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Running Training Plans and Programmes, from Beginner to Advanced

Updated: Nov 12, 2023


running programmes beginner advanced

So, you want to take the first steps to running for your health, or perhaps you already run, have some experience and have set a goal for a certain distance? There are hundreds of running programmes available online, on GPS watches or our phones. Is there a best or most suitable training programme?


Much depends on your goals, existing level of fitness and past experience. Perhaps you have not run in years, or perhaps you are looking to run a half-marathon. Having a running programme that you can adhere to, to be consistent and injury free, is important.


Please note that whilst I am a keen runner, I am not a running coach. If you have any concerns about your health or are under treatment, please talk to your doctor or medical practitioner most familiar with your medical history before implementing any changes in diet, exercise or lifestyle. Also consider joining a running club or getting coaching to help you to progress.

 

Most running plans will (or should) address the key running bases of: easy runs, long runs, harder efforts and allow for sufficient recovery between sessions. The mix of running will be directed by your level of fitness or experience.


Of the online programmes available, I like to use those provided by the UK insurance company BUPA as a starting point. The printable programmes, catering to all levels of experience (beginner to advanced) and for multiple distance goals are tried, tested and free-of-charge.


You can access the Training Plans here... (click on image)

running training programme

Of course, your GPS watch might well provide specific programmes as do many of the YouTube running channels that we enjoy. It can be useful to see a training programme in full from start to finish, be able to print it out, make notes on it, place it on the fridge door.

 

If you are already an experienced or accomplished runner it can be worthwhile to understand the science behind running programmes and exercise physiology. Consider reading these two books:

Daniels' Running Formula
Fast After 50 Joe Friel
 

Most training plans follow the proven 80-20 format, predominantly easy running (80%) mixed with 20% harder runs. Hoewever, one of the potential drawbacks of any generic programme, including those from BUPA, is that their goal is on succeeding at an upcoming race as opposed to succeeding at health. Training, pushing, towards a race - a date in the calendar - can sometimes blind the runner to the complexities and risks in training. Most often this relates to having sufficient time to rest and recover.

  • For example, generic plans do not account for recovery. A 20 year old recovers much faster than a 50 year old. It takes me (middle age runner) 2 days to recover from a hard training session.

  • Generic plans do not account for one's daily workload, bad sleep and life's other stressors.

So, if you feel that you need to take an additional day of rest, or do a lighter run than scheduled, then do so. Don't be afraid of messing up the schedule and falling back a week; better that than gaining an injury.


This is one area that newer or more expensive GPS watches can provide an advantage. They are able to measure your training (stress) load and identify if you are recovering enough between runs. Then they can make a recommendation of what the next workout's intensity should be. With experience runners are also able to develop this skill, to listen to their own body and adjust their training accordingly.


In addition, follow what many serious runners do and every 5th week have a lighter training week - a recovery, down or deload week. Over training (also known as over reaching) is a common issue that affects many even as they start feeling the benefits from their training. Then suddenly they might get sick or injured. The solution, for 1 week reduce the intensity of your training: only do half length 'hard sessions' and replace the 'long run' with a medium run instead. Your body does not lose performance, it has the opportunity to recover and develop. You will come back to training with greater strength and vitality. That's progress!


If you are aiming for a specific goal or race using a programme, consider adding in a few extra weeks into the schedule to accommodate your own down weeks, any unforeseen life happenings, illnesses, work trips etc. Do not rush through a training plan to meet a date for a race, and risk injury.

Keeping a training log - a health journal - to track how you feel. Running watches and apps are great for metrics, a journal allows you to have a holistic view and understanding of your health and overall progress.
 

Finally, enjoy the process. The first few runs, the first three weeks, can be difficult. Not only to get through any aches or pains but to find the time and the motivation. Listen to your body, eat right to support your activity levels, stay hydrated and get proper sleep. These are the pillars of health, essential for success in running and in self-care.


Stay healthy!


Alastair

 

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