Just as the title suggests, it’s a “training” plan and not just a running plan!! What I mean by this, is that, in order to be successful, over the long haul, you need to focus on the entire package and not just on the running alone.
Majority of runners, novice and experienced alike, tend to assume that just running tons and tons of miles will eventually turn them into the runner they want to be. They find some cookie cutter training plan or they try to mimic the Kenyan plans, the Ryan Hall or Kara Goucher plan, etc, etc.
What they fail to realize is that the aforementioned runners are not only extremely talented and gifted runners, but they are also very routine oriented and adhere to a strict TRAINING regime.
So, even though nobody reading this will likely ever be capable of a 2:04 marathon, no matter how great your training is, you can still follow similar training strategies to maximize YOUR greatest potential.
WHAT MAKES UP A TRAINING PLAN???
First off, you have to determine your area of interest and target “sport specific” training. Though some of you are tri-athletes, ball sport athletes, swimmers, etc…for the sake of confusion and because this is a running blog, I will keep everything running related.
- RUNNING – this is fairly obvious, but not necessarily clear and understandable. To be good at running, there is no big secret, you HAVE to run. Where this gets murky is, HOW MUCH, HOW OFTEN, HOW FAST, etc. In the world of running, there are as many training philosophies and training principles as there are stars in the sky. What is the perfect one? That is an question the will never be answered, because there are just too many variables and too many skill levels and natural talents of runners. I will not go into any great detail on my views and theories (at least not in this blog post). However, I will say, that no matter what type of runner you are or what skill level you are, if you want to maximize your potential as a runner, you should be out there running at a minimum of 3 days per week.
- NUTRITION – This should be another fairly obvious part of training, but not very well defined. The body is a machine (a very finely tuned one at that). In order to operate as efficiently as possible, the body needs to be fueled properly. Just as your car needs quality gasoline, so too does your body need quality nutrition in order to be able to go the distance. Again, I won’t go into great detail on all the various nutritional and diet ideas out there, but I will say this. Make your eating habits a lifestyle and not just some predetermined diet that last X amount of time. I myself follow a eating lifestyle of a ration of about 60/20/20. Meaning that I eat about 60% carbs, 20% proteins and 20% fats throughout the day. Also, I try to make sure that most of my food sources are natural and not “man made”. My thought process is this “If it didn’t come from the land, keep it out of your hand”. I tend to eat mostly lean meats, lots of vegetables and fruits, occasional whole grains and rice and a good amount of nuts, nut butters. I try to minimize anything packaged and “man made” and try to minimize the intake of gluten. Essentially, if it’s packaged and has ingredients I can’t pronounce, it stays away from my body. My one and only weakness and vice is BEER!! I have drastically cut down my consumption of this heavenly nectar, but I still must have a few per week!
- X-TRAINING – Cross training refers to any type of physical training other than your specific sport (in this case, running). As a runner, there is much benefit to cross training. Because we are almost always moving in a forward motion, never side to side or laterally, we tend to have biomechanical imbalances and weaknesses, which if not addressed will usually lead to an injury of some degree and or hinder performance. In order to be a good runner and to minimize the wear and tear on the body, you need a good strong core. The core, just as it states in the name, is the center of all body function. When you see an elite runner finish a marathon, are they hunched over and or running as if they are sitting in a bucket? Not likely! The reason is because they have a strong core that allows the rest of their body to extend the time and distance before their muscles get too tired to respond to demands of a hard race effort. Again, there are many examples of X-training, but some examples include : Swimming, x-fit, hiking, aqua jogging, weight training, balance exercises, etc. Cross training can also be used as a means of recovery from a hard running workout. The different type of training will engage different muscle groups and will give your tired running muscles a well deserved break.
- RECOVERY – This one is of utmost importance!! Anybody who has been running any significant amount of time, knows those runners who are slave to their Garmins or slave to always going hard, hard, hard. Just as the KEY runs are important to your running success, so too are the easy/recovery days. Recovery does not have to mean taking complete time off from training, however, it does mean you should at least try to have a day in between hard workouts. Without going to deep into the science of it all, the body tends to get into a very acidic state by doing too many hard workouts, too often. Aside from screwing up your pH levels, frequent hard workouts will also take their toll on joints, muscles and your immune system. Fatigue and overtraining from continuous hard workouts will often result in injury, decreased performance, severe fatigue, etc. No matter your skill level, do not be afraid to take a recovery jog that is substantially more relaxed than your typical training pace. Not only will the relaxed pace allow your body to unwind from hard workouts, it also helps promote blood flow to areas that need a little TLC. Another benefit in easing up on the pace a couple times a week in between hard workouts, is that it likely will allow you to run with other fellow runners of a different skill level, maybe allow you to run with your spouse or child, etc. If you are feeling overly tired and or possibly experiencing the early signs of over training, go for a nice relaxed easy run and you just might feel better! Recovery also consists of nutritional habits and other practices to keep you running strong and ready for the next workout.
Although it is also part of the nutrition category, post-workout nutrition is considered recovery as well. Whereas most of our nutrition is designed to help us prepare for a workout/race and to help us with performing at our best, the post workout nutrition is what allows our bodies to recover from the hard training and allows us to come back strong for the next workout. After all workouts, particularly the hard efforts, get in the practice of having a recovery drink. Some perfect choices for this are BOOST, ENSURE, ORGAIN, SLIM FAST, MUSCLE MILK, etc, etc. All of these liquid type drinks have optimal ratios of your carbs, proteins and fats to maximize immediate recovery. Try to consume one of these within the first 10-20 minutes post workout.
Other means of recovery include hot/cold therapy, compression therapy, stretching, etc.
- REST – Although this sounds like a repeat of the RECOVERY step, it is actually quite separate and unique. Whereas “recovery” can take on many possible meanings, REST is REST! It means that this is the time that your body takes in and absorbs all those hard workouts, where it adapts to the training stresses and where it regenerates itself in preparation of the upcoming training. Here, in the rest cycle, our bodies are recuperating. Though rest is usually thought of as sleep, it can also come in the form of OFF days (days of no running, or other x-training), easy walking or just sitting pool side with a cold adult beverage 😉
- MAINTENANCE – This category is a bit of rest, recovery and x-training rolled into one. Often, runners wait until they are injured before getting routine maintenance done. This would be like taking your car in for an oil change after you already blew the engine (doesn’t make sense, does it?).
Maintenance can include but is not limited to, stretching, massage (self or professional), hot/cold therapy (ice baths, Epsom salt baths, etc), acupuncture, ART (Active Release Technique), chiropractic, yoga, etc, etc.
Essentially, this area is focused on taking care of the body from the physical sense and taking counter measures to ensure that the body is able to continuing performing at it’s highest and most efficient levels. If you have never done any of the above types of maintenance, PLEASE look into them..they can save your running career and your sanity by preventing injury.
Okay, so there are some of the key components to a successful training plan. Though no two training plans are ever going to be exactly alike, if you take the time to focus equally on each of the above mentioned topics, I will guarantee that you will not only be the best runner you can be, but you will most likely enjoy every step of it. Remember, running should not be painful, it should not feel like a job and it should not be something that you loathe. Running is supposed to be our escape from all the stress and hardships that life often throws our way.
Though this blog post was intended to touch on the high level areas of a training plan, there is much more detailed material available out there. If you have any specific questions on any certain area, please feel free to ask me. I will provide any and all knowledge within my realm of understanding. If I don’t know the answer, I know many professionals who can provide those answers and will be happy to pass along their information for you to consult.