Coaches are fantastic and while we are pretty biased on the topic, we think you should have one. But it’s not always affordable for everyone and although there are loads of free resources online, how do you know if you have got a good training plan to work off, or if you’ve got a bit of a lemon?
Before you even get started on the nitty gritty of the plan, here’s what I would look for as basics:
1) Recovery weeks. There should be weeks (usually every 4-6 weeks) where you have a week of only easy-paced running and the time of your sessions would be shorter as well. This is to help your body recover and absorb the benefits of your training.
2) Varied training sessions. You don’t want a training plan that is just going to have you running at the same pace for 12 weeks because you aren’t going to get the best out of your body.
3) No pace requirement for easy or long runs. Even if you are going after an ambitious goal, these runs should be based on effort, not on pace.
The next thing to look for is to see if the plan is targeting the distance you are aiming for:
5km: Run in your anaerobic zone
10km: Run at your anaerobic threshold
Half Marathon: Run at your lactate threshold
Marathon: Run at your aerobic threshold
But keep in mind all of these distances rely heavily on your aerobic fitness. For example a 5k run is about 90% powered by your aerobic system, so you can see how your aerobic fitness only gets more and more important as you build up. For that reason, focus on 80% of your running being in an aerobic zone. It’s also called your easy or comfortable running and you should be able to hold a full conversation at that pace.
Make sure you are specifically training
When you are looking at quality sessions in your training plan you want to make sure that those sessions are targeting the right systems to get your best result.
For example, in marathon training a large part of your quality sessions will be dedicated to steady state running and longer intervals. And classic marathon specific training sessions might be:
4 x 1.6km Intervals with 4:00 Jogging Recoveries
3 x 5km Tempo Intervals with 5:00 Jogging Recoveries
Long Run with 30:00 Tempo Finish.
Whereas in 5km training, you can expect much shorter and much harder intervals. Examples might be:
3km Time Trial
8 x 400m with 100m Jogging Recoveries
Progression Run: 3km Easy, 1km Tempo, 1km Hard
If I’m not planning on running fast, should I do hard sessions?
This is a common question and also one that happens around marathon training. If you are going to be running at a pretty steady state or aerobic level, why do high intensity sessions? And the answer is that high intensity sessions increase your aerobic capacity, so they quite literally make your easy sessions, feel easier. Which is a great thing if you are running a marathon or any distance for that matter!
How to Structure your week
For the most part it’s fine to move sessions around to fit in with your schedule but on either side of a quality session you’d want either an easy run or a rest day, and the same goes for your long run day. This is just to make sure you are getting adequate recovery to get the most of your training.
I hope this has given you some great ideas on either writing (or finding) a training plan that is going to maximise all the hard work you put into your next event.