Training

How to Start a Training Plan

Whether you’re new to running or a veteran of plenty of races, looking at a training plan for the first time can often send you, um, running for the hills. Your eyes are immediately drawn to the biggest numbers—I have to run how many miles at one time?—and if you haven’t gone that distance before, it’s nearly impossible to not be intimidated. If you’re a more experienced runner, you know you can go the distance, but you may also have not-so-fond memories of certain parts of a training plan.

The good news is that a training plan doesn’t have to be as scary to look at as your AmEx bill; here are some ways to mentally tackle any training plan.

—First of all, take your regular calendar, the one that has birthdays, family responsibilities and the like on it, and plot out when you can do your weekly long runs. If you’ve got a significant other, be sure to talk it through with your partner, so that everybody is on the same page: you get this chunk of time on these weekend dates so you can fulfill a goal you’ve set for yourself. If you’ve got a crazy busy schedule, feel free also mark out your shorter weekday runs, although sometimes that easier to handle on a weekly basis.

—Similarly, if you know you’ve got to travel for a wedding, work or some other reason during that three-month stretch, think about if you’ll have the time, energy and resources (like a good, safe route) to run while you’re away. If not, make a plan B now: you can juggle your plan a bit to fit your needs.

—If huge bite of training feels like too much to mentally swallow, then divide it up. Don’t hang the plan in a place you have to see it daily. Instead, week by week, write your workouts on your daily planner or enter them into your phone. Make it a Sunday night ritual to look at the next week and figure out when you’ll get your workouts in, then tuck the plan away for seven more days.

—Don’t worry about day 50 on day 5. A less-than-stellar run on one day can often hijack your thoughts and rob your self-confidence. “I could barely get through 3 today,” you think to yourself, “How am I ever going to do 9?” The beauty of a well-written training plan is that every run is preparation for the next. The fact that you got through a tough one on day 5—and that you’ll do the rest of the workouts leading up to day 50—means your body and mind will be ready for 9. Which isn’t to say that it’ll be cake, but you’ll certainly be able to get it done.

—A great way to reaffirm your progress in training and get yourself psyched for race day is to do a shorter race at least three weeks before you zoom. Jump into a local 5k or 10k , if you’re taking on a half-marathon, to feel how strong you’ve gotten. Ideally, you can slip a race into your training plan easily without rippling the waters too much; because racing is harder than training, a 10k can easily take the place of a 7 or 8 mile run, while a 5k can substitute for a 4 or 5 miler.

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