One characteristic shared by all successful training programs is that they help runners avoid randomness and instead focus on sensible progression and consistency. It’s always easy to be tempted by a race or hero workout that may garner more Strava kudos but chasing this type of short-term ego gratification compromises long term success and achievement.
If you’re serious about exploring your potential as a runner and continuing to improve you need to develop the sort of deep fitness and ability that comes from following a careful structure over time and making consistent small gains.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t be inspired by big goals that stretch your ability and open up your mind to what’s possible. These sort of goals or events, when planned for, trained for and approached in a decidedly non-random way can be excellent motivators and opportunities to move your fitness forward.
Long events in particular (marathons, ultramarathons, Ironman) have a lot of people rushing to enter them without committing to organized preparation. This shows a wish to receive the accolades without putting in the work to actually earn the finish and a result that reflects one’s abilities.
Then, typically, the next week/month/year there will be another random challenge that pops up, is half-trained for and completed in a mediocre fashion.
Avoiding randomness is something that a coach or training group can and should be helping with. Group workouts should be organized around goals and progress towards those goals in a methodical way. Your coach should be able to explain why a particular workout is happening at that moment in the season, what the aim of the workout is and how it fits with your overall goals.
Self-coached athletes can improve their training and consistency in a couple of simple ways. First, leave yourself enough time before an event you’re contemplating to be able to slowly and safely build your training volume. Second, write down a basic training plan that gives you a structure to follow and encourages a smart progression from week to week. Finally, have some way of keeping track of what you have done and how consistent you have been. Strava’s “Activities” graph, for example, is an easy way to see if your training has been steady and sensible or full of peaks and valleys.
To some this may seem boring compared with bouncing around from challenge to challenge without carefully preparing…but nothing is more thrilling than achieving an ambitious goal that you’ve methodically worked towards that over a long time.