I love nothing more than creating a color-coded workout plan and seeing the next few months of my life condensed onto one page. I can trace this back to my days in the corporate world where workdays were dictated by project plans. We spent our time breaking big tasks down into manageable pieces, checking off each task, tracking our progress, adjusting as needed, and celebrating our success.
In a nutshell, when we followed a plan to achieve a goal, we had a clear vision of where we were headed and it kept us on track.
It’s all in the plan
My days working in the corporate world may be behind me, but today every rider I work with is encouraged to follow a training plan. While those new to running will follow a similar path, runners who have been running longer and know the basics can adapt a generic training plan to suit them. Planning sets us up for success by setting deadlines and detailing our dreams. There’s no limit to the number of running goals you can set for yourself, but no matter where you envision your running future, a clear plan can make a daunting goal suddenly seem more achievable if approached sensibly and incrementally.
What is the best plan
There are so many downloadable training plans available now that it can be difficult to decide which one to choose. The plans range from very simple to very technical. They vary in terms of intensity, mileage and number of training days per week. But there is no perfect plan that works for everyone. Just as the best pair of running shoes is the one that best fits your feet and your body, the best training plan is the one that actually fits your life – your other commitments, your fitness level, your running history and future goals. Running is so personal and your plan should be too.
What to look for in a plan
Your workout plan should fill you with excitement, not dread. It should be difficult enough that you see gradual progression, but not so overwhelming that you lose confidence or push you to progress too quickly. It should be in a format you like to read and can understand – it could be a spreadsheet, a visual map, handwritten on paper, or even integrated into your running tech. It should allow for some flexibility so you can easily adapt if life gets in the way. Most importantly, it should be easy to edit and in a format that encourages you to take notes, check off sessions, and track your progress.
Why bother with a plan?
Most training plans available focus on running distance or improving speed. But even if you don’t have your eyes set on such goals, a plan is still important to help structure your race weeks. A plan gives purpose to each training session, puts dates in the diary and helps clarify your race goals. Your goal may be just to run three times a week or to work on your running technique. You might want to try out new routes and schedule meetups with other running buddies. Planning these events in advance makes them a reality. Eight weeks is a reasonable time to plan in detail. Of course, you can look beyond that, especially if you plan to run long distances, but achieving long-term goals requires addressing short-term goals first. So what would you like to accomplish in the next eight weeks?
Find the right model
Once you’ve chosen your running goal, the next step is to figure out how to get there from where you currently are. The starting point for most people is Google, and you’ll have plenty of options to choose from. You can also stumble upon training plans from trainers, magazines, books, social media, or through the recommendation of a runner friend. But whatever plan you ultimately decide to follow, treat it only as a template that needs to be customized for you. Consider getting help adapting the training plan from an experienced running partner or, better yet, work with a running coach, especially if you are not used to working with running plans. training before. It is imperative that the plan be realistic for your body, your physical condition and the time you are willing to devote to training.
The questions to ask
If your workout plan seems overwhelming, it won’t inspire confidence or motivation along the way. Make a few key decisions before you start training to avoid disappointment later. How many days a week do you want to run? How far do you want to plan? Do you like speedwork or long distances? Do you prefer to track progress in miles, km or minutes. Do you like to monitor the level of exertion by heart rate, pace on your watch or simply by how you feel? Do you like simple instructions or do you enjoy more technical workouts that you can program into your running gadget? Will you have the motivation and knowledge to train solo or do you need support along the way?
Customize the plan
Knowing the answers to the questions above gives you a clear idea of the type of plan you definitely don’t want. The plan you choose must be attractive if you want to follow it. Not only should it have training elements that help your body work better, but you should also make sure you have the allotted time for rest and recovery. Also, be sure to include work and family commitments in your paper training plan. I like to integrate all of my calendars, so I know I’m not planning errands for days when I know I’ll be preoccupied with other family commitments or work deadlines. It can be very satisfying to see all of your life plans for the next few months condensed onto one page.
A work in progress
Even if you have the most perfect workout plan, it’s no good unless you actually go out and start ticking off the workouts. So get ready for success. Tell others about your plan and keep your workout plan somewhere visible enough to always see it. Take it a week at a time and be ready to adapt when life gets in the way. Be flexible, but always keep your eyes on where you want to be in the future. Having a plan will structure your week, keep you focused on your workouts, and comfort you knowing you’re on the right track. You just need to decide now, which path do you want to follow?
Download a training program here.
Sign up for one of Get started in the Irish Times programs (it’s free!).
First, choose the eight-week program that’s right for you.
– Beginner course: A course to go from inactivity to running for 30 minutes.
– Stay on track: For those who can run a few times a week.
– 10km course: Designed for those who want to move up to the 10 km mark.
– Mary Jennings is the founder of Running Coach in ForgetTheGym.com. Mary’s running classes and coaching programs are now open for booking.