By Malindi Elmore
I believe that there is “more than one way to skin a cat” when it comes to training programs. Certain key principles, such as consistency, health and variety are staples to a strong program but the specifics can vary dramatically from one program to another.
Coaches and athletes bring their own strengths and weaknesses to the table, and with that, they also bring their own philosophies. While some people may be very scientifically driven, needing science, data, and rationale to justify a training program, other coaches and athletes thrive on a more intuitive and communicative approach.
In an ideal world, the coach is able to use science to manipulate an athlete’s physiological and physical response to training, while also adapting to the athlete’s individual psychological needs: hence using both an “art” and a “science” approach to training.
It is important to remember (or actually internalize) that humans are NOT robots and that adaptation to an athlete’s individual strengths and weaknesses are vital to a successful training program. The recipe that works for some athletes may not work for others and vice versa. This becomes important when discussing training and workouts with other people and the insecurity you may feel when you realize they do more, less, harder, easier, or different workouts than yourself.
For example, my longtime coach is currently coaching a talented runner who has similar personal bests as me in the 3000m and 5000m. The type of training she does is drastically different than what I would have done when I was at a similar level of fitness. She recently asked him if I had done sets of 3000m repeats as well and he almost fell down laughing – I would have had an anxiety attack if I had to do repeats of that length! As such, he is required to take his understanding of the science of training, with his understanding of the individual athlete and our psychology to devise a program that left us both feeling positive, excited and empowered (as well as making sure we were faster, stronger and fitter!).
Ironically, my same coach, whose talents lie in his ability to understand, motivate and communicate with his athletes, believes that science is the key to success with training. On the other hand, two highly successful Canadian middle distance runners, Graham Hood and Gary Reed offer reasons why the flip side (an arts approach) may rule the training roost.
In a recent Run Exchange panel, coach Mike Van Tighem and the aforementioned athletes discuss their perspectives on training and racing, including their views on the question: “Is training an art or a science”? Watch the video through the link and let us know your thoughts!
Malindi Elmore is a Run SMART Project private coach. As an athlete she competed in the 2004 Olympic Games in the 1500m. She’s a 6-time National Champion and Stanford record-holder in the 800m and 1500m. To customize her 1500/mile training plan go here. To work with Malindi privately sign up here.