It's February. You’ve registered for the Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend. Time for the rubber sole to hit the road! The following article provides a few tips for turning a New Year’s running resolution into a specific goal, and finding a training plan to get moving towards that finish line.
Resolutions are great but they can sometimes fall on the vague end of the spectrum: exercise more, eat better, quit smoking, etc. Hard to argue with any of those, but there’s nothing like a specific goal to really get things rolling. Not only will it help define your end result, but it also suggests the path you need to take to get there.
We love the concept of a SMART goal. A SMART goal is:
S – Specific –Whether it’s running your first race, running faster or further than before, or fundraising for charity, there’s nothing like running for setting specific goals. For example, “At the Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend, my goal is to finish my first 5K race” or “My goal is to break four hours in the marathon.” Either way, nice and specific.
M – Measurable – If you hang out with runners, you know running and measuring go hand in hand. Following from the previous point, “I will know I have achieved my goal if at the end of the Ottawa Marathon the timing clock says 3:59:59 (or better).” Check!
A – Attainable – If you arbitrarily set your sights on breaking the 2-hour marathon barrier, the experts say you’re setting yourself up for disappointment or calamity (or both). Set yourself a good but realistic goal and you’ll be challenged and rewarded. Our section on Training Plans can help with this. So can this handy calculator.
R – Relevant – Relevant goals are goals that matter. The more races you run, the more specific time-based goals will become relevant (e.g. 3:59:59). But there are other ways to make your racing goals relevant—like the opportunity to raise money for a charity that is important to you.
T – Time bound – Finally, it’s important to know when you hope to achieve your goal. If you haven’t registered, now’s the time to give your goal a concrete timeframe, like May 25th or 26th, 2013.
Choosing a Training Plan
Now it’s time to pick a training plan, the roadmap that will guide you from goal to result. Training plans vary widely. A training plan for a first 5K might focus on building fitness and endurance by switching between periods of walking and running, while a marathon training plan with a time goal will include a variety of different types of runs including:
So, in choosing a training plan, you need to account for at least three main factors: your goal (distance, speed or both), your relative fitness level and your available time.
Your current fitness level will help determine what is attainable in a given period of time and, in turn, the schedule you’ll need to follow to move toward the result you want (e.g., how many miles you log in a week, days of rest, pacing). For example, if you’re a beginner distance runner, you’ll need more time to build the fitness and required to achieve certain results.
At the same time, you need to consider what kind of training regimen will fit into your day-to-day schedule, given work, school, family, social life, and so on. After all, a training plan will only be effective if you can actually follow it consistently.
So how can you make sense of all these variables and find the best training plan for you? Here are two easy steps:
Joining a club or training group is a particularly great way to find a training plan that works. The advice of a coach will be a huge help in setting an attainable goal and defining the training plan to help you reach it. Not to mention, running with a group is just a great way to stay motivated while training through the cold, dark Canadian winter—something we’ll talk about next month.
In the meantime, check out our interview with Canadian distance running star Reid Coolsaet who suggests that when it comes to training plans, the proof is in the pudding. If you’re able to execute the steps, feel good about your running and start seeing results, well, you’ve got a plan that works. The only thing left to do is run with it!
In the next few issues of the Pulse, we’ll be talking to some of the elite runners who have appeared in our “I Love This Race” advertising campaign. Kicking it off this month is Reid Coolsaet, one of Canada’s top marathoners and a member of our 2012 Olympic marathon squad. We talked to Reid about his Olympic experience, what makes for a good training plan, and his experience at the Ottawa Marathon. Many thanks to Reid for taking the time on the eve of a big training trip to Kenya.
1. You were once a serious skateboarder, and even have a sub 4-minute skateboard mile (3:49) posted on your list of personal bests. So how does a skater get hooked on distance running?
RC: When I was about 9 years old I got hooked on trail running, alpine ski racing and skateboarding. I continued to do all three until about 5 years ago when running started to take up the majority of my time and energy.
2. You wrote that standing on the starting line of the Olympic marathon this summer was a dream come true, but the race itself was challenging because of the heat and humidity. What do you take away from your experience in London?
RC: Running against the top runners in the world on the biggest stage tests a runner on so many levels and taught me things that will always stay with me. In one sense it's much more than just another marathon but at the same time it's a bunch of guys on a line trying to get to the finish as fast as they can. There was a lot more media attention on the Olympics which can be overwhelming but very positive if you channel the energy properly. The end of the race got really tough for me because I was bonking and it tested me on a whole other level than previous races. Hopefully that makes me a stronger runner.
3. Despite the conditions, the Canadian men’s Olympic marathon team put on an amazing performance, with a team result only short of the Kenyans and Brazilians. How would you characterize the state and spirit of Canadian distance running going into 2013?
RC: Canadian distance running is on an upswing right now. Cam Levins did a lot of things in 2012 that no other Canadian has done before. We had two girls come close to qualifying for the Olympic marathon and hopefully inspire more Canadian women to commit to the longer distances. Never have we had three marathoners run under 2:11:30 in a 6-month period. With some of this young talent we're seeing right now (Mo Ahmed, Sheila Reid, Kelly Wiebe) we're poised to keep this momentum going strong.
4. You had a great marathon build up for the Olympics and you’re on your way to Kenya for almost two months of training in preparation for an April marathon. How does a runner know he or she’s got the right training plan?
RC: That's a very good question. I don't think I can fully answer it. For me, if I see my times, with a given effort, improve, I can say that I have the right training plan. Your coach, training environment, teammates, life factors all come into play, so even if you have "the right plan" on paper it might not lead to a PB if other factors aren't complimenting your training/racing. I'm lucky to have worked with a great coach, Dave Scott-Thomas, for the past 14 years and have always had a great training group at Speed River. Guelph and Hamilton have great trails and facilities, my family is supportive of my running and my sponsors treat me well. All those factors, and my monk-ish lifestyle for periods of time, contribute to running well.
5. In 2009, you won the Canadian Marathon Championship at the Ottawa Marathon. What do you remember about that race and what did that experience mean for you?
RC: The 2009 Ottawa marathon was my first marathon. I wasn't nearly as prepared as I would have liked to be and I was very curious to what it was going to feel like and how I would handle the distance. No matter how prepared one is the marathon is always a bit of a gamble. The first 25km was easier than I expected it would be. 25-35km felt like what I thought a marathon would feel like. And from 35km onwards it was much tougher than I was prepared for. In the end I ran under 2:18 and qualified for the World Championships. Overall it was a very positive experience and motivated me for future marathons.
6. Finally, can you tell us what you love about the Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend? And will we get to see you back here in the future?
RC: I love racing at the Ottawa race weekend and would like to come back for the marathon one day. I was scheduled to race the 10km last year but I got sick that week and, unfortunately, had to pull out. If I recover well after a 2013 Spring marathon I would like to hit up the 10km again this year. The crowd support, good courses and overall organization of the weekend make it a treat to race there.
Thanks Reid! You can find out more about Reid’s experiences as a professional runner on his awesome blog www.reidcoolsaet.com
We always like to hear from you about what’s working, and what you’d like to see covered in future editions of the newsletter. And we’re also interested in hearing your inspiring stories of athleticism and endurance. So don’t be shy!
Send your impressions, ideas and stories to [email protected].