The Take it and Run Thursday Series is an on going project supported by the Runners Lounge. Every week they throw out a topic/question or idea and ask us fellow blogger/runners to respond.
This week’s question: What tips and tricks have you learned about crafting good training plans?
(I tap the keyboard for a minute, stare out the window and wonder, “Have I ever followed a training plan?” )
OK – I’m ready to unload a few hints, but first a confession: I am HORRIBLE at following training plans. Just awful! I don’t taper enough. (Read this interview if you don’t believe me). I run too hard and overlap races. I don’t do enough cross training and I tend to whine. And I am positive that whining is not part of any good marathon training program that I konw.
But besides that, I do have some ideas of what has worked well for me in the past.
Here are my tips for crafting a good training plan:
#1: I Get Excited
This is so basic. I have a hard time sticking to a plan or getting in all the miles unless I’m training for something specific. Running for some nebulous race floating out there in the distant future doesn’t work. I need a goal. I need a race with a date and a name. I want a challenge and I want to get excited about meeting that challenge. So the crucial part of crafting a good training plan is to find something to get excited about. Once I’ve committed to a race the pieces start to fall into place
#2: I make sure I run a lot of different types of runs during the week.
My general training plan varies in intensity and mileage, but it looks something like this:
Wednesday: Second longest run of the week
Thursday: Run according to how I feel: Do I want a long trail run? Am I feeling peppy I’ll do a tempo run
Saturday: Long run – usually on the trails
Sunday: Recovery run – run as slow as I’d like
I’ll switch things around and life, of course, sometimes gets in the way. Maybe I’ll run my hills on Thursday and my longer run on Monday. Maybe weather will be bad on Saturday and I’ll run long on Sunday. Sometimes I’m lazy or worried and don’t get to track practice. The key here is that not every run is the same, nor should it be run the same way. Variety and intensity have made me a much stronger runner.
#3: I track mileage per week.
I’m high mileage runner in comparison to many, I think because I don’t have a lot of natural running talent. I wasn’t born with speed, and I’m not naturally quick. But I am STUBBORN. And I do have an excessive amount of willpower. Logging lots of miles isn’t all that difficult, and it’s an easy way to see a lot of improvement. So I make sure that my training programs begin with a good base mileage – somewhere between 45-50 mpw – and then I go up from there by slowly piling on the miles over the weeks.
#3: A good training program gets me on the trails
I saw a HUGE leap in my performance when I started running trails. I’ve gained more lean muscle, my endurance is better, and my smile is bigger. Trail running isn’t easy when you start, but the payoffs are huge. As a result I try to do my long runs on trails – it’s just more fun, and as an added benefit it makes road running feel so much faster.
#4: A good training program is not the boss of me:
I think this is an important take away message: A training program is good, prepping for a race is good, watching myself improve over time is good, but it’s not everything. Sometimes I get freaked out when I don’t get the mileage in. But life isn’t all about running (although is often seems to be the case) and a training plan needs to be flexible and allow for things like dates, jobs and friends.
#5: Finally. a good training plan is fun:
I admit I’m a running nerd. I love tracking progress in a runner’s journal and tallying my mileage at the end of the week. Having a plan gives me structure and faith that I am improving. Not every fun is super fun, but the variety and the challenge and the promise of an upcoming race make it fun.
So there you have it. My tips for crafting a good training program. Certainly there are other more qualified people out there, but I suppose that’s the great thing about a blog. We all get to be mini-experts in our own running world.