Saturday, August 27, 2011

Training Schedules and Goals Part III - Preparation

So you are a runner (or you want to be a runner), you have no coach, and there are innumerable variables that influence how you should train. So where do you start?  First, there are several questions that you should be able to answer before you can start training.  It also helps to think about and accept certain realities to prevent from becoming discouraged if you are not improving as quickly as you had hoped.

Prepare mentally and psychologically

The first thing you should do is accept that everyone has different potential when it comes to any physical activity, including running. You might have the potential to be a great runner, and then again you might not even have the potential to become an average runner.  Accept this fact, make your peace with it, and be willing to adjust your goals accordingly. You can still enjoy running, even if you have limited abilities. It’s about the journey, not about running faster than everyone else. Just focus on what you need to do to improve, and not on beating everyone else.

Also is it important to understand that it not productive to become obsessed with volume and specific mileage numbers. Obsessive training is inefficient training, and it can also be very ineffective.  Focus on what
makes you a faster runner, and sometimes that will mean running less, not more.

Assess your motivation, level of commitment and the limitations on your time and energy

The next thing you should determine is how much time and effort you are willing to put into your training? Realistically assess how motivated you are to train, how much of priority your training is compared to your other activities and responsibilities, and what are the real limitations on your time and energy.  You should regularly reassess this while you are training, because it may, and probably will, change over time.

Asses your goals

After that, you should determine what your goals are. Short term goals are more important than long term goals for your day-to-day and week-to-week training, but long term goals can be the primary motivating factor for many people.  Short term goals can be more time specific, but long term goals should be based on a realistic assessment of where you are with your training, and how well it is going. These factors will also require regular reassessment.

The important thing about your goals is that they must be realistic and achievable.  How do you know if they are realistic and achievable? That knowledge will come from experience.  If you are consistently not meeting your goals, then they were probably not realistic, so reassess and adjust. When you are just starting out, you will need to be more flexible about your goals while you are learning what you are capable of doing.

Create a training log

Finally if you have goals, then it will be very important to keep a log of ALL of your training, and to review it regularly. At a minimum, it should contain the following information.
  •     All of your goals - both short term and long term
  •     What was your planned workout for that day
  •     What was your actual workout for that day
    •     The time of day for the workout
    •     Distances run
    •     Time to run those distances
    •     Rest/recovery intervals
    •     Effort level
  •     How you felt during the workout both physically and mentally.
  •     How you felt before the workout both physically and mentally.
  •     How you felt after the workout both physically and mentally.
  •     The weather and other environmental conditions
  •     The running route
  •     Shoes and other gear
  •     Any other training you participated in. Write down as much detail as you can about the training.
  •     Detail anything and everything about injuries you are dealing with.
  •     Ideally your log will also include the details of your diet.  This is especially important if you feel that you are having trouble with your training, or problems with your weight.
    •     What you ate,
    •     How much you ate
    •     When you ate it. 
I know this is a lot to keep track of, but the more detail you put in your log, the easier it will be to assess your progress and to find meaningful patterns that will help you to tailor your training to meet your goals.  Your log is only as good as the information you provide, and it will also only be useful if you review if regularly.

Finally

If you can’t answer these questions about your motivation, level of commitment, and goals, then it will be difficult to construct a framework for your training. You also have to understand that your answers to these questions are not written in stone.  They will probably change as you learn more about who you are as a runner or non-runner.  Keeping a log will be a very important tool for helping you to achieve your goals.

In my next post, I will start going into more details about how to manage your training

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