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How to Create an Effective Running Plan: A Guide to All Distances

running across a bridge in the run

Ever wondered what a good running training plan looks like? Do you want to progress in all areas of running, but you need to know what your training plan should look like? Here, I explain what a good training plan should look like and spoiler, it’s not just pushing your pace faster with each run for Kudos on Strava

Mix Up Your Runs:

Variety is the spice of a successful running plan, but it’s not just about going long and slow. To build a well-rounded running ability, incorporate different types of runs across various distances. This approach ensures that you’re prepared for long-distance races and equipped for the challenges of shorter, speed-focused runs.

Long and Slow Runs for Endurance:

Long runs are fantastic for building endurance and mental toughness. These should be a staple in your plan, gradually increasing distance over time. However, avoid the misconception that slow and steady is the only way. Mix in some variation by occasionally adding surges or picking up the pace towards the end to simulate race-day conditions.

Interval Training for Speed:

Intervals are your secret weapon for improving speed and boosting cardiovascular fitness. Alternate between short bursts of high-intensity running and periods of active recovery. This type of training enhances your body’s ability to utilise oxygen efficiently, improving overall speed and performance.

Hill Runs for Strength:

Incorporate hill runs to strengthen your legs and improve your overall running economy. Hills engage different muscle groups and enhance power, making you more resilient on flat surfaces. Whether it’s short hill sprints or longer hill repeats, these workouts contribute to a well-rounded training regimen.

Remember, the goal isn’t just to run long; it’s about developing a versatile skill set. Training across different distances and intensities helps you build the stamina, speed, and strength needed for various races. Whether you’re eyeing a marathon or a 5K, a holistic training approach ensures you’re prepared for whatever the running world throws.

Include Rest Days:

Rest is just as crucial as the run itself. Your body needs time to recover and adapt. Plan for at least one or two rest days a week to reduce the risk of overtraining and enhance overall performance. I recommend three to four running per week made up of:

  1. A long, steady run
  2. A tempo session and an interval session
  3. One easy run. 

You can still exercise outside these sessions if you need daily exercise to feel good. I’d recommend strength training or yoga on the remaining days of the week.

Listen to Your Body:

Pay attention to how your body responds to each run. If you’re feeling fatigued or experiencing pain, adjusting your plan is okay. Flexibility is crucial for long-term success.

Incorporate Strength Training:

A well-rounded running plan includes strength training exercises. Building core strength and working on muscle imbalances in the gym can improve overall running performance and prevent injuries.

Stay Consistent:

Consistency is the secret sauce. Stick to your plan, even on days when motivation is low. Consistent effort over time yields the best results.

Monitor Your Progress:

Keep a running log or use a fitness app to track your runs, distances, and times. Monitoring your progress helps you stay motivated and allows you to identify patterns and adjust your plan accordingly.

Hydrate and Fuel:

Proper nutrition and hydration are often underestimated in running plans. Ensure you’re fueling your body with the proper nutrients and staying hydrated to optimise your performance and recovery.

Proper nutrition and hydration are paramount in any running plan, and understanding key concepts like lactate threshold, carb depletion, and fuel utilisation can elevate your performance.

a) Lactate Threshold:

The lactate threshold is the exercise intensity at which lactic acid accumulates in your muscles. Training just below this threshold is crucial to improve your body’s ability to clear lactate, delaying fatigue. Incorporate tempo runs at a challenging but sustainable pace into your plan to raise your lactate threshold.

b) Carb Depletion and Fat Utilisation:

While carbs are a primary energy source, training your body to use fats efficiently can enhance endurance. Consider incorporating long, slow runs into your plan, especially in a fasted state. This helps deplete glycogen stores, forcing your body to rely on fat for energy. However, it’s essential to strike a balance and not deprive your body of necessary nutrients.

c) Pre-run Nutrition:

Fuel up with a balanced meal 2-3 hours before a run. Include complex carbohydrates for sustained energy, moderate protein, and a small amount of healthy fats. Avoid high-fiber and high-fat foods to prevent digestive discomfort.

d) During-run Fuelling:

For longer runs exceeding 60 minutes, consider consuming easily digestible carbohydrates to replenish glycogen stores. Energy gels, chews, or sports drinks can quickly boost energy. Experiment with different options during training to find what works best for you, and remember to stay hydrated.

e) Hydration Strategies:

Start your run well-hydrated by drinking water in the hours leading up to it. During the run, aim to drink 5-10 ounces every 15-20 minutes, adjusting based on weather conditions and individual needs. Electrolyte drinks can help replace sodium lost through sweat. After your run, rehydrate with a mix of water and electrolytes.

Individual preferences and tolerances vary, so listen to your body and adjust your nutrition and hydration plan accordingly. These considerations will optimise your running performance and create a more enjoyable and sustainable running experience.

Celebrate Milestones:

Celebrate your achievements, whether completing your first 5K or achieving your personal best. Recognising your progress keeps you motivated on your running journey.

If you need further one-to-one assistance or help to working on your form, I recommend hiring a personal trainer or online coach to help you achieve your goals. Good running form is vital because it helps prevent injury and makes you more efficient with every step. A coach can also help hold you accountable and motivate you towards your goals.

So, runners, go out there confidently, mix up your runs, and have fun! Whether you’re chasing a marathon goal or a new 5K PB, a well-constructed plan is your key to success. 

If you enjoyed reading this and found it insightful, I wrote a 5km race day strategy post, explaining exactly how to achieve a sub ’20 time. I’m sure you’ll find that useful.

Thanks for reading and happy running!

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