Planning your training for a big race can be daunting. How long should your long runs be? What type of speed should you be doing and when? How many hill repeat sessions do you need? So you download one of the thousands of options glaring at you in your browser and now you’re ready to roll.
It’s a better option than blindly trying to figure your way through what you think you should be doing for the next 100 days of training, but you still need to customise, adapt and tweak to suit your own needs.
These generic training programmes are designed to be suitable for the masses and will never be an exact match for you, so if you’re looking for a specific training programme for your needs then you need to go to a coach, but now that you have your downloaded programme, here’s what you need to do.
1. Listen to your body
Unless the coach who developed the training programme has a crystal ball, there is no possible way to know anything at all about you – apart from the fact that you’re a runner and that you’re planning on completing an event. Only you know when your body begins to ache or when you’re waking up tired and fatigued. You know when you’re getting sick or when you’re heading for an injury. You know when your body is not handling both the training load and other outside stressors. You know all these things because your body tells you, so learn to listen to your body.
2. Make it your own
Unless the programme already comes in an editable spreadsheet format, start by opening a blank spreadsheet and retyping the programme. Next, insert your planned long runs and races – most programmes for the ultras will have suggested time frames for a qualifying marathon – and adjust the training in the weeks leading up to and following these long runs and races. With just these few adjustments you’re individualising the programme to your own needs.
3. Rest and recover
This leads on from point 1: You know your body. Determine if the rest and recovery scheduled in the programme is adequate. If not, adjust by adding additional recovery days where you feel you may need them. You can also move rest and recovery days around, but always remember that a hard day should be followed by a recovery or rest day. Allow for some flexibility in each week’s training so that you can listen to your body when it’s calling for additional rest.
4. Keep it up!
Following a programme often keeps us motivated and helps us to listen to the body and overcome the mind. The mind says things like, “It’s too hot! Maybe I should rather just run tomorrow.” All you have to do is stick to the programme.
Good luck in the coming months and may you achieve the goals you’ve set for yourself.