I am kind of a control freak. I prefer to call the shots, make all my own decisions, and I cringe when anyone takes a parental tone with me. Knowing this about myself, it still surprises me to admit that when it comes to exercise, I just want someone to tell me what to do.
Over the past few years, I have fallen in love with training plans, specific workout calenders that slowly build you up to a race of a particular type and distance. I have obediently followed couch-to-5K training plans, 10K training plans, half marathon, sprint triathlon and marathon training plans. I print them up and proudly put them on my fridge. When I complete a workout, I highlight it on the chart to declare it DONE. And if that isn’t satisfying enough, I also complete a big race at the end of the training plan and add another finisher’s medal to my collection.
Hal Higdon’s Training Plans have gotten me from huffing and puffing through one little mile to the finish lines of three marathons.
I would argue that following a training plan makes all the difference in the world for me in terms of how I frame the role of exercise in my life. If a workout is on the plan, I have to do it. It’s an appointment that I cannot skip. Having a training plan on my fridge means that I am saying “Yes, I will” to my workouts instead of “Maybe, well, probably, I mean, I’m definitely going to try.”
For running, I have always used Hal Higdon’s training plans, and I feel like Hal and I have really been through a lot together. He has gotten me from huffing and puffing through one little mile to the finish lines of three marathons. Sometimes I say, “Really Hal? It’s a weekday and you want me to run 8 miles today? Okay, Hal. I will do this for you.”
That’s a lot of power that I give up to a man I’ve never even met. If Hal tells me that I need to run 12 miles, and I get back to my house at 11.7, then you better believe that I will run up and down the driveway until my Garmin beeps at 12 miles. I am loyal to Hal because I trust in his long-term vision, that if I do what he tells me to do, I will be standing at the starting line feeling strong and prepared.
Another benefit of having a training plan in a place where everyone can see it? Your family knows about it and understands its role in your life. I love it when my husband says “I see you are running 6 miles today.” If it’s on the calender, it’s going to get done, and everyone in my house has come to accept that.
Of course, I do miss a run from time to time when I get sick or something comes up with my children; I’m not utterly inflexible about the schedule. However, I am strict with myself about staying on plan, so I am unlikely to use “I’m too busy” as an excuse. I just have to get creative about how to squeeze the workouts into our busy days.
I also appreciate that when I am on a plan, I don’t have to put any thought into my workouts. When I am creating lesson plans for my students every day, and planning outfits for my kids, and choosing what to cook for dinner, I love having one thing in my life that is decided for me. It’s a no-brainer. Run 12 miles? Okay. Off I go.
There are training plans available for every skill and experience level. There are short term or long term plans, and plans for all kinds of races. Some are free on the Internet, others available in training books, and still others that could be customized for you by a personal coach. If you are lacking motivation or would appreciate having to make one less decision in your daily life, I suggest you find a plan, stick it on your fridge, and head out the door.