Beginner Runner

Run to Success: The Ultimate Guide to Crafting Your Perfect Running Program

7 Mins read

Ready to make the most out of your miles?

Great, because I’m here to help you create a plan that will have you sprinting toward success. But let’s be honest, designing a running plan can be as daunting as trying to climb Mount Everest without oxygen.

But fret no more.

In this article, I’ll share the secrets to designing an effective running program that will take your training to new heights.

From breaking down the essentials of program design to reviewing core principles of training, you’ll be well-equipped to create a plan that will help you reach your full running potential.

How to Make a Running Plan – The Rules

Running can be an incredible way to stay fit, boost your mood, and improve your overall health. But, finding the right training program is easier said than done. It’s like trying to find a needle in a haystack.

You may have tried various programs in the past only to be left feeling frustrated and discouraged.

But the truth is there’s no such a thing as universal formula that works for everyone. In fact, a good running program should be tailored to your individual fitness level, personality, and goals.

It’s not about finding the “perfect” program but rather creating a personalized one that works for you.

A suitable running plan should take into account your training background, personal preferences, and even your schedule.

5 Steps To Help You To Create a Running Program

Designing a well-balanced and effective running program is a process that consists of five rudimentary steps.

Step. 1 – Assess your Fitness and Health

Just like building a house, creating a personalized running plan requires a solid foundation. In this step, we’re going to assess your fitness and health to ensure that your running program is tailored to meet your unique needs.

Think of it this way: you wouldn’t build a house without first inspecting the land, checking for any potential hazards, and creating a blueprint to guide your construction. Similarly, we need to inspect your current physical state, identify any potential risks, and create a blueprint to guide your training.

To start, grab a pen and paper and get ready to answer some questions. Be honest with yourself – there’s no shame in acknowledging any areas that need improvement.

Do you have chronic injuries or lingering pains and aches?

Are you within a healthy weight range?

Do you have high blood pressure?

Do you have any medical conditions that could affect your training?

Suppose you answered “no” to all of the questions, congratulations! You’re off to a great start. However, if you’re not sure about any of the answers, consult your doctor to make sure that exercise is safe for you. This is especially the case when it comes to a high impact sport such as running. Err on the side of caution. Always.

What’s more?

If you’re over 40 and haven’t exercised in a while, get the green light from your doctor before starting any training program. By taking this first step seriously, you’ll have a solid foundation for the rest of your running program.

Step. 2. Assess Your Time/Schedule

When it comes to creating a running program, assessing your time and schedule is just as important as assessing your fitness level. After all, a plan that doesn’t fit into your schedule is a plan that’s bound to fail.

Answer the following questions:

  • How many days a week do you want to run?
  • How many hours per week you’re willing to run?
  • Which specific days of the week work best to support it?
  • When can you start?
  • Where will you run? On a treadmill? At a stadium? Trails? Around the neighborhood? Outdoor track?

Once you’ve a clear schedule, plan out your runs. Choose the three to five days per week that you’ll train, and mark it on your daily plan like you would an appointment. And don’t forget to cross-train on the off-days with activities like walking, yoga, or strength training.

But here’s the key: once you have your chosen days, make a commitment to yourself to train no matter what. Consistency is the most critical aspect of creating and executing a successful running program, so prioritize your workouts and make them a non-negotiable part of your schedule.

Additional resource – Guide to running slang

Step. 3 Set The Right Goals

Already decided on a schedule? Perfect. Next, set some goals for your running plan. Think of your plan as a vehicle that takes a specific route toward a well-defined running goal. Without a clear destination, you’re just wandering aimlessly.

So, come up with your ultimate fitness goal is and the reason you want to start running.

Is your primary goal to run a specific distance within a particular time frame? Or maybe you want to complete a race or event?

When setting your goals, remember to make them SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound. For example, your goal might be to run a sub-30 minute 5K by the end of next July or to run a minimum of 20 miles per week for each of the following four weeks.

But don’t feel like your goals need to be complicated or overly challenging. They can be as simple as “run three times a week” or “be able to run for 45 minutes non-stop.”

The important thing is that they’re meaningful to you.

Step. 4 Choose The Running Workouts

Choosing the right running workouts can be a daunting task, but fear not, as I am here to guide you through the process. Think of it as designing a recipe for a delicious meal, except in this case, the meal is a solid running routine that will have you crushing your fitness goals in no time.

Building a strong base is the first step in this process. Just like a building needs a solid foundation to withstand the test of time, your running routine needs a base that will allow you to progress safely and effectively. This is where easy runs and recovery runs come in. These runs should make up the bulk of your weekly mileage and help you develop aerobic fitness and endurance.

