Building Your Own Training Plan

In case you missed it…CHRIS IS RUNNING! Yea, that is a big deal. A huge deal. It makes me all kind of happy…I have a running buddy, a run-nerd (for real, he running and he’s a nerd!) and we have more running shoes in the house! Of course, this means I lost my freebie race photographer, but I’ll give that up for someone to run and race with!

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This is all sorts of exciting but it requires a little adjusting. I have to get used to running with someone who doesn’t want to talk about girly things. I have been over explaining the basic run chatter…for now. And I am back to researching training plans. Yup, training plans. After over a year of telling training plans to suck it I am once again befriending excel and numbers!

I guess the training plans aren’t just for Chris…I do have a 50 Miler I should probably train for! So, I’m re-adjusting my brain to think training plans. These plans aren’t my favorite thing and quite honestly, for me, the numbers on a spreadsheet are often the hardest part of running.


I’m no expert – and I’m not even that fast – but I have a little experience battling with training plans. This is how I go about building one and tricking myself into following it…usually with some level of success on race day!

Pick a Goal.

Why are you training for this distance? Are you aiming for a specific time? Is it the longest you’ve ever run? Are you just looking to use the plan as guidance as you get back in shape? Do you just want to survive? There are so many reasons to run a race, pick your reason and base your training plan around it. If your goal is about time you’ll add speed work, if it’s about having fun you’ll be a bit more lackadaisical with the structure.

Chris’s Plan :: Properly train for and run a February half marathon, no goal pace. Take on the Collegiate Peaks 25M trail race.
Heidi’s Plan :: Keep a higher weekly mileage base to lead into solid training for Mt Evan’s Ascent and the North Fork 50M.

Do Your Research!

When Chris started running more seriously he asked a lot of questions. I am full of unsolicited advice (ahem, this post…) but I was often telling him to Google it. It sounds simple and sometimes a little grumpy, but you can learn so much doing your own research. It is no different with a training plan, especially if it’s the first time you’ve trained for this distance! There are so many helpful sites out there but here are a few I regularly go to scope out training plans:

Hal Higdon
Cooling Running

As you flip through the different levels of plans you’ll see similarities and differences. The stuff that seems the same across the board – long runs – are the backbone of a solid training plan. The oddities you find in each plan are personal preference. Your final plan should be a combination of the two. A combination that works for YOU and your LIFE!

Our Plan :: Refresh the memory on beginner + base building plans then create something that works with snowboarding season!

Scheduling it All Out!

For most people the actual scheduling of runs is a major challenge when training. This is something to consider before you pick out your race. Will you hit “peak week” during a busy time in your life? Do you have the time to commit to long weekend runs or longer midweek runs? Are there any big trips planned just before the race? Take all of this into consideration before you pick a race and don’t forget about your “regular life” commitments when setting up your training plan.

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Finding a balance with running, racing and riding!

There are two primary ways to set up a training plan. You can either assign an activity to each day of the week or assign specific runs to a one week block to be completed when possible. The method you choose will depend greatly on your personality and what works for YOU! I’ve learned that I work much better with a laid back “run X miles this week with 1 speed work out” type of plan – this style kept my Fargo Marathon training fun! Chris is different, he prefers distances assigned by day.

Chris’s Plan :: Weekend long run is flexible around plans but weekday runs are assigned by day.
Heidi’s Plan :: Aim for a weekly mileage with a good mix of hills and speed work – let the week unfold day by day.

Mental Games…Play Them!

You’ll often hear that running is all about the mental game. Some people will even say is 90% mental. I’m not sure I buy that ratio but what goes on in your brain is crazy important and can easily affect your running. It’s so easy to dig yourself into a hole of regret if you miss a scheduled run, or two. That rut can ruin the rest of your training plan which isn’t fair to you or the hard work you put into researching the plan. Getting yourself outside to run is always the hardest part and sometimes you need to trick your lazy mind into thinking running is fun. Everyone has their own tricks but these have worked for me…

Break a long training plan into segments :: I broke my 15 week Fargo Marathon training plan down into 5 segments that were 3 weeks each. My plan itself didn’t change at all but if I missed a long run or had a horrible training week it could only matter for up to three weeks. After that I moved onto the next segment of training and had a new spreadsheet to work with.

