Step 3: Plan Out Your Hardest Week of Training
Creating a training plan is like taking a road trip. You need to know your final destination before you can decide which direction to turn at the end of your own driveway. The final destination in training for running events is your "peak week," which is your hardest week of training. This week should fall two to three weeks before your race, and administer the maximum training load you expect to be able to handle by that time.
There are two decisions to be made. First, you need to decide what your hardest workouts should be. They should include a long run (e.g. 20 miles), a tempo run (e.g. 5 miles at half marathon race pace), and a set of high-intensity intervals (e.g. 5 x 1,000 meters at 5K race pace). One of these three runs should be more challenging than the other two. If you're training for a 5K, the high-intensity interval workout should be the toughest. If you're training for a 10K or half marathon, emphasize the tempo run. And if it's a marathon you're preparing for, test yourself most on the long runs.
The other decision you need to make is how many total miles to run in your peak training week. This target should be close to the maximum number of miles you can realistically expect to handle comfortably by that time. Naturally, the longer the race you're preparing for, the higher you should aim with your peak mileage target.
Step 4: Plan Out Your First Week of Training
The next-to-last step in the process of building your own training plan is scheduling your first week of workouts. This is easy. The overall training load you prescribe for yourself in that week should be just slightly greater than your recent training. For example, if you ran 21 miles last week, you might plan to run 24 miles in Week 1 of your training.
Your Week 1 training schedule should also conform to the weekly workout template you've chosen. Two of your workouts should include faster running and another should be a longer run. Keep the total amount of running at moderate and high intensities—10K race pace and faster—low in this first week, accounting for no more than 15 percent of your total training time. Your top priority in the first portion of the training process is to increase your overall mileage, and this is easier when faster running is kept to a minimum.
Step 5: Connect the Dots
Once you have planned in detail the first and peak weeks of the training process, the last step is a no-brainer. Fill in the rest of your schedule by making the workouts in each week a little more challenging and a little more like those in the peak week. Your training load should not increase every single week, however. Make every third or fourth week a recovery week, where running mileage is reduced by 20 to 30 percent from the week before to promote recovery and allow your body to prepare for more hard training.
Plan in Pencil
Training plans should be written in pencil, not ink. Think of your training plan as a best-case scenario, representing the training you will do if absolutely nothing goes wrong. But something always goes wrong, so be ready and willing to make appropriate adjustments whenever you are too sore, tired or sick to do the run you planned for a given day. Always listen to your body and let it have the last word in deciding what you do next.
- How to Peak at the Right Time
- How to Increase Running Mileage Safely
- The 3-Month Marathon Training Plan
Find your next race.