Have you ever been super excited to start a new training plan?!
The days leading up to day one of that new training plan are filled with so much anticipation and excitement. Knowing your goals are in sight and you’ll be making strides toward reaching them is an amazing feeling. It’s all very exhilarating until that training cycle begins and things come up or don’t go as planned. Maybe you get a stomach virus and have to take an unplanned rest day, maybe you have a meeting after work the day of your speed workout and just can’t do it that day, maybe you are completely exhausted by the time you have the opportunity to go for a run, maybe you run with a friend who isn’t training the same way you are, or you have a social obligation that prevents you from getting your weekend long run done. If any one of those things happens you reach the end of the week and the runs you’ve logged don’t always look like the runs listed on your training plan. Sound familiar? Every runner has been there, and if you haven’t I’d love to know how you’ve achieved perfection in the sport of running.
Last weekend I was writing training plans for my clients and figured why not just write one for myself while I’m at it. I made the decision to lay out my runs for the next few weeks and create some accountability for myself instead of just running around town aimlessly like I’ve been doing the last few months. My running needs a purpose and while I don’t believe that I can “coach” myself because coaching is so much more than writing workouts on a sheet of paper, I believe that having a training plan would be helpful. Since I am fully capable of writing a training plan I did it myself rather than bothering one of my coaching friends, for right now anyway. Even coaches need a coach sometimes because we cannot adequately give ourselves the support and guidance that we provide to our athletes.
I’d love to tell you I wrote the training plan and each run went exactly as planned, but it didn’t. Let’s take a look at my training plan vs. my training log:
TRAINING PLAN: TRAINING LOG:
Week1 (5/7-5-13) Week 1(5/7-5-13)
M: 4 miles M: 6 miles
T: 5 progressive miles T: 5 progressive miles
8:00, 7:45, 7:30, 7:15, 7:00 or faster 7:49, 7:33, 7:27, 7:14, 7:00
W: 7 miles (including NC loop) W: 4 miles
R: REST DAY R: 2 trail miles at lunch/4 miles
F: 5 miles F: 6 miles
Sa: 8-10 miles Sa: 4 miles
Su: 5-7 miles Su: 8 miles
TOTAL MILEAGE: 34-38 miles TOTAL MILEAGE: 39 miles
Monday May 7th: I lead local group runs in my town on Monday nights. The training plan I’d created called for a 4 mile run. At the conclusion of the run one of my friends wasn’t feeling great. She’d run downtown from her house and had to run back home after the run. I decided to run back up the hill with her to her house because running alone when you don’t feel great is terrible. I ran 6 miles on Monday though I had written down to only run 4 miles.
Tuesday May 8th: This is the only day on my training plan that matches my training log. I had scheduled a 5 mile progression run starting around 8 minute pace and ending at 7 minute pace.
Wednesday May 9th: I had planned to run 7 miles including a hilly 4 mile loop around town. I wasn’t feeling great. My legs felt like lead. I stalled getting out the door and it was late by the time I ran, almost 8pm. I was miserable. I thought I’d run the 4 mile loop around town first and then tack on the remaining 3 miles at the end. As I was struggling up the giant hill I wanted to quit. At the top of the hill I wanted to quit. On the downhill heading back toward my house I wanted to quit. When I ran by my house I stopped and went inside ending my run at 4 miles. I just didn’t feel good and I’ve learned over the years that listening to my body is just as important as logging the miles.
Thursday May 10th: I had planned this day as a rest day. Instead I ran twice. During lunch my coworkers and I run up the mountain to celebrate our office being open for a whole year. Round trip it was 2 miles. After work my husband came home and wanted to run with me. At the conclusion of Thursday I’d logged 6 miles on a rest day……
Friday May 11th: I ran 6 miles with a friend even though I had scheduled only 5. The extra mile never hurts….
Saturday May 12th: I completely forgot that I’d be going to the Girls on the Run 5k when I scheduled 8-10 miles for a long run. Though I have a planner, I wasn’t using it the day I wrote the schedule, nor did I bother to look at a calendar. I’d realized this error early in the week and just decided to flip Saturday and Sunday around. Sunday my plan was to run 5-7 miles. At the end of the day Saturday I only ran 4 miles. I could have run 1-3 more miles but coaching the girls was more important to me than running those miles.
Sunday May 13th: My original plan was to run 5-7 miles and then that became 8-10 miles when I flipped the days. I ran 8 miles.
So what does all of this prove? Basically, it proves that training plans don’t always look like training logs. Life gets in the way, we don’t feel great some days, other days we prioritize running with other people, and sometimes we forget that we have obligations that will alter our training. The ability to adjust and adapt to life circumstances is what sets successful athletes apart from unsuccessful athletes.
Are training plans constructed a certain way for a reason, absolutely! There is usually a reason coaches plan runs and workouts the way that they do, but coaches can also design training plans to meet the needs of their athletes. If I write a training plan and an athlete can’t adhere to it and for that reason they feel like a failure, then I am failing as a coach and I am setting my athlete(s) up for failure. Structure is great and it is a necessary part of life, but for some people the thought of not doing everything exactly as it is written on the training plan creates panic, anxiety, and a sense of failure and defeat.
I’ve worked with athletes who have busy, unpredictable schedules and rather than assigning runs to specific days I give them flexible training plans like this:
5 runs (break up however you need to but rest mid week) ex: 5 miles, 3 miles, rest, 4 miles, 7 miles, 3 miles, rest Speed: Choose 1 run (not the 7 mile run) to run as a tempo. Hard, steady effort Longest run: 7 miles Total Miles: 22
And they love the flexibility and they thrive…..
sometimes plans like this one ^ create just as much panic and anxiety for an athlete. With a plan like this some athletes may crave more structure than I am providing….yet not being able to perfectly follow a training plan will cause them to feel like they are failing.
This is why I approach running from an adaptable and flexible mindset. With this kind of mindset, we will ultimately feel more confident and find more meaning and success with training.
You will never fail if you learn how to adapt and adjust. The training plan might not look exactly like the training log but the miles are getting run, the workouts are getting done, and you are learning to overcome. At the end of the week my mileage goal was over my planned mileage range by one mile, the workout was complete, and the long run was complete. Adapting and adjusting did not create failure or deny me a solid week of training and it never will unless I allow it to. Adaptation is failure’s kryptonite but it is my superpower, and it can be yours too.
Originally posted 5/13/18 on GOALdenPeakPerformance.com