The starting point of devising a training plan should always be its end. A training plan is a simple exercise in reverse engineering of a performance goal within the context of the athletes training age and current ability. For most serious runners this process begins by first identifying a specific race or a window of time where they want to be at the highest specific fitness level. An important question to be able to answer to start the planning process is ‘how long in advance does the plan need to start before the actual race or racing time window’? For simplicity’s sake working by either a 12 month or 6 month plans works best for the majority of people depending on their lifestyles and opportunities to race. For those who train for the marathon a common pattern is training for a spring race and then again for an autumn race, for runners training for shorter events the planning might be built around a series of short spring/summer events and then around a longer key fall goal race. Lots of different ways to skin it but what every good plan has in common is identifying purpose to the training in order to give it shape and direction.
The key ingredients for a training plan are frequency, duration, intensity and recovery; how these are manipulated depends on an individual’s tolerance and capacity for training. Establishing a weekly routine whereby the currently needed key training sessions are identified and prioritised will give shape to each step in the plan. Building fitness requires patience and commitment to a process that rewards those who deliberately hold themselves back from progressing too quickly and thereby losing sight of the deliberate pacing needed to achieve the correct fitness at the correct time. Investment in monotony might not sound like a something to dance about but this is the bread and butter of building endurance fitness and what will largely determine the final performance outcome. The application of specific race training onto the layered low intensity endurance base is the most predictable and practiced method of achieving high performance in endurance sport. The skill in planning is designing a progressive and manageable training load that will challenge without breaking the athlete and enable them to recover sufficiently to adapt physiologically to the stress being placed on them. Knowing ones limits is a fascinating experiment on oneself, and becomes more precise only through experience.