I was scrolling through Instagram the other day and came across a captivating post by one of my Dutch competitors, Susan Krummins. She displaying a whiteboard filled quite elaborately with her weekly training - a total work of art. Morning and afternoon sessions were blocked off and detailed, varying between runs, gym workouts, therapy, and rest. Never has a program looked so good! I mentioned it to a few of my racing friends from Austria and Australia, and they admitted that they also loved the idea and documented their training in a similar way. I had been struggling with feeling scattered and disorganized with my training, and in a rare stroke of artistic inspiration I hightailed it to the drug store and bought a white board and some markers. Best. Purchase. Ever. Sure, cutsy doodles aren’t critically essential to training management, but having a plan I trust, comprehend, and believe in is. This got me to thinking about the difference between exercising and training.
Why is planning training important?
There is a distinct difference between exercising and training. While both have value, training has an element of planning that simply exercising lacks. Exercise of any sort is undoubtedly beneficial for overall health, but training for performance requires mindfulness and discipline in order to get the best bang for your sweaty, laborious buck. Training sessions induce a variety of physiological adaptations, and it is important to optimize the timing and type of workouts within a program when training for sport performance. In a structured training program, each session is done with purpose, whether breaking your body down during a taxing run or strength stint, or building yourself back up stronger during a recovery workout or rest. If you choose to spend hours of time busting your butt training towards sport performance goals, optimizing your energy investment is key. A solid plan has elements of both appropriate training and smart recovery, and must be dynamic and adaptable.
Having a concrete plan can also be a great asset to accountability. Checking off an assigned workout is a huge motivator, as many people feel compelled to follow a strategy that has been laid out for them. In the opposite way, a sound plan can relieve anxiety in people prone to overtraining, as it removes the question of “Do I need to do more?”. Regardless of the type of athlete you are, adhering to a plan you believe in, whether designed by a coach or yourself, absolutely increases confidence come race day. Trusting the training process provides assurance that the appropriate work has been done, and so long as you execute, the results will fall into place.
One of the best features of my new whiteboard life management system is that my weekly plan is easily editable. Aah, the magic of dry erase! Even though structure is paramount, training is rarely linear. A smart coach and responsible athlete should be able to adapt and tweak sessions as life happens. For example, this week a physio treatment left me feeling quite beat up, so I swapped a monster workout the next day for an easy, short water run in order to maximize the benefits of my appointment. Even though the “no pain, no gain” part of my athlete psyche was initially a bit disgruntled doing an easier session, I felt more confident with the decision when visually assessing how minuscule this swap was in the scheme of my entire week of training (and was especially satisfied when I felt great two days later!).
Not all who wander are lost, but having a map surely increases the likelihood of reaching your destination in the most efficient way possible. A sound training plan fosters confidence, accountability, and optimal training gains – three pretty darn essential elements when chasing goals. As elite athletes know, nothing is less forgiving than a stop watch or race placement, and it is well worth making those hard hours count.