You have a big race coming up, and a training plan that’s maybe 20 weeks. When should you start training? Should you count back 20 weeks from the race to start?
When was the last time you made it through a training cycle without something interfering with your training – injury, illness, life, loss (temporary) of motivation? Chances are rarely, if ever.
Then, what do you do? You could double up to make up for missed days or try to cram three weeks into two. That only increases the risk of further illness or injury. Maybe you go into the race underprepared. This also can lead to injury, an unenjoyable experience, and much longer recovery. Perhaps you adjust your time goals or, even skip your goal race as a last resort.
A better approach? Don’t wait. Start training NOW! Give yourself extra time to:
- Take and come back from time off;
- Adapt to increasing training volume and intensity;
- Spend more time working on weaknesses; and
- If all goes well, get into even better shape.
I know the idea of a longer training plan may not sound appealing. However, adding time to your training plan can reduce stress by allowing you to take a more relaxing and flexible approach.
Stretch out the start of training or the biggest ramp up period. Take four weeks to build go through three weeks of training progression, for example. This allows for greater adaptation, and reduces the risk of injury and psychological burn out.
Take an extra easy or rest day during the biggest ramp up period. This also allows for greater adaptation, and reduces the risk of injury and psychological burn out.
Break away from your plan for a bit to give extra focus on your weaknesses, the things that are limiting your improvement.
If it goes well and you avoid significant time off, you can repeat peak load (volume and/or intensity) training an extra week or two, or spend more time working on your weaknesses. This will get you into even better shape, and better solidify your fitness.
Currently (May, 2018), I’m on a multi-year plan to run Boston in 2020. This is allowing me time to gradually build from running weekly mileage in the teens last year, to the 60s and 70s I’ll want to hit my marathon goals. I don’t have to rush my training progression. I don’t have to force training when my body is telling me to back off. And, it’s giving me time to be able to get a lot of repetition of both the desired distance and intensity training. I know the more training I can put in at those peak levels, the better my race will be.
Train smart. See you on the roads and trails.