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Why a Custom Training Plan Can Help Achieve Your Goal

Ironman Certified Coach Richard Nevarez - Certified Event Coach at the Athlete's Briefing, Ironman 70.3 Boulder, June 11, 2016.

When I moved to Albuquerque, NM, I had a friend who talked me into doing my first Albuquerque Century Tour. This happened no more than one week after I had purchased my first mountain bike. Just to add a little context to this story, at least 12 years had passed since the last time I had ridden a bike. The day of the Century, it was hot, my legs felt great at first, and then about 45 miles into the Century it became a grind-fest as we headed north back towards Albuquerque. A head wind blew large tumble weeds across the road, at times it felt as if we were not moving, the last 20 miles were just painful. A couple of weeks passed, and I ran my first ever 5K race. Don’t get me wrong, in my youth I ran often while getting ready for track, wrestling and other sports. A few more weeks passed, and I found myself near the end of the La Luz Trail, just beyond the stairs, hugging a tree, wondering why I was doing a 9.2 mile trail run to the top of the Sandia Crest, telling myself that this was fun, and watching the deer-humans sprint by me on their way to the top. I hadn’t trained for any of those races, and now I found myself sore, tired, and injured. I spent the next few weeks icing a sore knee and wondering why I couldn’t be like one of those deer-humans. Years went by, the same routines persisted, my friend would call, we would replicate the races, I would finish them all, then repeat the same ritual of being tired, injured, and icing my sore knee, and of course wondering how the deer-humans could sprint so easily at the end of La Luz Trail Run.

Years passed, and I decided to sign up for my first sprint triathlon. I purchased a book. The book had excellent tips on training, nutrition, pre-race considerations, and gear. It was very informative. The book even had a plan! A standard off the shelf plan. This was a step in the right direction, I found a plan. I was excited, the thought of becoming a deer-human drove me to stick to the plan. I finished my first sprint triathlon with ease. I wasn’t sore, no injuries, and no icing the knee. I felt lucky that I wasn’t one of the athletes that I saw along the bike course who stopped because they bonked. Many more years have passed since my first sprint triathlon. In that time I became a believer of training and training plans. I became a certified Spin Instructor, a certified Personal Trainer, and even an Ironman Certified Coach. I finished several half Ironman races, and even a full Ironman, I never became like the deer-humans, but I felt great at the end, no injuries, no more hugging trees. I have enjoyed being able to design my own plans and completing many races during the same season, instead of just one sprint distance triathlon. I even get more pleasure out of watching my athletes do the same.

Do you have one of those friends who’s conversation always seems to be about their current injury (knees, shoulders, plantar fasciitis, a torn muscle, and the list goes on), or talk about how tired they might be from training? We all know someone like that person. I often stop and wonder if they realize that their approach to training, or lack of an approach might need some adjustment, or just a plan. An athlete can be doing too much too soon (either intensity or volume), over training (not giving their body enough time to rebuild through sufficient rest), and/or treating each training session as if it is a race. Doing any the above can contribute to injury, fatigue, and that feeling of tiredness.

A custom plan will help to mitigate many of those issues and help you to progressively build volume and intensity over time, while ensuring adequate rest. Within a custom plan you will have training sessions where your heart rate, or power meter is used as a guide. Training with a heart rate is important, so I will leave that topic for a future blog.

Nothing can be worst than suffering an overuse/overtraining injury when you invested in a race. I often see athletes whom are pushed too hard too frequently within a week, and thus injured because they are overreaching. A good plan will push you, but not break you. Injuries require time to recover from, and thus takes away from spending quality time training, so you don’t want to be injured by overreaching. In a custom plan each day and week will have a specific goal designed to help you progress.

During my recent 70.3 Boulder Ironman, I saw a few athletes, in the first few miles of the bike course, sitting tired, looking bonked. Nothing was wrong with their gear, they either just bonked, or didn’t properly train for the race. I wondered if they were looking at us as if we were deer-humans. I remember that day that I hugged the tree on the La Luz Trail, I recall signing up for the race with confidence that my athleticism alone would help me to the finish. I often reflect on those past races, and know how much better my performance and recovery is now when I follow a training plan. I now allow my athleticism to not save me on course, but instead complement my conditioning towards the finish.

As I drove home from that race, I reflected on the athletes that I saw early on in the bike ride sitting on the side of the road, I think about their investment towards race day. The cost of the entry fee, travel, accommodations and food. These costs can add up to hundreds of dollars (not to mention the cost of their gear, clothing, and shoes) and yet the only thing they didn’t invest in was a custom plan. A plan alone won’t guarantee a finish, you still have to do the work. You still have to follow the plan. But having a custom plan will help you fit in other things that are important and part of your life (family, vacations, etc).

Yes, I did do my first sprint triathlon with a standard plan from a book, and yes I finished the race, but that was just a sprint distance triathlon. When a Certified Ironman Coach designs your custom plan it takes into consideration your goal(s), history, abilities, limitations, strengths, and will help you achieve balance in your life (blends in rest days, vacation, and other things you might like to do). With all those factors to consider, that means you should expect to be interviewed. You should share as much as you can with your Coach during this interview, it should be about you.

As a Coach, I often get asked this question. “Does having a plan mean that I can no longer run, ride, swim with my friends?” It depends, is my response. Why is that my response, well for example, if your friends are just riding for fun, and are not doing a race, or just going out for distance, or it is your taper week and you should be resting, or their ride distance doesn’t complement your next day run distance, the idea may sound appealing, but it may actually be counter productive to achieving your goal and cause you to over train. The best answer, that I would provide to this question is to advise you to follow your plan. If they want you to ride with them, then go, just ask them to support you on your distance/intensity/ride time and enjoy their company. A good plan will help you understand your distance/intensity/ride-time so that you can share that with your friends and in-turn they can help you to achieve your goals.

In summary, if you are going to invest in a race and want to finish looking like a deer-human then why not give yourself a better chance at succeeding by having a custom training plan designed for you. Custom plans are available for 8, 12, 18, and 24 weeks. But remember, you can’t really train for a half ironman, or marathon in 8 weeks unless you are up to a specific distance/volume/intensity when that plan starts. Plan accordingly, give yourself plenty of time to understand your race, and your Coach to design a custom plan for you.

FE26TriCoach, LLC

Richard Nevarez

Ironman Certified Coach

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