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Training Plans and Best-Case Outcomes

Hoping for the best is fine. Your training plan, however, should be rooted in realism, and not tailored for a best-case outcome.

We’ve all been there. At the precipice of a new training block.

You’ve done the work in your base phase. After consistently doing your supplemental strength training, your body is feeling strong. Ready to handle anything

This time around, it will be different. You’re making your plans for the coming months while dreaming about how you will get everything right this time around.

It’s easy to get carried away at this point. To believe that everything truly is different now.

The cold, hard fact, however, is that it doesn’t matter. You can do everything right, before and during a training block. But the best-case scenario remains an unlikely outcome.

Expect The Unexpected

Training, like every other aspect of our lives, is influenced by factors outside of our control. Can you predict and control everything that happens at work? Or every minute of your kids’ lives?

If the answer is no — and it should be — then you’ve already conceded to the fact that you’re not in control of everything that affects your training. The more complicated a situation, and the more people involved, the less likely the best-case outcome becomes.

Puzzle pieces illustrating training plans and best-case outcomes
The more pieces that combine to make up our lives, the less control we have over the outcome of our training blocks. Photo by Hans-Peter Gauster.

Consider the life of a pro athlete. He or she design their life to reduce the variables and dependencies that complicate the situation. This affords them more control over their training, and their lives. But even this is not enough to offer immunity to the unexpected.

Our choices often have unintended consequences. Something that seems sensible on paper, may prove to be too much for your body to handle.

You may believe you’ll be able to double three times per week, but your body may not yet be up for the challenge. The result? A persistent niggle; a wrench in your plans.

How can we make or choose training plans that account for the unaccountable?

Be Realistic

The first step to making or choosing a plan that will help you handle the unexpected, is to be realistic with your expectations about the future. Avoid rose-tinted glasses when assessing what the future will look like.

On paper, and in a best-case scenario, doubles every weekday may seem doable. How certain can you be, however, that your mornings won’t be unexpectedly interrupted by emergency parental duties? Or that your evenings won’t be stolen away by work projects that demand your attention?

With a realistic view of what you can accomplish in training, you can accomplish more. Instead of setting yourself up to fail, you improve your chances of succeeding by prioritising consistency. And you create room to maneuver.

Incorporate Leeway

Room to maneuver, or leeway, is essential for dealing with the unexpected. If your training plan is too strict, you will find it difficult to adapt to unanticipated circumstances. The result is often that you end up overdoing it, because your plan hinges on getting everything right.

Instead, your training plan should accommodate the entirety of your circumstances. Leave room for adjustment, in both directions. Not just depending on how your body feels, but how your life unfolds during the training block as well.

Take Control

Runners tend to lean towards type A personalities. A result of this is that we often fall into the trap of becoming slaves to our training plans. We have to do what the plan tells us.

Blindly following a training plan is the most certain path to derailing your season

Blindly following a training plan is the most certain path to derailing your season. Or worse. To take advantage of realistic planning that includes leeway, you must seize control. Instead of being a slave to the plan, you must continually evaluate and adjust.

Assess and reassess. Gauge how your body is responding. Monitor your total load, and avoid straining in training. Account for stressors outside of running, and make the necessary changes.

A good training plan is a map. A runner, or a coach, has to avoid mistaking it for the territory.

Preparation Provides Peace of Mind

Only through proper preparation can we achieve peace of mind. Through thoughtful planning for a variety of possible challenges, comes the confidence to handle them.

To optimise the results of your effort in training, adaptability is essential. Set realistic expectations, and your training plan will provide the necessary leeway that allows you to take control.

These core principles of running training planning are true whether you create your own training plan or choose between our free pre-made training plans. And remember, when in doubt, always reach out for a second opinion about how to proceed. Runners are notoriously irrational when making decisions relating to their own training.

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Lars-Christian Simonsen

By Lars-Christian Simonsen

Lars-Christian is the founder of Run161. He characterises himself as a student of the sport who is always looking to learn more.