Why Should Runners Have a Training Plan?
A training plan for runners is typically a medium to long-term action-oriented plan that essentially serves as a daily guide to the runner. The objective of such running workout plans could range from a peak goal race to just general fitness. An ideal training plan is one that is customized to the athlete’s capabilities and constraints — one that factors in their potential as well as limitations, while nudging them towards their goals.
A structured, customized, and well-defined training plan may of course, help all athletes to achieve their athletic potential. But it is highly recommended for anyone who has the patience and the willingness for moonshot goals. Examples of moonshot goals would be qualifying for the Boston Marathon, running a marathon in less than four hours, or completing your first ultra-marathon.
The key benefits of following a training plan are:
1. Helps the athlete focus only on execution. By eliminating strategizing processes, the athlete is now in a clear headspace to only follow a set program.
2. Leverage years of experience from a vastly more experienced coach. Coaches who have years, if not decades, of experience know what works and what doesn’t.
3. Allows the athlete to see the bigger picture. A typical marathon training plan is a 16-20 week training block that works in phases ranging from endurance building, to speedwork, and finally the taper phase. This allows the athlete to understand what is needed at a particular point in time, not feel nervous about the weeks ahead, and have a clear understanding of why a particular type of run or workout is being recommended.
Features of a sound training program
However, there are several training plans out there. The trick is to pick the right plan that works for you. A sound training plan should have the following characteristics:
1. Tailor-made for you: No two people are the same. Similarly, no two bodies or no two mindsets are the same. The ideal plan takes into account your schedule, your strengths, and weaknesses. For example, if you are on a weight loss journey and lack quick turnover, a good plan would recommend that you do a few strides at the end of every run.
2. Goal-oriented: A sound plan should help the athlete focus in their pursuit of a goal. Ideal plans have 2-3 specific goals that push the athlete in the right direction. While some goals may be time or performance oriented, others may be a little more generalistic in nature — such as avoiding running injuries, consistent running, amongst others.
3. A little room for flexibility: Most training plans are long-term in nature. Recreational athletes (and often even professionals) find it difficult to constantly build their lives around their training plans. As a result, it is very common to miss the odd workout sometimes. A good training plan factors in such events and contingencies.
4. Builds in adequate rest and recovery: A good plan ensures that the athlete is able to perform at their peak potential. For this, rest and recovery need equal emphasis. A good training plan will factor in rest days along with easy runs to allow your body to disconnect for a while.
5. Holistic in nature: A good plan includes strength work, cross-training (if required), and softer factors such as mental training and visualization, along with physical training. The end goal is to shape the athlete to become an overall well-developed version of themselves.
Moreover, a good training plan must be developed by an experienced coach, as they bring with them an arsenal of experience. When looking for a coach, find someone who is willing to engage with you personally and understand your nuances. They should be invested enough in you to find out what makes you tick; what drives you to pursue excellence; why did you choose to start running; or why are you here and not someplace else.
Finally, remember to pick one coach and one final plan, and stick with it till the end. While it may be tempting to follow multiple plans, this strategy will eventually lead to chaos. Instead, focus on one perfectly crafted strategy and make sure to execute it well. A sound training plan can set you up for massive running success.