Creating a Run Training Plan: Part 2

This is the second piece of a 2 part series. If you haven’t read Part 1, you can find it here.

Now that you have your weekly mileage roughly outlined, it’s time to move onto the next steps.

Determine your daily mileage and your long run mileage.

Once you have your weekly mileage mapped out it becomes much easier to plan for daily mileage.

First, determine how many days per week it makes sense for you to run. For new 5k runners, you can easily get by on 3-4 days a week. For a half marathon, plan for 4-6. Unless you’re very experienced, you’ll likely benefit more from one full rest day than you will from pushing through 7 days a week. For marathon runners, I’d recommend 5-7. You can definitely finish a marathon on only 4 days a week of training. However, I wouldn’t usually recommend it. I did this for my first marathon because I was only 7 month postpartum on race day and not ready for more mileage. I finished. But I suffered way more than I probably needed to.

The Long Run

Regardless of what length of race you’re training for, you will want to incorporate one long run a week. Most runners prefer to do this on a Saturday or Sunday. Which one of the two you choose is up to you. The long run should be approximately 20-30% of your weekly mileage.

Example: If Jessica’s starting mileage for the training cycle is 25 mpw, her long run could start at 5 miles. At a peak training week of 40 mpw, her long run could get up to 12 miles. This is more than sufficient when training to complete a half marathon. If you are an intermediate and advanced runner who has done multiple half marathons/marathons, it may make sense to do over-distance training runs (longer than 13.1). But for the sake of this post, we will keep it to recommendations for runners at a beginner level. By using this model, you can begin to map the long run distances for each week.

Jessica’s long run progression may look like this:
(LR = long run)

  • Week 1: 25 mpw, LR – 5
  • Week 2: 27 mpw, LR – 6
  • Week 3: 30 mpw, LR – 7
  • Week 4: (Cutback) 25 mpw, LR – 5
  • Week 5: 30 mpw, LR – 7
  • Week 6: 33 mpw, LR – 7
  • Week 7: 35 mpw, LR – 8
  • Week 8: 35 mpw, LR – 9
  • Week 9: (Cutback) 30 mpw, LR – 6
  • Week 10: 36 mpw, LR – 9
  • Week 11: 38 mpw, LR – 10
  • Week 12: 38 mpw, LR – 10
  • Week 13: (Peak week) 40 mpw, LR – 11.5
  • Week 14: (Taper week 1) 32 mpw, LR – 8
  • Week 15: (Taper week 2) 25 mpw, LR – 6
  • Week 16: (Race week) 15-20 miles, plus 13.1 race

Daily Mileage

By outlining your weekly mileage, the number of days a week you’ll run, and your long run mileage, it should be easy to determine the mileage for the remaining days of the week. In Jessica’s case, her weekday runs will probably hover between 4 and 6 miles at most points. It’s important to remain flexible and adjust as needed. With that being said, you shouldn’t be going extra long on some runs so that you can go lighter on other days. For example: Don’t make one run 8 miles so that the other can be 2 miles; they should be more of a 5-5 or 6-4 balance.

Incorporate workouts.

A majority of your weekly mileage should be done at your easy pace. A great rule to follow is the 80/20 rule. 80% of your mileage should be at an easy pace, and the remaining 20% can be at an intense effort. How easy is easy? You should be able to comfortably hold a conversation without becoming out of breath. If you’re breathless, slow down! If you’re still new to running and are struggling with nonstop running, take a walk break every few minutes. Keep yourself honest about your easy pace. I cannot stress this enough.

The remaining 20% of running can be at a more intense effort. Even if you’re fairly new to running, you can start to incorporate workouts into your training. How many workouts you do is mostly dependent upon your experience as a runner. Intermediate to advanced runners may do up to 3 workouts per week (including a workout in the middle of a long run). However, if you’re just starting out, even incorporating one workout a week can make a tremendous difference.

Below are a few examples of some staple workouts you can/should include throughout your training cycle. Be sure to precede your training cycle with a time trial so that you know where your pace ranges fall. I wrote an article on time trials here. »

Tempo Run

The tempo run should be a staple in your training plan. Even if you incorporate one tempo run a week and do no other workouts, you will see a tremendous benefit and an increase in your running ability.

The tempo run is defined as a “comfortably hard” effort. Many new runners make the mistake of doing every run at this pace. By doing this, you’re not giving your body time to properly recover from the hard effort. Additionally, this can contribute to every run feeling oh-so-hard!

Tempo runs are usually between 20 and 30 min in length for 5k to half marathon runners. Marathoners and/or more experienced runners may incorporate longer tempos exceeding 30 minutes.

Read more about the tempo run here »

Fartleks

Fartlek is actually the Swedish word for “speed play”. At the most basic level, fartlek runs incorporate periods of fast running, mixed with periods of slow running. To start, you can do something as simple as run at a moderate to hard effort to the first light pole, and then run easy to the following light pole, then repeat. Other common approaches are: 1 min “on” followed by 1 minute “off”; 2 min on, 2 min off; 3 min on, 2 min off; or 30 sec on, 30 sec off. The longer your “on” periods, the more moderate the pace would be. The shorter the on period (such as 30 seconds), the harder the effort can be.

Intervals/Repeats

Another key workout to incorporate into your training is interval work and/or repeats. You’ll most commonly hear about mile repeats, 800m repeats, 400m repeats, etc. These should be run at an intense effort. There are a lot of different ways these can be run: walking vs. jogging rest; variance in rest time; and variance in effort. I won’t get in details about all of these here. How each of these workouts is structured is dependent upon your goal race and the purpose of the workout.

Hill Training

Hill training is a great way to build strength and endurance. Hills can be incorporated in a variety of ways. You could introduce rolling hills on your long run. You can do short hills sprint (with easy jogging back down). Or you could even do a few hill repeats at the end of another workout.

Regardless of the type of workout you’re doing, be sure to wrap it in a proper warm up and cool down.

Recap

By following these guidelines, you can begin to draw up your own training plan. It’s important as you train to remain flexible. If you know you have a vacation planned that will make it more challenging to get workouts in, don’t plan for your peak week of mileage to coincide with that week. If you’re sick or generally feeling more run down, don’t push through a workout. Your training cycle will rarely go perfectly as planned. I know mine don’t! But if you can show up and give it your best every day, you’re sure to see progress.

Drop a comment below with your key takeaway from this. What are you most excited about when putting together your own training?

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