Putting it together

The author - photo by David Knight

The author

We now have all the ingredients in place so that we can put together our own training programme.

Mapping out the weeks

You need to figure out how many weeks you are going to need, and how your programme will be phased over those weeks.

The first step is to decide your goal.  This determines the amount of mileage and type of training you need to do.  Your goal should be stretching but achievable. You should reassess, and if necessary adjust, your goal as your training progresses.  (See Chapter 2 for more about setting a goal.)

Second, determine your desired weekly mileage, using Table 10.x.  Consider carefully how much time you are prepared to commit to running, and take account of the impact on your family life and social life.  Don’t forget that as you increase your exercise, you should also increase the amount of sleep you get, which will need to budget for as well.

Third, calculate how long it will take you to build up to your desired weekly mileage, given that you should not increase your weekly mileage by more than 2 miles, or 10% a week, whichever is the larger. (If you follow this strictly, it takes around 3 months to get from 10 miles a week to 40 miles a week.)

Fourth, decide the total duration of the training programme, remembering to include the time it will take to build up to your desired weekly mileage.  In the light of the duration, select your target race or races.

Now you can draw up your training overview, showing all the weeks between now and the target race date, which forms the basis of your plan.   Write in the training goals for each week, identify the easy weeks, and pencil in approximate weekly mileage totals.

Here is an example for runner who runs 10 miles a week, wants to run a 10km, and has decided to step up to 25 miles a week.  The schedule therefore begins with 12 weeks of aerobic running, building up to the target weekly mileage of 25 miles a week.

Table 10.6: sample training overview for 10km runner

Weeks to go Phase Miles Weeks to go Phase Miles
22 Build up 10 11 Base 20
21 Build up 12 10 Strength 22
20 Build up 8 E 9 Strength 24
19 Build up 12 8 Strength 16 E
18 Build up 14 7 Speed 25
17 Build up 16 6 Speed 23
16 Base 10 E 5 Speed 25
15 Base 16 4 Speed 16 E
14 Base 18 3 Speed 22
13 Base 20 2 Peaking 20
12 Base 16 E 1 Race 15

Designing the weekly programme in detail

Once you have the overall shape of the programme, you can then begin to fill in planned run details for each day of the week.  How you do this will depend on your other commitments, and factors (for example, if you are a member of a running club, the weekly timetable of your club runs).

The first step is to write in your weekly long run. This should build up to your maximum long run, which you should repeat each fortnight three or four times. Your longest run should be 3-4 weeks before the race.  In easy weeks, cut back the long run to around two thirds of the previous week.

Then pencil in your rest days.  You may want to rest on Fridays, so that you are strong for weekend races; or on Mondays after the rigours of the weekend.

Then pencil in your strength sessions, speed sessions, and threshold runs.  Ideally, these should be separated from each other, and from your long runs, by at least a day (though sometimes this is impossible).

The training schedules in Chapter 11 give examples of how your programme might look.

How detailed should your schedule be?

Some runners prefer to plan every session in advance.  Others prefer to leave things open, so that they can adapt their training to unexpected work or social commitments and how their body feels.

An approach that seems to work well for many runners is to map out an overview of the training programme, and pencil in weekly mileage totals. Then write in any fixed points, such as races you want to enter, long runs, and weekly club runs. This gives the programme a skeleton. But you might want to leave the rest vague: for example, you could decide not to schedule easy runs, fartleks, threshold runs and rest days, and run these sessions as you feel inclined. All the while, use your training log to keep an eye on your weekly mileage to make sure it is in line with the target you have set yourself.

Varying your training over the year

We have seen that the training schedule in the run up to a race should move through different training phases, from aerobic base, to strength and then speed.  In addition, most serious runners vary their training patterns over the year.

For example, some runners spend the winter months concentrating on building distance and endurance, using the dark evenings for long runs; taking part in cross country races; and beginning their training for a marathon in the spring; they then use the summer to concentrate on shorter distances, and take part in track and field events.

If you are going to be a runner for the rest of your life, it is a good idea to vary your training like this during the year.  This will keep you interested and motivated, and the variation is good for your overall fitness and health.

You should also aim to take one period of rest during the year.  Ideally, cut back your running for around a month.  During this time, you might do some other sports, such as swimming and cycling; or run occasionally but only for pleasure, without a stopwatch and definitely no speed-work.  This gives your body time to recover and rebuild itself.  If you don’t cut back for an easy period during the year, you may well find that your body does it for you, by imposing an injury or illness on you that stops you from running.

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