The Importance of a Training Plan

When I started running, I mostly went out at a moderate pace for 5 miles. Sometimes I pushed a little harder when I felt good, sometimes a little slower if I had a long day at work. I raced parkruns and found that I was getting quicker. All was good in the world. However after a while, I noticed that I wasn’t improving anymore. I had used training plans before when building up my mileage for a half or full marathon but would never keep this up post the “big race”. It became clear I was running without a clear goal and just keeping myself ticking over. So I decided to get an online running coach. Someone who could lend me their experience to help me improve.

The first thing the coach did was write up and send me a training plan for the coming month. It listed out the aim of each session and the mileage that I would aim for. It also marked out the “big races” in a loud colour. The training plan provided structure but also made me pay more attention to the paces I was running/training at. Since I do track work most Tuesdays, I really felt a satisfaction from repeating a session (like 6x1k repeats with a jogged recovery over 200metres) and aiming to improve on the time that I completed the reps in last time. Recording your training really helps with your tempo runs and accessing if you are getting stronger.

So I still keep a training plan and would recommend others to try it. It is a little extra admin but worthwhile (and means that you don’t need to pay for a running coach). I would recommend keeping a spreadsheet of your training plan by saving on something like Google Sheets or Excel, then the plan can be easily accessed from your mobile phone, if you add the related apps to your phone. So while I think that seeing your running data online on things like Strava, Garmin connect or Movescount are good, I think they should be used in addition to your training plan. The training plan is also a running diary, you can write down exactly how you felt about a run. If you were disappointed, or over the moon because you beat that person who always beats you normally, the training plan can house these thoughts (whereas you might lose friends if you do this on Strava)!!!

The basic version of my training plan can be found attached. Anyone can add rows or columns as they see fit. I tend to weigh myself and track this on a training plan too. So it is really up to the individual if they want to keep their plans simple or make them more complex.

Training Plan Example

Some key points about the training plan

  1. Insert and mark out key races. My plans tend to cover a number of months but people can choose if they want to cover a few months or a year.
  2. At the top of the plan, you can write the overall aim of your training. This could be to run a 20 minute 5k or run a marathon in 3 hours 30 minutes.
  3. Make sure you know the reason for each session you are doing. If you are doing a tempo run, write out the pace you aim to run at.
  4. If you already provide feedback on an online tool like Strava, you can continue to do so. The Training plan feedback can be brief and to the point.
  5. Decide on anything else you want to track and add it to your training plan. Some runners like to track how they felt or effort level for example.

What is the Correct Pace for my run?

So you have decided that you are going to do a tempo run on a Thursday. But what pace should it be run at? Fortunately this question is a familiar one to all runners and something that a lot of coaches have thought about extensively. So I would recommend on of the below links which help guide you on this topic;

Most of the sites will take a recent race time and make a calculation on the training paces you should be using. Some will also take a Goal race time and show you the paces that you need to train at in order to meet that Goal time.

Other training plans

I would recommend spending some time reading online and picking out a training plan that suits you. I would still recommend that people make their own training plans based on the the content found online, inserting any races they have in their diary and including any other events that impact training like holidays, sickness etc.

The below Runner’s World link will show plans for many distances and paces;

runnersworld training plans