Do you find it overwhelming to select a training plan? A quick google search yields dozens of options, with various mileage recommendations, speed work plans, rest days, cross-training recommendations, etc.
My first half marathon was a last minute thought with some college friends over ten years ago. We printed off the first half marathon training plan we came across, and followed it pretty religiously. We did no speed work or tempo runs, but ran for fun with no worries about our final time or race goals.
Over the next five years, I settled into a comfortable 20-30 miles a week and signed up for one or two races a year. I thought of myself as a runner but wasn’t too competitive with myself or others. I used training plans as guidelines, but rarely followed one particular plan. I knew the basics I needed to do to race comfortably, and it wasn’t until the last few years (post-baby) that I started paying more attention to speed work, tempo runs and pacing.
Here’s a quick overview of some of the most popular training plans:
Couch to 5k- For beginners, this plan prepares a new runner to finish a 5k in 9 weeks. I’ve never done the program, but it is highly recommended as a place to start for brand new runners.
Hal Higdon- I believe it was Hal Higdon’s plan that got me across the finish line at my first half marathon in Philadelphia. His popular site has plans for the 5k up to the full marathon, and are divided into novice plans, intermediate or advanced with low or high mileage options. He also explains the running terminology that he uses and provides many helpful tips. And they’re all free!
Runner’s World - The popular magazine’s website is packed with training plan options for all distances, although most come with a small fee. They also offer a Smart Coach training tool that will customize a training plan for you.
Galloway – Galloway’s method is unique because of the planned walk breaks, but many people swear by his run-walk method. Galloway also has options for beginners, and training plans are free and available online with plans from the 5k up to the marathon.
Bart Yasso- This isn’t a training plan exactly, but he coined the Yasso 800s. The idea is to build up to ten sets of 800m repeats over the course of marathon training in order to help predict your estimated time. Bart found that running 10 800s in 2:50 each told him he was in shape to run a 2:50 marathon, and it’s been suggested that this may hold true for other paces as well.
Run Less, Run Faster - This book is based on the Furman FIRST training program where runners trained for a marathon on only 3 days of running a week. It’s written for runners who want to improve, need to maximize their time to train, and/or tend to be injury prone. The training is based on three quality runs a week (speed, tempo and a long run) with two days of cross training. Each run is demanding, but the plan has been shown to get results and is great for lower mileage runners. (Includes 5k and 10k plans as well).
Advanced Marathoning – Written by Pete Pfitzinger, this book lays out options with higher mileage plans to assist advanced runners in getting faster and stronger. I respect Pfitzinger and enjoyed this book, but have not attempted the training plans. Runners have the option of plans up to 55, 70, or over 70 miles per week.
Another alternative is to hire a coach to help tailor a plan to fit your individual race goals and training abilities.
I am still determining what works best for me, and generally combine a few plans to design my own. Currently, I’ve been loosely working off Run Less, Run Faster and using spin as my cross training, but three intense runs a week has been challenging. I’ve found that my body does best on 3-5 days of running a week, so I’m going to start adding an “easy” day and drop the expectation for both a tempo and interval run every week, as I am determined to stay injury-free.
What am I training for? I still haven’t registered for the Houston Marathon (January). If my shins sail happily through an 18 miler in the next few weeks, I’ll sign up for the full. In the meantime, I have a Turkey Trot 5k around the corner, and the Tri Girls half marathon on December 9th.
It’s hard not to be tempted to compare training plans when I follow so many talented blogging runners. Comparison is rarely helpful. Some of my friends have been inching up to 80 or 90 miles a week! Part of me wishes I could do the same, but another part knows my limits. I’m happy to remain a lower-mileage runner (it’s all relative, of course!) with lots of cross training, as it seems to be where my body is happiest and can still perform well.
Finally, the winner of the Pink Ribbon Reebok shoes is… #108… Alyssa K! Congrats!!
I’m curious, how do you find your training plan? What other plans would you add to the list?