Fundamental #1: Training Goal
The most important component of a training plan is the end goal. Whether a person’s objective is to run a marathon, lose weight, or complete a specified distance without walking, the overall goal will shape the outline of the plan.
To set a goal you should clearly define what you are trying to achieve. This is individual to each person and it will set the foundation for the rest of the plan.
You can, and should, set short-term and long-term goals. The short-term goals will keep you motivated through the hard times on the way to your long-term goals. I’ve included two separate cells in the template so you can do this.
Fundamental #2: Training Plan Duration
A person’s goal will largely dictate the duration of the training plan. A couch-to-5k plan may be as short as 30 days, while a marathon training plan might require 6 months. Athletes should be realistic when determining how long it will take to reach a goal.
In this step you might also want to take note of any potential health issues you may have. You should complete the PAR-Questionnaire and make a responsible decision according to your results.
Fundamental #3: Mileage
Another important consideration is weekly mileage. Runners should build their mileage slowly, and in a controlled manner. A general rule of thumb is not to add mileage at a rate greater than 10% each week.
But how many miles do you start with? It really depends on each individual. An active athlete might start the training plan running 20-30k a week, but, on the other hand, a complete beginner could start building up to a continuous 5k while doing a mix of running and walking.
You should be totally honest with yourself at this point. Evaluate where you are and proceed accordingly.
Running too much, too soon is the leading cause of injury among runners such as shin splints and stress fractures. If training for a race, a runner’s highest mileage week should be 2 – 3 weeks before the event.
Fundamental #4: Long Run
The long run is fundamental to any running plan, whether training for a marathon or for weight loss. A training plan should incorporate a long run that is approximately 25% of the athlete’s weekly mileage once every 7 – 10 days. This run is important for building endurance, enhancing functional strength, and building mitochondria.
Fundamental #5: Speed Work
Next, speed work should be incorporated 1 – 2 days per week. Speed workouts are run at a faster pace and are designed to improve aerobic capacity, running efficiency, and metabolism. Common speed workouts include hill repeats, track intervals, tempo runs, and fartleks. Speed work should only be incorporated after a significant aerobic base is built, typically after 6 – 8 weeks of easy running.
Fundamental #6: Recovery
To gain the most benefit from a training plan, recovery is essential. Runners should always schedule 1 – 2 easy days in between speed workouts and long runs. When runners train hard every day they are more likely to experience chronic inflammation, increased injury risk, mental burnout, and diminished performance. In addition to easy days, most runners should take at least 1 day completely off from exercise per week.
Fundamental #7: Be Flexible
A common misconception about creating a training plan is that once it is created you're not allowed to change it… WRONG!
Just like everything in life, things change. For some reason you might not be able to workout on a certain day and you need to change and edit your training plan accordingly.
For example, if you start feeling a pain in your calf on your long run then you have to change your next long runs to a shorter distance in order to avoid the pain and become injured. You’ll lower the distance, assess the pain during the following weeks and start building up the mileage again if you're pain free.
You have to constantly monitor, assess and change your training plan, if necessary.
Having all your training sessions layed out in a clear way is crucial. That way, if you injure yourself, or if you progress really well, then you will be able to see what workouts you did and understand how your body reacted to those workouts.
These are the essential rules of building a training plan.
If you'd like to download a template to create your own training plan, check out our advanced guide to periodisation!
If you need help creating or building your training plan you can reach me at the Running and Race Training Facebook group. Be sure to have your Runner profile on RunPage updated so I can get an idea of where you are in your running journey.
If you stick to these periodization fundamentals you will add some structure to your workouts and run with a goal in mind. This will drive you to greater results and better performance in races!
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