From my experience, I have found that fitness simply takes a lot of hard, smart training spread out over months and months. Anytime I have amped up my volume or intensity too quickly in a short amount of time in hopes of getting ready for a big race in a few months, it has resulted in either injury, fatigue, or poor race results. Leading up to the LA marathon, I was pushing my body too hard for where I was at in an effort to get where I wanted to be. I would have great workouts some days that gave me hope and excitement for the race ahead, but then some days I would be reduced to trudging through training runs. It showed that my body was not absorbing the training as it should, no matter how hard I was trying to recover well and do all the right things. Having great workouts is only part of the equation, it’s more consistency in training that matters.
It’s not our culture to be patient. Today’s fitness culture grabs everyone’s attention with trendy and “sexy” looking training plans and gadgets. You know what I am talking about, ‘5 minute six pack,’ ‘run your best 5k in 4 weeks,’ etc. However, most of these quick tricks to instant abs and fitness are simply ploys to get more clicks, shares, or sell stuff. It sets people up for disappointments, disillusionment, and perhaps worst of all, believing that there is something wrong with them because they don’t see the promised results.
I’m not following any of these gimmicks, and yet I see within myself the same desire for quick results. I’m tired of making that mistake, so rather than hitting my body as hard as I have in the past (and maybe gotten away with) I am progressing my training in a fashion that is almost unnoticeable to my body. My approach to training has been comparable to watching my hair grow (and yes it’s at an all-time long!). When I wake up in the morning I don’t notice a difference in the length of my hair. I don’t notice a difference in a week, and probably not in a month, but if you show me a picture of my hair 2-3 months ago I notice that it has grown a lot. Sometimes this is how gaining fitness needs to be, at least for me right now as I am “on a short leash” and don’t seem to have much room for error.
So what does this tangibly look like in a training plan? What I do is get a calendar, identify my goal race, and start working backwards. I plot out the key workouts I want to be able to hit before my taper for the target race. Then it’s just common logic from there, I decrease these workouts as gradually as I can with the remaining weeks I have to bring me up to my current fitness. A key workout for me is a 15-18 mile run at marathon pace. There are shorter workouts throughout the week which support my marathon pace run, but they are not the main course, just appetizers. I know if I can run 15-18 miles at marathon pace in practice that I can sustain it for the marathon on race day.
Don’t buy into quick, gimmicky tricks. The truth is, adaption to training takes time, a lot of it. Your body can do amazing things, things you never thought possible if you treat it right, give it ample time to respond to training, and most importantly take a “like watching your hair grow” approach to your buildup.