I have to admit - I was a real newby a year ago when it came to training programs. Especially in running. I had always thought that to train you needed to run as fast as you could as far as you could. I think that is why I never enjoyed running as a teenager. My coaches (basketball and tennis) had us run farther and faster to "become more fit." Puke puke!
I learned about actual training plans early last year. When I first decided that I needed to do something about my weight and fitness, I started rowing at the Iron Oarsman (http://www.gorow.com ), an indoor rowing studio run by Olympic Gold and Silver medalist Xeno Muller. After rowing for a while, I started attending a class run a couple times a week by one of Xeno's assistants, Luis Rubio Tapia. Luis was a member of the Mexico National Rowing Team, having competed at the World Championships the previous year. Luis would bring a different program to the studio each night we rowed. He was quite adamant that I didn't row as hard as I could and that I follow his plan. When I asked why, he started explaining that the purpose of each workout was different. As certain times we would work on building aerobic base. At other times, we would work on strength. At other times on speed. It was all part of the overall "Training Plan" that he had for us. He went on to explain that if I deviated from that plan, I would not reap the benefits of all of the hard work. Under his tutelage, I started seeing real weight loss and conditioning results. I still chalked it up more to my hard work and less to the training plan.
My next exposure to training plans was when i started running. Remember when I mentioned that running would mean I could buy one of those wrist GPS gizmos? Guess what? While setting up my Forerunner, I decided to try out one of the commercial websites being advertised to track my training results. So, I tried out Training Peaks (http://www.trainingpeaks.com ). The more I started using Training Peaks, the more I was impressed with some of the functions and features of the product. Among the cooler features is a training calendar which allowed my to start planning my workouts. Once planned, I could then use the calendar to update my Garmin with my weeks worth of workouts. What? Sounds like a Training Program to me! As I dug further, I found that there were several commercially available training programs that, when purchased, could be loaded directly into Training Peaks. I started looking and found that there were programs available that could help me prepare for the half marathon! So, why not? I downloaded and used the Hal Higdon Intermediate Half Marathon program.
My next 12 weeks were following the program. I noticed that my times started getting better and I just felt less tired at the end of a race. And, you know what? I was training less, running less. I think the real key is that in 12 weeks of training with long runs up to 13 miles, I suffered no injuries! A little soreness, but no injuries to speak of. Maybe there is something to this stuff!
So, I'm now off to try a marathon (jeez...) and am in search of a good training program. One of the downsides of an online training program is the loneliness of the long runs. Sure, an ipod can keep some company, but after about 8 or 9 miles, it would be great to have someone else to share the experience with. There are several options around where I live, but I think I'll give Cal Coast a try. More on that later....