Creating A Run Training Plan

In our 4 part series at the end of 2013 covering ‘out season’ run training we gave some tips on scaling back, strength training, sharpening your run mechanics, and planning your 2014 race schedule. But with the calendar turning over and the 1st month of 2014 complete, it’s time to start thinking of the early season, local races, which are only a short 3 months away. Therefore we are going to discussion what you need to do to create a run training program for your 2014 races.

The first step is to pull out the calendar where you identifying your A, B, and C-priority races and count back on the calendar from the first A-priority to today’s date. This will determine the weeks/days remaining until the race. Once you know the amount of time you have to train for this A-race, you can begin to build a plan that is suitable for your fitness, abilities, schedule, family, etc. As it is difficult to create a “one size fits all” plan, we are going to focus on some key components to setting up a quality, progressive, and adaptable, run training program. Beginning with broad concepts, then on to particulars of a training week and finally individual training days.

The first consideration to building your program the distance of the race. This may seem a bit obvious, but it is important to keep your focus very specific to your A-race. If you are targeting a 5K in mid-May, a majority of your work is going to be done at or below 3 miles, and (depending on your goal) be more focused on speed. There is no need spending time on 8 mile runs if your goal is 5k. This boils down to specificity: the quality of being specific. If variety is the spice of life, specificity is the key to goal achievement.

Another general concept for creating a quality plan is to utilize a build-build-build-deload scheme in your mileage and strength training. This will help fend off nagging, overuse issue, caused by long periods of uninterrupted fatigue. With this concept, during a 3-6 week period, you will be steadily increasing your mileage and weight training intensity and duration. However, there needs to be purposeful deloads (before the taper) built in where your body can catch up and adapt to all the stress you are putting on it. These deload periods can be scheduled around a busy week at work, a family vacation, or planned more on a subjective ‘how the body is feeling’ basis.

Also, remember to look at the particular race you are targeting and study the terrain, ascents/descents, elevation, and common weather for that time of year. If you are looking to finish your first trail run, you need to spend some time on actual trail (ideally trails that are very similar to your goal race), acclimating to the demands of that terrain. Is the course littered with hills, are they short and steep, long and gradual? Then your training must include similar hills. If you’re A-race is a destination, taking a peek at the elevation of both the start/finish and any large climbs on the course is necessary. Finally, knowing the expected weather of the area on the day of your race will help determine what clothes to train in as well as have for race day. Again…specificity.

Next, it is time to begin planning each individual training week. Generally 3-4 days running per week is a substantial amount of training to see good gains (remember, you need to fit at least 2 session of strength training into the week as well). With each of these run days a specific focus is important. A common weekly scheme employed here at NSS is 3 days of running, with one day being a “speed/hill” day, a second being “mid-distance tempo” day and a third being “long run” day.

Speed/hill days and mid distance tempo days will be set up very differently depending on your specific race, it’s distance, your abilities and your goals. Just remember, making sure to have a plan written out to progressively build these (along with scheduled deloading) is going to give you the most return on investment.

When planning your long run schedule, especially if you are looking to compete in a distance of half marathon or more, you must take careful consideration to your plan of attack. This includes the day of the week you will do them, a schedule of how to progress them over time, and a backup plan if you miss or have to adjust a long run. It’s good practice to put a range on long run distances. For example, if you would like to hit a 12 mile run, scheduling in your training plan the cushion of 10-13 miles is a good habit. This way, you are more apt to train intuitively, which may be shutting it down early if that is what the body is feeling that day (remember it’s not purely about quantity!), or conversely, if you are feeling like a rock star there is the option to tack on that extra mile. This also plays into the psychological aspect of run training. There is a lot of positive power in knowing that you made right decision and shut it down at 10.5 miles on your 10-13 mile day instead of feeling like you stopped at 10.5 of a 12 mile run.

Finally, the most important factor to remember when creating your training plan:YOU ARE AN INDIVIDUAL. Just because it worked for your sister-in-law, your speedy neighbor or someone from Runner’s World, does not guarantee that it will work for you! You must train intuitively, not following blindly a sheet of paper, but rather constantly reflecting on the plan in progress and assessing how you can make it better, what you enjoy and what is working for YOU.

If you keep the above mentioned thoughts in mind when you begin creating your 2014 training plan, you are certain to not only have a great year of races, but more apt to stay injury free and have a blast while doing so. So go dig out that race schedule and let’s get after some planning!

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