Do you want a personalised training plan that helps you achieve your goals?
Do you need a plan that’s flexible and can be adapted to your individual situation?
And do you want a plan that's free?
If the answer to any of these questions is "HELL, YES!" then learning to create your own training plan might be the best option for you.
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One of the easiest ways for you to create a plan is to use a simple template
A template can help you save time, money and effort when creating your own plan.
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Are you a triathlete or a runner?
It doesn't matter, because there's a template for both.
So sign up, get your FREE template and then start filling it in using the advice in this article.
Why Do You Need A Training Plan?
There's lots of evidence to show that setting goals and creating plans to achieve them is very important.
This research from Harvard states that goals increase motivation and achievement
This Harvard Business Review article claims that plans become more important as your life gets busier, with family, health changes or work
What Training Plans Are Available for You?
There’s lots of advice already out there on how to create a training plan.
Here are just a few examples.
When deciding which plan to pull on, t’s important to understand your goals and your current ability.
In reality, you will use take specific parts from each plan to create your own tailored plan.
Arthur Lydiard - Train In Phases And Peak For Major Events
One of the most famous, and successful, coaches of all time created plans around different phases leading up to an event.
One of the ideas he’s famous for is focusing on building your base in the early stages of training using long, slow sessions.
The Maffetone Method – Run Very Slow At Low Intensity
The training element focuses on exercising at a very low heart rate for an extended period of time.
As your fitness improves, your speed will naturally increase as your body becomes more efficient.
And this plan actually includes a much more holistic approach to training - based on lifestyle, nutrition and other factors.
Jack Daniels – Use Different Paces And Intensities
His approach uses training at different paces and intensities.
But because of this, they can get quite complicated
Renato Canova – Focus on Training At Race Pace
9 Things You MUST Think About When Creating A Training Plan
Knowing exactly what you should include in a plan is difficult for any athlete. Partly due to the huge amount of conflicting advice.
But there are some things that there is broad agreement on.
1) Find Your 'Why'?
What's your deep rooted motivation for putting yourself through this?
Is it for a sense of achievement? To lose weight? To impress others?
Your goal has a huge impact on how you create a plan.
For example, if you want to achieve a specific time, your training will look very different than if you are aiming to lose weight.
Here is a simple 60 second exercise that will help you work out your true motivation for training and competing.
2) Define Your Goal
Most people have probably heard of SMART goals - Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound.
An example SMART goal for a marathon runner with a PB of 4 hours and 19 minutes might be…
͞’To improve my marathon time (specific) by 20 minutes (measurable and achievable) in the next 12 months (time bound)͟‘
The key here is to make the goals really specific.
This article suggests that 92% of people who set goals never achieve them, because they aren’t specific enough.
3) Understand Your Current Performance Level
Your current ability is a crucial input when thinking about setting a goal and creating a plan.
Eg 'My marathon PB is 4 hours 19 minutes' or 'I am currently 80kg's'.
You will also want to think about other factors that affected your previous performance. E.g. When you set your PB, was it really tough difficult? Or did you achieve it with ease? How did training go?
If it was a race with tough conditions and your training had been interrupted, you could say that you have a lot of room for improvement.
If you're competing for the first time, it might be difficult to understand your current level.
If this is you, then you could use a time trial before you start your plan to gauge your target race time.
To do this, perform a short session at a very high intensity.
The session doesn't have to be the equivalent of your goal race. For example, if your aim is to complete a marathon, you could do a 2k session at your max speed.
Then you can use the McMillan calculator to get an estimate for your marathon time.
You can then use this as a basis for setting training speeds and paces when creating your training plan.
4) Use A Template - Grab Your FREE One Now!
Setting up plans can be time-consuming and painstaking.
So my FREE training template for runners and triathletes will save you time, money and effort.
It's really simple and I've even included a 'how to use' section.
I've personally used it to achieve a 5k PB of 16:01, a 2:30 marathon, 4x Ironman triathlons and completing the Marathon des Sables.
Just simply sign up with your email address, below.
5) Understand Different Types of Workouts
All good training plans use different types of sessions.
By mixing things up you will improve weaknesses, build on strengths and keep your training fresh.
Different types of workout could include:
Easy/ recovery session
Yoga and Pilates
This article explains 8 different workouts for runners.
You don't have to use all of these.
