I get stressed out when I have a running training plan to follow, as undoubtedly, something will come up – to interrupt said plan. I mean in theory, it should calm me down, knowing what I need to do – how much to run and when, but it doesn’t. I’ve read a lot of articles about runners benefiting from performance gains when their plan is taken out of their hands. They just have to do it, they can’t think or stress about what run to do next, it’s iron-clad and in the plan – do this run on that day, full stop.
I don’t fall into this camp.
There are so many interruptions in everyday life from a bad night’s sleep, a headache, kids up in the night, work stress, too much time commuting on my bike – that will inevitably just throw a plan out of whack for me. Then instead of this plan, where the decision of what run to do next is made, making me feel calm, it makes me more stressed 😩, if I don’t want to do it, or simply can’t do it.
But you can’t just rock-up to a half-marathon, hoping for a pb 🏅 (personal best) with no plan. So, I have worked out a rough formula that works for me in the lead up to a half-marathon. You might call it a loose plan with lots of little back up plans available to keep me on target 🎯 (and most importantly not stressed).
Step 1: Know how much time you have
This might sound very basic, but doesn’t it feel like time just flies by these days, I mean we’re at the end of September 2018 – that’s insane, was it not like January…. Yesterday?! So, I count back from my race date and mark each Sunday on the calendar 🗓️ with a week number. This way I know instantly how much time I have left – being able to say, 9 weeks until race day works better for me than the race is in mid-November and not really having a firm grasp on what the current date is, which is often true for me 🙋.
Step 2: Take your time from Step 1 and plan your Long Runs
If I’m running a half-marathon, I like to plan my long runs and increase my distance slowly over the weeks leading up to the race. So, I know that a half marathon is just over 21km, and I want to get close (or even just over) this distance. So, I usually start my long runs at a base of 10km and add 2-3kms per week, with 1 cut back (where I hold or reduce the distance), and a 2-week taper. Here is what it looks like for my next race.
- Week 1: 10km
- Week 2: 13km
- Week 3: 16km
- Week 4: 19km
- Week 5: 19km
- Week 6: 17km
- Week 7: Race Week
Step 3: Don’t forget the other bits
Now, I never write down the ‘other bits’, or beat myself up if I miss them – these are just the icing on the cake 🍰. Each week I aim for an interval session, a comfortably hard run, and the rest of the runs should be easy runs. I’m often running to and from school drop-off/pick-ups (literally), so I just take it as it comes – if I’m super tired one morning, I’ll just do a chilled 4km jog back. Another day, I might be all hyped-up on coffee ☕, and cutting it fine for the school pick-up, so I jam a comfortably hard run (aka please don’t be late and show up at the school gates a gasping sweaty mess 😅).
Step 4: Boost your runs 🚀🚀🚀
If I’ve missed one of the ‘other bits’ runs in Step 3, often I will chuck something into my long or easy runs to make it up. For example, I might do my long run in Richmond park, and then do a few hill repeats. Plus, here are 2 more ways I ramp up an easy run:
- Progression Run: Start easy, then just aim to run each km a little faster than the last one
- Fartlek Run: for a few kms in the middle of an easy run, I’ll run fast to a marker (like a tree/lamppost/postbox), then recover and then repeat for as long as I like with whatever markers that I like
Step 5: Know in your heart what you can do ♥️
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t turn up to every race and have a glimmer of hope for a pb, even if I know it’s highly unlikely. Don’t we all do this? 🤞 A vain desire to believe that our athletic prowess will see you through an interrupted training cycle and magically on race day something will come together. But being honest with yourself and your pace on race day is a much better option. I will always push myself in a race, but I try to have a frank conversation (not out loud 😂) with myself beforehand about what is possible and feel comfortable with that.
So, tell me, do you love a plan to follow or does it stress you out like it does me? Have you ever had a custom training plan made for you? What good ‘out of the box’ plans have you tried or found online?