Online training plans and making them work for me (and you) and pushing that level of comfort
Updated: Sep 18, 2020
Not going to lie, there's a lot of free content out there on the internet.
I myself have benefited from this as well.
Repurposing Plans & Experience
The real trick comes in knowing how to apply it to yourself, or reapplying one to a new, similar goal.
For example, I took a 50k training plan, that I used for my first 50k back in 2015, and have repurposed it for my new 35 mi birthday run coming up this August (2020).
Now, the best thing that allows me to repurpose and essentially create a new training plan is: EXPERIENCE
So the question you're probably asking yourself is, "I've never ran a 50k, or any ultramarathon for that matter, so how do I do this for myself?"
Easy, find that training plan (yes, I'll eventually be offering my own) or you likely already have one in hand (digitally or physically speaking).
Now, here are the...
4 things I consider when assessing my training plan each week:
What's the distance of my long run next week and what did I do this past week? For myself, I typically do for a 2-3 mi increase week over week for about 3 weeks, decrease by 2 miles for week 4, and then return to building for week 5 based on week 3. For example for my current plan, week 1 was 8 miles, week 2 was 10 miles, week 3 will be 12 miles, week 4 will be 15 miles, then step back down for week 5 to 13 miles, and then week 7 continue building. I leave off the week 7 mileage my training plan is fluid and like to get a few weeks planned and reassess as I go.
What's my projected total distance for the next week versus this past week? I do this really to watch the trend from week to week and also make sure I don't jump up in weekly mileage too much as once (greater than 10 miles). If I do, I can then compare what was planned versus actually ran and see where the increase was throughout the week. For example, a lot of times if my runs call for an even number, I may have ran a bit over that by 0.25 to 0.5 mile, and over a number of runs that adds up.
How am I feeling, physically & mentally, coming off the previous week and going into the next week of training? For example, during an a training cycle early this year (2020) I was in and out of fits of depression. In those weeks I ran way less or not at all. I didn't beat myself up over it. Sure in the moment it didn't help the depression because I was motivated to go run, which would've likely helped my mood. In the end I would just take it as a rest week, and then try and pick back up where I left off. Sometimes I would need another week just to get running a little bit more and then pick back up with the training plan.
What does my work & life schedule look like the next week and when can I actually complete all runs scheduled for the week? This is the fun one, ha! Partially sarcastic but likely on point for most. My wife have a unique work schedule where one of us works half of the day while the other is with our daughter, and then we switch at noon. We also have planned family days (our weekends), for example this week it's Tuesday and Friday morning until noon. So during our work time we can get things done for our respective and joint businesses as well as workout. I then take those work days and plugin my training runs. For example, my current plan has 5 runs a week: 3 of which are Tuesday through Thursday and the other 2 are Saturday & Sunday. Currently they fall on Tuesdays and Friday morning before noon. So for this week (week of June 22nd, 2020) I took my Tuesday run and shifted it to today (Monday). Tuesday will then be my scheduled day off from running, which coincides with our family day. I'll then do the rest of the week as scheduled. This also takes the prior week into consideration. Specifically my long run was moved up to Friday from Saturday. Going back even before that, I had ran 3 days in a row and the long run was my 4th day in a row. So I then took Saturday as my day off to coincide with our family day for the week (the family day has recently been moving around). Though it ended up being a cross training day as we went for a nice family hike with my parents (who we are currently staying with). I then went out for my Sunday run as planned, which brings me back to the current week.
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My Week & The Reality of Life
Consistency & Dedication
So for this week, I put those runs on the calendar and will stick to it.
Well, most of the time, ha!
Yes, I've been known to be late.
Like this past Sunday's run, where I did not get out in time to go for the scheduled 1 hour run.
I told myself, "That's okay," after initially stressing about it.
I looked at the positive: I got out there and did something, and actually did most of that hour by having done about 50 minutes.
So no need to overly beat myself up over missing 10 minutes.
Did I still feel like it was a good workout, and did I do something to make it a bit more challenging to make up for the lost time?
Definitely! I ran on less food, in the heat, and at a quicker pace.
Should I do this every time?
Hell no! Ha! It's not sustainable.
Is the goal to go out and kill it every run, on next to nothing to eat?
What's the end goal?
The end goal is being ready for my 35 mi birthday run, not burn myself out from over training.
So let that be a lesson, keep an eye on the end goal and do what feels right in the current moment to set you up for long term success and not sabotage yourself in the short term.
Knowing when to push it
That said, I do like to push myself periodically. For example, I usually work in a weekly speed or hill session, or work in some hill repeats into an easier run.
So a different goal came out of this past Sunday's run. The goal was finding that upper threshold or ceiling of comfort and pushing it higher. Here's the run:
Father’s Day (USA) Run - Fueled by coffee and two big gulps of green juice, ha! 👍🏻😆
It was a hot one and didn’t plan to push the pace. I was honestly surprised by this effort because I really did only have coffee and green juice beforehand. Ran out of time to grab anything substantial and actually wasn’t all that hungry. Had a big vegan mushroom paprikash with homemade vegan spaetzle dinner last night for Father’s Day, prepared by my awesome wife. ❤️ So that likely helped, ha! Anyway, found myself starting to pick it up not long into it. I had to then remind myself and say aloud to back off and ease up on the downhill, to mitigate injury and not further aggravate to my left Achilles. Also according to my training plan it was supposed to be an hour run today. So I think I got it in my mind, since I was leaving with only 50 min for my run, that by running faster I can get in the distance I would have ran in an hour. However the point of the hour run is just to go run for an hour. The original training plan didn’t give a time or pace. So really, I just turned this into a faster paced speed workout and also on a mostly empty stomach. Though I think I found the real purpose of the training and wasn’t till I was out there and somewhere around 1.5 miles. I started thinking about David Goggins and his point that we as humans only tap into a fraction of what we’re really capable of, paraphrasing of course. I always have a similar motto inspired by him, “Embrace the suck.” When you’re running a ultra, it’s not a matter of if it will suck, it’s a matter of when it’ll suck. It should be noted that this is relative and subject to each person, race, etc. So for me with this run it was about find that ceiling where it starts to suck and push it and see what happens. Turns out, I could keep pushing. Now a word of warning: I was also very cognizant of the heat and humidity today and was ready to ancient off at the slightest inkling of losing it. However that never came. Sure, there were definitely moments of breathing hard and wanting to rely slow down but not in the, “I’m going to fall over in exhaustion” kind of way. Now another word of caution: Use common sense before attempting a run like this one. I keep a running check going through my head the entire run of how my body and mind are feeling and doing. I also verbalize, sometimes out loud, words of encouragement and self coaching (“light, quick feet”; “get your breathing under control”; “ease up” (for the downhills) or “seriously, slow it up on the downhills”; “keep the high turn over up the hill”). This also changes per run. For today’s run, I also smiled and laughed at one of the last uphills and reminded myself, “It’s just to the lights” (street lights). In all it felt good and made me realize that we are capable of so much more.
Here's the Strava activity, or check out the Garmin Connect activity below:
Happy Running! ✌🏻😊