So, I know that we can always find a running program online, but what about when you want to make one for yourself that matches your schedule and your desires. How do you do that? There are a few things to take into consideration, and how to go about that so I thought I'd share.
1. WHAT DISTANCE RACE ARE YOU GOING TO DO?
Obviously, this is going to be the first thing that you have to decide. Do you want to do a 5K, 10K, half marathon or full marathon?
2. HOW FAR AWAY IS THE RACE?
Do you have enough time to prepare? If you are brand new at this, then you want to give yourself (depending on the distance) at least 12 weeks to prepare. If it's a marathon and you are coming from nothing then more like 16-20 weeks to make sure you have time to get some base miles in.
3. LOOK AT YOUR SCHEDULE
I mentioned some of these points in another blog that I did (Marathons on Minimal Mileage) but you first have to look at the lifestyle that you live and your schedule. The most common one that I find to be difficult is if you are a nurse. There was a topic on the Women for Tri group tonight about how women train that are nurses with 12 hour shifts, and the most resounding answer is that they do more on their days off. If you work 3-12 hour shifts, then it really is easily doable to run 4X per week and be just fine whatever race you want to do.
4. HOW COMPETITIVE?
Do you want to win this 5K or do you just want to complete this half marathon? It all depends when you are making your schedule, and this will determine if you want to add more days in as well. Typically, you want to run at least 5 days per week (3-4 is fine, and 6 is great) but I think 5 is a great number. Seven days per week is too much! You NEED a rest day. There are many that count their individual runs as "sessions" and some of them may have 12 sessions per week meaning that they double up on some days, however they would still take a rest day. Some prefer a cross training day in the pool or yoga, but this is not 100% necessary and more about preference.
5. FORMULATING THE PLAN
I could go into a lot of runner vocab and science in this section, but I'm going to assume for now that everyone knows the words and not going to keep very deep into the "why" of things. First, you want to make sure that you've built some sort of base before you start adding in tempo or interval runs. You don't want to get hurt, and it doesn't benefit you much more. The guidelines recommend 500 miles, but as I've said, that's unrealistic, so it's better to just shoot for a few weeks where you are just running miles on your feet on the days that you want to run. without any certain plan.
You want to count back the weeks from your race, and the first thing that I do is plan the peak and the taper. For me personally in marathon training, I want to do my last 18 miler at two weeks out, then I do 9 miles the following week and then the marathon. That kind of taper doesn't work for many, so you have to decide if you want a short or long taper (I linked up a blog I wrote on tapering so it can maybe help with deciding what's right for you). Many do a three week taper, but I've found I get sluggish.
I always put my long runs in first, and recommend that. You can go from the date that you are at looking at a full calendar and when your race is and plan out all of your long runs. The next thing that I like to do is to take the current mileage that I'm at that day, and then each week that I'm dialing up mileage, I want to increase by 10%. That's my rule of thumb, but if you are already running fairly high mileage, I personally am not someone that wants to run more than 50-60 miles in one week, so I'm not going to go above that, but for some they will. Even with going higher than that, you want to still do 10% per week increases.
((I didn't note that I would put out a calendar that has just the months and is going to be your training calendar. Many use Training Peaks, but I just use a good ole fashioned written one.)
After you get your weekly mileage set is typically when I start planning the interval and tempo days. You typically just want to have one of each, and then easy runs in between with your long run on the weekend. This mileage will slowly build as the weeks progress. Does the mileage matter that much exactly how you dial it up? No. But, if you are training for a marathon then you may start with 5 mile speed work and move up to 8 miles. You never want to do a tempo that's 10 miles long. That's just too far, as in you don't want to do 12 miles (1 mile warm up 10 mile at tempo 1 mile cool down), but maybe you could do 8 miles tempo to cap (1 mile WU 6 miles at tempo 1 mile CD).
When you get done with dialing up your interval and tempo runs (I don't actually PLAN those runs at that time but just put in "tempo/interval"), I add in the easy miles to make up the established 10% increase each week. For example, if I need to hit 38 miles that week, my long run is 14 miles with 6 miles of speed, 8 mile tempo then that leaves 10 miles for the week. I'll break that up into two days (and it varies). Sometimes I'll do 6 & 4. Some weeks 5 & 5, but just making sure to get in the mileage at easy paces.
After I get done planning out all of the mileage, then I go back and plan out the actual workouts for the actual week that I'm on. You can plan out every workout at that time, but I like to save the individual workouts for the week that I'm currently doing so that I can make sure that it's appropriate for me for whatever life throws at me that week, and how well I'm doing with training. I might want to really push myself on pace that I wouldn't do just by sitting down with that program.
I did this exact same thing for my ironman. I honestly didn't even look at many programs, but just knew that I wanted to have the same general structure each week and dial up my weekends! :) There is no right way to do training, but there are reasons to do certain things, and skeletons that you should follow that will get you to the race day the best that you can!
Last, but not least, we always want to keep that life balance, and remember that missing one run or even a couple of runs here and there is NOT going to affect you in the long run (haha see what I did there). You want your plan to be realistic for you. If you can only run 4 days per week, then that's okay...stick with that. If you can run 6 days though and want to do a training cycle where you are getting a lot better, then that's great as well.
I hope this helps to show how I design my scheduling. I'm almost full on run coaching right now, but if you have a race you want to prepare for and don't want to do this for yourself, then I'd love to help you with that.