Sunday, August 14, 2011

Training Schedules and Goals Part I

Most of my training advice on this blog is directed towards those who are not elite athletes. This post is specifically directed at athletes who are not among the ranks of the elite. The elites generally have access to all the coaching and other resources they need. However, most runners are not so fortunate, and usually end up being self-coached which often results in injuries and frustration.

I've become very uncomfortable with what I perceive to be a growing trend. That trend seems to go something like this, someone who does little or no running decides that they are going to run a marathon. Not just any marathon, but one that is only six months away. Well after all, some training is necessary right?

So immediately this person has set himself up with a couple of problems. The first problem is that for the vast majority of people, six months is not an adequate amount of time to train for the marathon in healthy way. As a result, this person's training immediately becomes focused on mileage, and survival.

The next step for most people is to download one of many marathon training programs specifically designed get a non-runner ready for a marathon in six months.  Of those who manage to stick with it, the majority will feel like crap for much of their six months of training. Also, after feeling like crap for six months, they usually end up having a dreadful experience during the race. Often these people are so battered and exhausted by the experience that they end up just throwing their running shoes in the closet, and vowing, "Never again!"

I used a common example of a non-runner choosing a marathon that is only six months away, but the same mistakes can be made for a race of any distance and by people of all levels of experience. I've never been fond of generic training schedules. It is great to have goals, but the goals should not be based on arbitrary race dates but on the progress the runner is making during his or her training. I will be discussing my ideas on these subjects in the next few up-coming posts.


  1. Great points raised Ken, i have been guilt of this myself. However i've drawn a line in the sand and started to plan more races and prepare. I'm done with finishing races, i want to be able to "race" races.

  2. Hi Dave,
    I'm glad to hear that you are taking your race preparation more seriously :)