Friday, October 28, 2011


I have spent some time on various message boards, and the same questions inevitably get asked time and again.  These questions/discussions are called "comets", because they come back repeatedly.

The one topic that I enjoy answering is something along the lines of "How do I go about training?"  I mean, the question is so innocent, and so vast in its potential.  Truly, a great question for a message board time-killing session.

In the interest of saving myself time, however (and to potentially draw people to this blog), I am going to discuss my thoughts on how you go about figuring out your training.

The most important thing is to have a good understanding of your goals.  Not just running goals, but your goals in life.  On top of that, you need to know what's most important to you.  Running doesn't have to be the end-all be-all (nor should it be, most likely).  But, by knowing what's important to you, you can decide how much you want to devote to running, and allow you to set realistic running goals and training.

 So, step one is to take some time and think, really THINK, about you and your goals.  Not just running goals, but all your goals.  We're not talking wants and desires, but actual goals.  According to Wikipedia, a goal " a desired result an animal or a system envisions, plans, and commits to achieve - a personal or organizational desired end-point in some sort of assumed development."  So that dream you have of retiring at age 30 or becoming a billionaire?  Yeah, that doesn't count, unless you actually commit to it.

 Once you know what your goals are, you need to prioritize them.  What do you feel is most important in your life?  If being a good parent or spouse is your top priority, then list it as such.  Work on down the list until you have them organized.

With list in hand, start looking at what you actually do with your time.  It helps to spend a week or so keeping notes of what you do, how long you spend doing it, even how it makes you feel.  For you data collectors, you'll love this.  For someone like myself, who struggles with remembering where I put my keys, this task can be daunting.  Go at your own pace, and don't get discouraged.  By tracking your tasks, you can get a real determination of how you spend your time and what you do on a regular basis. 

Finally, you compare what you actually do against what your stated, prioritized goals are.  Through this comparison, you can determine what tasks support what goals, what tasks don't support any of your goals, and also gives you insight into how you either help or hurt yourself.  If you find yourself spending a lot of time on tasks associated with a low priority goal, either you should reconsider its priority or you should reconsider how you spend that time.

At this point, you're sitting there wondering what this has to do with message board questions asking about how to train.  Well, the HOW of training is dictated by the WHY of training, and the WHEN ("when" in this case meaning the time you can devote to training), and finally the WHO.  Also, it helps you to determine if perhaps your goals for your running and training are inconsistent with the resources you have available.  If my goal is to run a sub-3 hour marathon, I need to be aware that there may be some serious training involved; if this goal is bottom of my list, I should consider setting this goal aside for the time being, or re-evaluating its importance in my life.

How you train for a race or goal is heavily influenced by how much time you can devote to the task of training.  The workouts you do, the miles you travel, the effort you put in, all of that comes down to your goal, and your resources.  My free time affects how I train; my body affects how I train; my mental and emotional state, my knowledge and experience, they all affect how I train.  If your goals are in harmony with the resources you can bring to bear, then you can work happily towards them.

Ultimately, the question isn't "How do I train", but more correctly "Why am I training in the first place".

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