The Training Trinity

As part of our series this week of showcasing  articles you can get as an Ultra168 Patreon, today we welcome coach, Mark Emr. This tier of patronage, the Ultra168 Insiders, gets you access ahead of time to a wealth of articles from a number of coaches and experts. Have a look here at who is going to be writing for us. There’s plenty of tiers to help support Ultra168 and to become a patreon, you can find out more here. Thanks for Mark for his insights.

Let’s consider for a moment that you have a new running goal, and you’re about to get stuck into training. Whether you have a coach or you develop your own program, you have a clear outline for your weekly schedule with long runs, intervals, and perhaps some hills sessions and tempo runs. You’re set to go!

Or are you really ready? Is having a great training program enough?

When you do an internet search for “best tips for endurance running”, you won’t have to scroll down the page vary far (trust me, I tried) to find an article that references the importance of mindset and nutrition as well as tips on actual running.

These three things combined – training, nutrition, and mindset – is what I call the Training Trinity.

My experience as a coach is that while many people will acknowledge the important roles that mindset and nutrition play in improving or maintaining fitness and performance, fewer will actually incorporate strategies to improve their mindset or nutrition when embarking on a training plan.

Why is that? If we know instinctively that that these are important, and will give you the best chance of achieving your goal, why don’t we also plan improvements to our nutrition, and take steps to foster a supportive & health focused mindset?

Perhaps the answer lies not in knowing how good nutrition and mindset can help your training, let’s consider what could go wrong if one aspect of the Training Trinity is missing. What could possibly go wrong?


Consider this scenario. You have the perfect training plan, and you are highly motivated. You train exactly to plan, each and every day… but your nutrition is rubbish. You might eat processed foods, drink too much alcohol, and don’t get enough vitamins and minerals.

Do you think that your body will adapt to the training load optimally? Unlikely.

Do you think that you will have enough energy to complete each run in your program at the required intensity? I doubt it.

Without proper nutrition, much of your effort will be wasted!

Eating optimally for training not only means eating good quality foods, but also eating the right amount, a good ratio of protein, carbohydrate and fat, and eating at the right time. Optimal nutrition is about quality, quantity, and timing! Get it right, and not only will you be properly fuelled to ensure you put the most into your workout, but your body will adapt to the training load you are putting it through and you will get the most out of your workout. Rubbish in, rubbish out they say and it’s certainly true when it comes to your nutrition and performance. So, when you are developing your training plan, why not consider a nutrition plan to complement your running program?

Training Program

Let’s say that you have nailed your nutrition and you have a great mindset. If you aren’t doing the right training, you won’t get an optimal result. For example, if all of your runs are long runs, you might not increase your baseline speed as much as you’d like! Having a properly structured plan means that you are triggering the right change processes in your body, to adapt in the right way.

Putting it simply, your training program should incorporate the types of runs that you will require, over the optimal distance or time, and importantly at the correct pace to improve your performance for the specific goal you are seeking to achieve. All of this should be combined and balanced to provide you with the right training stress in the right way at the right time.

If you are working with a coach, you are likely to have this covered adequately, but there’s no harm in asking questions to ensure you understand the reason for the program you have. If you are putting your program together yourself, consider how you include the types of runs that will benefit your goal, set yourself realistic training increments (i.e. length of long run), and ensure you are allowing yourself adequate rest.


Now, consider the scenario of having the perfect training plan and nutrition. Without the right mindset, what are the chances of following the training plan properly? You might occasionally cut your runs short, run at the incorrect pace or order, or even miss runs completely.

A training plan won’t work unless you follow it, and follow it properly. Even worse, you might do more than the plan outlines and you burn out or get injured, sidelining you for weeks or even months!

A survey I completed in 2018 concluded that the people who most diligently follow a training plan are those who having a willingness to learn, but at the same time are confident in themselves. That is, they are confident that if they do the training they will accomplish their goal, but are also very willing to be trained and to learn from others.

While the topic of mindset encompasses a very broad range of topics, (an internet search on “mindset for endurance running” will return 3,550,000 hits), at least working on your belief and having strategies for how to get through tough workouts can really contribute to your training success!

If you’re reading this and are about to embark on your new training program and haven’t given too much thought to how to improve your nutrition and mindset, I hope that I’ve given some context to why it’s important – enough at least to have you stop and think about it and consider it a little further. You never know, being intentional with the Training Trinity could make all the difference for you and help you achieve your next running goal!

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Mark Emr
Mark is a runner and coach with 10 years experience and has competed in over 80 marathons and ultra-marathons.

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