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Why a January plan means faster summer running

As the A Team’s inimitable and enigmatic leader Hannibal used to say: “I love it when a plan comes together.” Getting a training diary and sitting down at the start of the year to plan your training and races should be a vital part of any runner’s regime. Setting yourself a goal is an important factor in providing the motivation to fuel your training.

As a some-time coach, I often used to shy away from prescriptive training plans: after all, I would argue, how can you know what a person is feeling like on any given day? However, having the structure of knowing what key sessions fall where in the training cycle can give the athlete both confidence and peace of mind. Trust the plan and the improvements will follow.

Success in running is based on the ‘c’ word – consistency. Runners who make improvements do so by building their fitness over time – and doing their best to avoid downtime. Fitness is cumulative and the fewer interruptions to training, the more improvement an individual is likely to make. Some injuries are unavoidable, but a carefully structured training plan can manage the workload, laying down a strong foundation on which to build.

Benefits of planning

Setting a major goal helps to provide a timeline for your training around which a plan can be built. There might be smaller goals along the way, but a singular focus means you know exactly when to start – and how you are going to get there. Choosing one goal to focus on (for example, a spring marathon) means you are more likely to be successful rather than having several smaller goals.

Rewind and review

Take some time to review the last period of training and any previous goals you set: did you achieve them? What did you do that you felt really worked for you? And, more importantly, what did you do that didn’t? By examining previous training, you can fine-tune your new training plan and avoid the mistakes of the past. Your goal should be to toe the line in your major goal race as fit and healthy as possible.

Variety is key

Once you’ve established your main goal, it’s time to structure your year. Any good training plan will have incremental progress interspaced with periods of (active) recovery. It is simply not possible to keep training hard, week in, week out, without adding some rest weeks into your schedule. The key building blocks of any run week are:
1) The long run
2) Interval sessions (track, road, hills etc)
3) Recovery runs


A combination of these will make up your training weeks (and months). In a subsequent article, we will look at exactly what those sessions would be.

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