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Should You Use a Running Training Plan?

Should you use a running training plan?

Are you a runner searching for clarity amidst the seemingly infinite, and often conflicting sources of running advice? Whether you’re a beginner runner looking to build your endurance or a seasoned runner aiming for a personal best or an extreme challenge, a running training plan can help you unleash your potential. The world of running can be daunting and overwhelming, with an abundance of resources, programs, and philosophies promising to revolutionize your performance. Amidst this chaos, one question arises: Do you really need a running training plan?

In this article we’ll answer the question ‘what is a running plan’, the different types of running training plan, and the advantages of following one. We’ll look at where to obtain a running training plan and the question of whether the assistance of a running coach will benefit you.

What is a running training plan?

A running training plan, is sometimes referred to as a running plan or run training plan. It’s a structured and organized approach to guide your running workouts and progress towards specific goals. It outlines the frequency, duration, intensity, and types of runs you should incorporate into your training routine over a given period.

A running training plan typically includes the following components:

Weekly Mileage

The plan specifies the total number of miles or kilometers you should aim to run each week. This mileage is often gradually increased over time to allow for progressive adaptation and improvement.

Drill and workout types

The plan includes different types of runs, such as long runs, speed work, tempo runs, easy runs, recovery runs, and cross-training sessions. Each workout type serves a specific purpose in developing different aspects of your running performance, such as endurance, speed, and aerobic capacity.

Duration and intensity

The plan provides guidelines for the duration and intensity of each workout. It may include specific paces or heart rate zones to target during various types of runs. This helps ensure that you are training at appropriate intensities to elicit the desired adaptations and prevent overtraining.

Rest and recovery

Rest and recovery are crucial components of a training plan. The plan specifies rest days or active recovery days, allowing your body to repair and adapt to the stress of running. It ensures a balance between training stimulus and recovery to minimize the risk of injuries and optimize performance.


A running plan typically follows a progressive structure. It gradually increases the intensity, duration, or mileage of your runs over time to challenge your body and promote improvement. This progression is designed to avoid sudden spikes in training load that may lead to overuse injuries or burnout.

Goal orientated

The plan is designed to help you work towards specific goals. Whether you aim to complete a race, improve your speed, increase your endurance, or achieve a personal best, the plan aligns with your objectives and provides a roadmap to progress systematically.


A well designed running plan allows for flexibility and adjustments. It takes into account factors like your current fitness level, time constraints, and individual circumstances. It can be modified if necessary, considering factors such as illness, fatigue, or changes in schedule, while still keeping you on track towards your goals.

Off the shelf or tailor made?

As a runner, having a running plan can be highly beneficial to help you achieve your goals and improve your overall performance. Whether you should use a general running plan or a tailor-made plan depends on various factors, including your requirements and current ability.

Here are some points to consider:

  • Goal setting: Determine your running goals, such as completing a specific race, improving your speed, or increasing your endurance. Having a plan will provide structure and direction to help you work towards those goals.
  • Personalisation: A tailor-made running plan takes into account your individual needs, strengths, weaknesses, and current fitness level. This can be beneficial if you have specific requirements or if you’re training for a particular event that demands a certain level of preparation.
  • Progressive training: Running plans typically involve progressive training, gradually increasing the intensity, duration, and distance of your runs. This approach helps prevent injuries and allows your body to adapt and improve over time. A personalized plan can ensure that the progression aligns with your current ability and minimizes the risk of overtraining.
  • Time commitment: Consider your schedule and availability for training. Tailor-made plans can be adjusted to fit your lifestyle, making it easier to follow consistently. However, if you’re short on time or prefer a more flexible approach, a general running plan might be a better fit.
  • Expert guidance: Working with a running coach or a qualified professional can provide valuable insights and expertise in designing a personalized plan. They can assess your abilities, monitor your progress, and make adjustments based on your feedback and performance.
  • Motivation and accountability: Following a running plan can help keep you motivated and accountable to your training schedule. It provides a clear roadmap, reducing the chances of skipping workouts or becoming complacent.

Ultimately, the choice between a general running plan and a tailor-made plan depends on your individual circumstances, goals, and preferences. If you have specific targets or require a more personalized approach, investing in a tailor-made plan might be beneficial. However, if you’re comfortable with a general plan or prefer more flexibility, that can still be effective for achieving your running objectives.

