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How to Make a Training Plan and Stick With It

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Training for a race takes a lot of time out of our already busy day to day lives.  Often times, we come up with a plan to run a certain distance or a certain amount of time every day but we can rarely stick to this plan.  Many types of people have to deal with this, and whether you are a student with a changing class and studying schedule or a parent who holds down a job and the household, it can be tough to find time to train for that race.  As someone who ran races while a student in college I can relate and have experienced the time crunches that can be put on our schedules.  By following these guidelines I was able to train for my races while still maintaining a busy and changing schedule.

Schedule Week to Week

Many times when training we like to map out our running schedule over the next three months or however long it is before the race.  However, with a constantly changing schedule sometimes we have no idea if we have time for a 12 mile run next Tuesday, let alone six Tuesdays from now.  If we miss runs, especially multiple in a short time period then we tend to get down on ourselves and possibly think about dropping out because we feel as though we have too much on our plates. If you are in a position where it is likely that something mandatory will come up on a day that you plan to train, then wait to schedule that time period at a later date.

That being said, it is still good to set general goals for the entirety of your training at the beginning.  If you are running a marathon in 3 months, it is a good idea to make sure that you will be able to run those 26.2 miles when the time comes around.  Which leads to the next guideline…

Choose the Amount of Times and Miles You Want to Run in a Week and Stick to it

One of the pitfalls of not having a rigid schedule from the beginning is the ever lurking threat of procrastination.  For some people, if they don’t have something telling them to run 6 miles on Wednesday at 3 PM then they will not run.  However, if you do not fall into this category then I suggest at least having the rigidity of “I will run X amount of times this week for Y amount of miles.”  This ensures that you will be training as much as is necessary.

Runner Path

It is important to stick to the numbers that you have decided on.  There is little use in preparing to run four times in a week while only running three and not getting all of your miles in.  By doing this once it can put us into a mindset of “that wasn’t too bad, if I need to do it again I can.”  If this is done multiple weeks in a row it can compound and cause us to become woefully unprepared for a race.

Make Use of Treadmills (or Ellipticals) if Needed

I know that this is very few people’s favorite way to train as it is not realistic to what one experiences during a race. However, it can be crucial to getting all of your runs in while training for a race.  If you are a student who has classes all day and then study groups until 8 PM, running on a treadmill at 9 PM may be the only way to run for a while.  It can also be an invaluable tool during inclement weather.  If it is raining when you plan to run, someone who has time to run at 2 PM every day may just put off the run until next day.  However, if you have today free, but your next two days are booked that means you either run today or possibly miss the run, and a treadmill may be how you have to run.

Running on a treadmills is different from running on roads or trails and it will be hard to gauge how this time will compare to an actual race time, but the improvement to your fitness levels will be worth it.

Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle

Busy lives tend to cause us to make shortcuts.  These shortcuts can be benign to our health, such as skipping a haircut, or they can be detrimental, such as skipping a meal or a day of cross training.  The ultimate short cut, of course, is eating unhealthy fast food.  With an already busy schedule it will be hard to make up for these mistakes later as we are already in a time crunch.  By maintaining a healthy lifestyle you are not putting yourself any further behind in your training.

Make Use of a Strong Support System

This is always worth mentioning.  We sometimes get so wrapped up in our own little world that we forget there are other people who care about us and can help us along the way.  If someone can take on one of your responsibilities so that you can get one more training run in, take advantage of this opportunity and repay it in the future.  When I was in college my roommate did a lot of the housework around the apartment while I was training for a marathon.  Later that summer while he was studying for a graduate school entrance exam, I took on a lot of these responsibilities.

It is also important to utilize your emotional support system.  If you are feeling overwhelmed, a quick talk with a friend or family member can really boost your morale.

In the end it is all about balance and persistence when training for a race.  If you have an ever changing or busy schedule following these guidelines should make your days just a bit easier to manage while still doing what you love.