Welcome to training season! This time of year, runners across the country are lacing up new shoes, hitting the greenways and registering for the next big race. No better time than now to make a training plan!
Nothing will work unless you do.
So you’ve decided to run a marathon (or half). Now what? You need a road map to navigate the days, weeks and months ahead. A GPS to marathon training. Something to tell you exactly what to do every day, how many miles to run and when to rest.
You need a training plan.
9 Steps to Crafting a Training Plan:
John (shown above drinking a delish but gross looking smoothie) is training for his first marathon. I’ll share his training plan (which we based off of my Boston training plan and a bunch of help from cousin Allen) below. He’s running the Charlotte Marathon, November 3 and training for 16 weeks. Your plan may look completely different based on the day of your race, number of weeks you plan to train and other personal factors. Nine sounds like a lot of steps, but the first few are super easy. Stick with me!
- REGISTER. Have you picked a race yet? Doesn’t matter what distance or location. Choose a race and register. Nothing will hold you more accountable than dropping $25-$90 dollars on an event that requires you to train in order to complete it.
- PRINT OFF A BLANK CALENDAR. That’s right. Literally google “blank calendar” and print off 3-4 pages to fill in your training months. Use pencil, things can change!
- MAKE A BIG MARK ON RACE DAY. I like to decorate the little square on my calendar that represents race day. After all, it’s a celebration.
- COUNT BACKWARDS 3-4 WEEKS. That is your longest run. If you’re training for a marathon, I suggest running at least 20 miles as the longest run. I usually run 23 because mentally it helps me on race day. Some people run a full marathon before race day (unnecessary), some stick to 20 as the max and others fall somewhere in between. It’s a personal call. Training for a half? I suggest running at least 11 or 12 as your longest run. It’s okay to run the full 13 before race day, but unnecessary.
- FILL IN THE REST OF YOUR LONG RUNS. I like to set my long runs for Saturday mornings. This way, I can have a relaxing Friday night, eat a good meal, go to bed and knock it out early in the weekend. Some prefer Friday mornings or afternoons and others live for Sunday runs. Up to you!
- Think of the long runs in your training plan as a bell curve with a few dips going up the bell and down the bell. I like to start from the bottom and build up to about 18 miles and then go back down to 13-14 miles before going back up to 20-23 and then back down one more time before I go back up for my last long run and the taper. (See training plan example below). If you incorporate a training race, make sure you taper the weekend before. (See the month of September on the plan below).
- The dips in the bell curve allow your body to recover a little before the next long run. The longer your training plan (14-16 weeks), the more opportunity for dips in the bell (and wiggle room in case you get sick or something unexpected pops up).
- The last 2 weeks should be your taper. This is the subject of an entire blog post, but generally you should decrease mileage and limit your cross training. The taper is an opportunity for your body to recover and regroup before race day.
- MAKE ROOM FOR REST DAYS. I highly suggest designating 1 rest day per week. You can do yoga, go on a walk or stretch/foam roll, but commit to taking off 1 day every week of training. A rest day gives your body a chance to recover and fight injuries.
- FILL IN THE OTHER RUNS + CROSS TRAINING.
- I usually plan 1 long run, 1 short run and 2-3 medium runs per week. The distance will change throughout training. For instance, a medium run of 7-8 will be replaced with a 10 miler. A long run of 12 will be replaced with 18-20miles.
- My goal is to run 4-5 times per week, cross train/strength work 2-3 times per week and rest 1 day per week. (I have friends who run only 3 times per week and others who run 6 times).
- There aren’t 9 days in a week (unfortunately), so that means some runs and cross training workouts will overlap. You can sneak in a short run after a strength class at the gym or do a few rounds of push ups and planks after a medium run. Do what makes sense for you and your schedule.
- How fast should I run? Again. It’s a personal decision. Suggested per week: 1 tempo run (fast enough that you cannot have a conversation w/ someone), 1 speed workout (or every other week if you’re worried about injuries) and 1 recovery run (slow enough to have a conversation w/ someone). The other 2-3 runs, just go out there and do your best. Find a speed that is comfortable. Push yourself, but don’t overdue it. If you’re a new runner, this is something you will figure out as you go. Listen to your body!
- CONSULT THE EXPERTS. I always have someone else look at my training plan. Usually it’s my cousin Allen (“coach”) or a running buddy. Often after these consultations, I change the distance of a few long runs, maybe add a couple miles here and there or cut back on speed workouts towards the end of training. It’s good to have a second opinion. You can also pull a number of training plans from the internet. Here are a few suggestions:
- Hal Higdon’s marathon training plans are a widely used resource. For many, they are a tried and true.
- Nike has an easy to use website for making a training plan.
- Cool Running is another good one that let’s you pick between beginner, intermediate and advanced. They have a good running calculator as well.
- Also check out the McRun App for a popular and easy to use running calculator.
- A few years ago I signed up for emails from Runners Connect (the emails are published by Jeff Gaudette), which gave me a lot of great information about running such as aerobic v. lactate thresholds, psychological demands and nutrition.
- For motivation and inspiration, check out the Rich Roll podcast. This ultra triathlete (w/ an incredible story, read his book Finding Ultra) scores interviews from some of the biggest names in fitness with compelling stories to tell.
- BEGIN. Whatever you do, don’t let the act of making a training plan hold you back from actually TRAINING! If you haven’t made a plan, get out there and run anyway. Make the plan this weekend, on your lunch break or in place of the Netflix show you’re trying to finish. You need a road map to navigate marathon training. But don’t let the lack of a plan hold you back from actually training.
John’s Training Plan
John’s plan is still in the works, especially the short to medium runs and cross training days. Notice the long runs. If you were to put his long runs on a bell curve, it wouldn’t go all the way up and down. It would go up, then drop a little, back up, drop a little, up one more time and back down for the taper.
Cleo’s getting her plan together too. What are you doing?
Register. Make a Plan. Get to work.
See you out there.