This article was originally posted by Ryan at the original HillRunner.com Blogs.
For as long as HillRunner.com has been around, I’ve been asked why there are no training plans posted on the site. You know the type people are asking about, your "12 weeks to a 5K" plan that you can find in many books and on many websites. My usual answer is "Cookie cutter plans work for cookie cutter people and I have yet to meet a cookie cutter person."
Getting a little more personalized, these days you have these interesting little automated training plan programs. Punch in a few facts about yourself and a program will spit out a 12 week training plan. Not completely cookie cutter but there’s a reason you won’t find one of those on HillRunner.com. No program can take all possible variables and how they interact with each other into account. You need a person for that.
I strongly believe everyone would benefit from a personalized training approach. To be honest, this isn’t anything new. When I was in high school, not all my teammates did the same thing I did. Neither did they when I was in college. In fact, a great example of this would be from my college days. My coach knew that hard interval sessions burn me out so he would hold me back with a slower group during those hard interval sessions in order to make the workouts a little easier on me and not run me into the ground. It may have been a blow to my ego at times, especially as a 20 year old who wanted to be "tough" all the time as most 20 year olds do, but it was what kept me racing well at the end of the season.
Some of us can handle more or less intense training than others without breaking down. Some of us get more or less response from different kinds of training. We all have different lives outside of running that affect our running in different ways. No plan out of a book or off a website could possibly take all these variables into account. You need to know yourself or find someone who can learn you and figure out what you need more and less of to be your best.
So what are we left to do? Well, don’t treat yourself as a cookie cutter person. If you do look at a cookie cutter plan, consider it a starting point. It should be modified to fit your personal strengths, weaknesses, needs and lifestyle. If you’re working with a coach, make sure your coach isn’t the type who assigns the same training plan to every runner. Make sure that plan is suited to your individual needs.