Over the years I have used multiple training plans and the majority of the time I could never stick to them. This isn’t completely down to the training plan not being the right one but it played a part.
I needed a plan that was flexible and would fit around my personal life like all of us. I followed a training plan for my marathon that I found I could manage to adapt to life. There were times it didn’t work but the biggest thing to take from this is missing a run here or there isn’t going to undo all the hard work if you put it in for the rest of the time.
I use an 80/20 rule for my training which means running 80% of your runs at a low intensity and 20% of runs at a moderate to high intensity. I will include an example below. I run 5-6 days a week so I have one high intensity speed training session and one session that is a moderate speed session and the remainder are easy runs.
When I first started running 5-6 sessions a week would have been far too much. I didn’t enjoy it like I do now but I used to mix these up with sessions at the gym. Now I find the running sessions easier to do than the gym sessions (especially as I am not a member now). Ideally I would like to do more strength training and some cross training over the summer when the school holidays arrive as I will not have my usual child free hours to run in.
I have created a training plan for myself that follows the principles below but I will be flexible in my approach to it but sticking with the principles of training at a low intensity for 80% of the time whether that is running, walking or something else that works and fits around my lifestyle.
Writing your plan…
Just to say before you read on I am not a qualified running coach… a run leader yes but not a coach. So the information in this blog is based on things I have picked up over the years from my own experiences and from my own research. If you want a good book to read I highly recommend 80/20 running by Matt Fitzgerald.
Train in cycles of 3 weeks
I split my training plan into blocks of 3 weeks. 2 build up weeks followed by 1 week of recovery which has a lower total weekly mileage to my build up weeks.
Example based on my long run I will do 8 miles week 1, 10 miles week 2 and then 8 miles week 3 (recovery week). Then 12 miles week 4, 14 miles week 5 and 10 miles week 6 etc.
I do one hard session a week (speed training), one moderate session ie a fast finish or tempo run and then the remainder are easy miles with one long run at an easy pace. If you plan to run less days a week you can incorporate some speed work into your long run. i.e a fast finish or running a quarter of each mile at a slightly faster pace.
Its important to incorporate the easy miles in as these prevent injuries from happening and in the long run are what will help you to run further. Likewise the hard sessions will help to build stamina and speed and make you a stronger runner.
Types of sessions
Hard: Intervals, fartlek, Hill repeats, strides
Moderate: Tempo, fast finish, Long runs with some speed play.
Low intensity: Easy run, recovery run, long run.
Split your hard runs over the week
An example of how I work mine over the week:
Monday – Rest (strength training)
Wednesday -easy run
Thursday -easy run or cross training
Saturday -easy run or cross training
Sunday -long run
Build up long runs gradually eg 7 miles week 1, 8 miles week 2, 6 miles week 3 (recovery week). Increase by 1-2 miles no more.
Your longest training run
This is a hard question to answer. Many training plans will not go to the full required distance so it assumes the first time you cover the distance will be during your race.
My first few half marathons I trained up to 10 miles but subsequent ones I have found it more beneficial to train to 14 miles. The reason being the last 3 miles during a race are usually when you begin to tire and hit the famous wall. By running the distance before race day prepares your body for what is to come.
However it is not essential. You will not get to 10 miles and stop the race. The adrenaline and atmosphere will see you to the end and for a first half marathon I’d stick with your longest run being less than the required distance. Its normal to feel anxious about this. I feel anxious every time I take on a new distance but its only ever a few miles more which after a while soon seems very normal.
Tapering is an important part of a training plan but how long you decide to do this over ultimately depends on you as a runner. If it is your first time running the distance you plan to race you will likely have 2-3 weeks where you reduce the mileage and intensity of your runs.
Someone that has run multiple races at the distance they are racing may only reduce the mileage but keep the intensity of the running the same and taper for the last week.
Keep it real
So thats the basics of writing a training plan. There is a lot of other things to consider and factor in once your focus on a race is more time specific than distance. I am no expert at this part and will leave that for when I have mastered this part myself… if ever!
Main points to remember…
- Set a start and end date for your plan
- Ideally a plan should be 12 weeks or more
- Set a realistic amount of days you can run
- Make 2 of these high/moderate intensity sessions
- Follow each hard session with an easy/rest day/cross training
- Incorporate a recovery week every 3-4 weeks
- Build the mileage up progressively
- Remember race nutrition and strength training are equally as important as part of your training!
- Be realistic and open to adaptation
Below are a few links for things I have found useful with my training. When you plan to run your first 10k, half marathon or marathon its hard to know how fast you can realistically run it. Remember it will always be a PB the first time so don’t set the bar to high. I was always told to add 10% to my pace for each distance but there are online calculators and charts to help you figure this out.
Runners world training pace calculator is brilliant for calculating your pace for each of your training sessions and a little summary of what they mean.
Runners world race time predictor is good to help you work out a pace for a new distance so if you have run a 10k and plan to run your first half marathon you can input your 10k time and it will work out a time for your half marathon.
Pace calculator will work out a pace for each mile if you have a goal time in your head. i.e if you want to run a 2hr half marathon you can calculate the average pace you will need to run.
Below is an example of a beginners 10k race training plan.
I hope this is of some help to those of you feeling overwhelmed with all the training plans out there.
Be prepared to make adjustments when things do not go to plan.