For years I have told anyone who will listen (and some that don't) that developing an approach to training is a little like picking a religion or investment strategy. There is no one single right answer. There are many alternatives with different advocates and detractors, but at their core, there are common threads amongst them, but an approach that works for one individual might not sit well with another.
So what’s the right answer? Well as you’ll end up hearing me say a lot, it depends. The key to success in selecting or developing a training strategy (leaving the religion and financial advice analogies on the side of the road at this point – you’re on your own on those fronts!) is to figure out an approach that works for each person and their particular situation, monitoring and adjusting accordingly as you go. Sounds simple, but it is often the biggest stumbling block for many athletes.
It means considering an athlete's strengths, weaknesses, limiters, inherent ability, goals, time and life situation, and crafting a personal training strategy that takes all of those things into account. While it’s possible for well-read, experienced, self-coached athletes to do this, it’s also very easy to go wrong, as even the most self-aware individual will often rationalize a poor approach if they feel strongly enough about it. In addition, it's all too easy to be swayed by teammates or training partners. There’s a fine line between the positive motivation one can gain from being part of a group, and the stupidity that can come from peer pressure. Athletes may also abandon a solid approach by jumping on board with the latest training article they read and convince themselves to do something that maybe isn't right for them given their situation.
The classic example of this is figuring out when and how much volume and intensity to incorporate into a training program. After a break, most athletes are fired up, they are rested, have been reading about all the latest training techniques, and are eager to apply them all right away. Everyone is hungry to get out there and throw down. This often leads to folks going too hard, too long, too early and too often given when their target events are, how much of a "break" they have taken, and how much general preparation they have done in their off season. The right "answer" to this common example again depends on the individual and their situation.
If you’ve struggled with your overall season strategy in the past, consider enlisting some help this year to give your approach an objective once over and help get you focused on achieving your goals this season. Obviously a coach would be ideal, but if that is not in the cards for you, as a self-coached athlete one of your more knowledgeable and objective friends can likely help out. But be choosy. Don’t just pick someone you like (the one sprinting for every town sign in December is probably not a good choice) pick someone you trust. Better yet, pick someone other people trust. Someone you see people going to to get advice themselves. There’s probably something there...