Last month, I wrote about my discovery of a long-gone power point plan about how to devise a training plan. Now to be completely honest, after 45 years as a competitive runner, I don’t spend much time ‘writing down’ my training plans, goals, etc… Heck, some weeks, just getting out the door for a 5-miler ticks off the box of ‘training goal attained’. But still, the innate need for planning is still basic.
As a reminder, here are SIX truisms when it comes to devising your training plan. And as I suggested last month, the purpose of the plan isn’t to suck all the fun out of running but rather to give you a ‘less unstructured’ direction (like that double negative?).
- Every workout has a purpose
- Plan your work and work your plan
- With wisdom comes age (yes, you read that right)
- Don’t forget the small stuff
- Definition of insanity
- Be flexible
In February, I highlighted numbers 1 & 2. They’re simplistic for a reason. Remember, there should even be a purpose for the plan! I suggest you have an understanding of what you hope to accomplish with every mile. This is especially true if you have a coach. I take a dim view of any coach who says ‘go do this because I said so’. Ask questions!
#3 is a little difficult to grasp. Since running is truly an experiment of one, it takes time to figure out what works and what doesn’t. I’ve taken 5, 6, even 7 years to hone workouts and learn lessons. Unfortunately, by the time I’ve learned the lesson, I may be past the ability to execute the lesson. I’ll never run a sub 16 minute 5k ever again, but I can still ‘get after it’. The lessons learned just need to be tempered for the aging process.
What’s the top recovery aid for ANY athlete? (waiting… waiting… waiting…). It’s SLEEP! I am truly amazed that I was able to run so well for so many years with such a total lack of sleep, hydration and dietary structure. The small stuff can be the difference between a PR, a medal position, and ‘just another goal race that came up short’. Small stuff includes stretching, good warm-up routines, extra recovery days, learning patience, and even selfishly avoiding people two weeks before a big race. Don’t forget those small things add up to big returns. If it matters, you’ll do it. If it doesn’t, you won’t (one of my favorite coaching sayings).
One of my favorite authors is Edgar Allen Poe. Why bring up the master of the horror short story? Well, the dude was insane! Fortunately, Poe’s insanity isn’t what I mean. #5 really means that if you keep doing what you’ve always done and expect results to be different, you’re just nuts. Okay, so maybe Poe’s not far off from where you’re heading.
Variety is necessary for growth, in all ways, and especially in the pursuit of sport. If you run the same 4-mile loop day after day after day, you’ll eventually hit a point where you will no longer improve. This also goes for the same interval session, or the same hill session or the same long, slow run. Vary your pace, vary your scenery, vary your training partners (or not partners). Run 5-miles slow on Monday and 3-miles quicker on Tuesday. These variations in your training help teach the body’s systems to react and improve in a positive manner.
The last truism of the 6 is simply this… be flexible. Life gets in the way. Work calls, kids have a band concert, vacations fall in the middle of marathon training, the flu sets up shop in your carpool. All of these things can get in the way of a good training plan. When a major shoe company offers you $100,000 to run for them, your mindset may be different, but until then, be flexible!
There you have them – Andrew Shearer’s 6 truisms of training plans. Feel free to add, subtract, embrace or ignore as you see fit. After all, it really is about the pleasure and enjoyment you get from the pursuit in the first place. But no insanity pleas, Mr. and Mrs. Poe. I hope to see you on the roads, tracks and trails.