Picking The Right Training Plan

Happy Monday!  Tis the season when I start writing a lot of training plans for the coming year.  I am not going to lie, I kind of love this part of coaching.  Being the running nerd that I am I like learning about my runners and their specific needs and creating a plan that works perfectly for them.  As a coach I find it frustrating to see so many people doing quick online searches for training plans and sticking religiously to a cookie cutter plan they found on the internet.

First of all we are not cookies.  If we were I would be incredibly happy (you know I have a sweet tooth).  But each and every one of us is different.  Our bodies are different, our experiences leading up to races are different and our needs are different.  While those plans are often very useful we need to be careful when looking at them and referring to them as the one and only way to get to a race.

There are several factors I take into consideration when working with an athlete and I think that these are important for you to look at when figuring out the proper plan for you:

•Have you run/raced at this distance before?  If it is new to you that is a very important factor, while if you have already done this distance it can allow for some wiggle room in your training.

•What is your running experience?  Have you been running for years or did you just start?  Do you run 10-15 miles per week or are you logging 35+ miles per week.  I have numerous runners tell me they want an advanced plan and then I find out they are running 15 miles per week  While this is great, it would be a recipe for injury disaster to throw them into an advanced plan which requires a lot of mileage.  I most likely wouldn’t give a beginner a 22 mile run on their marathon plan, just as I might hold off on adding speed work for a first time marathoner.

•What are your goals for this event?  If you are doing a distance for the first time it is best to aim for finishing.  But if this isn’t new to you it is totally find to set a time goal or aim to beat a PR.

•What other factors need to be taken into consideration?  Do you suffer from asthma or tend to get tendinitis when mileage picks up?  Are you coming off of an injury or just wrapping up another training session?  These are reasons that might call for training plan adjustments.  If you have a hectic work schedule you might need to rearrange a training plan so that you don’t struggle to fit in runs.  If you are injury prone you might need to add in some forms of cross training.  Sometimes that even means changing up the number of weeks that you train.  You might benefit from a longer training plan but an experienced runner who needs some adjustments might be fine on a 14-16 week training plan for a marathon.

This by no means says that you have to hire a running coach to create a training plan for you.  But you should always take into consideration what your own specific needs and goals are for each race.  It is important to be honest with yourself about the level of running you are at as well as what your body requires of you to make it through training healthy and in one piece.  Make sure you do some research and don’t be afraid to seek out advice.  Coaches and running groups are there to help and want to make sure your race/event is a success.

Happy running!

12 thoughts on “Picking The Right Training Plan

  1. Great tips!! My last go around I ddin’t use a plan and I think it was a downfall for me. I’m feeling a little more motivated about everything this time following along with Hal. I think injury-wise he will keep me safer. 🙂 It’s nice that I can adapt it to meet my scheduling needs too!

    • Hal is a great way to go and the one that I would recommend. It works for a reason. And yes it is important to be accommodating. Nothing is set in stone. You are always good about that.

  2. I am working on my plan right now. It is so frustrating trying to figure out the perfect plan for “you” because it is all by trial and error. But once you find what works… It is amazing. Great tips!

  3. “we are not cookies.” haha that’s a fun thing to think about…if we were, who would be what cookie?! i actually juuuuust printed out the Hal plan for a half marathon about 10 minutes before i read this post (so fitting!), because i decided i need a lil structure this time around. i’m praying i don’t get injured, as last time i trained for a race i got awful tendonitis and had to defer til next year. any tips for preventing that??

    • It is funny to think of us as cookies. I think the key to any training is to pay attention to your body. Know what the signals are for you indicating something coming and know when to ease off or get yourself a good massage. BTW I have an incredible and decently priced masseuse that works with runners in NYC and he has been able to FIND my injuries and figure out where they came from and deal with them!

  4. Nice tips! Sometimes it takes awhile to discover what works best for you. After years of sticking to training plans, I’ve adopted a more “fly by the seat of my pants” approach. It works well for me, but wouldn’t for others. Happy training!

  5. I am a beginner and I have to admit u follow an almost “cookie-cutter” plan from asics. They do ask for fitness level and age and the like, but the plan is far from perfect. Nevertheless, I am very happy with it – it keeps me disciplined and that’s the most important thing about it. In over 2 months I did not miss a single run, running 3 times a week (reschedule-yes; cancel-nope). I am very proud of that. As a casual runner, I feel fine with being a cookie (;

  6. Great advice as always. I’ve thought about getting a personal coach. I think I need a good plan. I always like to run for PR’s. I’ll probably talk to the folks in my run group though – they are pretty good with helping folks out.

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