Training plans are great. If I didn’t think so, I wouldn’t have built a company that sells them! Not a day goes by that I don’t see the proof of the usefulness of training plans in the feedback I see and hear from athletes who have gone from training without a plan or with a dodgy sort of plan to training with an 80/20 running plan or triathlon plan and experienced significant improvement.
Prebuilt training plans have obvious limitations, however. They have a fixed duration, a fixed weekly workout schedule, a fixed volume progression—everything about them is fixed. If it were possible to build an infinite number of such plans, then in principle there would be a training plan that fit the needs of each athlete. Alas, this is not possible.
Well, actually, it is. Training plan generators powered by computer algorithms or artificial intelligence can indeed create training plans for every athlete. Technically, though, these plans aren’t prebuilt, and we’re talking here about prebuilt plans, which for the moment remain more widely used that plan generators. So, back to the topic at hand . . .
Training Plan Limitations
If you spend time on this website’s forums, you will quickly learn the specific limitations of prebuilt plans that athletes encounter most commonly. Issue number one is that the plan is X weeks long, but the race the athlete is preparing for is either more or less than X weeks away. In other words, the plan is of the “wrong” length. Perhaps the second most common issue is that the athlete wants to do more than one race, whereas our prebuilt plans necessarily lead up to a single race at the end. The question in these cases is either “When is a good time within the plan to do a ‘B’ race?” or “How do I adjust the plan to accommodate my other race(s)?”
A third type of limitation has to do with how to string plans together over time for the sake of long-term progress. Most athletes want to not just do their best in their next race but get better year by year, and individual prebuilt training plans have nothing to say about that. In order to be as inclusive as possible, all of the plans we build for general use assume the athlete is starting at a fairly low level of fitness relative to their personal peak. This makes the early weeks of training “too easy” for some athletes in certain instances.
When I sat down to write this article I intended to provide specific guidelines for working through these various limitations. I realize now, however, that to do the job properly I would have to write the longest blog post ever written. After all, the whole issue is that you’re trying to individualize something that was not created for any single individual. Each case is unique. Whenever an athlete asks me for advice on how to modify a plan or a sequence of plans to make it better fit their unique circumstances, the answer I want to give is to go inside the plan, perform surgery on it, and then point at the result and say, “Here’s what I recommend.”
I suppose there are some broad guidelines that can be applied to these issues. Scheduling “B” races is relatively straightforward. The ideal timing for them is in recovery weeks, where they simply replace the workouts planned for that particular weekend. The two days preceding the race should also be replaced, specifically with lighter training, and the three days immediately following the race should be replaced with a combination of rest and lighter training. Things get more complicated, though, when a planned “B” race does not align with a designated recovery week in the plan, and when the athlete wishes to do more than one “B” race, and when a “B” race falls earlier within a plan than is ideal. . .
The coach in me can’t help but want every user of the training plans offered on this website to get as much out of it as my individual clients get out of the plans I create for them. To this end, I’ve lately been thinking a lot about how to create a more customized experience for users of our prebuilt 80/20 endurance training plans. Here’s what we’ve got in the works:
We’re in the early stages of developing a proprietary 80/20 Endurance coaching certification for in-person and online run and triathlon coaching. Once we have a critical mass of trained and certified coaches, we will begin to offer a new level of our subscription service that includes coach monitoring of training and run and triathlon training coaching. Whenever you need a plan adjusted, just let us know and one of our certified coaches will assist you. An expansion of our custom training place service is also likely.
If you liked the sound of an AI-driven training plan generator when I brought it up earlier, I’ve got good news for you. Well, not really. What I meant to say is that I will soon have good news for you on this front. That’s all I’m allowed to say at the moment, but stay tuned.
In the meantime, keep doing what you’ve been doing, which is using our forums to ask questions about plan adjustments whenever necessary. My goal is to collect a few specific case studies over the next few weeks and mold them into a standing resource document that actually delivers on the promise hinted at in the title of this post!