In this article I’m going to run through Stock Training Plans. What they are, and why you may wish to consider not using one.
What are Stock Training Plans?
A good majority of runners, especially those at the beginning of their running journey follow a stock (sometimes called a static) training plan – whether that be the ever popular Couch to 5K, or a training plan for a marathon race. In days gone by these were found in running books, but in the modern age they are readily available on the Internet.
Such plans will have been constructed by a running coach, based on their personal understanding of running science, and their own coaching experience. Obviously, everyone is different and a single plan could never satisfy the needs of all. Consequently, a small collection of plans are commonly offered based on a simple selection criteria, for example running experience (e.g. ‘beginner’, ‘intermediate’, ‘expert’) or desired race target time (e.g. a ‘sub 5’ or ‘3 hr’ marathon).
For some people it might be relatively easy to categorise themselves in order to select what might be the most appropriate plan, e.g “I’m a complete beginner, so will select the ‘beginner’ plan”, or “I’ve never ran a marathon before, so will go with the ‘just get round plan'”. However, for most it may not be so clear-cut and they may end up choosing a level of training that is either too easy or too optimistic.
Do Stock Training Plans work?
A quick Internet search will help support the view that stock plans are very popular. And if they are so popular, they must good, but are they?
You will certainly find people who have had a very positive experience with them. However, anecdotal experience informs us that many people do have problems, and the (albeit limited) research on their outcomes would suggest that they are failing.
It has been is estimated that up to 68% of people abandon Couch to 5k (Bates, 2013), with injury being the reason cited by almost half of participants. Furthermore, on average it takes 5 attempts to complete to full programme.
Taking 5 attempts to complete Couch to 5k is common
And for race-based plans, around only 25% achieve their goal time, and up to a third give up training due to injury (Gaudette, 2018). One can additionally assume that more than a third of participants suffer an injury, with a number sustaining an injury but not severe enough to prevent them ultimately running their target race.
You only have a 1 in 4 chance of achieving your target race time[following a race-based plan]
From the perspective of a provider of stock plans, they are a great service. To illustrate, I (or I can pay a coach to) sit down and formulate a handful of plans to train for a marathon, and then publish them on my website. Then I can just sit-back and let people select their plan and train, with no further input from myself. But if the failure rate is as high as the research suggests, it does seem that ‘customers’ should be made more aware of the potential outcomes. Importantly, should we not expect and strive for better?
Should we not expect and strive for better?
What are the alternatives to Stock Training Plans?
Such is the poor outcome of static plans, a number of running coaches have taken it upon themselves to no longer produce them – either as part of their own coaching service, or supplying them to major running events. Instead they now only provide one-to-one coaching services. Whilst this provides a personalised experience, it is a premium product and not scalable to meet the demands of the global running population.
This is where the ‘digital’ or ‘computer-based’ training planner steps in, with the intent of being an autonomous training plan generator, creating a personal plan for each individual.
However, the methodology that the different platforms approach this problem is variable. And in reality a number are sadly really no more than a glorified digital version of a static plan. Consequently, it would not seem unreasonable to expect they achieve similar outcomes. Unlike Thomas Jefferson’s view of man, not all training planners are created equal. But that is a topic for another day.
Not all digital training planners are created equal