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Thoughts on the Run: Tips for successful training plan

Andy Shearer
Middletown Transcript

Which is harder, setting up a budget or following it? Well, it depends on you, really.

I’ve personally found it much harder to set up a budget, which of course makes following it a non-starter. I also know a lot of meticulous people who can set up a budget to the nickel, but then on Day 1 feel that invisible force yank their car into the coffee shop drive-thru.

Ever hear the expression “Plan your work and work your plan”? Basically, it means figure out what you’re going to do and then go do it. It’s really not rocket surgery… or is it?

If you know you’re going to grab that cup of coffee to go every morning, why on earth would you factor that out of your budget? Unless it’s an absolute necessity, find another way.

So too with setting up a training plan. If you’re not a morning person, don’t attempt to establish a consistent 5 a.m. wake-up call to go run 10 miles. Failure to plan properly is planning to fail absolutely. The best training plans are those that provide avenues to success!

I’m always hesitant to give out training advice to people I don’t know very well or haven’t spent enough time to know their running history. Ask me for marathon training tips and my first question will be, “How many years have you been running?” But there are some universals that I feel pretty confident to share, knowing no two people and no two plans are alike.

The first, last and biggest training tip for any plan is to be consistent. Establish something that you can and most likely will do. Using our coffee budget example, if it isn’t realistic, it probably isn’t going to happen. I like to call it a healthy dose of realism.

Be flexible. If you’ve just bent over to touch your toes, kudos to you but that’s not what I meant. Unless Asics, New Balance or adidas are sending you monthly training stipends, this isn’t your vocation. So know that things can and will happen: illness, work and family events, late night world premieres of the latest Star Wars, Hobbit or Hunger Games movies, etc. By the way, that doesn’t mean “I’m just not into it today” gets to rule the day.

Plan your rest as carefully as you plan your runs. Remember, you do not get better from the effort but rather from the rest AFTER the run. That is when the body rejuvenates and regenerates stronger than before. If you keep pushing without proper rest intervals, eventually you will break down with injury, illness, staleness or loss of interest. I always recommend scheduling rest days before rest days schedule you.

Variety truly is the spice of life. By varying your route, your pace, your distances and even your training partners, you will be working different systems of the machine. Solo runs work the mind. Long runs work the aerobic systems. Hilly runs work different muscle groups than flat runs do. Without variety, we all tend to become stale and robotic about our efforts. Even if your goal is to simply finish your first 5k, a little variety in your efforts will work wonders.

Ever been on a group run and every runner in the group is either tied to their earbuds or their GPS device? Try unplugging and tune into you or them. No feedback is better than that which you learn from yourself, by yourself. I recall convincing my brother-in-law to run on a team relay team once and sort of “lied” to him. I told him his leg was 3.1 miles but it was 3.4 miles. The jig was up when he ran out of music before he ran out of run. Whoops.

The final ingredient to any plan is to keep it simple and fun. Even a budget can be fun if there is an end-goal and purpose involved. So too with training plans. That $4 you would have spent on Tuesday morning’s coffee? Dump it into the savings jar instead. Visualize the success to come. Crossing the finish line, or finishing that hike up Mount Cuba, or seeing your cholesterol drop below 200… success! Then treat yourself to a hot chocolate. I really don’t like coffee.

Former standout Lock Haven University runner Andy Shearer is a member of the Middletown Athletic Club, the Greater Philadelphia Track Club and USA Track and Field.