You Need a Training Plan

Training for a marathon, a triathlon, or a Gran Fondo can be time-consuming. You want to make every minute count. At the beginning of my training career, I used to wing it. I would gradually increase the mileage to match the race distance. This training method was effective at getting me across the finish line, but not efficient. Race day was a struggle. Eventually, I got smarter with my training.

At the end of one race, I remember Jody jokingly saying, “why aren’t you puking.” I know that she was joking, but it proves the point that you don’t have to be “puking” by the end of the race. Of course, you should be tired, especially if you are competing in your A-Race or most important race, but “puking” is not a requirement. With the right plan in place, you will be able to perform at your best level of fitness instead of just trying to get the job done.

Training Plan Options

There are many options when it comes to training plans. Below are the four main options that I have used with listed pros and cons:

Download a static plan

  • Pros

    • Downloading a static plan can be quick, easy, and oftentimes free. Simply follow the plan and get to work.

  • Cons

    • Everyone’s body will respond differently to a static plan. Since the plan doesn’t change to the person, the plan may be perfect for some and a recipe for injuries for others.
    • Static plans do not monitor your progress. Training for an endurance race involves data. If you never measure the data, then you will not know how to adjust the plan.

Join a club or work with a coach

  • Pros

    • When joining a club, you have a tribe to push you to the next step. There are some days, you just don’t want to get out of bed. Peer pressure is a strong tool to keep you going.
    • If you are part of a club with a coach that monitors all of your training data, you are positioned for training nirvana. The coach is crunching the numbers and adjusting your training plan. What could be better?
    • You have guidance throughout your entire training. Training for some endurance events can be quite technical. For instance, you may be new to a triathlon and have no idea how to swim correctly. Being surrounded by experts and those who are experienced can be priceless.

  • Cons

    • Joining a club or working with a coach can get expensive. If you have experience training, have difficulty modifying your schedule to be with the group, and don’t need peer pressure to push you to the next level, then this may not be the option for you.
    • Depending on where you live, you may not have access to a group. If you live in a populous area, then you are probably in luck.
    • Not all groups are specific to your training plan. The coach may use static plans and act as a guide. The group may be strong on the social side but lack monitoring the finer details of training.

Join an online group or work with a coach online

  • Pros

    • You may be looking for a more inexpensive model that fits your budget. Online groups are great to keep you motivated and work well around a schedule. If you are working with a coach, then you don’t have to analyze your training data and adapting your plan.

  • Cons

    • This can be a more inexpensive model but still can stress the budget depending on the group and coach.
    • Since this option is online, you will not get the one-on-one personal support to help with the finer details of training. The online group or coach may have online training material, but it is hard to beat the one-on-one attention.

Online training programs

  • Pros

    • Online training programs come in many different varieties. Some are glorified static plans, some actually adapt to you, some include helpful tips to maximize your training, and some are very data intensive. The key is to pick the online training program that matches you. If you have competed in a few events and have a handle on the foundations of training, then you may want a training plan that adapts to you and includes just enough data to further adapt your plan. Maybe you are a pro and know the intricacies of training. You may want to use a training program that has lots of data analysis tools so that you can gain every second when training.
    • Online training programs are relatively inexpensive compared to in person and online groups with and without coaches.
    • Using a training program is schedule friendly. You can train in a way that matches your schedule.
    • A lot of training programs have the ability to make modifications to the schedule or even have specific training plans for a small group. This makes it easy to train with a buddy or a small group. It’s like creating your own team at the fraction of the price.

  • Cons

    • It is so hard to beat in-person support. Online training programs are just that…online.

There are pros and cons to each option. Pick what matches your experience level, your budget, your interests, and your schedule.