Choosing a training plan that works for you should be a never-ending process. It’s something that should be constantly evaluated but with that in mind, once you've decided on a programme, you have to stick to it and believe in what you're doing. Each year you'll learn more about yourself, what's working, what's not working and what it takes for you to reach your level. Figuring out how to pick the right training plan can be tough and needs some serious thought.
Set a goal
Firstly I think it's always important to decide what your goals are and work backwards from there. It's a sport where you get out what you put in and if you want to take a lot out, then you'll need a more structured and detailed training plan. Say your big goal is the World 70.3 Champs in September, then work all the way back to the beginning of your preparation. Build in complete recovery weeks and blocks of work and give yourself time... There is no need to rush training if you're well organised.
It's also important to bear in mind your history in sport. If you have no athletic background you'll obviously be starting from the very basics, whereas if you have some previous experience, then you can probably skip a few stages and progress will be easier. But remember, consistent work always wins over inconsistent binge training.
Pick a programme that keeps you motivated and helps you believe. Building up to a big event takes time and even though you may cruise through the first week, the overall programme must inspire your interest every day for you to give your best. With this in mind, make sure the work load is realistic for your abilities and it's not going to leave you completely exhausted. It should be balanced with enough recovery and it should also be flexible, so you can tie in with friends doing similar things.
I'd also recommend being able to view the training way in advance so you know what's on the horizon and you can see light at the end of the tunnel when you become tired! I'd usually avoid using a programme where every single session is done on heart rate or pace. It's boring and de-motivating, plus it makes you impossible to train with!
I don't think it matters if you’re running at 15kph on your easy run as opposed to the group speed of 13kph. It won’t make you any better or any worse. However key sessions should be done to the spec. The thing is only you know how you're feeling, so if you wake up one day and you're upset that you can't hold the pace then it's not good for the head. Easy sessions should always be done to feel.
Finally take into account what else is going on in your life. What work commitments do you have? Is it a family day on Sunday? Unless you're a professional athlete, work and family should come first. This should not take over your life and it doesn't have to for you to be successful. Talk to your family, explain what you want to achieve and get their backing. You will need their support! Think about what you want to get out of it and make it work for you. Remember time management is essential so remember to cut out any fluff which will drain your precious time and not make you any better!
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