6 Tips on Putting Together a Training Plan

tips on training plan

I’ve been running on and off for five years now. It’s only this year I’ve really worked on putting together a training plan that works for me.

There are some key elements I’ve included which might be helpful if you’re struggling to develop a plan you can generally stick with. For me, the real benefit of spending time on this is it means for weeks at a time, I don’t have to think about what run I’m doing that day. As I mentioned in Why Motivation Sucks (and how to get your arse out the door), it means I don’t have to wait for the motivation genie to strike.

While below I discuss what I did for my first 50k, the principles apply to whatever distance you’re aiming at. I tend to have a plan that has at least an 8 week forward look.


Here are some tips I hope you’ll find useful. And I’d love to know what works for you!


6 Tips on putting together a training plan


1. The research

I love googling training plans and there are so many out there. Some are about time on feet, others mileage, others a mix of mileage and cross-training. There are also plans for beginners, for intermediates and advanced runners. I start with the beginner plans and take it from there.

There are a few things I look at – are there patterns in the training plans and is it manageable. Here are a few I looked at:

On patterns, something I spotted early on with 50k training plans is hard weeks are followed by easier weeks. This was unlike the marathon training plans where there was an increase in mileage every week until it was taper time. This appealed to me.

What didn’t appeal so much is even for some of the beginner plans, they went up to 60+ miles a week.


2. Be clear about what you’re doing when

For the 50k, I looked at quite a few plans. I did this in a bit of a panic as I’d been pretty much in denial since I’d signed up. I had the London Marathon to train for which was my first priority. It meant I had the training base to build on but it was hard work.

You’ll note that this training plan is short. Again, that’s because I cobbled it together post-marathon. Perhaps not the best strategy but needs must!

Training Plan

3. Record using the traffic light system

This is essential for getting a sense of progress. For me the key is not so much the pace but how it felt.

It’s easy – green for a run that felt great, amber for a tough run, and red for a run that really sucked. This is great for seeing patterns over days and over weeks.

Here’s a few weeks worth…and as you can see, it didn’t really go to plan!

Training Plan



4. Review on a regular basis

I review on a regular basis to see what’s working and what’s not. What quickly became clear is I didn’t have the energy to do the speed sessions. I didn’t beat myself up about it.

It was my first ultra so this was OK. I had a rough time goal but my real goal was to have fun and learn how to run trails.


5. Adapt where necessary

Training doesn’t always go to plan. I found training in summer tough, much tougher than in cooler weather. I did a number of runs during the hottest part of the day to get used to running in heat as I couldn’t predict what it would be like on the day and a lot of these runs really sucked. It meant I was down on miles some weeks but I made a choice.


6. Enjoy

A crucial factor for me is to have fun – this is my aim with running. If every run is a plod, I figure I should be doing something else. But it’s not – some runs are good, some aren’t, that’s the way it goes.



Are there any tips you’d like to add?

4 thoughts on “6 Tips on Putting Together a Training Plan

  1. Great post! I found putting together a training plan to be very personal not only for myself for each race. A plan may be just fine for one race, but it doesn’t mean it is the most logical for another race. Research the race and try to mimic trail conditions, weather, technicality (sand, slick rock, scree, etc.), amount of vert and amount of distance of vert (short rollers or long mountain ascents/descents).

    1. Thanks so much Jay and definitely agree with it being personal. And a great point on trying to mimic the trail conditions. This was a bit of a fail on my part but I still got round (even if I could only use one arm for half of it!). I know one thing I really have to work on is long and steep descents as they really trash my quads…next time. And I like your plan, even more detailed than mine! Happy trails!

  2. Oh, I love the traffic light thing! I have just had a plan for my long runs this marathon, as dragging myself back to fitness after an operation, but I’m going to be more focused going into my spring marathon. I’m hoping to keep up a long distance once a month then work on my strength and resilience in the other three weeks. I always have a rest week every 4th week when doing big training as that works for me.

    1. Thanks so much Liz and I wish you a speedy recovery. And the traffic light system – one thing I do like about it is particularly if I don’t have a good run, then I can write it down, say it was awful, colour code it and it’s done, no need to think about it anymore. The other thing I realise is that I never have a week of bad runs, one or two and then it’s good again. And a rest week every 4th week sounds like a great idea – something I might look at doing. Happy running!

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