I put my hands up now admit I don’t follow training plans. As a coach I understand all the science behind training plans but as a runner with a young family and a busy job, I just can’t do them. Sorry! Plus one of the main reason I don’t do plans is unless your running friends are on the same plan as you, how you going to run together? “My plan says 40 minutes quick on a Monday” “On Monday my plan says do 3 miles steady” I’m easily led and tend to whatever if says on my friend’s plan. Possibly the only part of a training plan I really follow is making sure I’m slowly building up my mileage with a long run each week ahead of a marathon. But that’s it.
Having said all that about me being a bit rubbish with training plans, they work for runners and if you follow a properly tailor made plan you will improve your running. The main purpose of a training plan is to give your training structure. Stop you running ‘junk miles’. Training plans focus your mind on your training. Training plans should run for about 8 weeks and have a goal. A progress goal, a goal that you can measure each week rather a goal in 8 weeks time. Progress goals mean you can see improvement every week and you know that you’re on the right track. It also means should you not PB on your eight week goal because you were under the weather on raceday, the plan doesn’t look like a waste of time.
When designing a plan you need take in loads of factors. One of the most important is what running do you already? If you do an hour’s club run every Monday night, include it in the plan. If you do a parkrun every single Saturday morning include it. If you do a track session on a Wednesday, include it. Don’t become one of those runners that starts a marathon training plan and disappears off to train on your own for the next two months!
So what is your goal? Improve your 5k time? Run a marathon? These would be two different plans but both plans would have a lot similar runs in too. If I was designing you a plan, I would ask you. “How many times can you go out for a run each week?” and I would give you sessions for each of the times. Say you can run three times a week and you’re training for a half marathon, here’s three runs, one long steady run, one technical run (hill reps or speed) and one tempo run. I wouldn’t say on Monday do this, Tuesday do this. Print off the plan stick it on the fridge, each week you pick what days you want to do the sessions and tick them off on the fridge when you’ve done them. I would insist you don’t do the sessions all on back to back days! Put a rest day or a crosstrain day inbetween the sessions. Crosstraining is exercise which isn’t running, it builds your fitness but isn’t banging away on those joints.
Next year I’m going try to follow a plan ahead of that year’s marathon. It will be a very flexible plan, but I’ll plan it round me and tick off as many sessions on the fridge as possible.
Make sure your next training plan fits around you rather you fitting around your plan.