Hey ya’ll! I’m no expert, so don’t take my word for it. I’ve trained for three marathons now and just thought I’d put together some tips for those of you looking to find a training plan for your next race. Disclaimer: I am not a professional. All opinions shared on this blog unless otherwise noted should be taken as advice from one runner to another.
Here are just a few things that might help you choose the right plan.
One Size Does Not Fit All
Everyone is different so one size does not fit all. There are so many factors that weigh on choosing the right training plan like your current condition, fitness level, previous race experience, time commitments, etc. You should be looking for an individual plan like working with a coach or making adjustments to a one size fits all plan so it suits your needs and goals. Also, it’s important to look for race specific training which is not usually included in a mass marketed plan.
Time factors are super important when selecting a training plan. You should ask yourself the following questions and then look for a plan that fits within your answers. You will still want to set realistic goals for yourself based on the amount of time you have been running, current fitness level and previous experiences. For example: Depending on your current fitness level it might be unreasonable to plan on running a marathon in 6 weeks if you can only commit to running 3 days a week. While there is probably a plan out there to get you to the finish line in 6 weeks it is probably not the best one for your health.
- How many days a week can you commit to running?
- How many weeks do you have before your goal race?
- Do you just want to finish or do you have a time goal?
Adjustments for Injuries
If you are prone to injury or coming back from injury you will want to look for a plan that specifically addresses these needs so you can hit your race goal and stay healthy during your training cycle. This might include having a plan that eases into running if you’ve had to take some time off or repeating the first couple weeks of the plan to give your body time to adjust. Some folks generally avoid injury with the proper cross training or strength training routines so if you know you are prone to injury work early on to prevent it by incorporating it into your training routine.
Make It Yours
No matter what plan you choose you will probably need to make some adjustments. That may mean switching a couple days around, adding active recovery days, moving your long run day, adding strength workouts or something else entirely. Be sure to do your research on why certain workouts fall on certain days of the week or why mileage increases on a certain week. It’s important that you customize the plan to suit your needs and goals, but also understand why the plan is laid out the way it is.
This is also the time to adjust your plan so you are motivated to stick to it. If you know you usually get bored with routine then consider adding in strength training sessions or cross training to mix it up. Or if you know you will want to do your long run with girlfriends that meet on Saturday structure your long run to accommodate meeting up with your friends.
Commit to the Plan
It’s easy to look toward the end of a training plan and feel overwhelmed, but you have to commit to the plan and trust the process. Trusting your plan can sometimes be really challenging, but you have to stick to it in order to see the results you are looking for. This is especially true for new runners and runners setting high goals. What might seem impossible now will seem possible by the time you get there with the proper training. Trust the process and listen to your body. If you truly want to be a great endurance runner then you need to commit to the plan for life. Slow and steady wins the race and that is the same philosophy for increasing your mileage on a plan.
I am a huge fan of Hal Higdon’s plans and have had a lot of success with them. I’ve tried enough variations of them that I know what works for me and what doesn’t. I am in no way advocating his plans to everyone, but they have worked for a lot of runners and are very adaptable. I also like that he explains what each workout means and why it is scheduled on a particular day. This helps when you want to make adjustments because you can make educated decisions about switching days or changing workouts. Look for the plan that is going to help you succeed.
No matter what plan you choose I hope it brings you all the happiness you want it to. Happy running ya’ll!
What plans have worked for you in the past?
Is there any new training technique you want to try?