Training – Plans and Principles.

I think we are agreed on this: Exercise is vital. Johnathan Shaw writes the following in the Harvard Magazine –training plans and programs

We are obviously involved in helping swimmers, cyclists, and runners, and so I have a better understanding of endurance sports versus things like cross fit etc.
Endurance sport people are fortunate, especially in South Africa, as there is no shortage of races or events that you can attend.

Some important points.

  • Move daily. Your physical and mental health is dependent on that.
  • If you are really disciplined, you might not need the benefit of training partners or races.
  • Less disciplined people might benefit from being in a training group and/or having the added pressure of an upcoming event. I am currently helping people trying to get ready for their first 10k event, right through to half and full Ironmen events, Comrades etc.

I really like what Seneca wrote in his Moral Letters, “Life without design is erratic. As soon as one is in place, principles become necessary”. Let’s relate this to training.

training plans and principles

My year tends to split itself up into a few seasons. They typically look something like this –

  • A time when I don’t have any immediate race coming up. I typically train between 6 to 7 times per week during this time. Let’s call this, ‘light training’.
  • A time when I add a few races in, just for the fun of it. I adapt my training towards these events. Let’s call this, ‘medium training’.
  • A big event or two, such events have included Comrades, Transbaviaans, Midmar 8 Mile etc. During these periods, I will up the training and really focus on the one event. There are a couple of things that I do before deciding on a big event. 1. I check with my family first that all is okay with them. Big events require families to make certain time sacrifices and might have financial consequences if you need to travel. I look at what I am expecting as far as life stresses leading up to the event. (I don’t think you could do a Comrades while restructuring a business, as an example). Let’s call this ‘hardcore training’.

Going back to Seneca and his, “Life without a design is erratic…” statement, I believe that you need a plan. Let’s go through some practicalities here:

  • Know which season you are in: No immediate races coming up, some fun races coming up, or, a big event coming up. Which season are you in?
  • Have you got a plan for all 3 typical seasons? Are you stretching, are you looking after your core, adding some quality work in and some longer distance work in? Failure to do so will mean that you are really going to have to ramp up mileage too quickly and risk injury.
    How will you build things up for your big event? I have seen runners, in particular, enter every race on the calendar to get ready for an event, and so injure themselves.

Once you have a plan, Seneca adds, “Principles become important”.  Each task has a series of principles attached to it. Opening a business, building a house, farming – every human endeavor has a set of principles attached.

It’s the same with endurance training. Know which season you are in:
Light – Medium – Hardcore.
Hardcore training requires you to intimately understand the race/event you are aiming toward. Is it long, short, hilly, flat, done in the cold vs heat? Then, shape the training around that, long training times, hills, flat sprints.

Once you have the plan, put the principles in place. It will make the process so much easier to handle.


Mike Roscoe.
Mike Roscoe

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