…everybody’s got one.
Or at least that’s how it appears if you fire up Google and do a search for running plans (no, not now – you’re far too busy reciting that opening line in a Clint Eastwood / Dirty Harry voice and listening to what I’m saying to do it now. But once I’m done, knock yourself out).
Quantity doesn’t always equate to quality however and it’s easy to get lost in the swamp. After you’ve floundered around in the mud for a while you’ll see some distinct categories emerging.
The Miracle Diets
These plans offer maximum results with minimum effort. The old adage of if it sounds too good to be true it probably is extends into the running sphere, so beware of plans promising A Sub-3 Marathon With Ten Minutes Running A Day And Unlimited Donuts! or Undertrain Your Way To a PB!
Want to increase your speed and recovery? Just measure your stride length, divide by a hundred and multiply by the volume of oxygen you consume in any given month. This gives you your base reading which you can then look up against this chart in order to get your projected time over 973 meters. From this you can extrapolate your expected marathon time as long as you are able to accurately measure the density of the toenail of the big toe on your left foot (unless you’re a left-handed runner)…
The Covert Corporates
So how did you reduce your running times Tom? Well, Jack, I trained hard for years but I just wasn’t getting anywhere and then someone at the running club told me about SpaceLift™ and everything changed…
The Empty Lifers
Monday: A light jog followed by a breakfast consisting of 49 degree oats slow cooked for nineteen hours and three segments of grapefruit. Pilates at 10.30 before three minutes planking next to your car. A cup of herbal tea (not forgetting to jog on the spot while the kettle boils) and three sniffs of a chocolate bar. Rest during the afternoon and as much celery as you like before a 97 second shower at precisely 4:27pm. Backwards running for five repeats on your lawn followed by a swim. Supper should consist of a poached chicken breast with an avocado mist and some boiled water. Bed by 9pm making sure you fall asleep to the motivational sounds of footfalls on a tar road.
There are of course many others but you get the gist.
I’m no more, and generally far less, qualified to comment on training plans than the next person but hey, as what was it we said about assholes earlier…?
What I do know, is how to set up a realistic but challenging plan that allows me to stay mostly injury free and, more importantly, allows me to juggle running with the demands of having a wife, two kids, a full-time job, a midweek drinking habit and an addiction to writing.
All my plans are a variation on a theme. Four or five days a week of running where the only non-negotiable is the weekly long slow distance run. I also try to get in one hard workout of hills or sprints and a weekly time trial.
A typical week when I’m training for at least marathon distance looks something like this…
Tuesday: 1 hour at a comfortable running pace
Wednesday: Hill repeats
Thursday: 4km time trial
Saturday: Long slow distance (minimum of 90 minutes)
Sunday: Rest or slow recovery jog of about an hour
Not too complicated, right?
The variations on the theme come by increasing the hill repeats, or doubling up at time trial, or incorporating a race into the weekend long run (for example I’ve jogged 6km to the start of a race, then gone hard at a 15km race and then jogged home).
Over time I’ve learned that listening to music when training does you no favors but having a running partner does. If you start relying on music to take your mind off training you tend to get a nasty surprise on race days where headphones are banned. Running with someone on the other hand promotes conversation which, aside from being entertaining, ensures you keep your breathing (and therefore your pace) under control. Time on your feet for longer runs beats pace every time.
If, like me, you have a young family I can highly recommend learning two skills. Firstly, get used to running very early in the morning not to impact on family life…and secondly get used to recovering quickly from your long weekend run because life doesn’t end post-run.
The only other advice I would give is to not beat yourself up if you miss a run. Life happens, and soreness happens and tiredness happens. Give yourself a break – and if you feel that bad, just run harder at the next one.
Any training tips you’d like to share? I’d love to hear from you…