How to select a plan

Recently someone filled out my Ask Me Anything from with a nice question that I wanted to discuss publically. The question was, “What’s the best way to go about finding the right training schedule for a specific race distance? Or in my case, a half marathon distance. There are plenty of plans available online to choose from but how do I know what will be the right fit for me?“This is actually such a common question that I initially thought this was from a person who I had just talked to about this very concern! So anyway, let’s dive in a bit further. The main considerations to make when selecting a training schedule are:1) Runs per week.2) Miles per week.3) Amount of quality running.4) Length of training campaignBreaking these down further:1) Runs per week.You can find schedules like the FIRST marathon schedule that only include three runs weekly. This schedule has basically taken out the 2-4 easy short runs and replaced them with cardio based cross-training such as cycling or swimming. Most schedules will have 4-6 runs each week. On the low end, you may find one workout, two easy runs, and one long run. With five or six runs weekly you may see two key workouts, a long run, and one or two easy short jogs. When selecting a schedule you need to be realistic on how many times you can get out for a run. The FIRST schedule still requires the commitment to cross train but this may be easier than a running commitment for some. 2) Miles per week.Another important consideration is how much you’ll actually run each week. The Hal Higdon Novice 1 Half Marathon plan hovers in the 20-something miles per week range over five weekly runs while the Intermediate 2 hits the 30s. Jay Johnson‘s half marathon schedule goes into the 40’s. You’ll need to be mindful of how many key workouts, such as tempo runs and track workouts, you can realistically do weekly. An older runner may only do one since they may require more easy/recovery time between workouts. Many of my busy clients only do a single weekly workout because they’re slightly harder to fit into a busy schedule than an easier run. 3) Amount of quality running.This comes down to how many *workouts* do you want to do weekly. The above mentioned FIRST training schedule has three runs weekly and they’re all three rather high effort, so if you’ve never done any track/tempo type workouts this may not be the ideal plan for you.If your goal for whatever race distance you want to train for is simply to finish, meaning the distance is the biggest obstacle, selecting a training plan with little to no hard running may be best, especially if you’ve never done such workouts before. If it’s your first half marathon or marathon and you’re a new runner, a plan that has you most simply just covering distances is likely appropriate.But if you’ve done some track workouts and tempo runs and/or the race distance isn’t the obstacle, but you have a goal time, doing some workouts will be important. Again you need to decide how many are best for you. If you have a job where you’re on your feet a lot you may be best with a single weekly workout, but if your legs can get plenty of recovery during the week you may be able to do a Tuesday Thur/Fri workout + a Sunday long run, for example. 4) Length of training campaign. We may often not have much control over this. Is your half marathon in 12 weeks or 20? When a runner comes to me I prefer at least 3 months to do a dedicated training campaign towards an event, the more weeks the more time we have for a gradual buildup. So in the end, I really like to suggest checking out Hal Higdon‘s website since there are many plans listed for free. You can check them out and select the one that seems most appropriate. Books can be super nice to purchase and follow the plan(s) since you receive an entire book that likely includes strength training, diet advice, and many various tips from the author of the book and plan you’re following. And if want some help selecting one or you want me to design you a custom extended plan, contact me and we can set something up! I have many runners come to be for a custom plan or coaching and they’re not in a place yet to follow a pre-built plan (like if they’re just restarting training) or if they have a super crazy schedule like a flight attendant or police officer and can’t find any schedules to really fit their schedule…because as you know the best plan follows the runner, not the other way around 😉 As always, You keep running and I’ll keep coaching!-Coach Kyle