Planning for a successful 2014 is the cornerstone of starting your year off right. For many, the planning process is the most daunting, so I put together a series this week on planning and the nuances that go into it, both from a coaching and athlete perspective. 

I have to admit, before writing this week’s series, I have a love/hate relationship with goals and goal setting. Back a few weeks ago when I began to research and write these articles, I did considerable research into goals and goal planning, combined with overviews of TrainingPeaks accounts, coaching notes and athlete accounts.

The most important shift for MTGE athletes in 2014 is to foster an unwavering focus on the present and the process, not the goal. The goal becomes secondary, the day-to-day and smaller bits are pushed to the limelight.

Why? Let’s take a look.

Consistency is key for athlete and coach

While looking through 2013 TrainingPeaks accounts, I pinpointed two items which were a massive influence on training and success. The first is on your end and the second was on my end as a direct result.

1) The most successful athletes remained the most consistent over the course of the year, regardless of time and mileage spent working out. The more green boxes and fewer missed workouts, the better. In this point, I am not making a distinction between why the workouts were not completed. It could have been because of injury, work related or a simple missed workout.

2) The more consistent the athlete was, the more I was able to properly execute a focused training plan including base building, speed, strength and taper. The less consistent, the more I defaulted to building more base and doing slower runs or workouts to make up for lost time.

Breaking down reasons for missed workouts

Injury/Sickness

Injuries happen, they are a part of training. In those cases, I make changes to the schedule and deal with them on an individual basis. Athletes also get sick, and rest was such a large part in ensuring a speedy comeback. Focusing on being consistent with rest, recovery, or cross training, such as aqua jogging, enables you to come back faster and in a better place than those who did not.

Solution: Rest and recover when sick/injured. Remain consistent, even if consistency means you sleep!

Simply not feeling it/mental fatigue

Some days we simply don’t feel it. For those who mentally took breaks when it was necessary, I saw more positive than negative effects. There were occasions where I pushed you out the door, but 8/10, I would say to take the break and it paid off in the long run. Or, a simple conversation recharged training and no day off was needed. Being honest if you are mentally struggling is important to long term success. 

Cumulative mental fatigue struck at the end of the race season. This year, I will be much more vigilant in monitoring the mental fatigue and enforcing rest and recovery at the end of the season, or mid-season if the need is there.

Solution: Take a break when you need it mentally and talk to me if you have issues.

Missing workouts all together.

The most common reason to miss workouts were personal reasons, especially with workouts related to a busy schedule. Consistent missed workouts were usually linked to a goal which was difficult to achieve given the time frame allotted to train. If someone wanted to run a 100 miler but only had 1 hour a day to train, that goal is very tough to achieve. I do not pass judgement on why workouts are missed. I only make a simple point, missing workouts is the single most detrimental element to not achieving a running goal.

Solution: Picking a race schedule or distance that jives with your lifestyle. Working out for 20 minutes is better than zero. We can also pivot and switch on the fly if it will help.

Now, I want to take a look and explain how you focusing on the present helps me focus on the process and planning to help you reach your goals.

Focusing on the present

Small steps provide big results. My goal is provide you with the correct small actions and it’s your job to execute on those. However, it is also my job to make sure the small steps fit into your life and mesh well with the time you have available to train or, to make sure you also have ample rest time to recover.

Completing the workout as it’s designed is being in the present. Most runners go too hard on easy days and not hard enough on hard days. I want you to go even easier on easy days and crush your hard workouts. In order to do that, you must follow the schedule and do THAT specific workout how it should be done.

In conclusion, nail that day’s workout, nothing less, nothing more. Go easy if it’s easy, go hard if it’s hard. Be present on that day’s workout and get it done.

Focusing on the process (or what I do as a coach)

The direct result of getting it done on a regular basis is I can then focus on the process. Your seasons are planned on a very granular level. Understanding how I plan is a key component of understanding why every day matters. Here is a rough explanation of how I plan your cycles.

Race/macrocycle – each training cycle is built around training for a specific race or culminating day.
Month/mesocycle – Each month (roughly), or mesocycle is built around a specific goal. For example, building base, improving strength. This is determined by how long we have until your “A” race.
Week/microcycle – Each week is a microcycle and is planned based on where it falls within that mesocycle. I plan around weeks because it falls in line with the calendar. However, for some, their microcycle is shifted based on life, work, etc. In my case, I run long on Friday.
Day/part of the microcycle – each day’s workout has a specific goal within that week/microcycle. Usually alternating easy/hard or depending on where it is in the microcycle/macrocycle.

The key for 2014 is a focus away from the time oriented race goals and onto the overall training process. Shifting to daily actions and how those daily actions affect the ability to follow the microcycle/mesocycle/macrocycle of periodization.

In addition to periodization, I build schedules roughly following this model, taking into account variations and personal needs.

Base building –> strength –> speed/power –> taper –> race

An example: Let’s say you are 16 weeks out from a race and you have a four week block of base building before I begin to throw in some harder efforts. That base is helping your aerobic conditioning, but also preparing your body for the rigors of faster mileage. If you only hit 60% of your workouts during the base period, I cannot add in the faster mileage because of a larger increased injury risk. Therefore, I have to increase more base building weeks so the injury risk is lessened. If the base isn’t built, I keep pushing back the speed increase until you are ready, which pushes us further into the race.

As I mentioned above, there is a direct correlation between daily actions and success with relation to expectations. It doesn’t mean always hitting every workout, but it means looking at each day and saying “What do I have to do today to become better than yesterday.” Sometimes, you have to rest, other times, you have to adjust a workout to get in 20 minutes intend of an hour. Others, you hit the workout perfectly.

Everyone WANTS to PR, but it is an unwavering focus on the present and the process that makes the PR stop being a dream and becoming a reality.

Consistency is always the key for endurance success. By following your schedule, including rest, recovery and transition, you have a much higher chance of reaching your fastest times. Sticking to your schedule allows me to plan according to the process I feel best suited to help you succeed. If you do not follow the schedule, then I cannot wholly follow the process, which means results are diminished.

Questions:

Look back at 2013. When you had your best race or cycle, did you notice how many workouts you were completing? How was your consistency? When you struggled, was it due to lack of consistency?

Tomorrow we are going to look at how to pick running goals both race and non-race related. Stay tuned!

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