Saturday, July 8, 2023

How to Create a Running Plan

How to Create a Running Plan

I don't care if you want to run a mile or a marathon, you will benefit from having a training plan. And guess what? Creating a training plan is essentially the same no matter the distance. Any plan will need to factor in easy days, rest days, speed work and long runs. Those are the four ingredients of any running plan.


When I'm coaching runners, I like a 12 week plan. I break it up into 3 x 4 weeks.

Base Phase: Four weeks long. This is where I focus on building up mileage and getting runners used to running. I don't do much if any speedwork. Just easy days, rest days and long runs. 

Strength Phase: Four weeks long. Here I will have them add in speed work like hills, rolling hills, repeats and tempo runs. 

Speed & Taper Phase: 2-3 weeks long. In this phase, I will have runners do intervals, down hills runs, fartleks and tempo runs. The remaining 1 or 2 weeks will be tapering down to make sure the legs are fresh for the running event they've been training for. 

Easy Days

You may have heard of the 80/20 Rule. It seems to be the new buzzword, but honestly, it's just good, age old advice that's been re-packaged to look shiny and new. The majority of your runs should be easy. What is easy? Conversation pace. This is the pace you can run and still talk to your running buddy.

Rest Days

Everyone needs a rest day or two. You may feel like you can run 7 days per week. You might even be right. However, I can promise you will get better by taking a rest day or two. When you take a rest day, you allow your body time to adapt to the stress that comes from training. You come back stronger and faster over time. 

When you are starting out, I'd suggest 2 rest days per week. You want to ease into training. 

Speed Days

Speed days can be on or off a track. Intervals and repeats are most often done on a track, but they don't need to be. You could do them on a street or in a park. Then there's Fartleks and Tempo runs. I like Tuesdays and Thursdays for my speed days.

    Repeats are run hard. Like a gym workout, you will have a number reps to achieve. Typically, each rep is run at race pace or faster. Your rest period will be equal to your time spent running hard. For example: Run 6 x 400m at race pace with 400m for recovery jog.  You could also do timed repeats such as 6 x 2:00 at race pace with a 2 minute recovery jog. After the recovery period, go into the next rep and repeat.   

    Intervals, like Repeats, are run at a hard pace that you determine. Typically race pace or faster. They are similar to repeats but your rest period will be shorter than the time running hard. For example, 6 x 400m at race pace with a 200m jog for recovery.  You could also do timed intervals such as 6 x race pace for 2 minutes with a 1 minute recovery jog. After the recovery period, go into the next rep and repeat.   

    Fartleks are usually run on a road or trail, but they could be done on a track. A fartlek is Swedish for "Speed Play". Simply go for a run, but periodically, pick up the pace. You can do mile pace, 5K pace, half marathon pace...whatever you want. Just play! As for how long, you can play with that too. Do it for a minute. Do it to that tree way up ahead. Run 20 light poles's totally up to you. 

    Tempo Runs are run at a pace you could hold for an hour. Think 10K pace here. But you won't run it for an hour. You'll only run the tempo run for about 20-30 minutes. 

Long Runs

The long run is just that. It's your longest run of the week. You'll only do this once per week. I like Sundays. Now, the question is, how long should a long run be? An easy answer would be a run longer than your typical runs. Be we won't be so easy. 

I would suggest keeping your long run to between 20% and 50% of your other weekly mileage. If you are just starting out running a mile per day, 5 days per week. Then a 2.5 mile (50%) long run may be a little too  far, but a mile (20%) isn't any longer than your usual run. So maybe bump it up. However, if you are a super athlete running 2.5 hour marathons and you're running 100 miles per week, I would NOT recommend a 50 mile long run. This is where a running coach comes in handy. 

But realistically, for easy math, let's say you run 4 miles per day, 5 days per week. That's 20 miles. A long run of 4-6 miles (20-30%) would be good starting out and work up to 10 miles (50%) for a long run. 


In summary you should have a training schedule that looks like this for the 2nd and part of 3rd phases:
  • Sun - Long Run
  • Mon - Rest
  • Tues - Speed
  • Wed - Easy
  • Thu - Speed
  • Fri - Easy
  • Sat - Rest
There are of course things I didn't get in to that you would want to consider: Form runs, stretching, warm ups and cool downs, etc. But that's for another blog post. 

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