Advantages of using a running training plan

Structure & Organisation

A running plan provides structure and organization to your training. It outlines the frequency, duration, and intensity of your runs, helping you establish a routine and stay on track with your training. This structure reduces confusion and uncertainty, making it easier to consistently follow a systematic approach to your running.

Goal setting and progress tracking

A running plan allows you to set specific goals and track your progress. It helps you break down your goals into smaller, manageable milestones, making it easier to stay motivated and measure your improvement. By having a plan, you can monitor your achievements and make adjustments as needed to stay aligned with your objectives.


A well-designed running plan incorporates a balance of different types of runs, such as long runs, speed work, tempo runs, and recovery days. This variety helps improve different aspects of your running, including endurance, speed, and overall fitness. It also reduces the risk of overtraining or neglecting certain aspects of your training.

Injury Prevention

A running plan can help reduce the risk of injuries. It includes gradual progression, allowing your body to adapt to the demands of running and preventing overuse injuries. Additionally, a plan that incorporates rest and recovery days gives your body time to repair and rebuild, reducing the likelihood of burnout or chronic injuries.

Improved performance

Following a running plan tailored to your goals and abilities can lead to improved performance. Its systematic approach allows for targeted training, focusing on areas that need improvement and working towards specific race goals. By incorporating different types of runs and gradually increasing intensity, you can enhance your speed, endurance, and overall performance.

Accountability and motivation

A running plan provides accountability and motivation. Knowing that you have a plan to follow can help you stay committed and dedicated to your training. It serves as a reminder of your goals and helps you stay on track, even during periods when motivation may waver. Additionally, having a plan can foster a sense of achievement as you tick off completed workouts and milestones.

Adaptable and flexible

While running plans provide structure, they can also be flexible and adaptable. A good plan allows for adjustments based on unforeseen circumstances, such as changes in schedule, fatigue, or injury. This flexibility ensures that you can modify your training without completely derailing your progress.

Do I need a running coach?

It can be beneficial to consult with a running coach or use reputable resources to find a training plan that aligns with your needs and helps you progress effectively. There are various types of running coaches available to assist runners in achieving their goals. Here are some common types of running coaches and how they can help you:

Personal running coach

A personal running coach provides one-on-one coaching tailored to your specific needs. They assess your current ability, discuss your goals, and create a customized training plan. They offer guidance, monitor your progress, provide feedback, and make adjustments to your training as necessary. A personal running coach can help you improve your technique, increase your performance, overcome plateaus, and address any specific challenges you may face.

Online running coach

An online running coach provides coaching remotely, typically through online platforms, emails, video calls, or training apps. They offer personalized training plans and guidance based on your goals, abilities, and training history. Online running coaches can be a cost-effective option, providing regular support, accountability, and expertise without the need for in-person sessions.

Group running coach

Group running coaches work with multiple runners simultaneously, usually in a group training setting. They provide structured workouts, group training sessions, and coaching advice for the entire group. Group running coaches can help foster a sense of community, provide motivation, and offer support from fellow runners. These may focus on specific aspects such as interval training, long-distance running, or race preparation.

Technical and form coaching

Technical running coaches may take the form of a trail running coach or fell running coach. These formats of running require specific skill sets and it can be worth obtaining specialist advice. Form coaches specialize in improving your running form and efficiency. They analyse your running mechanics, identify any flaws or areas for improvement, and provide guidance on proper posture, stride length, foot strike, and overall technique. Working with a technique coach can help you run more efficiently, reduce the risk of injury, and optimize your performance.

Performance Coach

Performance coaches are focused on maximizing your running performance. They design training plans and strategies to enhance your speed, endurance, strength, and overall athletic performance. Performance coaches may incorporate elements such as interval training, tempo runs, strength training, and periodization to help you achieve your performance goals and reach your full potential.

Regardless of the type of running coach you choose, they can provide valuable guidance, expertise, and accountability. They can help you set realistic goals, structure your training effectively, avoid common pitfalls, provide motivation and support, and offer insights based on their experience and knowledge. Ultimately, a running coach can help you improve your running technique, increase your performance, prevent injuries, and achieve your running goals more efficiently.

Plan or no plan?

In summary, using a running plan offers numerous advantages. These include structure, goal setting, balanced training, injury prevention, improved performance, accountability, and flexibility. It provides a roadmap for your running journey, helps you stay motivated, and increases the likelihood of achieving your goals efficiently and safely.

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