It can be difficult to stay focused and motivated in your running when you don’t have anyone or anything to keep you accountable. I’ve come to find that not everyone has a group to train with or the money to afford a coach, but training plans found on the internet are too broad and hard to fit. Well now that your options are looking pretty slim to none, it’s time to introduce you to my most recent method: building your own weekly training plan.
I have to start out by saying that I worked with a coach last year and absolutely loved it. I learned a ton, snagged a bunch of wins and PR’s, and was in the best shape of my life. It was great, but I don’t think I could do it long term.
I put an incredible amount of pressure on myself when I feel like an outside party expects something of me. While working with a coach, I stopped running with my favorite group because even my maintenance runs were set at a specific pace and I knew someone would be checking immediately after. I didn’t want to have to drag anyone along while I was obsessively looking at my watch to make sure I wasn’t going too fast or too slow. I would beat myself up over failed long runs or speed workouts. The hard work paid off, but I had done so many races that was emotionally exhausted by the time the marathon that I had been training so hard for rolled around.
I would still seriously recommend a coach to anyone looking forward to a specific race or if it works better for your personality. I’d like to do it again, but what to do in the mean time or off season? You don’t want to completely slack off because it’s tough building back up from ground zero. Or maybe you even want to work up to being in shape before consulting a coach.
After the marathon, I took a break from training hoping that I’d still run enough to stay in shape, but it was cold and I had a million other things that I could be doing so it fell at the wayside. In January I decided to get my act together, but I didn’t necessarily want to sign up for a bunch of races again just to give me something to train for. I didn’t need a coach or a full plan, but I also needed structure and accountability. This is when I discovered the beauty of making my own training plan on a week to week basis.
Each Sunday I sit down and map out exactly what I want to accomplish that week. If by the next week I find that something was too hard, too easy, or didn’t work out with my schedule I can adjust it accordingly with no harm done. I don’t know about you, but if I have something written down it’s pretty much set in stone in my head, but if you’re a more relaxed person even just sharing your weekly plan may help motivate you.
Benefits of writing your own weekly training plan:
- It’s built around your life and no one knows your schedule like you do
- It’s dynamic and can be changed as needed
- It comes at the unbeatably low cost of $0
- You can still use it to keep you accountable by sharing it with friends or on social media
- It doesn’t come with too much pressure
- You can update by trial and error
- You can add in your cross and strength training
- You have the flexibility of running with groups or friends
So where to even begin? Writing your own training plan might sound intimidating, but you really just need a template. Taking into account your goal, volume of milage, schedule, variety or types of workouts, and pace will help you find the basis of your weekly training plan. Follow these steps in making your guide now!
Every good training plan should have a goal in site. It can as simple as “run 4 days this week” or “maintain a fitness level.” It could even work towards something greater like a half marathon PR. Establishing this goal is not meant to add pressure but to be a vision to set you in the right direction.
Once you have a goal, you should have better insight into the kind of volume you want to be clocking in each week. If training for a 5k you might run somewhere between 15-20 miles, for a half marathon somewhere around 25-35, and for a marathon closer to 40 or 50 weekly. If you’re running for fun or fitness you have the freedom to decide volume based upon feel or time allotted. You could even change it each week.
After you know the amount of miles you want to run each week, you can start divvying them out each day. Get out a calendar and go ahead and mark down the days that do and don’t fit your schedule for a run.
If you’re shooting for 35 miles a week, you could roughly break it up by 5, 6, 4.5, 7.5, 12 miles and then look at the time you have throughout the week and assign the nights. You could also divvy out the time that you’re willing to spend running each day. Maybe you only have 30 minutes on Monday nights, 1 hr on Wednesdays, 1.5 on Thursdays, and 2 hrs on Saturdays. Maybe you work late on Tuesdays or always go out to dinner with friends on Fridays. Those might just make for ideal rest days.
There are so many different types of runs so there’s no way you could fit them all into one week, but switching it up sure beats running the same 4 mile loop at the same pace 5 days a week. Here’s some favorite of all the wonderful ideas that you could work into your schedule.
You can take an al le cart approach, but you need to make sure it fits in the bigger picture. It’s arguable that your plan should be built around long runs and speed work. These two are generally the most taxing on the body so you wouldn’t want to plan them back to back. You could pick your long run and speed days then make sure you have your rest and recovery assigned around that. While doing this, you might want to figure out if you recover better with a total rest day after your long run or if your body enjoys an easy, shorter jog to turn your legs over. Then it’s time for fillers like easy runs and cross training.
Lastly, it’s time to hammer out the details. You have when you’re running, how far your running, and the structure of each run, but how do you know how fast to do it? This topic could be a whole post in itself, but the simplest way would be to go by “feel.” You would have your hard, easy, recovery, tempo pace, etc. and assign them accordingly.
Another popular and more mathematical approach would be using the McMillan Running Calculator.
A great way to even start is by doing a 1 or 2 mile time trial for yourself. From there you can know your starting point and decide how fast you’d like to be. Say if you could run a 7:30 mile today, but wanted to have it down to 7:00 by the end of the season, you’d just plug that in and press calculate.
Once you calculate, it’ll give you more times and splits to be working on for that goal. For this example, you could probably run an 800m pretty easily in 3:22 so maybe you could do 3×800 at goal pace for one of your speed workouts.
Find an example of my weekly training plans that I make for myself HERE.
Next time you’re in a rut with running or you don’t have a race in mind but want to keep up with your fitness, remember that you could always write up your own plan.
How do you decide what to run each week?
Have you worked with or ever considered working with a coach?
Do you like to run based on feel or calculated?