When having a ‘traditional’ training plan doesn’t work for you and you need to find time to run.
We both work full time and have a fairly hefty commute – for me sometimes this also involves travelling around the country, and occasionally overseas, and can involve some late nights/early starts.
The internet and magazines are full of well-meaning advice on ‘making time to train’ and ‘fitting in your workouts around other commitments’, as well as training plans for building up to you first half marathon / marathon / ultramarathon – usually involving 3-4 runs a week plus cross training and strength work. All very sensible and proven to work for a lot of people.
I’ve read a lot of advice and training plans over the years, keen to glean tips, advice and put together a plan for what works for me, in the context of the time I am willing and able to give to training, and my goals and target races.
It’s taken a few years to settle on what works for me right now, and now I’ve got to that place and accepted it, I wanted to share this with you as I am not the only person who this will apply to: I do not follow a structured training plan!
Why not follow a structured training plan?
I love setting plans and writing lists, however when I’ve had a training plan, I’ve not been able to stick to it. I’ve felt constrained by it, guilty for not running/exercising when I was scheduled to – not always out of choice, often out of other commitments getting in the way – or simply that the traffic was awful, I got home nearly an hour later than planned and it’s got late, I’m hungry and I’ve had a long day.
You could argue that I’m obviously not that committed to my training goals… I could agree with you, or I could explain that at this point in time, I am juggling lots of priorities and commitments and the key to it all is achieving a balance, being comfortable with your choices and most of all, enjoying yourself. So if I choose after a long day to eat, relax, see my husband and sleep, then I will be fine with that – and perhaps I’ll get an early night and wake up early for a gym session instead – even if that wasn’t planned. Eating healthily and getting enough rest is also important.
So how do I organise my training?
I set realistic weekly goals, then prepare to be very flexible when it comes to working towards them. The key is to remove the element of guilt/lack of enjoyment factor. I am not a pro athlete, I am not paid to do this and the only pressure I should feel is that which I put on myself. Some major reasons why I run are because I enjoy it and to achieve things that are not always tangible – the feel-good factor, the feeling of exploring, of being in nature – and you can’t plan for these. I’m not running to win races! My running goals and focus may change as other aspects of my life and priorities shift, but for now, this is how it needs to be.
The only key session I stick to every week is the long run. But the length and effort level involved varies, depending on what other training I’ve done and how I’m feeling.
Example weekly sessions:
- 1x gym session (one morning or evening)
- 1x short easy run (eg after work one day)
- 1x long/hard run (eg long hill repeats, or a long slow easy run).
If I get the opportunity:
- another gym session (either strength or turbo training on the bike)
- another run – a short evening run – either tempo or intervals
- a swim (or two)
Don’t stress if you can’t stick to a training plan. If you can’t (or don’t want to) adjust other aspects of your life to make the current plan work, then accept this, embrace flexibility and re-adjust your goals.