And you may want to use different ones in different parts of a build up to a race. Eg strength work outside of peak training periods
If in doubt on how to use them, seek advice from an experienced athlete or coach.
You can even contact me for advice.
6) Write Your Plan
Once you've done all of the above, it͛s time to start filling in your template!
These are some basic steps to follow.
a) Work Backwards from Your Goal
This one is simple.
Insert the date for your end goal first.
b) Block Out Time for A Taper
The taper period is one of the most important parts of your plan.
It’s also one of the most overlooked, especially by beginners.
So that's why you should do it next.
A taper involves reducing your workload in the weeks before your race so that your body, and mind, are ready for race day
You can still do some moderately intense sessions, but they shouldn’t exhaust you.
The length of taper depends on the race.
For longer and more difficult races, like an Ironman triathlon or an ultra-race, you might need 3 – 4 weeks. Whereas for a 5K you may need 7 – 10 days.
c) Roughly Plan The Last 2 - 3 Weeks Of Hard Training
These are your peak weeks of training just before your taper.
And they’ll include your longest and hardest sessions.
d) Plan Practise Races
You should have a number of races throughout your training plan.
These races are often called 'B' and 'C' races. (Your main race is your 'A' race).
Use these races as an opportunity to practise for your main race. Because if something goes wrong in these, it doesn't matter as much as if it happened in your 'A' race. For example, stomach problems because of your nutrition strategy.
Another great benefit is that you can track how you’re progressing towards your end goal. And you can make changes to your training plan, based on that feedback.
If you can't plan specific races, then plan sessions where you can replicate the conditions on race day.
e) Plan Your Rest Periods
This is the time when you actually see improvements.
Because your body adapts positively to the stress you've been putting it under whilst training.
The amount of rest you need will depend on your experience.
If you're new to the sport or injury prone, you'll need more.
If you're experienced and fit, then you can get away with less.
Mo Farah and Galen Rupp - Take 4 weeks completely off training every year
Bernard Lagat - Takes 5 weeks completely off
Usain Bolt - Would take between 4-8 weeks off
f) Include 'Buffer'
Things rarely go 100% to plan
Sometimes you have to put more important things ahead of exercise. Like time with your family and friends.
And then unexpected stuff like injuries or work deadlines happen.
So make sure you create some 'buffer' in your plans.
This is where you have weeks where you could make up for training you’ve missed.
But don't use rest periods as your buffer!
Rest needs to remain as specific time that you take off. Not as time that you use to catch up on missed workouts.
7) Increase Your Intensity and Workload Gradually
This is especially important for new athletes or if you're attempting a longer or tougher race.
The typical rule is not to increase by more than 10% volume or intensity each week.
Although it's a fairly good rule of thumb, you don't need to stick to it rigidly.
The best advice is to listen to your body and...
8) Be Flexible
This is probably the most difficult one to stick to...
Just imagine your plan says that you're supposed to run 10 miles tomorrow. Which means you'll hit 60 miles for the week.
But you're slightly injured...
You could go out.
But you know deep down that a 10 mile run will only make it worse.
But you go out anyway, run 10 miles and reach your weekly target.
But now you're injured.
And instead of missing a daily target of 10 miles, you're missing weeks and weeks of training.
And lots of miles.
Don't be a slave to a training plan if you’re injured.
Or if other life events come up.
And don't try to chase miles that you've missed by doing much higher volume or intensity in future workouts.
Because the same thing will happen and you'll get injured again.
You need to step back and look at the bigger picture.
What's more important?
Hitting a target for one individual session?
Or achieving your longer term goal?
Nobody is going to remember that you did a 10 mile run.
But they will remember if you pulled out of that major event. All because you weren’t flexible enough.
9) Get Someone Else's Opinion
Getting someone else's viewpoint is always really valuable.
And it͛s especially useful if you’re a beginner creating your first training plan
A more experienced athlete or coach can help you understand what's realistic. And they can give you ideas that you may not think of. For example, new types of sessions.
If you'd like some help, you can always contact me.
5 Things That You Might Need to Think About When Creating A Training Plan
There are lots of topics where experts debate on what you should be focusing on.
And in over 10 years of training and competing, I've played with different variations of these.
I've had some successes.
And some failures.
So my advice to you is to test these and see what works best for you.
1) Never Go Above Race Distance
Most of the advice I’ve heard, read or was told, was that I shouldn't go above race distance in training.
