Coach Hillary Kigar on the value of online training plans.

Plugging In

NCAA runner turned high school coach Hillary Kigar has an answer for all things training—whether you’re hiring a run coach or piecing together a training plan yourself online.

Is there any problem with using free training plans I find online? How do I know if it’s right for me?

Free online running plans can range in quality, but there are a lot of good options to choose from. Look for plans that are published on running magazine websites (like this one!) or written by well-respected distance running coaches such as Jack Daniels or other collegiate or professional coaches. Even The New York Times has published several helpful articles with attached training plans. Most plans are geared toward preparing for a specific race distance and are designed for beginning runners or experienced runners. Take a good look at the progression and see if it looks like the plan moves more gradually (typical for new runners) or increases the volume and intensity more rapidly (better for advanced runners). It is also important to choose a plan that fits your race timeline. You don’t want to have to skip ahead or have extra time if the plan doesn’t quite match with the number of weeks or months until your race.