I remember the very first time I found an online running calendar. It looked perfect! Run 2 miles this day, 3 miles that day, and so on until your race day was scheduled! Here’s the thing with that kind of training plan though...it takes into account absolutely nothing about who you are as an individual. Had a long day at work? Oh well. Felt sore from that workout the day before? Too bad. The lack of individualization ultimately led me to complete my event...but far from what I was truly capable of.
I don’t want to spend this whole time bashing the online training plans you find...because they can be excellent at establishing a baseline of one of the major factors in training - consistency.
You see, for someone who has never had a consistent basis of running, there is something amazing that happens when you add that consistency into your routine...you get better. This is due to a concept known as the clean slate phenomenon.
The “clean slate phenomenon” basically means that no matter what you do, even if it is not 100% individualized to you, you will progress. Everything from aerobic stimuli to muscle fiber recruitment can be increased through basic levels of consistency with correct variations in rest and intensity. This is a difficult topic that many coaches struggle to discuss because it is often an explanation for initial gains made by athletes over the first 1-2 months of consistent training.
The body begins to adapt to the incremental increases in both volume and intensity, ultimately leading to better performance. The benefit in working with a coach however, or at least keeping excellent notes on your runs from psychological and physiological standpoints.
The real key to success begins to unlock when the runner learns that it's not all about hitting the specific workout plan for the day, but how you can hit something as close as possible based on your individual needs.
The main takeaway: Consistency will make you a better runner, individualization with the foundation of consistency will set you on the path to being the best runner you can be.