We all need a plan. What plan, you may ask? THE TRAINING PLAN, of course! By having a training plan, you will see the improvement not only in the faster racing times, but in metabolism, overall health and confidence.
Having a training plan puts you a bit higher on the running hierarchy. It shows that you have serious intentions about the sport that you are committed and ready to clock in the time. Planning your own race gives you a privilege to stay in control over the details, time and load. Planning a race gives you a very deep understanding about the regime, obstacles that can impact your performance and shows you realistic picture of the timing on the race day.
There are few key components that comprise the system of drawing a running plan. They are the same for a novice and for the podium finisher. The main difference is the duration of the training period. If you are not in the best shape and just starting to race then you need longer time. While runners who run all year long and maintain great fitness level might need 8 weeks to prepare for a full marathon.
For clarity purpose, I will explain the system of drawing the marathon plan for a novice runner. The duration of the plan is 24 weeks.
First of all, you need to know your race date as the running plan is made backwards. This will be your starting point. Count 24 weeks back – this is the beginning of the training. Mark the dates in a calendar. Let’s go!
Step 2 – Decide how many times a week you can run.
Realistically. Three quality days per week is how much a person needs to run to improve. You need one day for a long run, one day for tempo and another day for intervals.
Step 3 – Plan first three weeks.
Weeks 1-3 is the time when you build endurance and your system is getting used to the load. By the Sunday of the third week, you should be confident at running for an hour or so.
Step 4 – Plan tapering on weeks 21-24.
Tapering is necessary to allow full recovery of the shock-absorbing capacity of the trained muscles and nervous system. You must be well rested to ensure that your body can continue to recruit the muscles appropriately once the pain of the marathon becomes increasingly severe.
The key to effective tapering is to substantially cut back your mileage, but to maintain training intensity. By doing so, you will reduce the accumulated fatigue and will still keep your fitness level.
Start reducing the training mileage gradually from week 21. By week 24, your mileage should be reduced by 60%.
On a side note, the long tapering periods are relevant for races as long as marathons or more. Too much rest before a shorter distance race may cause you to lose the leg speed necessary for an optimal performance in races up to 21 km.
Step 5 – Plan peak phase on weeks 18-21.
The aim of this phase is to increase training load further by adding speed training sessions (intervals, fartlek, time-trials or short-distance races (5-16km)). The peaking produces dramatic changes in racing speed but if maintained for too long, it can induce early symptoms of overtraining. Therefore, it is a high-risk/high-reward period of your training. You can add more speed sessions on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Step 6 – Connect the dots and plan the rest. Weeks 4-17 are for gradually increasing volume, load and intensity.
There are many coaches who think that you should cover full distance marathon distance at least once during your training. Others say that if you can run 37-38 kilometres confidently, you are pretty much ready for a full marathon. Be your own coach and decide what is best for you. Consider that the longest run out of all 24 weeks of the training plan should be on the last week of your peak phase (week 21).
If we assume that by the week 21 your long run is 42 km and we add up our long run mileage by 3km every week, it only means that by week 3 of your training plan, you should be able to run 7-10km non-stop. This will be your first long run.
When drawing a training plan do it with pencil, not a pen. While the plan is important, it shouldn’t own you. If you need to adjust, skip one day – do so. If you are missing too many days, it means that your planning was not realistic. Rewrite the plan accordingly.
While drawing a training plan don’t neglect these important things:
- Your age. The need to be more careful in training becomes more important as you age. The volume and intensity need to be reduced and the effects of training on performance should be evaluated frequently.
- Be wary of previous injuries and especially chronic injuries.
- Do not specialise in one activity only. Include the range of them – train your upper and lower body in both weight bearing and non-weight bearing activities.
- Body weight is a significant factor. The lighter you are, the easier it is to run and to be injury-free. Men heavier than 95kg and women heavier than 75 kg will find running more difficult.
Preparing for a race is more than just increasing the distance every week until you go all crazy and decide to run for 31 hours straight (real story). The success of your race, beating PR’s and finishing healthy depends on the variety of the training, gradual volume increase, correct peaking and tapering. By the end of the day, training hard doesn’t mean running hard – 80% of your training should be done at easy pace and only 20% at hard.
Coach Olya Kudryavtseva
“I count my blessings every Sunday night, sitting on a small balcony overlooking the beautiful neighborhoods in the greenest area in Kuala Lumpur. I plan new travels almost every day, as the world is such an amazing place if you were to see through its beauty. I consider myself a lucky person and am convinced I did something good in my previous lives.“I count my blessings every Sunday night, sitting on a small balcony overlooking the beautiful neighborhoods in the greenest area in Kuala Lumpur. I plan new travels almost every day, as the world is such an amazing place if you were to see through its beauty. I consider myself a lucky person and am convinced I did something good in my previous lives.
Running and yoga are my two biggest passions. I am the happiest person to have a full-time job teaching it and sharing what I learned over the years.
I am the head coach of Skechers Running Academy and a freelance yoga teacher.
I am driven by my students’ success and honored to contribute into the health industry in the country I call home for 4 years now. I blog on www.runyogamakan.com about running, yoga and food.”