BUILD A TRAINING PLAN LIKE A RUNNING COACH

Welcome to the latest edition of workout Wednesday! Each week I share a new running or runner-specific strength training workout. Last week I shared my 60 day Fit to Run: strength training for runners program as a free PDF download. If you've ever struggled to fit in strength training into your running program then this program is for you. You really can fit it all in without overtraining or driving yourself crazy.

This week I want to take some time to step back and talk about building your own running training plan for maximum results and to reduce chance of injury. One mistake runners make is not having a training plan at all. You will get the best results by building up your training in phases. Another mistake runners make is that they do too much too soon. They run more miles than their body can handle, they don't rest enough, get excited about interval training, hill training, tempo runs and put too much stress on their body which can lead to overtraining, burnout and injury. YUCK!  

A running coach can evaluate your current fitness level, your goals and your lifestyle and develop a custom training plan to help you reach your goals in a safe manner. If you want to create your own running plan, follow a few basic guidelines to stay on the right track (pun intended). 

General Guidelines for Run Training

  • Never increase mileage more than 10% from week to week. This means if you run 10 miles in one week, next week plan 11. 
  • Never increase mileage and intensity in the same week. This means don't add interval training, speed work or hills in the same week you add additional mileage.
  • It generally takes about three weeks for your body to adapt. Work on three week cycles of similar workouts before a recovery or step down week and then progress to the next level. 
  • Make time for runner-specific strength training, it will make a huge difference in your running performance. Fit in 15-30 minutes of runner-specific strength training during all phases. 
  • Always schedule rest and recovery days into your training schedule. It is an important and often overlooked part of training. Remember that adaptation (getting stronger and faster) happens during rest, not during the workout. That means you must allow your body that times it needs to recover and grow stronger. If you don't allow rest, you won't see the results you desire. 

BASE TRAINING PHASE

Every runner should start with base training phase. This is for new runners and experienced runners beginning a new training cycle alike. All base training miles should be run at a conversational pace. Conversational pace is exactly what it sounds like, when you run at this pace, you should be able to hold a conversation. It is a 4-6 on the RPE chart. (Learn more about the Rate of Perceived Exertion chart in this post.)

If you are a brand new runner and you can not hold a conversation at any pace (I hear you, stick with it. I promise it will get better.) Then you should stay in base training phase until you can hold a conversation while running at a slow relaxed pace. Start with two to three days a week and build from there. There is no rush in this phase. Stay here as long as you need to in order to develop your running fitness. If you put in the time, stay consistent and get adequate rest, you will improve and get stronger. Plan for up to twelve weeks for new runners.

For more experienced runners that are beginning a new training cycle, this phase may last about four to ten weeks depending on your goals. In this phase you can slowly start to build milage over time, adding additional mileage to your daily runs as well as additional days during the week. It may be tempting to skip over the boring slow runs, but these runs are the foundation of your training. 

RUNNING STRENGTH PHASE

Strength running refers to running workouts that will make you a stronger runner, not to be confused with strength training, which can be done in all phases of running. Running workouts in the strength running phase include tempo runs (comfortably-hard pace for up to 60 minutes), hill workouts and fartleks (fartlek is Swedish for speed play, meaning unstructured bouts of faster running).

Remember that in the weeks you add in running strength workouts, you should not increase your overall weekly miles. If you were building additional miles in your base phase then don't increase weekly mileage any further while you increase your intensity with running strength workouts.

Depending on your experience level, training goals and/or race date, the running strength phase can last from three to nine weeks. Start by adding one just running strength workout to your schedule per week and always allow adequate time for recovery after hard workouts. After several weeks you can add a second strength running workout. Only the most experienced and well-conditioned athletes should do more than three strength running workouts a week. It creates more stress on your body and the reward is not always worth the risk. Better safe than sorry and sidelined with a running injury. 

LONG INTERVALS

After several weeks in the strength running phase the next phase is the long interval phase. Long intervals are great for long distance runners who want to increase their race pace with faster times. A long interval is anywhere between 1/2 mile and 1 - 1/2 mile intervals between recovery periods. Long intervals are most effective at increasing race pace for longer distances like the half marathon or marathon. 

RECOVERY/REST/DOWNTIME PHASE

If you haven't figured it out yet or learned the hard way, like I did, your body doesn't like it when you just go-go-go all the time. In addition to the rest days built into your training weeks, it is a good idea to take a week or three of recovery after a long training cycle. You can do low-impact cross training activities during this time, but recovery should be a priority. This may come after a big race or after 12-20 weeks of training, before you start it all over again. Rest weeks after a demanding training cycle will go a long way in maintaining physical and mental health. Ramp up your training, rest, rinse, repeat. 

Have questions? I'd love to help. 

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Coach Lea

I am a NASM personal trainer and RRCA adult distance running coach that specializes in strength training for runners. I offer in-person training in the Shredshed, online training and nutrition coaching. If you are interested in coaching, please contact me. Have questions? I'd love to help. 

While I am a certified personal trainer and nutrition coach, I am not your personal trainer and nutrition coach. Since I don't know your exercise abilities, injury background or medical history, please see your doctor before beginning any new exercise or diet program. This is an opinion blog. No information in this blog is intended to be taken as medical advice or prescription. Please see your doctor and/or registered dietitian for any health concerns.