This was especially the case if you're training for races that are half marathons and above (in running) or Olympic triathlon distance and above.
For example, most marathon training plans only suggest going to 20 or 21 miles.
And whilst this is very good advice for new athletes, I think there are huge benefits from doing sessions that are longer than the race itself.
a) Psychological – Simply knowing that you can cover the distance is a huge advantage.
b) Physical - You will be stronger by doing the distance
When I was training for the Amsterdam marathon in October 2017, my running hadn't gone very well:
I'd lost a lot of training time due to an injury
My second child was born in July
I barely did any speed sessions
So I tested out doing longer-than-race distance runs for the first time. My longest run was 28 miles (when a marathon is 26.2).
When the day of the marathon approached, I had low expectations.
But I ended up with a decent performance that I was happy with. Only 2 minutes slower than my PB.
And my PB was set after a very good training period, where almost everything went to plan.
Here are some great examples of how to use a longer-than distance run as part of your training.
This approach only really works up to a certain point though.
For instance, you wouldn't go over the distance in training for an ultra-marathon or half-Ironman triathlon.
And beginners are less likely to get value from it, as they run a greater risk of injury.
2) Long And Slow Sessions VS Long And Fast
For years, the standard advice for long sessions was to do them slowly and easily.
But there has been lots of debate recently about whether you should include higher intensity parts during longer workouts.
The logic is that exercising at a very slow pace will only make you slow. And so you need to include speed work too.
There are lots of ways to do this. And here are two examples:
Progression Sessions – Start at an easy pace and build speed up gradually throughout the entire session
Goal Pace Sessions – These sessions make you work at the level of your goal race pace for an extended period of time (although not the whole session!)
3) Stretching - Static VS Dynamic VS Yoga
This has been a hot topic for a while.
Most of us were taught in school that stretching was important. And most of what we were told to do was static stretching.
Dynamic stretching is an alternative which gets you moving whilst stretching.
But my preference for improving flexibility is yoga.
Yoga is a great combination of stretching, conditioning and it can help with mental focus too.
4) Strength Training - Heavy Weights and Low Reps VS Light Weights and High Reps
There is almost complete agreement that runners and triathletes should do strength and conditioning work to get stronger, prevent injuries and to get faster.
But there's lots of debate about what type of weight training you should do.
For example, these articles on weight lifting for runners conflict one another. And they are from very well-known sources in the running world!
Running.Competitor.com - Runners should not lift for endurance. Don't use a high number of repetitions (12+) or lift for more than three sets
Runners World - Runners should use lower weights and intensity to avoid shocking the body
This contrasting evidence has led some to argue that you should mix it up. E.g When your training isn’t too intense (in the early stages of a training plan or the off-season), you could focus on higher weights to build strength.
Later on, when you're training gets tougher, you could switch to lower weights to avoid injury.
Again, you will have to test out what works for you.
5) Training By Distance VS Training By Time
I don't think it makes much of a difference which you choose. I think it's almost entirely psychological.
I use distance.
And I use kilometres.
This is because there are more kilometres than miles which means:
It’s easier to break down a big target into manageable chunks
I feel like I’m making more progress - because your’re ticking kilometres off quicker than if you use miles
You get quicker feedback on your performance - If you’re trying to calculate your pace and performance against a target, it’s easier to do when you have a round number to do the maths against. And you have more ‘round’ kilometres to use than miles.
As with almost all things in running and triathlon, the answer to 'how to create a training plan' is...
It depends on your goals
It depends on your history
It depends on your current level of fitness
But there are some simple steps to follow in order to create your own training plan.
9 Things You Must Do
Find Your Why
Define Your Goal
Understand Your Current Performance
Use A Template - Grab A FREE One on JamesRunsFar.com. Just scroll down and simply enter your email
Understand The Different Types Of Workouts
Write Your Plan
Increase Your Intensity And Workload Gradually
Get Someone Else's Opinion
5 Things You Should Think About
Whether or not to go above race distance
Going long and slow vs going long and fast
Static stretching vs dynamic stretching vs yoga
Using heavy weights and low reps vs light weights and high reps
Training by distance vs training by time
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Entertaining updates - as I work towards my goal of a world record
How Do You Plan Your Training?
Do you use these tips when planning your own training?
And what other things do you consider?
Let me know in the comments, via social media or by contacting me.
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