Fitting in the right training can be tough. We all have this idea of what training should look like, but in reality everyone’s training should be different. We’ve all got different bodies, and our goals are all different. One may want to run fast, whereas another may want to get around. Many will already follow a training plan and find it useful. However for many others the training plan doesn’t fit with their current commitments, and so don’t have the time to do the scheduled sessions correctly. For those of you like this it may be effective to create your own training plan. Helping you stay on target and committed to your goal.
Below I’ve got 10 tips that I’ve found useful in creating plans for myself and others. Do be warned though, it can take a little while to create plans so do set aside a chunk of time as it isn’t just a ten minute job.
The first tip for you is to know your current fitness level. By knowing this you won’t plan to run 10km everyday for the next 10 days, when you’re not comfortable running two days in a row. This will also give you a good starting point for your plan. If you’re training for a long distance figure out how long you can comfortably run for, so every week you can build to this long run. It will also avoid ‘wasting’ time, as you’ll be building from your current base instead of from scratch every time.
Secondly, it’s good to train appropriately. If you want to run a longer distance, you’re going to need to run a longer distance. If you want to run faster you need to start running faster. Sounds simple right? This is where it gets a little tricky though, as all types of training will inevitably benefit any goal you may have at the moment. Only the appropriate training will have greater benefits to your current goal. If you’re speed training, but still enjoy a long run, it will still benefit you as it will improve your cardiovascular system, but by doing these alone it won’t help you get quicker.
Following on from this, my third tip is that every session shouldn’t be a hard one. In my experience this is the best way to make yourself dread training. I’ve said it before, but training 20% hard and 80% easy can be a great ratio to go for. It allows you to really give it your all on the sessions that really count towards your goal. It is tempting to go above this, and it can be done, but you can become more injury prone the more frequently you’re going out and doing hard runs. Including easier runs gives your legs a chance to recover and adapt.
The fourth tip, is to build throughout the plan, on the whole. With a slight caveat that every few weeks, perhaps every 3/4, build in a slightly lighter week. This week should still contain running but at a lower level to help with the recovery and adaptive process the body needs to go through. Rest week is also a good excuse to make plans with friends or family, without feeling ‘guilty’ for not training. Remember that your muscles only get stronger when they’re not under that much stress, hence why sleep is one of the best recovery tools we have. Having a week of decreased training will allow the body to adapt to all the previous training you’ve been doing.
Let yourself cross-train. If you enjoy strength training, gym workout classes or even cycling, include them in your plan. Acknowledging when they are and including them will prevent you from overtraining, especially if you were likely to do that activity anyway. They can also boost your overall running performance, strengthening muscles that can be hard to reach during running.
Six on the list, is something I’ve learnt the more I’ve trained, and that’s to create your plan based on the routes you currently know. Yes, it may seem like you NEED that 13km route, but if you don’t have a great way to fit that in, change it to a distance you do have an ideal route for. If you are starting lots of new distances, add in new routes slowly. If you create a week with five new routes in, it may simply make you feel uncomfortable or anxious about knowing exactly where you are and how you’re getting home. Bear in mind, that the first time you do a route is likely to be the slowest as well, as there may be a few wrong turns as you get used to it. So if you do need to build in new routes give yourself a recce run of the route before planing any hard sessions on it. My last block I didn’t do this with a new 1km interval route, and did I ever go and do those said intervals? No because I wasn’t too sure where I was going.
Number 7, is to use your schedule as a template. If you work longer hours on a Monday and Thursday, plan a rest day or shorter sessions for those days. Equally if the ‘traditional’ weekend long run doesn’t fit with your life, don’t use it. Find a different day to do a longer run, if that’s what you need to do for your goal. Equally if you’ve got a week when friends are down, try and fit that in with a rest week, as you’re unlikely to want to be training long and hard instead of socialising with them.
Eight on the list is similar to the above, and that’s to use the you’ve races already signed up for. If you’ve got a 10km race in two weeks, that can be used as a multitude of things. It could be used as your long run in the build up to a marathon, it could be your easy run if you’re running for the experience, or it could be used as a tempo run. Factor in your race plans, again, to prevent overtraining. Equally if you find that half way through your plan there’s a race around the same distance your running at, go and do it. It can be a good way to try out your race day preparations.
Number 9, is to have a few different goals in mind, Plan A should be the goal that you really want and would be over the moon to achieve. Plan B should be a goal that you’d be happy with, so a little more within reach than the first. Then finally, Plan C, should be easier, it may as simple be to be running three times a week. This way if injury strikes or the course you raced wasn’t as flat as you’d have hoped, you’ve still achieved something and should celebrate all the victories you have.
Finally, Tip Ten, is to have fun. If there’s a route or run that you really enjoy, but doesn’t fit with your plan, still include it. As it will give you something to look forward to and provide you with an enjoyable experience in the midst of runs that you feel you HAVE to do rather than WANT to do.
So there’s my ten tips for building your own plan. Use the information how you want. If you’re creating your own plan I’d love to see them, and hear feedback on these tips. Is there anything else you’ve found useful when creating your plan? As always I can be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
If all this information feels super overwhelming, then don’t worry about it. There are plenty of people who’d love to help you with your running. Running coaches in your area may be happy to create plans for you, or online coaches that myself provide services like plan building to help make running simpler.