Whatever your fitness level, and whatever challenge or distance you’re training for, it is possible to create your own training plan without paying hundreds of pounds for someone to do it for you.
As part of the Run 1000 Miles Challenge, we've brought you a step-by-step guide to building your very own training plan to keep you running all year towards your goals.
Using the basic principles below, you’ll be able to form a plan that helps you reach your running goal, whether that’s achieving a 10km PB, becoming more adept at the half marathon distance, or learning how to train for a marathon or your first ultra marathon.
How to create your own training plan
Step 1: Taking the first step
If you’re a complete beginner, your first goal should be to get used to the act of running and become more efficient at breathing. Start off with a kilometre or two if that’s all you can manage and intersperse running with walking if you need to; there’s no right way to start your running journey.
Breaking into walks may maintain your heart rate sufficiently high to benefit you. It’s all about extending the overall volume of training gradually.
One of the biggest mistakes new and long-time runners make alike is thinking every run has to be all-out. Save that for race day. The goal when starting out on a plan should be to increase the time on your feet.
Those with a good level of fitness, perhaps from other activities, may find they can string a few kilometres together from the start. But go steady – your lungs might be up to it, but your joints and muscles could take longer to get used to the new action.
As a beginner, aim to run every other day to allow ample time for recovery.
Step 2: Increase gradually
Whether a complete beginner or not, make sure you don’t increase your overall mileage by more than 10% per week, and don’t increase by 10% every week. It’s a good idea to take a ‘de-load’ week every fourth week, this will give your muscles a chance to adapt and recover to the distances you’re covering.
An appropriate weekly mileage progression, possibly including walking too if you’re starting out really steady, could be: 15km total week one, 16.5km week two, 18.2km week three, 15km de-load week four, 20km week five… you get the picture.
Step 3: Add a long run
The Holy Grail for those looking to up the distance they’re able to run is adding in a long-run and knowing how to progress it. Aim to make one run per week 20-30% of your overall mileage.
By the time you get to 32km per week, you might be running four or five days, so that could mean 6km+5km+6km+5km+10km. Typically, this could mean you’ll be keeping most runs the same lengths for a few weeks while you increase that one longer run.
Step 4: Speed work
We all hate it, but it is difficult to really progress your running speed without doing some interval work. If you want to expedite your fitness improvement and do some racing, it’s an idea to introduce some faster-paced running after a couple of months.
To start off, on one run per week, run a bit faster for 30-60 seconds between lampposts or trees with a few minutes’ recovery. Allow at least 10 minutes of easy running at the start and end of each speedwork session to get your body used to the extra effort.
Progressing from that, a typical, more structured speed session would be: 3x5mins at your estimated 10km race pace with two minutes of easy running in between each.
If you don’t know what your 10km pace is, the idea is that the pace would be as fast as you can maintain over all three reps – it may take a few sessions to judge this correctly. Repetitions of 3-5mins of faster running will improve your VO2 max. Recovery from each should be around half the rep duration.
Other speed sessions worth doing are those that target your top-end speed. For example, run flat out for one minute 8-10 times with one minute of easy running between each one.
A final key speed session is known as lactate threshold, or tempo training. This is about the maximum pace you could run for an hour – comfortably hard – and you would do this for
Step 5: Recovery
After every speed session or long run, allow at least one day of easy running, gentle cross-training, or a rest day. Easy running is the sort of pace at which you can carry out a conversation.
If you’re just doing one speed session per week, allow a few days between that and your long run. An experienced runner who is running six or seven days per week could do two speed sessions and one long run with rest or easy days in between.
Step 6: Enjoy the process
Above all, it is vital that you enjoy the journey. Otherwise, what’s the point! Don’t get so hung up on reaching targets and sticking to a schedule that you forget that trail running is all about enjoyment and exploring the great outdoors.
This article is brought to you by the official Trail Running Run 1000 Miles Challenge.