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Don't let anyone tell you that you don't need a training plan. Whether you're training for an event (your first or you fifty first, it doesn't matter) or running to lose weight you need a plan as to how you're going to achieve it. your plan will have been written by someone with experience and who has done it many times before. The plan needs to include gradual progression and it needs to include rest days. The plan will act as your guide and your motivator. Without it you'll be lost.

They vary considerably, but in summary they are a series of daily tasks that lead to the completion of a goal. They take many forms and can be digital or physical and they can be personalised or general in nature. Many runners pay for customised plans that give that person a plan based on specific goals and experience. These are often based on algorithms and differ from general plans that detail the same daily activities for everyone, irrespective of the background of the runner.

Marathon training plans, for example, are often 16-20 weeks and are divided into those for beginners, intermediate and advanced runners. They will detail exactly how much running should be done that day and when the rest days should happen. As they are general plans they aren't able to adjust distance and timings etc according to the runners' background.

Training plans incorporate the four principles of training and take all the guesswork out of preparation. These principles of progression, specificity, individualisation and overload are at the core of this preparation and are an essential element of the plan.

Many thousands of runners use these plans every year and successfully complete their goals as a result of following them to the letter.


The four principles of training that drive everything about your progress towards your goals, are the basis of your training plan. They are the foundations that the plan is built upon. You won't need to worry about how much you should increase your weekly mileage by, or how long your long run should be that week, or when your next rest day should be. The training plan will tell you and it will do so based on these principles. The increase in your weekly mileage will be based on the principle of progression, and when you need a rest day will be based on the principle of overload. Everything works together so you don't need to work it out yourself.


Training for a specific goal, whether it be a distance event, or one focused on weight loss, can be daunting. Training plans make it much easier, by breaking down the ultimate target into smaller and much more manageable goals. You'll know where you should be every week, or every month, rather than just where you should be in 6 or 12 months. This is much easier to deal with and much more achievable.

Getting to this point involves lots of 'mini goals'


One of the challenges associated with any goal is 'how will I know if I have done enough training' and 'how can I prevent burnout'? Making it up yourself without basing it on the four principles and on years of experience is more than likely going to lead to one or other of these problems. Running when and for how long based on how you feel at the time is likely to be very problematic. If you follow a plan there will be many days when you really don't want to do what the plan suggests, but doing it means you stay on track. Doing what you feel like too many times will not deliver your goal. Sometimes you need to push on and follow the plan, even when the weather's bad and you've had a tough day at the office, or at home.


Following a training plan means that you are able to monitor how you're performing. Without it, you have no idea. Obviously you need to have a means of recording this progress, but once you have it, its value is huge. You'll be able to see how you're doing and make changes if you're not on track. You'll be able to review and adjust the plan. Without the plan and without recording how you did, you'll have no idea what went right or wrong. This doesn't have to be a hugely technical operation; it might just be some notes in a physical diary or some notes next to a day's run on an app.



When you have a goal and a scheduled progress to help you achieve it, it makes decision making a lot easier. If, on the other hand, you make it up as you go, it's very likely that other activities will become a priority and you'll end up squeezing in your running around them, instead of the other way around. Training plans mean that you don't have to make a decision on how far you should go that day, or if you have a day off. Those decisions are made for you. Schedule the family dinner, or the meeting with friends on a rest day, rather than a running day. It takes a lot of decisions away from you, which is great, given how many others we have to make!


If you're planning on running an event the use of a detailed training plan is a must and not optional. Its value in the months leading up to the race is unquestionable, but its importance during race weekend is potentially even greater. Nerves are an absolute reality for most runners in the days leading up to an event, especially for first timers or those with just a handful of events under their belt. Imagine knowing that you have done absolutely everything needed to make it over the line in good shape. That's what following a training plan does for you. It prepares you in detail for the challenges of your specific event and means you have total peace of mind during race weekend. You have nothing to worry about. You are totally prepared.

Follow your training plan and you could feel like this!


The distance that you feel like running and the distance you should be running are very different things. There will be many days when you'll be running and you do more than you should. This might just because you feel physically strong or because your head says you are capable of more; potentially a bit of bravado? Whatever it is you should be extremely cautious. Your plan has been designed to help minimise injuries and if you do more than you should then the chances of getting injured increase significantly. If you don't rest when you should this also has the same impact. The plan is designed to have you training at the level that is right for you at a given time. If you train at a higher level, injuries may result.



It is really important when following a plan to include some degree of flexibility. There will be days when you are either unwell or just don't feel in the mood to do what's in the plan. That's ok. You can have days when you 'take a day off'. Or you may adjust one of the shorter runs during the week and add a bit more to one of the other days. That's fine. Just don't do it too many times. Flexibility is important, just not too much of it.

If you started an intermediate plan and it's proving a bit much, or not enough. then you could change. Look at the beginner option if it's proving tough or have a look at the advanced plan, if you think the intermediate one is a bit easy.


This depends on a lot of things. What are you aiming to achieve, what do you want to spend and how much time have you got to interact with a coach, if you go for a premium plan? Whatever you do, make sure that the plan has input from an experienced coach with background in the area you want support in. Generally this means someone who not only understands all the theory involved, but someone who has also done it. How can you take a marathon plan seriously from someone who has never run a marathon, even if they know how to?

There are plenty of excellent free plans available from experienced coaches. Agreed, they won't be specifically designed for you, but they don't always need to be. Buying a 'personalised' plan doesn't always get you that. It's often a computer driven plan that is worked out based on some criteria that you entered online. There are personalised plans available with regular interaction from coaches, but these won't be cheap. You just need to decide how much you want to spend, and ultimately is it worth it?

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