What Should Runners Look For in a Training Plan?
Training for endurance events takes an incredible amount of time and dedication. For most busy adults, the time commitment needed to train may seem daunting. Often times the fear of not being able to dedicate the proper amount of time to training discourages athletes before they even begin. As a coach who works with busy adult athletes, I see first hand the importance of ensuring a balance between training and everyday life. Even a slight unbalance in these two elements can have negative effects on an athlete's race season, health and personal life.
Finding the right training plan for you and your personal situation is key to ensuring that healthy balance and keeping you healthy and happy throughout your racing season. The ideal training program carefully takes into account personal obligations as well as making the most of every moment you are training—so think quality over quantity. As unique situations arise or an athlete’s fitness changes, so should the training program. This ideal program is different from person-to-person and season-to-season. For this reason it is key to successful training to have a training program tailored specifically to you. Before putting pen to paper, a good coach will first review your individual strengths and limitations in relation to your goals. This will not only level-set expectations, but also determine the best approach to your training.
To get the maximum results for your time spent training, a solid run training plan needs to include the following types of workouts:
Of course, not all athletes will train the same; an ultra-distance athlete’s training will look much different than the type of training a 5K athlete will be doing. The magic really lies in how and when to incorporate the above workouts, along with recovery periods, into a runner’s schedule. All of this is carefully crafted to get an athlete to the starting line in the best shape possible.
Before you even get to that point, it is important that the athlete has a strong foundation. With athletes newer to marathon training or for injury prone athletes, it is recommend starting about 26 weeks out from their goal race. This provides the adequate time needed to build a strong foundation before entering the base building phase. This “prep-phase” allows for fundamental form work to mitigate injuries and also provides some leeway for unforeseen sickness, family and business obligations which tend to impact most recreational runners.
So, back to the question of what makes the ideal training plan, the short answer is that it is one that is customized for you. A plan specifically tailored to make you a stronger, less injury prone and to adjust as your fitness improves. Invest in yourself by hiring a coach. The financial investment is minimal in comparison to the time you would otherwise spend training without purpose.