How To Create A Running Training Plan

I am a runner. I would say I love running, but honestly I hate it sometimes too. I definitely have a love-hate relationship with the sport. However, it has never waivered as my go to method of exercise. No matter how long I go with out running, I can always go back to it because it is a part of who I am. I ran track and cross country in high school, college, and competed in local races as a young adult. 

I wanted to write about a running training plan because I myself am trying to get back into consistent exercise regimen. I have been putting off taking care of my health and now that I will be going through some major life changes I need more energy to get me through it.

What I am about to explain will be from a beginners perspective. Beginner is someone who does not have a foundation of running. This means you hardly ever run or have never run in your life. If you have been running for a while, you will probably be able to do more than what I am about to explain. No matter who this applies to, you should make your plan flexible. This is not set in concrete. Life happens. You go out of town, you get sick, someone you love gets sick, you get into a car accident – so don’t be upset if you need to adjust your plan.

If I havent been running or exercising consistently, this is what my first week would look like:

As you can see, I have 6 runs scheduled a week and have 1 off day. I pick Sunday as my off day, but if there is another day that works for you then adjust it. Now you might think running 6 days is too much, but if you follow this training plan the right way, it won’t be. However, if you need to take an additional day off pick one of your easy days. It is much better to do less and work your way into doing more than over doing it and trying to recover from a burn out/injury.

I run by time, not miles. You are getting the same amount of minutes working out no matter what level you are at. [Ex – if you are scheduled to run 3 miles, someone who runs a 10m/m pace is going to take longer to run those 3 miles than someone who runs a 6:30m/m. So the person who is running 10m/m is working harder than the 6:30m/m].

You will alternate between 3 easy and 3 hard days. Before we go any farther, there is one rule you must always follow on each run you do.

#1 Rule – Always Negative Split

If you do not know what negative splitting is, it is when your next mile is faster than your last. Your pace per mile should get faster as you progress through your run. You know how people sprint at the beginning of the race and then burn out shortly after? You Do NOT want to do that. Negative splitting helps you gradually ease into a faster pace with out burning out at the end. You are warming up your body essentially.  

Easy Days are – you guessed it – EASY. 

You should be comfortable having a conversation with someone while you are on your run. This sounds like a pretty simple concept, but most people push themselves WAY harder than they actually should be. I totally struggle with this still. I am the type of person who wants to always run hard. If you don’t feel sore at the end of it, you didn’t do enough right?? That will notbenefit you. I do not care how slow your easy pace is. You will burn out or injury yourself down the road if you push yourself too hard. I promise, you will feel the difference even if you are taking it easy. Your muscles wont necessarily be sore, but even at an easy**** pace you are building pathways in your cardio vascular system (which helps get more oxygen to your muscles). This is your VO2 max, but we arent going to get into that today.  = you get faster. 

Hard Days

These are the days should be difficult for you. Again you Always want to negative split still. But you will work your way into a fast pace. There are multiple different types of hard running workouts, but I am going to just mention one – tempo runs.

“A tempo run—also known as an anaerobic threshold or lactate-threshold run—is a pace about 25 to 30 seconds per mile slower than your current 5K race pace, according to running coach Jack Daniels, Ph.D., who popularized the tempo run in his book Daniels’ Running Formula.” This kind of work out should be “comfortably hard”. Something that is difficult but that you can sustain for long periods of time. This is great for your training because it helps you adapt to faster paces for long distances. Tempo is not an all out pace. If you do not know what your 5K race pace is you will just have to do a little trial and error on what different paces make you feel. 

XT = Cross Training

You can run if you are feeling good, but its good to take a day off the pavement. Work out for the same amount of time as you would be running, but pick some other cardio (swimming, cycling, rowing, etc). This would also be the day I would pick to take an additional day off if you needed it.

After you have been consistently running for a month the next step would be bumping up your time. I would first increase your long runs, then your hard days, then your easy days. Now you might be wondering why you need to run for an hour plus when you are training for a 5k? According to a Runners World article, running longer distances helps you physically and psychologically.  

From a physical standpoint when you run longer distances, your are increasing your aerobic capacity. This is where more capillaries are made, which help with the delivery of blood to your muscles.  This means that your muscles have more pathways for oxygen and nutrients to get to them. The quicker you can get oxygen to the muscles, the faster you can run. 

From a psychological standpoint – if you can run a hour plus, you can run a 5k. You subconsciously are affirming yourself that you can finish your 5K race well because you have run a lot more than that in your previous training. You remember how difficult it was to finish that hour and a half run during your race, and you remind yourself that you wont have to run for that long.

I hope this helped you and happy running!

“Running is about finding your inner peace, and so is a life well lived.” Dean Karnazes

2 thoughts on “How To Create A Running Training Plan

Add yours

  1. I usually run 6 days/week too, but I am thinking about backing off. I have been running for over 30 years (I am in my 60s) and I am thinking about trying to do more with less. I still enjoy running and racing. Hubby and I are doing the Marine Corps Marathon this fall.


    1. Wow that is amazing! You absolutely can get a lot out of doing less. You just have to make your work outs count and recover. I have a friend of mine who completed the Marine Corps Marathon last year and he really enjoyed it. Good luck to you and your husband in your race!


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