Signing up for a big race often elicits an equal amount of excitement and fear as you wonder how to start training for it. The good news is that you don’t have to figure it all out by yourself — a good training plan can help guide you to your goals by providing structure, accountability, and support that makes daily training seamless and stress-free. Here are five reasons why a training plan might be exactly what you need.
1. Structured Workouts Without the Guesswork
One of the major benefits of a training plan is that it’s designed to prepare you for a specific event. Plans are periodized into phases with the overarching goal of getting you to peak on the day of the event, so you don’t have to worry about how to structure your training, when to change phases, and what to do in each phase — training plans do all of that work for you. Good plans will also include a variety of workouts like cross-training and strength training so that you can improve your existing metrics and avoid plateauing.
2. Goal-Driven Outcomes
There are two major considerations to make when choosing a training plan: race distance and the length of the plan. The TrainingPeaks Training Plan Store provides customizable filters where you can enter things like the sport, event distance, number of weeks before the event, hours per week you have to train, and days per week you are currently training. Using these filters as thoroughly as possible will help you find a training plan that’s tailored to your training constraints and event goal. Many plans also offer a preview of a sample week so you can see if the plan would be enjoyable and practical for you.
3. Work with a Coach for Total Customization
If you’re having a hard time finding a training plan that perfectly meets your needs, it’s worth hiring a coach to create a fully-customized training plan for you. This can be massively beneficial if you have time constraints or are unable to sign up for the ‘B’ or ‘C’ races that are often stipulated in a pre-packaged training plan. With a custom training plan, you can sign up for races that fit into your unique schedule because your coach can design your training plan specifically for you.
There will always be days when it can be difficult to motivate yourself to get out the door for a training session, but a training plan can provide accountability to help you stick to a routine. For example, if workouts are scheduled in your TrainingPeaks calendar, you are more likely to get them done. Seeing the training boxes turn green as the week goes on provides satisfaction and builds confidence that you are actually making progress.
It is important to note that it’s more likely you’ll be held accountable to your plan if it’s realistic for your individual needs. If you are in the market for a pre-packaged training plan, choose one that has a weekly distance, duration, and frequency that is sustainable for you. Consider the training load you consistently completed in the past year and how much time you currently have to train.
Working with a coach who creates a custom training plan provides even more accountability since you have contact with a person. Would you benefit from a text message or e-mail that checks in on you and how your training is going? Some athletes need more accountability than others, and it’s all about knowing what suits your personality and needs best.
5. Much-Needed Support
Training is only one piece of the puzzle when preparing for an event — other key areas of concern include strength training, nutrition, recovery, gear, dealing with injury or illness, pacing, and much more. Many training plans provide resources around these topics, and some even allow for athletes to send questions via e-mail for additional support.
Of course, a custom training plan also provides support around these topics and, depending on a coach’s background, may focus more on one area than another. One of the many benefits of working with a coach is the support he or she can provide with how to adjust training when things like work, family conflicts, illness, or injury come up.
Registering for a race shows your belief in your ability to achieve your goals, but the next step is to take the time to research different training plans so that you find the right one for your specific needs and personality. This will ensure you achieve your goals and enjoy your training along the way.