Training doesn’t always have to be perfect

I’m a huge believer in having a training plan. When we are left to our own devices, we will naturally gravitate towards the sessions that we enjoy most, rather than the areas we need to work on. I have a coach called Eddie Fletcher who has been preparing me for races for a decade now and he sets me a programme that makes sense to me and that I believe in (which is crucial!). I do my best to follow it, but he (and it) allows me enough flexibility to ‘tweak’ it. Sometimes these tweaks are planned due to work or social commitments and I will move sessions around, but sometimes I have to tweak a session on the fly. Last night was a good example.

The session was supposed to be 3 x 1000m, and ideally I was looking for under 1:29.1 average. I’ve been at a work conference for a couple of days so have been on my feet non-stop and my legs felt tired and I didn’t fancy it. But because we’re so close to BRIC there is less room for flexibility than at other times so I had to give it a go.

The first one felt surprisingly fine and I thought maybe I was on for a good session. It was nicely under target and felt racey. I had felt tired but I hadn’t actually rowed the previous day so maybe I had more in the tanks than I thought. On the second interval I stopped after 400m for no apparent reason when I was ticking over ok. This is the difficult moment when things don’t go to plan – how do I salvage today’s training? Having stopped, then recovering to finish the session as planned is pretty unlikely. But the plan asked for 3 long intervals so ideally I need to complete something close to that! I worked out a strategy to get me through another km by setting little sub-targets, and off I went. It worked a treat, and it was quicker than the first.

Now comes another difficult decision – how ambitious should I be from here? Maybe I can actually complete the session under my target? Or maybe I should be conservative on the last one and I can still just hit my target? Indecision never works well for me … another random handle down after just 250m this time. I was caught between 2 targets and hit neither.

To be honest, I was happy with the 2 decent intervals at this stage but physically I was feeling ok so I thought that a nice little 750m would finish the session almost as intended. Again, I set myself little sub-targets and this interval was never in doubt. Faster than both k’s. The session ended up as:

  1. 1000m @ 1:28.6
  2. About 400m @ 1:27 ish
  3. 1000m @ 1:28.2
  4. About 250m @ 1:28 ish
  5. 750m @ 1:27.7

Then you have the slight disappointment that you know you could have finished the session exactly as per the programme (and it could have been very fast) with a little bit more application. But this is where you need to be compassionate with yourself. I made the session harder than it needed to be, I did almost the right amount of interval work at comfortably under target average, and I showed a bit of resolve and fight to make sure I produced a session that had meaning and I could take something from. You learn a lot from nights like that and personally I didn’t view it as a failure, and actually took confidence from it.

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