepared, and ready. Why did I think this way? Because I did a lot of running.
I used to think that if you were going to take part in an event you just went out running and gradually built your strength to complete the distance. But how often do you run? How do you keep track of what you have done? How do you know how far and how often you run? Do you run different types of running? Can you see any progress in your running? Is it just about running or are there other activities you should do? How do I fit it in with my family, work, and social life?
There are many questions we ask when registering for an event. Whether it is a 5km parkrun, or 26.2 miles marathon, or 100 miles ultra. Many questions come into our minds.
This is when a training plan comes into good effect. It helps by answering many of our questions. It informs us about what we should be aiming for when training for an event. It provides structure to our training. It helps and supports us when we have an event to compete in. A good training plan provides variety to your runs. It makes us accountable. It enables us to plan our lives around our running (or should it be to plan our running around our lives?).
Something to bear in mind – we are all individual, we are all different. There are so many training plans available it is tempting to go with a general plan for the distance you are running. These are readily accessible on the internet and in books and magazines. I am not knocking them and have used them myself in the past. What they fail to deliver is individualism. They usually assume we are all the same and capable of running the same distances on the same days. Last year I followed a generic online Asics marathon training plan and I must admit it took the fun out of running for me.
Most of the training in the preceding weeks occurred during miserable and very cold weather. I had followed a nutrition and hydration plan to get me ready. The marathon took place on an unusually very hot day in May and half way round I was ready to quit. At the end my legs were like jelly and I could hardly stand up. I swore I would never run a marathon again. At the time I just thought that I had done everything expected and required but still could not run a marathon. This was going to be my third and my last marathon (or so I thought at the time).
This is where a tailored made individual plan comes into great use. It is designed for you, not for everyone else. It considers your lifestyle, running experience, your pace. It helps with your routine and structures your training runs. A structured training plan will ensure that every run you do has a purpose, whether it’s a hard workout or simply an easy recovery run. It will also encourage us to do runs working on our weakness that we do not enjoy (in my case this is interval running and speed runs). This also adds the variety to your running.
My own current training plan is one which has been designed for me by me. I am not an expert, but I have sought guidance and researched training plans in some depth. It is a plan that has been developed overtime with the knowledge and experiences that I have acquired. I am currently waiting on some feedback from a very trusted friend, but I am confident it delivers what I need for the training for the Milton Keynes Marathon in May this year (after I had sworn never to run another marathon).
A few friends have asked me for some help and advice, and I have felt honoured and privileged to create training plans for them to prepare for events. To date there has been no moans or complaints and they have completed the events. It makes me feel proud and appreciative that they trust me for help and advice, but I am prouder for my friends who worked hard and have crossed the finish line. I feel this will be the subject of a future blog…. mentoring.
My biggest problem is probably being too ambitious in my own training runs by entering several events en route to the marathon. On top of this I may need to re think the planned interval runs – make them more varied to help build speed and strength.
The three marathons that I have run have their own stories. The first in Liverpool was fun, the second in Bournemouth I hit the wall and my legs gave way, and the third in Milton Keynes I just wanted to quit half way round. I look back and analyse my training and the runs and just pull them apart and criticize them.
Maybe this is a problem I have. I am my own worst critic…..