Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Training Plans 101

If you're like me, you've already gone online to find a training plan you can print out for that next big race. Yes, free is always good but those plans tend to ignore the fact that folks like you and me actually have lives. And that sometimes, I turn the alarm off and roll over. It's very hard to insert yourself into the middle of a structured training plan and expect to follow it to the letter. It just doesn't work like that.

I find it much easier to leverage the foundations of these plans and build my own.


Because life gets in the way.
Because sometimes I'm tired.
Because sometimes I've had a few too many the night before.

Here are some basic tips I've used for many years to build training plans from 1/2 marathons to 100-milers. The principles are the same, it's only the distance and time that changes.
  1. Print a paper calendar. They're free online - like this one for 2016. Use it to plan out your run days and distances to help keep yourself accountable. I also note personal/family events to ensure I'm not getting yelled because of a conflicting long run!
  2. Start your plan at the end. Don't try to boil the ocean when trying to figure out your weekly mileage. I use 2 steps: (1) Go backwards 2 weeks from race day and fill in what your max mileage looks like for that week. This is where those free online plans come in handy if you're not sure. (2) Come back to the present day and fill in your mileage for the previous week and the current week. This is your starting point and helps you fill in everything from today until that peak mileage.
  3. Training cycle. No, I'm not telling you to cycle as part of your training. Think of your training in 4-week cycles. Ideally, you will want a training pattern that provides growth to your distance (and/or speed) while providing you the down-time and rest (e.g., lower mileage or cross-training) you need to keep your head (and feet) on straight. There are obviously variations to this so use whatever works for you...the point being, is that rest and lower mileage are important to your physical and mental stability!
    • Week 1: Build mileage (by 10%)
      Week 2: Build mileage (by 10%)
      Week 3: Rest
      Week 4: Build mileage (by 20-25%)
  4. Train for the race. You can't expect to do well in a race with a shit-ton of climbing if you don't train for it. Add in track workouts. Add in hill repeats. You wouldn't train on trails for a road marathon...be smart about your runs!
  5. Edit the plan when necessary. The paper calendar is great because shit comes up. Move a run. Change the mileage. Add in hills. That's the beauty of pencil and paper...the training plan changes with your life. Flexibility is key if you want your spouse to still like you :-)
Example I created recently showing the build/rest cycle along with weekly mileage
I've been self-coached for over 10 years now and each year, I put together a plan just like the one above to get me through all my races. If you'd like additional advice or help putting yours together, message me on Facebook or email me at rovert.d@gmail.com. Happy to help!

P.S. I will work for beer! :-)

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