Training for your running goals – it’s not enough to have a good plan

How do we know what challenges will bring about what type of ‘strength’ – what training prepares us best for different types of races?

Rene Borg

Training is at its core a simple process: setting your body a set of challenges you believe will help you get sufficiently strong to reach a certain goal. Within that single sentence hides a lot of complexity. How do we know what challenges will bring about what type of ‘strength’ – what training prepares us best for different types of races?

If you are preparing for a marathon, you will likely begin with a rough notion that you need something called ‘endurance’ – both physical and mental – to maintain a specific pace for 26 miles.

But what is endurance actually? How do we get it? And it does not end with these two questions: even if you select the right type of training for your goal, how do you know whether you are executing the training correctly? What if you are doing the right things wrongly? Could it get any more problematic? Yes, in fact it can, but I promise I will stop here; there is a famous old saying that ‘bad training can look an awful lot like good training’.

I hinted at the reason for this problem in the last article in the Blog – our individuality and the uniqueness of our personal circumstances. One man’s garbage is another man’s gold because the right training at the wrong time or the right training at the right time for the wrong person all leads to the same place: under-performance and missing out on goals. A mineral supplement can be detrimental to you at a certain point in your life and very helpful at another and training is the same.

To help make sense of these questions, I think everyone serious about reaching their goals with a minimum of problems should work with a coach. The coach will help you:

  • Decide what training you need
  • Show you what type of training will provide you what type of fitness
  • Provide you feedback on whether you are doing the ‘right’ training ‘correctly’ (or not)
  • Help ensure you do what is right for you at the right time

Striive is designed to support all parts of this process but in my opinion by far the most important is ongoing review and feedback from the coach to the runner and from the runner to the coach. None of us know how we are going to feel in the morning, so how can we expect a 24-week plan to be static. This is the same as believing we can exactly predict how the next 168 days are going to go!

This is the main downfall of ‘cookie cutter’ training plans from magazines and running books. Highly experienced runners who are not afraid to ‘chop and change’ as they go along can be successful with such plans. But the training plan is just a ‘map’ and to quote philosopher Nassim Taleb: ‘The map is not the territory’ It is just a sketch. A map is only as useful as the navigator holding it. Having a coach at hand is like the difference between going into the wilderness with an expert navigator next to you or chancing it on your own: how comfortable this notion is for you depends entirely on your own skill and experience.

The modern term for the alternative to static plans is ‘dynamic adaptive planning’. This means ongoing review of training and modification to the training plan considering how you as an individual respond to training. In the next Blog article, we will look at how Striive can help provide this information to your coach and feed it back to you quickly and efficiently.

Training is simple on the surface, but you need a lot of knowledge and experience to pick the right training methods at the right time for your individual body and life situation. Working with an experienced coach helps you get these complex questions right early and technologies such as our Striive app can improve the speed and efficiency of communication between you and your coach.

This is what really separates bad and decent training from ‘good’ and ‘excellent’ training: not the training plan (it’s merely a map) but the quality of our navigation (you and your coach working together to constantly course-correct as ‘the rubber meets the road’).

So how does Striive support this process? Read on in our next article.