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Training plans. I’ve tried to like them. I really did. And I’m sure I’ll somewhat follow one whenever I decide to train for and complete my first marathon (but only in terms of long runs, let’s be real).
But for my day-to-day running program and even when I have a race I want to run well, they just don’t work for me. It comes down to having a workout set in ink before I complete it. I can be unwavering in my dedication to getting a specific run in even when I should adjust because of burnout, soreness or injury.
And if I do change up the plan — even for a totally legitimate reason — I end up feeling like a complete failure. I seem to think that the rest of the plan is up in smoke or that I won’t reach my goal from missing a single day or a few days worth of training.
So it’s no wonder I tend to go it alone. If you’re like me and can’t deal with a completely structured plan that sets your run length and effort every single day, don’t fret — you can, successfully, go it alone.
Here are some ways to accomplish that:
— Plan a weekly long run with variable distance: If you’re planning for any race that’s a 10K or longer, you need to incorporate a longer run each week, or at least once every 10 days. Depending on how long the course is, this could be anywhere from four miles to up to 22 miles.
— Figure out what speed means to you: Do you want to earn a new PR? If your goal is to cross the finish line as fast as possible, then you need to pick a day (or two) each week when you run at a faster tempo than you normally would. That could be anything from a tempo run to intervals to a fartlek. And don’t forget the hills: If your course is going to be a hilly one, you may want to work in some hill repeats each or every other week.
— Determine what pace works best: Figuring out what your base pace is will help you know how hard to push it when it comes to both training runs and race day. It’ll also save you on the long runs — when you want to be running at a pace that feels sustainable for the entire route.
— Make your mileage flexible: Running without a training plan means you can easily adjust — without the guilt — when you need a drop-back week or when life simply gets in the way. Plus, it’ll keep you from feeling burnout by increasing your mileage week after week until the taper.
— Only increase by 10-20% per week: The average rule of thumb is to only increase your weekly mileage by 10% at a time. That’s a great place to start, and you can consider increasing by 20% if you’re on the lower end of weekly mileage and are consistently using drop-back weeks to recover from the training load.
For more from Katharine Lackey, visit Kat Runs D.C.
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