SILVA: Having a plan is important to fitness success

jsilva@modbee.comAugust 1, 2013 

— I'd been running a lot of miles the past month, but feeling tired and not really improving.

Some of the runs were sluggish and slow, with little thought put into them. Mid-run I would decide how far I'd go. My running form faltered. My times slowed significantly.

I was unfocused. I was tired. And I couldn't figure out why.

Then it dawned on me. I don't have a plan. And while the quantity of my workouts was good, the quality was not.

Now that I'm signed up for a half marathon — the San Jose Rock and Roll half marathon in October — I feel renewed and reenergized.

I downloaded a plan off the Internet for half marathon training and I began to work the plan.

It's amazing what happens when you start following a schedule. You become focused. You become dedicated. You improve.

The plan is laid out for me, day by day. All I have to do is follow it. It mixes the distances and intensities for my runs, leaving the decision-making out of my hands. On "tempo" days I run fast, on hill days I run hills, and on rest days … well, I rest. It's really just that easy.

If you don't have a plan, you're probably just spinning your wheels. You may be exercising, but are you really improving? Are you getting fitter, leaner and healthier?

And, are you on an eating plan, too?

A recent study showed that while Americans are exercising more than ever before, we are getting heavier. This means that we're still not eating right, and we're still not exercising the right way. Again, we're choosing quantity over quality — both in our food decisions and our exercise choices.

If you feel like you're working out a lot, but not getting anywhere it's time to think about getting a plan. That could be downloading one off the Internet, training with a team, or hiring a trainer.

Having a structured, proven exercise and eating plan takes the thinking out of it. You stick to the plan as best you can — every plan should allow for some treats and rest days — and wait for the results. And they will come.

Trust in your plan and you will get results … assuming it's a good one.

For training for the half marathon in October, I'm using a plan developed by Hal Higdon, a legendary running coach. It involves running (obviously), stretching and strength training. Each run has a purpose, whether it's building strength (hills), speed (tempo runs) or endurance (running long). It also accounts for differences in speed, with the long, endurance-building runs based on time, not mileage.

I used the Higdon marathon training plan for my first marathon and it worked well. I stuck to the plan, while making adjustments for schedules, such as work and vacations.

While I've only worked the plan for about a week, I already can see the difference in my focus, my energy and my strength.

I will do my best in training. And let the plan do it's thing.

Again, I'm going for quality over quantity.

Reach Jim Silva at jsilva@modbee.com. On Twitter: @mission26point2.

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