Coach Mike Mead

January 2012

Have a Plan for Successful Running

Another year has come and gone. We head into a new year with optimism. As runners, we look forward to new challenges and goals. We map out what we hope to achieve with our training and racing in the coming year.

If you plan to be successful as a runner, you need to have a plan. If you have been training the same way for the past few years and have not been satisfied with your results, perhaps it’s time to make changes to your training or racing.

Most people make New Year’s resolutions. The most common resolution people make is to lose weight, but what’s their plan? If one travels to somewhere they have never been before, they do not just jump in their car and go! They take along a map, or these days a GPS, to get them to their destination in a reasonable amount of time, covering the most direct route.

A majority of New Year’s resolutions fail within just a few days because folks didn’t have a plan and stuck to it. To be successful requires one to utilize traits like discipline, focus, dedication, determination while maintaining a positive attitude. It also requires you to change some behaviors and eliminate some bad habits you have taken on over a period of time.

If you are a runner, or aspire to become a serious one, you have to make sacrifices. Let me stress, you cannot be willing -- you MUST -- make sacrifices if you plan to be a successful runner. That is the nature of the beast called running. It isn’t for the individual who is looking for shortcuts to greatness or cannot live without life’s constant distractions. You can’t party like it’s 1999 and achieve your running goals! There are always consequences.

Talk is cheap. As a coach, I have heard and seen just about all the excuses so-called runners have made over the years. I’ve made a few excuses myself as a runner. I tell my runners to let their feet do the talking. The same applies to training. If you think you have trained properly, your feet will let you know.

So what is your running plan for the coming year? Do you have your map for success laid out? When developing your plan, you have to take into consideration those external influences and commitments you do not have control over like family, job, school, civic and extra-curricular activities and an occasional weather event like a blizzard, flood, tornado, etc.

Once you have factored in the external influences, you can lay out a reasonable training plan that prepares you for a reasonable racing schedule. If you are school-aged, the racing schedule is easy since your coach should have it covered. If you are past high school or college racing age, my best advice is to try a schedule similar to a high school or college runner.

This means the heavy training periods are the winter/early spring and the summer/early fall with key racing periods in spring and fall. You can occasionally sprinkle in some fun races throughout the year to use as benchmarks or glorified training. I don’t recommend doing the Peachtree Road Race as a tempo training day, for example.

Again, what’s your training plan for the year ahead? Start out by picking the two or three major races you want to be at your best fitness. Once you have set those dates, back up 12-14 weeks from the first important racing date to determine your starting point for training.

If you are a beginner, I’d give yourself six months of base training to build a good foundation. Be sure your training includes a mix of distance running, running hills, speed endurance training, tempo runs and speed. A good source for help is reading the archived columns I’ve written on this site to give you a balanced training plan.

If you desire to break your New Year’s resolution debacles, develop a plan. Write it down. Put it on your refrigerator. Put a copy up next to your mirror. Stick one on your car dashboard. Tape one to your computer screen. Download a copy to your smartphone. Do whatever it takes to remind yourself why you run.

Here’s to a successful year!