But don’t stop there! Variety is the spice of life, and it’s also the key to reaching your full running potential. Incorporating different types of workouts into your schedule will not only keep things interesting but also challenge your body in different ways. Think of it like a well-rounded diet that includes a variety of nutrients.

From interval repeats to hill reps, there are countless workouts to choose from. And don’t forget about the importance of tempo runs, fartlek runs, and long runs. Each of these workouts serves a different purpose and will help you improve in various areas. For example, tempo runs will improve your lactate threshold, while hill reps will help you develop strength and aerobic power.

It’s also important to note that your running routine should be tailored to your specific goals and fitness level. Research has shown that personalized training plans lead to better performance and injury prevention.

And remember, it’s not just about the workouts you choose but also about how you incorporate them into your schedule. The more consistent you’re the better off you’ll be.

The Cross Training

Pick three days for cross-training or active recovery.

During your rest and CT days,  keep your body moving without putting too much pressure on it.

This continuous pattern of training can help build the habit of daily exercise in your life while further improving your aerobic conditioning and muscular strength.

For more on the benefits of cross-training for runners, check my article here.

Here is a list of cross-training sessions to consider:

Step. 5. Choose a Weekly Running Schedule

To help you make sense of the above, here are three exemplary weekly workout templates to give an idea of how to proceed.

  • Monday: moderate or high-intensity workout
  • Tuesday: Easy Run or Cross Train
  • Wednesday: Easy run
  • Thursday: Moderate or high-intensity workout
  • Friday: Easy Run or Cross Train
  • Saturday: Long Run
  • Sunday: Rest or Cross Train

Beginner Runner Plan

  • Monday: 30- to 45-minute easy effort pace
  • Tuesday: Rest
  • Wednesday: 10 minute warm-up + 20-minute at tempo pace
  • Thursday: Cross train
  • Friday: Rest
  • Saturday: 60 minutes at a conversational pace
  • Sunday: Rest

Intermediary Runner Plan

  • Monday: 45- to 60-minute easy effort running
  • Tuesday: 45- to 60-minute of Cross training
  • Wednesday: 8 X 400m @ 85% max effort.
  • Thursday: 30- to 45-minute of Cross training
  • Friday: 30- to 45-minute of Fartlek running.
  • Saturday: 75- to 90-minute long run at a conversational pace
  • Sunday: Rest Day

Advanced Runner Plan

  • Monday: 10-minute warm-up + 40 minutes at a tempo pace
  • Tuesday: 60-minute of Cross training
  • Wednesday: 10 X 400m @ 85% max effort.
  • Thursday: 30 minutes of easy running
  • Friday: 30 to 45 minutes of Fartlek training
  • Saturday: 90- to 120-minute long run at a conversational pace
  • Sunday: Rest or cross-train

Don’t get me wrong. These templates are not written in stone.

Therefore, feel free to come up with different templates if this one does not fit your schedule.

In fact, you can always create your own—as long as you’re keeping in mind the general guidelines.

Just, as a rule of thumb, surround quality workouts—think harder runs such as intervals, hill reps, and long runs—with easy-paced recovery workouts that are neither intense nor long.

Commit To Paper

Commit your plan to paper.

In my experience, written plans work better.

In fact, a written plan may hold you accountable and help you stay on track for the long haul.

Grab a training journal, and jot down the days of the week along the side, then decide on what to do each day: run, cross-train, or rest.

In your training journal, write down everything running and exercise-related so that you can compare yourself against a previous benchmark.

That’s why, as previously stated, setting smart goals is vital.

Having trouble with the plan?

If you find yourself struggling to nail down the perfect program, consider consulting with a certified running coach or personal trainer. These experts can help you navigate the complexities of training cycles and design a plan that’s tailored to your specific needs.

Dealing With Training Cycles

When it comes to training cycles, it’s important to break your plan down into manageable blocks of 4 to 6 weeks, with the last week of each cycle serving as a recovery period.

Recovery is a crucial aspect of training that’s often overlooked, but skipping it can lead to injury and burnout. During recovery weeks, focus on reducing the intensity and volume of your runs to allow your body to rest and rebuild.

In fact, many beginners start running with a frenzied zeal—running too much, too intensely, for too long, before their bodies are used to the high impact demands of the sport.

How to Make a Running Plan – The Conclusion

By following the above steps, you’ll be able to craft a well-structured running program that will be gradual, organized and in tune with your fitness level and training goals.

Just make sure to take action on what you’ve just learned. Speed of implementation is key.

In the meantime, thank you for reading my post

David D.

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