How Does Your Plan Fit?

Carin & Coach after a
successful 26.2 debut!
From my years in the running shoe business I know there is no such thing as the "best shoe".  The best shoe for your friend may not work for you unless you have the same foot type and mechanics.  The same holds true for a training plan.  Unless your needs and talents are the same as someone else an otherwise great plan may or may not work for you.

Now is a good time to evaluate your plan and make sure it is the one that will leave you satisfied when the races have been run and the results recorded.  I understand that people are looking for different things from running.  Some run for the social and health benefits and are most concerned with enjoying the time they spend running.  Others want to be better than they were last year or have a goal time on their mind.  A few not only want to run fast but want to beat others while doing it.  No matter which category fits you most of the criteria below should be considered when choosing your running plan.

Let's start with inescapable principles that must cornerstone any training plan.  It must be gradual and progressive.  If it is not gradual it is highly likely you will end up cheer leading from the sidelines.  That does not mean you cannot make well reasoned jumps in training but they are the exceptions and not the rule.  I know that many coaches, including me, get credit for coaching brilliance when all they did was allow someone to run consistently.  Without the gradual principle the wonders of consistent running will never be known.

Without some level of progression you will become frustrated with the corresponding lack of improvement.  It is a dark and evil secret that if you keep doing the same thing eventually it will result in a reduction of fitness because your body no longer needs to adapt to a sufficient training stimulus.  How much progression and in what balance of volume and quality are the large questions to be answered.

This is where the science and art of coaching often diverge.  This is where the do-it-yourself-coaches like to offer a come one, come all formula.  Some of these formulas are solid and can be very helpful for many.  As you will see on the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon website I have even offered some half marathon training plans based on the "formula" of the experience of coaching thousands of runners.  I encourage you to take a look and use these plans or others like them as long as they are working for you.

If you reach the point where your improvement curve flattens or begins to head south it is time for further investigation the plan it will take to get you going back in the right direction.  Returning to inescapable principles, the first rule of running physiology and training is that your body responds to effort.  Your muscles and blood cells, legs and lungs do not care about pace or mileage or numbers on a page.  Your body just knows how much stress is being placed on its' structures and components.  Being able to dial in the numbers on a page to find the sweet spot of stress and rest is the art of coaching.

This stress and rest balance must take into consideration things within your body like current fitness, injury history, strengths, weaknesses, and imbalances but also those outside of your body like your training and racing interests, time commitment, and real life situation.  All of these are hard to effectively fit into a formula.

How do you judge a training program or coach?  Ask yourself the following questions. Are you healthy? Are you realizing your goals? Are you having fun?  Injuries will happen and they are an occupational hazard for the highly competitive, but you should not be stuck in an ongoing injury cycle.  Remember the wonders of consistent running!  If you are not reaching your goals evaluate them and if they are not reasonable then set new ones that fit your time and talent.  If they are reasonable then find a new path to success.  OK, fun is a tricky word when it comes to running.  Let's face it running is hard work.  Are you enjoying the process?  If not, the process needs to be changed.

If you feel changes need to be made then look at other plans for elements missing in your plan or that avoid things you do not like in your current program.  If you have a coach make sure the mind reading you want them to do is as effective as telling them what you are thinking.

Here's to health, speed, and happiness!