My Training Plan, or Lack Thereof

When training for a marathon, or any other type of race, the training plan you follow is a very personal subject. Some will swear by Hal Higdon’s training plans, others like Smart Coach from Runner’s World, while others don’t follow a training plan at all, and pretty much just wing it. I find myself somewhere in the middle, though I tend to lean more toward the non-planners.

For me, running is a joy. It’s my time to unwind and just be with me and my thoughts. I fear that taking on a more structured training plan would turn running into something more like a job, and zap much of the enjoyment out of it for me. I see lots of people on Twitter and dailymile writing things like “I have to run 16 miles today”, or “I have to run hill repeats today”. I don’t want to ever feel like I have to run anything. I want to go for a run because I want to, not because I feel like I have to, and feel upset or frustrated with myself if I don’t.

All that being said, I do recognize the value of a long run, especially when training for a marathon. So the one part of my training that does get at least some planning are my long runs. But other than that, I pretty much wing it. On any particular day that I go for a run, there is very little pre-planning that goes into it. If I feel like doing speed work, I do that. If I feel like doing hill repeats, I do that. If I feel like taking it easy and going slow, I do that. When I’m heading out the door, I have a general idea of the mileage I’m shooting for, and I pick a route that gets me close to that.

This isn’t to say that I don’t do any planning. One of the most important lessons I learned from my recent injury was to respect the 10% rule. So for this round of training, I created a spreadsheet where I fill in each week’s mileage, and then it automatically calculates +10% for me for the following week. From there I work backwards to get a basic plan for my runs for the week. I pretty much have all my long runs mapped out, so I can punch that number in for the week, and see how much remaining mileage I have to work with.

Perhaps, somewhere down the road, a day will come when I decide I’d like to do something crazy, like qualify for Boston. At that point, I’ll obviously have to take my training up a couple of notches. Until then, my non-plan suits me just fine.

4 thoughts on “My Training Plan, or Lack Thereof

  1. Well said. Very much mirrors things I have said in the past and my approach to running. I actually had a post last year titled “Non-plan plan” and intend to continue to use the same strategy. Here’s that post –

    Also, check out Matt Fitzgerald’s “Run” book. I’ve read most of it and is all about running by feel. I don’t agree with everything in it, but it certainly reassures that this “non plan” way of thinking is perfectly normal.

  2. Sounds like your doing great with your training method!

  3. That pretty much sums up my approach to running. Running is my unwind time not something else for me to get stressed about.

  4. My training plan is pretty much like yours… like my son says after I remind him to focus in the morning, “dad it’s important to have FUN too!”

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