So you want to tackle your first race or a new distance, that’s great! Maybe you’ve already completed one but the whole thing seemed like a disorganized mess or you skipped a lot. Almost all of the work for race day and accomplishing your goals is done in training, after that the race is the easy part! So why don’t we prepare to train? Just like the work done in training prepares you for the race preparing to tackle a training plan is a lot of the work in actually accomplishing it! So here’s what you need to know and do before you tackle a plan.
Research and pick a good plan
This can actually be a tough one. I find I like to know why I’m doing thing rather than just what to do an a given day. There are a lot of plans that are really nothing more than a table in a google image search and for some there’s nothing wrong with that, some of them are even great plans! The first time I tackled a half I essentially used one of these plans delivered through my phone and Nike Run Club (pre update). It was actually a pretty great plan and as it turned out based on the Henderson Marathon plan. The sucky thing was because I had no reason’s why or how I should feel involved in the plan I spent A LOT of time on running blogs reading conflicting reports and stressing mostly when I should have been sleeping. A good running plan should include a long run and speed workout most weeks, a good triathlon plan should focus on certain sports more than others some weeks and include brick workouts and a good cycling plan should include varying intensities.
Personally I thing training plans should be a lot more than a table for most people unless you’re pretty darn experienced and then you might be getting close to having your own real life coach. First timers obviously need more than just a chart and those that want to beat a previous record won’t find that in a cart marked intermediate either. If there is one extra every running plan should cover at least is injury prevention and advice. It’s also nice to know that certain weeks you might feel extra tiered, drawn out and when you might expect phycological barriers to pop up. Good training plans should also give you some sense of why you’re doing what your doing (if your like me) and give you some encouragement as you go along. I can tell you a lot of work goes into creating a training plan like this and so it might cost you a few bucks for a truly useful good plan. Great training plans take that to the next level.
I aim for the training plans I write to be great training plans, plans that are a one stop shop for almost all of your running questions. I include a long list of definitions and slang used in the plan any beyond since chances are you’ll end up on a running blog here and there as well. I include information about how to customize it and what to do if you have to skip runs because we’re all human and life happens. I think a great plan walks you through potential race day strategies depending on how training went and helps you set realistic time goals. Great plans also might include a plan philosophy, reverse taper, fuelling advice and a race day checklist, see a real one stop shop! Each of my plans have all that and a whole lot more. They clock in at 25 pages and usually about 6 of that is the chart with boxes for checking it off as you go. Head on over to my Etsy shop and take a look you can see the whole table of contents and read the plan philosophy for each one!
Shop till you drop
Well not really but it’s better to take some time to think about things you’ll need because planning purchases now means you’ll be less likely to overspend when you need them fast. One consideration is shoes depending on the milage of your plan and the current state of your shoes you might need an extra pair or two. You might need a few more outfits and buying them early and on sale. Hydration belts, fitness trackers and an expanded play list take some time to track down in general and more for the best price. You don’t need to run out and buy everything before you start but having a list started will help you plan and potentially save money. Here’s some ideas about how to save money on fitness gear.
Make appointments to train for the duration of the plan
This doesn’t mean you’ll follow it the the letter but if you don’t plan your plan your risk not completing it. Read the whole plan schedule and figure out any day swaps you might be making now. Then figure out where you’ll put your training in around your existing commitments. This also might change cycle tot cycle. For example last half it was summer and I wasn’t tutoring so I could sneak in my runs where we got home even if it was dark. This cycle (for the first time ever) Those hard too squeeze in runs had to happen in the morning. Wen I sat down and looked at it some just had to happen early if I was going to do this. I also figured that I could do some of the speed work on the morning but once they got to about 10 km I’d have to take a break at work for about 5 weeks. Don’t forget to schedule some extra sleep later in the plan if you’ll need it. So I made sure I’d have that time when I needed it early. Right now I’m working 6 days a week for a family business, tutoring 4 evenings a week, blogging here and on Sad Runner, training my mom and stepdad for a 5k and life is still going on and peeking (last week 50 km this week more) in a half marathon training plan. There
It’s also a good idea to view each week as a mini plan, life comes up and we all have commitments and a life to lead. Sit down at the start of each week look at what you have to do, the weather and the big things on the to do list. Often a plan, particularly running plans are broken into two chunks of running every week. You can totally view this as two bits to get through every week, it’s something I find super helpful. Make a plan to get through the first chunk, then the second one and then that’s another week done. For more information about squeezing in workouts when you’re busy check this out!
Get on schedule before and build your base
After reading your plan, making schedule potentially changing out the days you might as well get started ASAP. As much as possible start transitioning your regular workout schedule as much as possible that way you’ll be in the groove for week one. Its also a good idea to get to the base milage your plan recommends before hand and you can read about why here. My plans always include a 2 week base builder weeks following the plan schedule before dedicated training begins. Getting up to the week one milage slowly minimizes your risk of injury at the start of training. Also the 10% rule is a thing especially for running plans so what ever plan you choose compare the week one milage to your current milage and figure out how many weeks at 10 % more it will take you to get there. As you go remember it will start to grow faster as you add 10 % to last week’s milage. The is less important for cycling (almost no impact) and traitlon plans as you’re less prone to injury but no matter what you’re training for upping it by 10 % per week is likely to be pretty comfortable. You can check out this post on the 10% rule for more in depth info.
Talk to your peeps about your plan
Everyone’s life is different and so your list might be a whole lot different than mine. I work for myself and for a family business so getting time to train is harder and easier for me at the same time. You might want to book some half days at work, or if you can take them as long lunches or leave early when your plan ramps up. I always talk to honey about my plans and he never says no and encourages me but when it’s time to take off and run during the day it can be really hard to do. For me once I talk to my boss the partner thing is done too and we just don’t have the kind of relationship where I would ever have to ask permission. Maybe you do and that’s totally okay. When I’m taking on a big training plan I might not clean the house, ever get caught up on the laundry or have all the groceries we need in the house at once, let alone have much time to cook. So we live in a bit of squalor, buy clean socks and order out a lot more than usual but that’s one of the things I like about how we work.
For a lot of couples and families that’s just not going to fly so make sure you work it out before hand so it doesn’t cause tension later on. You might talk to your extended family or daycare about helping out with the young ones so you can keep all those training dates. I’m lucky because we don’t have kids at home, we both actually value experiences over a clean house and though we are busy and have lots of commitments to lots of people I can set up my life to take on a big challenge. I can run late at night, drop everyone off and spend a day here and there on the bike and my swim training course is literally at the end of my driveway. Not everyone can do that so even though it might sound terrible for someone else to have to ask permission, I get it.
Diving into a plan without a bit of a plan makes it less likely you’ll actually complete it less likely. Completing a program and doing your race gives you and amazing rush and warm fuzzy feelings. Make a plan before you start! What are your favourite starting a plan have toos?