Is A Training Plan Essential?
By Rod Koborsi
As runners, we ask numerous questions to help us feel better, train harder and run faster. These questions vary from whether minimalist footwear is all the hype to how far should I run be before a marathon. While these questions (and everything in between) may be good ones to ask, they sometimes forget one of the most important questions, “Is a training plan essential?” I answer this by asking you a question – should a pilot take off without knowing where the plane is going? Unless you are MacGyver, then the answer would most definitely be no.
Training plans come in different shapes and sizes. They can be as detailed as a Stephen King novel, or in some cases simply have general guidelines to follow. If there is one thing that you take from this article I hope it is this: ANY running plan is better than no plan at all. More importantly, finding a training plan that takes into account your goals, lifestyle and running weaknesses can give you a major advantage come race day.
Here are four important advantages of a training program:
- Decreases uncertainty- Too much uncertainty can add a great deal of stress on the body. While hard to eliminate entirely, a training plan can improve time management and help reduce stress. Training plans are great motivators and will help to manage your time so you don’t miss important workouts.
- Builds confidence– A training program is like a business plan. It gives you the ability to view the start and finished product. You can sit down on any day and know where you are in your training, which gives you confidence that you are on track to reach your goal. In 2009, I was having the most difficult year of my running career. I had three surgeries on my anterior tibial tendon and was told there was a 50/50 chance that I would be able to compete at a high level again. Pat Henner, my coach and long-time mentor, sat down with me on day one after the surgeries and together we outlined small goals along the way to help me throughout my recovery. This was my lifesaver to getting back to 100%. Without a specific and goal-oriented training plan, my comeback would have been an emotional rollercoaster and potentially damaged my chances of ever competing again.
- Increases discipline and accountability– A training program gives you the ability to always remember your goals. It keeps you disciplined and focused. Now, I am not just talking about the same discipline as a teenager who doesn’t do his/her chores. There are way too many instances where runners train too hard when they should be recovering, jam pack all their marathon training in one week, or train through an injury when two days rest will do the trick. A program will make more sense of your daily training and yield better decision making along the way.
- Helps you believe in yourself- Whether you are a beginner, middle of the pack, elite, or wear a costume in your local 5k, we all run because it helps us believe that we can accomplish what we set out to do. A training plan is one of the most important running tools that will help you get that feeling of accomplishment.
While we at Run SMART believe in our ability to individualize a plan to help meet your personal goals, we ultimately wish that runners do not go about it blindly. Train with a couple of friends who have similar goals, go to a running group on weekdays before or after work, or read up on training philosophies if you’re not willing to work with a private coach. Just remember that you are never alone in trying to get the most out of the beautiful and challenging sport of running. After all, we are all in this together. Just look at the faces of everyone who finishes a race.