In the last 18 months I have logged over 1500 miles running. Some were treadmill miles, but most were outside. In a previous post, I gave you tips for new runners. Here, I’d like to offer a few reasons you should develop a formal training plan before you take up a long distance run, especially a half or full marathon. You could participate in a 5 or 10 kilometer race without too much training, but your result will be greatly improved if you follow a plan. For the longer distances though, a plan is indispensable, and here’s why.
- You have to work up to the distance. No amount of frequent short runs will prepare you, so you need to plan several weeks ahead of time to add at least one long run per week.
- You need to mix it up with long runs, speed training, and short, comfortable runs. Training doesn’t mean every workout should stretch you to the max. Your legs need their own version of work/life balance.
- You need to be aware of your nutrition needs. If you are training to the tune of 20-40 miles per week, then you need to be eating more and eating smarter. A good plan includes nutrition consideration.
- You need to understand the change in your body’s need for rest. Training for these distances is tough, and you need better quality recovery time, which includes more sleep. We’re all different in this respect, but you need to be aware of it and adjust accordingly.
- A plan keeps you motivated. If you are at race day minus three weeks, then you are starting to get some serious long runs in, the kind that take 2 hours or more depending on the race you are training for. Sticking with the plan will give you more confidence on race day. Which brings me to the last point.
- Race day should be fun. You get to feel the excitement of the rest of the runners. On many distance runs there will be crowds and music throughout the race cheering you on. As the miles tick by you feel some sense of accomplishment. But, if you did not follow a plan you will likely be unprepared and will have some disappointments. You will walk more than you hoped to. You may develop blisters or pains for the first time because you didn’t do enough distance prep to know your body and your equipment.
A plan will take just a little bit of your time, but will help you enjoy the journey more. You can get a plan for your running at Runner’sWorld.com, look for SmartCoach, and you can generate a plan based on your current ability and planned distance. The plan above is an example for someone planning to run a 5k race. You can learn more about the nutritional and rest aspects by lurking in the Runner’s World forums. There at a ton of generous, knowledgeable people there.
Exercise is a necessary part of a healthy lifestyle. If you enjoy running for the solitude, you may never enter a race. But racing with others can be a fun social experience as well as a good goal management opportunity. My next race is a half marathon in early October. I am following a training plan that should allow me to finish in the same general time as the last one a did a year ago. The best part of have a plan for me is the motivational aspect. I am on plan and feeling good!
Whatever distance you might run, do it for fun as much as for challenge, and, as always, let’s be careful out there.
Anna at abdpbt is responsible for the effort to Fight Listless Mondays. Find other list links on her blog. Her lists and the others linked there always give you something to think about, and may even make you smile!