Other Episodes and Articles

The Case Against Cookie-Cutter Training Plans

goals and plans Oct 05, 2020

You decide to run your first half marathon. You’ve heard 12 weeks is how long you’ll need to train, so you pick a race that’s exactly 12 weeks away on the calendar, print out a schedule you find online, and tape it to the wall for accountability.


You have a reason you want to run this race: You used to go on four-mile runs regularly, but then you took a few months off while you were pregnant and now you want to get back into it and push yourself farther.


The schedule looks doable, starting with a four-mile long run and building up each week with one-mile increases. It also includes some speed work, which you’ve never tried before but figure will be fun.


Fast-forward four weeks, though, and your left knee starts to hurt when you land on it during a run. You keep going and hope it will go away, but on the next run it’s worse. You skip your following two runs, one of which is your long run, then decide you need a whole week off. By the time you finally feel like you can run again, you don’t know where to pick back up with your schedule — where you left off or where you should be now.


You don’t have anyone to go to who can adjust your plan, and you don’t realize that the odds were stacked against you before you even began.


Training plans aren’t one-size-fits-all


As U.S. financial adviser, author, and fellow podcast host Suze Orman observed, “It’s impossible to map out a route to your destination if you don’t know where you’re starting from.”


In the earlier scenario, the time off for pregnancy, increased mileage, and introduction of speed work all contributed to a perfect storm that derailed training. The problem wasn’t you, though, it was your plan.


Like maps, plans are important. They take you from point A to point B. But you can’t get to point B if you don’t know where point A is. That means you have to acknowledge and respect where you are now in both your training and fitness levels in order to arrive at where you want to go — and that can be hard with generic training plans.


Although one-size-fits-all training plans may work for some people, they fail for many others. That’s because you can’t adjust them for real-life events that so often impede training, like illness, injury, and work.


The training plans you find online are usually only differentiated by beginner, intermediate, and advanced, which leaves a lot of gray area. They also don’t often account for the time needed to build a foundation, or mileage base, if you’re training for a longer distance like a half or full marathon.


In addition, the training plans you find online tend to ignore strength and mobility workouts, which are just as integral to training as the running workouts.


Blanket training plans do have some benefits, of course. They’re simple, they’re easy to access, and, best of all, they’re usually free. If you want to go the generic route, you absolutely should, but you may want to make a few adjustments, including:


  • Don’t start too far ahead of where you are now.

In other words, don’t double your mileage in one week to be able to start a training plan.


  • Integrate cross training, like strength, mobility, and flexibility.

It’s important to train all the systems of the body to become an efficient runner.


The mental factor


We’ve all heard the expression that running is 90 percent mental, and it’s true that, oftentimes, running is more of a mental hurdle than a physical one. How many runners would argue, for example, that the hardest part of their run was just getting out the door to complete it?


That’s why the intangible but incredibly critical mental component is one other pitfall to look out for with generic training plans. When we’re at risk for losing confidence in our plan and losing our motivation to follow it is usually when adjustments are required: We can’t figure out how to adjust the plan on our own so we try to piece it together as best we can, but then we find ourselves standing at the starting line of our goal race without the confidence that our training will get us to the finish line.


With a customized plan, you get a training plan that’s personalized to you — one that takes into account your injury history, your family and work responsibilities, and your goals. Individualized plans are a proven way to reach your goal and minimize your risk of injury because they acknowledge where you are now and draw a roadmap from there to where you want to go. That way, when you get to the starting line of your goal race, you have 100 percent confidence in the plan, in your training, and in yourself — and you know the race is just a victory lap to the finish.


For our challenge of the week, we’re asking you to tell us your goal. What do you want to accomplish before the end of the year? As always, share it wherever you follow us or tag us on your own page, with #rlrchallengeoftheweek.


Now get out there and run your life.


If you're looking for a plan that is right for you, one that is customized to you and your goals, with group coaching and a team to support you along the way, we invite you to check out our group coaching program kicking off October 12 (with a special bonus welcome week starting October 5!).  You get a customized 12 week plan, coaching, and a virtual race to celebrate your accomplishment on New Years weekend.  If you are ready to level up and train in a way that's best for you, join the team today!

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