Most of us runners have downloaded a running training plan we have either found in a magazine or read in a book.  It might start out pretty well, we think we are heading in the right direction towards whatever goal we have chosen to aim for.

That is, until the wheels start to fall off.  We start missing sessions and try and make them up.  We start to feel the niggles or burnt out.

The thing with generic training plans they aren’t designed specifically for us.  The plan Paula is following might be working for her, that doesn’t mean it’s a good fit for Jan who is struggling to keep up with the k’s on the program.

We are all individuals.  We have all come from different places, have had different experiences and different things motivate us to move forward in life.

It’s the same with our running.  We all have a different history with our running. Our personalities are different.  What works for someone else may not work for us with our training.  There is no such thing as a one-stop shop training plan that will get us to where we want to go.

Training plans really are just a guide

Any training plan really should be thought of as a guide that should be changed to suit us and roll with life.  Any plan should fit in with our lifestyle, our body and most importantly we should enjoy doing it!  

Having a plan that you can actually stick to is the plan you want.  It’s the plan where the best results will follow.

Here are some things to think about when following a running training plan.

Do activities that you enjoy

It might sound a bit simple,  but if we keep doing the things we love to do, sticking to a running training plan that incorporates those fun things is a hell of a lot easier.

Write down all the activities (think both running and other activities), you currently do, as well as the fun things you have thought about doing but aren’t sure where they will fit in.  Maybe it’s something your friends do or you have read about it in a magazine.  Whatever it is, write it down.

Now think about the activities in terms of whether it’s  hard effort training (high intensity with heavy breathing), moderate effort training (challenging but can still hold a conversation), easy effort training (can easily hold a conversation while doing) or a relaxing rest day activity.

Here are some examples of each:

  • Hard effort training  – endurance runs, tempo runs, hill intervals, Parkrun, squad run training;
  • Moderate effort training – moderate intensity runs, cycling, swimming;
  • Easy effort training – easy jog, easy swim, pilates, surfing, climbing; and
  • Rest day – yin yoga or relaxation yoga, stretching, gardening, family activities.

All training plans are made up of a combination of these activities.  Now look at the plan you are thinking about doing and think about what suits you.  What can you swap in that you like doing? 

Listen to your body

We all could probably do this a bit better.  Once we start thinking about how we feel before, during and after each session it becomes second nature and we can tune in to what is working and what is not.

Are you feeling tired, getting sick, injured? Think about what’s acting as a barrier to consistent training.

Our body tell’s us when something is not quite right.  If your body is telling you to stop, it’s usually best to take notice before it get’s worse. 

Have a think about what you are currently doing and needs to change. 

Does strength training needs to be more of a priority? Are more recovery days needed after hard training sessions?  Or the common one, are you doing too much too soon?

The more we listen and keep our plans flexible to work in with our bodies and the things that pop up in life, the more consistent we will become.

More really is not better

All runners love talking about how far they ran on the weekend.  Talking the talk about how many k’s they can run in a week.  I love that people are proud of their running.

But you know what?  Everyone progresses at different rates. Trying to run as far as someone else and comparing ourselves to other runners and their training is a recipe for disaster.  

We want to manage the load of our training.  Getting that balance between all the different sessions and recovery so that the body feels challenged, absorbs, then recovers is the key to an awesome plan.  Smashing out long, hard sessions that doesn’t allow recovery won’t be good either for your body or for your running.

That’s why I love training on time.  Just because you run slower and don’t run as far, doesn’t mean the LOAD isn’t the same when running for the same amount of time.  So for a 60 minute run, a slower athlete may run 8 k’s, whereas a faster athlete may run 12 k’s.  At the end of the day, they both did a 60 minute run.

If the slower athlete was running 12 k’s, they would be out there longer and have a higher training load.  Higher training loads can lead to injuries and over training. Which is what we definitely don’t want.

Balance is the key! More is really not better and be smart about it.  Often doing what everyone else is doing is not a good plan.  Think about where you are at, your body, and gradually increase your load.  You do you.

It’s meant to be fun!

Running really is meant to be fun!  There is a lot of things to think about when bringing a running training plan together.  It’s a learning process with what works and doesn’t work.  Focusing on doing the fun things we enjoy doing, not just the running, will help make it a lifelong thing we do.  

Mix it up, keep life interesting.  Training plans are awesome for bringing structure to our training and guiding us so we build our load realistically, think about all the other things we need to think about besides running.  It is a guide so be realistic about life happening and keep reviewing what’s working and what’s not. Being flexible in our mind-set is so important.

If you are starting out with your running check out the blog here for some tips.

Whatever you do, don’t forget to keep doing the fun things you enjoy.  Life is meant to be fun.

If you want to take the guess work out of putting a training plan together, learn more about working with Eco Athlete For Life here.