When it comes to the art of training endurance athletes, Jason Koop is the man. Koop, as his athletes call him, is Director of Coaching at Carmichael Training Systems and has written a book called Training Essentials for Ultra Running, to be published this coming spring. We caught up with him and got six tips to help you plan your coming training year.
Time travel 12 months ahead
Before sitting down to map out your annual training plan, go for a walk and do this mental exercise: transport yourself forward to December next year and imagine looking back at the preceding 12 months and asking yourself what it is you’d like to see. If you had the best year ever, what would that look like? What adventures or events would make you go, that was awesome! This will help you identify what you’re really passionate about doing, and sometimes it’s not what you think. When you connect with your emotional intelligence, you get much better answers.
Look at the big picture first
It’s not uncommon for people creating an annual training plan to get bogged down in the details. At this time of training cycle, however, you don't need to get down to the nuts and bolts and nitty-gritty just yet. Instead focus on the big picture and worry about the smaller details later. For now, start at race day and work your way back, plotting and planning the major blocks so you stay ahead of the game and avoid having to play catch up.
Go from general to specific
Once you've looked at it from a big picture perspective, then you can start to think about moving your training from less to more specific. The longer you are away from the race the less specific and more general your training can be. You can apply this strategy to any kind of endurance race, whether it's a marathon, an ultra marathon or a 20 km trail race. Specificity of training can encompass a lot of different things – the terrain, the intensity of the event, elevation gain. Even the gear that you use – footwear, pack and poles – should become increasingly specific as race day gets closer.
Recruit your support team
Whether it’s your significant other, your family, your running group, or all of the above, getting them invested in the whole process, especially if your goal is really audacious, is crucial. The more people that you have in your corner who understand what you will have to sacrifice and go through, the better for your long-term training process. They can help out with things and offer encouragement. People can't encourage you if they don't know what you're doing.
Proclaim it loudly
If you have something big or crazy planned, stand on a table – or on Facebook – and proclaim it loudly and clearly. You need to do this because it becomes another form of motivation and pressure that will help you achieve your goal.
Track your progress
Tracking your progress with a Suunto watch and sports diaries like Suunto app or Strava will help you compare where you are from one month to the next. Spending some time now working out how your going to track your progress will help in the long run. Ask yourself now what progress indicators are important for you to keep an eye on.