What are Your Winter Training Plans?

What are your running goals for December to the end of March?  What are you going to do to achieve those goals?  Are you going to find one of those “canned” programs and follow that, get a coach or just wing-it?

I really believe that these are questions we all struggle with as runners – how we create a training plan to meet those goals. We all have different goals, wants, needs, abilities and how we attain them is often a journey full of highs/lows, and injuries that we work through to get where we want to be.

  • How do you go about planning and implementing your running program?

Here are some of my views:

Running Coach

The best way in my opinion is to have a running coach who works with you daily to tweak and adjust your running plan as necessary based on your current condition, injuries, weather forecasts and other factors that a coach can factor into a training plan, would be a good great thing. However, unless you are with some kind of a track club or in school, coaching of this sort is difficult to find and/or expensive. It would be the best way to go, but is not available to most of us.

  • Does it matter whether the coach is an online coach and someone who coaches you face to face?

I don’t know the answer to that question because I have not had experience with either one (since I left high school). What do you think?

Canned Running Program

We have all started one of the canned race prep schedules that are in our apps, in running how-to books, running magazines, or the ones that you find online. You know those ones which promise to help you finish or improve your times in a race from 5K to Marathons and beyond.

  • Have you wondered if they really do work?

I really don’t know because I have never, ever finished a canned running program since I began running so many years ago. I start off with all these great intentions to go through X program, because it seems to fit the direction I am trying to go with my running and “by gum and tarnation” I do want to get better and not be injured while getting to X and buy into the hype.

  • These program probably work better for newer or runners who need the added structure to their running, but as runners mature in running, do they continue to need those levels of structure?

Many of these running programs are very nicely laid out in great detail and can become rather complicated. On this day you will run this amount of miles, at this pace and your weekly total should be X, if you don’t do X, then do Y or Z, and then A.

What happens when life gets in the way of the training plan for that day or week and it throws off the entire schedule. After all – as important as running is to us, there are other things that do come before putting on your running shoes and going for that 20 miler or the 2 hour track workout every Tuesday.

These programs are not known for their flexibility and that is where I really dislike a canned running program.  If I want to do speedwork on Friday instead Tuesday and my long run on Wednesday instead of Friday, it really messes up trying to stay up with a canned running program and making all the changes to ensure that you are still following that running plan.

I guess I am just not very good at following the rules all the time.

I know many of them say don’t sweat it if you miss or change something here or there, but we do, it is in many of our natures to sweat it and it is also a confidence thing. If the “expert” who designed your running program says you are supposed to be here doing X on week 6 of the program and you are not because life got in the way, you get stressed. Then many runners try to “catch-up” and end up injured and don’t meet their goals.

Problems with Canned Programs

I have problems with the canned running programs, mainly because I am an ornery old fart who just wants to do it his way, instead of the way that someone else thinks. Yes I have a good idea of what I want out of running and have a pretty good what I have to do to get there. I am pretty sure that I can figure this out without some damned “expert’s” idea of how fast or far I should be running on next Tuesday, based on how my body is really feeling, not an artificial number based upon what?

  • Does anyone else feel that way too?

Maybe those people who are putting together these preplanned running programs are a hell of a lot smarter than I am, ran more, ran faster, have more experience running injury free, but they do not know me or you, our strengths, weaknesses, current fitness level, preferences, provide appropriate feedback and all those other factors that go into an individual training plan – they can’t.

So what do we do?

Wing-It

I have a feeling that this is what many of us do – just wing-it. Yes we have a pretty good idea of what we need to do in order to run or run a faster 5k, 10K half/full marathon or whatever your running goal is. Then we just go run enough to get to where we want to go.  We log what we do, think about how  we are doing, look at how/why we are getting injured, buy a new pair of shoes, even when the old ones were fine, tweak here or there as necessary and just keep running.

Not very scientific, but pretty uncomplicated, very flexible and tends to work for more experienced runners, but not so good for new runners or those who need specific training guidelines to help them through their training regimen.

My Experience

In my experience, canned running program (paper or computer) do help by giving pretty consistent guidelines – most of the canned training programs have many similarities (long runs, tempo runs, recovery days, a day of rest and speed work, etc.), the biggest difference often being the recommended miles/pace on a given day.

From what I have seen is that most runners eventually put together a program for themselves that is flexible and can:

  • accommodate last minute changes that happen in real life;
  • the bain of all runners – injuries; or
  • when you just feel like something different
  • listen to what your body needs

Is this how you set up your training program? You have it in your head what you need to do and then adjust your actual running based upon life, how the training is actually going and how your body feels. This is how I have trained for several years and varying degrees of success.

My Training Plan

This year I want to do it a little differently, instead of just having my training plan only in my head I am writing it down. So here is my training program for December through the end of March.

  • HAVE FUN WITH MY RUNNING – that is the most important thing
  • Run 15-30 miles per week – closer to 30 as we get to March.
  • No more than 2 hard runs per week – one tempo and one fartlek or speed workout
  • Have a long run every week that is more than 5 miles, but no more than 8 miles at an easy pace
  • Run no more than 13 days in a row before a rest day
  • Once every two weeks run without a timing device
  • Run on trails/dirt when possible
  • Find 1 or 2 races and see how you do
  • If injured figure out why you got injured and do something different
  • When really sick don’t run, slightly sick give it a try
  • Walk at least 2.0 miles every day in addition to any running
  • Cross-train if you feel like it (snow shoeing, cross country skiing, ice skating, etc.)
  • Lift weights  2x per week (even though they suck – it helps)
  • Weigh self every day when I get up
  • Eat mostly organic food and cut back on chips to once per week. Limit sweets to reasonable amount daily.
  • Sleep around 8 hours a day

The biggest thing is to just run without getting injured.

This is my training program for the next 5 months or so. Yes it is a winter maintenance running program meant to get my baseline running back, loose about 20 more pounds and get me ready for Spring and running 5K to 10K races through June.

Running faster and further will come if I follow those things and listen to what my body is trying to tell me (which has always been a problem – I usually just run through pain or discomfort until it becomes an injury).

In March I will re-evaluate everything and see where my fitness and running really is and start a program to focus on improving my 5K times to my long-term goal of under 20:00 minutes.  I have purposely set my 5K goal very high, but in my opinion an attainable goal if everything goes right over the next year?

What is Your Running Plan?

To me unless you have a coach (online or F2F) and if you do I am jealous, using canned programs are a great way to give you ideas on how to get where you want to go, but you are the one that has to implement your own running program.

  • What is your training training program going to look like for December through March – have you thought about it or are you just going to wing-it?

Let me know, I am interested in what other runners are going to do this winter and how you are planning your training.

The reality is that

right now I just want to have fun with my running and enjoy the fact that I am running again. Gotta remember slow and steady, slow and steady will keep me running, until I build up the base I need and loose the flubber that needs to go away.

I wish you all the best in developing your personal running plan, I know that I am really anxious to see how well mine works over the winter.

Now to go out for a run.