Recruit friends to run with :: Running with other people has changed my life. Seriously. I run about 75% of my training runs with other people. They hold me accountable – there is no sleeping in when you know three other people will be getting 5 miles in without you! You can also learn a lot from the people you run with and sometimes you are so busy enjoying the sunrise (or more likely cursing last night’s late bedtime) you don’t realize you are picking up on helpful tidbits until three weeks later when a random comment you just remembered gets you through the last mile or rep.

Mt Evans Ascent & Underwearness 5K

Tell people about your race :: It is easy to draw motivation from other people so tell the world about your race and your training. Maybe not nonstop or they’ll start avoiding you but don’t be afraid to talk about it. You’ll get a lot of encouragement and if you have someone hating on your plans use that to fuel your “I’ll show you” competitive side!

Schedule your runs :: This doesn’t exactly work for me but I’m horrible at scheduling anything, ever. I’d rather make last minute plans. However, I’ve heard that putting your run down on your calendar as if it were any other meeting or appointment works wonders for some people. You might be that person!

Our Plan :: Undecided…you can’t plan every mental game out too precisely or it won’t be a game anymore!

There you have it…an entire post of unsolicited advice about creating your own training plan. Exciting I know. As much as I hate on training plans they are an essential part of keeping you on track while fighting to meet your goals. You can meticulously create spreadsheets detailing your specific plan with room to add notes or you can carry around a stack of mental post-y notes in your head but have a plan…a smart, thought out plan.

What do you do when creating training plans? Do you make your own? What tips do you have for creating a survivable training plan?

Up next…the snowy mountain photos I promised last time! You’ll get them, eventually…just ask my cats how well I follow through with promises! I’ve been promising them a clean litter box all week. I should probably get on that before they poop on my pillow!


Building Your Own Training Plan — 10 Comments

    • He just started – I love it! Its actually really fun to watch him figure it all out! Especially since I’m learning the trail stuff at the same time!

      Snowy pictures will be taken, tomorrow! :)

  1. I LOVE your approach to training– making sure that you get a total number of miles in during the week but not agonizing over exactly how many miles happen exactly when. I found one of your old training spreadsheets a couple of years ago and tried your method to train for my second half and my life was SO much better than when I trained rigidly for my first one. So thank you for putting it out there, because it definitely improved my running life a lot. :)
    Kelly recently posted..The Raven BoysMy Profile

    • Aw, thanks! I love hearing this!
      Everything changed the day I gave up on strict “must run 5 miles on Tuesday, 3 miles on Wednesday….etc” training plan – running became fun again. I’m so glad this is working for you too!

  2. I think for ultras, especially, you have to make your own training plan. There are no Hal Higdon’s of the 50k, 50m, or 100m…

    I’ve found now that I’ve gotten into ultras, my training plans are both very specific and very flexible (because THAT makes sense…). I have a general training plan on an excel sheet, but it is focused on a few KEY training runs (namely how many 20+ mile runs I want to do). So my key training runs might only be 3-4 20+ mile training runs (what I feel I HAVE to do to finish my race), I probably have 6-7 on my training plan as more of a “it would be REALLY FREAKING AWESOME if I could actually do all of these.” The rest of my week usually falls into general weekly mileage goals – I would like to get XX miles, so sometimes I do that in 3 runs a week, sometimes in all depends on my mood and my schedule.
    Logan @ Mountains and Miles recently posted..Long Run and An Injury ScareMy Profile

    • I have done a ton of Google-ing for the ultra plans. A lot of individual opinions – which is actually kind of nice – to base my own plans off of.

      I think you hit the nail on the head – I know what I NEED to do to feel remotely comfortable about my ability going into the race and I know what would make me super awesome going into the race. More often than not I end up training somewhere in the middle and getting the middle result as well. Works for me…and keeps me from hating the training plan, which is harder to avoid than I thought!

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