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Do you have a training plan?
March 18, 2018

By Nick Whitbread

“If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favourable” SENECA

I (Nick) did my first year of running with no training plan. I started races unprepared, never having run as far as I would have to in the race. I thankfully finished the races, though with mixed results. 
The following year I set my sights on a much loftier goal to run more than three times as far as I ever had. It was at this juncture I decided I needed a plan. I searched online and found a book (Relentless Forward Progress by Bryon Powel) I read the book and it had training plans inside. I chose the one relevant to my goal and began getting to work. This plan and the subsequent plans I used from this book allowed me to successfully reach my goal and stay running healthy. Each year my goal doubled and doubled again. After the first year I didn’t follow the plan to the letter, I used the experience I had gained and the knowledge of My body, its capabilities and limitations to pick and choose the parts of the plan that worked for me. I still use a version of this plan to this day.

Why do plans work for me?

1. I’m lazy and can find motivating Myself difficult – When I say this to people most of them laugh in disbelief. It’s true though, My default setting is to do nothing. It’s only when the feeling of disappointment in Myself and the lack of accomplishment of anything significant kicks in that I am able to get Myself moving and into action. A training plan is like a prescription for a specific result. It’s accountability on a piece of paper or a computer screen. It’s black and white. I either did my workout for the day or I didn’t. You succeeded today or you “failed” (I dislike this word) as far as the plan goes. There’s no what should I do today? It’s all written down. I don’t have to think, I just have to do. I feel a sense of accomplishment when I enter the distance I ran that day or tick the box on the workout. 

2. Too Many Decisions- Anthropologically speaking Human beings lived a life that was very simple. Wake up, put on nothing, or the one article of clothing you own, converse with those around you, find food, find shelter, sleep, and repeat. It was a simple life with minimal decisions to be made. This simple life also, I would assume had less of the internal dialogue that we seem to inundate ourselves with today. Think about how many decisions you made today? What will I wear today? (maybe you decided last night), what will I have for breakfast? what will I take or buy for lunch? Is this healthy? Should I be making better decisions about what I eat? Will I consume some media while I eat? What media will I consume? Should I sign the kids up for sport? What will I listen to on the way to work? Does this outfit look good on me? Should I start going to the gym? Should I speak my mind in this meeting? This could go on and on but you get the point. It’s exhausting. We make a lot of decisions every day. Simplifying your training with an easy to follow plan can remove more decisions from your day. Studies have suggested that humans have a finite amount of decision making that they can do each day before succumbing to what has be known to be called “Decision Fatigue”. Meaning each day you have a limited number of decisions you can actively think about and decide upon before you succumb to fatigue. At this point you default to the easiest solution or the one you are used to making. You get home from work, decision fatigued and the thought of figuring out a delicious healthy dinner seems overwhelming. The solution, takeout. You just came out of an intense meeting at the end of the day and now you have to decide if you want to go run today. The solution Netflix and chill. When you have a training plan you don’t need to think or decide. The workout is there, you just do it. You may not feel like it but once you get started, or it’s done you’ll feel better than you did. I like to do my training in the morning. There is an even lesser chance of failure as you have had to make minimal decisions so far in your day. Also it sets you up to have a great day. You stroll into work feeling great as you have already accomplished something today. You feel better and you make life for those around you better.

3. You have a life- You want to turn yourself into a “Trail Running Machine!”, you also have a life. When you have a training plan you can sit down at the start of the week and see what’s on your plate. You can manage your training along with the commitments of your life. It’s also a great opportunity to share your plan with a friend or training partner so that you can team up on workouts which you find a little daunting or that just may be more fun if you bring a friend along. Managing a life and being a Trail Running Machine is easier with a training plan.

4. Race to Train- Most plans have you slowly building your mileage towards your goal or “A” race. Usually towards the end of your plan there is a workout that involves a run equal or greater than half the distance you will complete in your “A” race. A good way to execute that run is sometimes in a race especially if it’s a longer run. You get support and the atmosphere is always fun. Just don’t get too carried away and wreck yourself before your “A” race. When you have a training plan you can see when this run needs to be done and you can plan to find a race to train in.

“You gotta know when to hold em, know when to fold em” Kenny Rogers (like I need to tell you)

If you can’t tell yet I’m in favour of training plans. Where you have to be careful is not to let them bring you down. They are like a good friend who has your best interests at heart and who wants to see you succeed, not a vindictive Boss who doesn’t care about your wellbeing and just wants you to get the work done. Everyone at some point in their running life has missed a workout. You got given an amazing unexpected opportunity and you wisely took it. You got sick. You decided you were not recovered from your last run and it was smarter to rest instead. You just slept in. It happens. Let it go. You can’t get that workout back. Don’t give up, just start again tomorrow and don’t beat yourself up about it. 
When we get tired and tight we get injured. When we aren’t in touch with our bodies and don’t heed their warnings, bad things happen. If you pick a training plan and halfway through you decide it’s too aggressive or you need more of a challenge don’t be afraid to change it or find a new one. Having a plan, even the one that might not be perfect for you, in my eyes is better than no plan at all. 

The Conclusion

Have a great plan, hold onto it loosely

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