Staying on Your Training Plan

 
A peek into my own training plan.

Whether you are running your first 5K or your 10th full marathon one thing most runners can agree on is the importance of following a training plan. Sure you may find the occassional crazy person who just wakes up one Monday morning and says, "This running thing doesn't seem too hard; I think I'll run a half marathon this weekend." Although I do know a few- very few- capable athletes who might be able to pull this off, most of us wouldn't dare risk the potential long-term injury, outrageous pain during the race, and days of soreness following such a hasty decision.

Training plans work great to help a runner avoid all of those risks and even the most seasoned runner often follows one. Some runners dowload a professional plan like are offered on the IMT DMM website while others come up with their own by considering past races, current running status at the time of starting the plan, and the time they can devote to it.

Okay, so you have your plan. You've even started it. Now what?

I talk to many runners who try plans but end up regretfully straying for one reason or another. Maybe it's the demands of a hectic work schedule, the struggle of getting children to after school activities, or even just the tiredness and exahustion that increasing longer runs each week, although asolutely necessary, creates.

Here are some tips I follow to keep my training plan on schedule:
  • ALWAYS make up runs. It's okay to get behind a little but if you do skip a run, never dismiss it and just move on. You MUST get your miles in. Whether they be slow as a turtle or as fast as a rabbit, you most definitely need to get in those miles!
  • Feel fee to increase the mileage or minutes of your runs sooner than your plan allows but never do so by more than 10% each week or you risk not being able to successfully complete your next scheduled run. Sometimes things go well but you don't want to skip ahead too quickly and risk injury such as muscle strains or even stress fractures. If the injury is too serious you may have to stop running all together. This has happened to me and it is defeating and dissappointing- and don't forget painful. So increase strategically and with caution.
  • If you increase the mileage of a run you can't decrease your next run by the difterence. More is okay (again, with caution) but less is not, generally, a great choice overall and can throw off future training progress.
  • Try to plan your runs on a regular schedule so you establish a routine. This will make your commitment to the program stronger. For example, early morning runs are the hardest for me so I usually plan a time when I can run during the day.
  • It's okay to adapt your plan if needed. If you are training for a half marathon but really struggling staying on track, decrease your plan to accommodate a 5K instead. It's okay to reframe your goals- just don't give up altogether. Races usually don't charge much to lower your race distance at packet pickup. The IMT DMM only charges $5.
In the end, it's okay to be flexible, just listen to your body, adapt accordingly, but never give up. I am a big believer in following a training plan. Some races I use plans to PR, sometimes it's just to finish alive. As long as you know your personal goals and choose a plan which accommodates those goals, you can stick to it.

Best of luck as you continue your training progress. And as always, happy running.

(originally posted at http://www.desmoinesmarathon.com/blog/)

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