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  • Writer's pictureGeoff

Training Plans

Updated: Jun 15, 2021

Running Training Plans Van Run Club Coaching

So you just did your first quarterly Time Trial and you want to crush the next one in 3 months. Great, so how do you train so you get the most out of it. I’m not talking about just doing more, it's about choosing the training plan that will maximize your results with the minimal amount of training time that you put in. Clearly if you can dedicate 10hrs a week to training, you’ll see great results. Unfortunately, most of us don’t want or have that time to commit to running. So here are some tips and tricks I’ve found to get more out of your training.

Understanding your Body and Muscles

In order to maximize your training, you have to understand that when you run, your ability is based on a number of different skills or aspects of your running. This is a broad overview of what I have noticed and simplified for novice runners:

  • Cardiovascular Ability (Your Cardo) - Your ability to breathe and use oxygen efficiently. Essentially this is how quickly you start to pant and lose control of your breathing.

  • Fast Twitch or Speed aspects of your muscles - This is how fast you can go, usually shorter distances and generally speaking, based toward your Primary Muscles.

  • Slow Twitch or Endurance aspects of your muscles - This is how long your muscles last over time. How long can they go without being fatigued?

  • Support Muscles - These are your Secondary Muscles that support your Primary Muscles, they make sure that when you push forward, the majority of that effort goes forward, not to the side or into a wobble.

  • There are more aspects to running and each of these categories could be broken into further aspects, but for this basic tutorial, I’ll keep it broader.

Keep in mind that any goal you have requires some combination of these skills or aspects of your running. Running a fast 5K will require more Fast Twitch Muscles than Slow Twitch, but if you want to improve your half marathon time, you’ll need to focus more on Slow Twitch Muscles.

Targeted Workouts:

In order to maximize your training, you want to tailor each run to focus on an aspect of your running. Here is a brief summary of Targeted Workouts:

  • Speed Workouts - These workouts focus on the Fast Twitch Muscles and increase your peak speed.

    • Intervals - One repetition is a specific distance or time that you run fast with a specific recovery distance or time (ie. 60 seconds fast with 90 seconds recovery).

    • Hills - Similar to intervals, except that you’re doing the repeats on a hill. This focuses on speed but gives you additional intensity because of the incline.

    • Fartleks - You set a duration for your Fartlek workout, warm up, then choose a spot in front of you and speed up till you get there. Do some recovery. Then repeat by choosing another distance and recovery period. The distances and speeds you choose are meant to vary throughout the workout.

  • Tempos - A longer distance run at a targeted race pace or effort level to help build your endurance at a specific speed. Tempos focus on Fast Twitch and Slow Twitch Muscles, they are also great for improving your cardio.

  • Easy Runs - Your breathing is natural and you should be able to talk comfortably. The focus of these runs is increasing your weekly mileage, so your endurance. Easy Runs are great because you can focus on your run form or talk to your friends. They should generally be run at least 60-90 seconds per kilometer slower than your race pace.

  • Long Runs - These runs increase your endurance. They should be easy and long. The closer you do long runs to your race pace, the more exhausted you will be and that exhaustion will impact your other workouts later that week.

When choosing paces for these workouts, I like to run by effort. Learn to listen to your breathing and choose your speed based on your effort level rather than sticking to a pace that may be too easy or too hard for you that day.

Finding the Right Mix for Your Goal

The first thing you need to do is choose a goal for your 12 week training plan. Here are some categories you might fit into:

  • Run a 5K faster (Speed Focus)

  • Run your first half marathon (Duration Focus)

  • Run a faster marathon (Speed and Duration Focus)

  • Run with better form (Form or Efficiency Focus)

  • Run to get in shape (Mix of Speed and Endurance Focus)

Then decide the average amount of training you want to do each week. Maybe this is a certain amount of runs per week or a set amount of time you want to dedicate. At a minimum, I would suggest running at least 3 times/week and at least 120 mins/week. This will depend on your goal. 120 mins is not enough if you want to run a 10K or longer as they are longer races.

Based on your goal, pick a mix of speed, endurance and easy runs for the week. If you’re doing 3 runs, one of each would work. Keep in mind, cutting out the easy run is not recommended. More research is coming out about the importance of easy runs and Matt Fitzgerald has written an entire book about the importance of the 80/20 rule. 80% easy runs, 20% speed workouts.

Your three runs might look like this:

  • Sunday - Long Run

  • Tuesday - Easy Run

  • Thursday - Intervals

During each run, listen to your Body and collect data on how you felt. Then each week review how each run felt and plan your next week. The idea being that each week you should slowly increase the weekly mileage or time that you run. Especially when you are pushing the limits of what you’ve done in your life, you want to be mindful of the amount you increase your daily or weekly mileage too fast. I’ve read articles that state daily and weekly mileage should not exceed more than 5% increase.

It is crucial that you are listening to your body and the feedback it is giving you. Niggles, aches and pains are indicators. In my experience, they don’t go away on their own, they build up over time. If you’re worried about what you’re feeling, seek out professional advice on how to deal with them. Learning how to understand these signals sooner rather than later is why I emphasize learning to listen to your body, understand the message and adapt to the feedback.

Supplement Your Running

As you increase your run load on a daily and weekly basis, it's important to take precautions to support that increase. This includes:

As your primary muscles grow from targeted exercises, it's important to make sure they have what they need to grow properly. Read the linked blogs above for more details on each aspect.

For my training plans, I add in simple core exercise that can be as short as 5-10 mins a day or 10-20 mins 3 times a week.

Another way to support your run progress is to choose 1-2 aspects of your run form to focus on each week. This will help you form good habits and improve your efficiency. You can choose any of the form aspects listed in the Developing Great Form Blog. For example it could look like this:

  • Week 1 - Length of Stride

  • Week 2 - Heel Striking vs Forefoot Striking

  • Week 3 - Engaging Lower Back

  • Week 4 - Engaging Glutes + Length of Stride

  • Week 5 - Engaging Inner Thighs + Heel Striking vs Forefoot Striking

Keep in mind that it's easier to focus on form on easy runs and can be distracting or require more focus on faster runs. You can also play around with the weekly focus when you walk around as well.

As you increase or push your personal boundaries within any sport, you are increasing your risk of injury, so you want to make sure you are taking actions to help reduce or equalize that increased risk.


I try my best to write down all the learnings from years of training so you have the information you need to make informed decisions or ask the questions to run safely. Hopefully this helped you.

With that being said, in my experience, one of the best things about being coached is the peace of mind you get from having a prescribed run schedule. My coach would give me a two week plan and I followed it or had to email him for adjustments/missed workouts. I didn’t need to plan or think about my workouts for the week and I wasn’t allowed to change it without talking to him. So on those days when I didn’t want to go, I couldn’t just adjust the run and switch the speed workout to the next day. It was mentally exhausting to adjust my plan and left me with questions about the impact on my training.

Additionally, learning how to build these plans can take time, so it's nice to have someone just lay it out for you. If this process seems overwhelming or something that you don’t have time for or aren’t passionate about, you can learn more about the coaching plans that Van Run Club offers:

Key Takeaways

Here is an overview of how to build a training plan for yourself:

  1. Pick a three month goal/intention

    1. Run a 5K faster (Speed Focus)

    2. Run your first half marathon (Duration Focus)

    3. Run a faster Marathon (Speed and Duration Focus)

    4. Run with better form (Form or Efficiency Focus)

    5. Run to get in shape (Mix of Speed and Endurance Focus)

  2. Pick a weekly duration and/or number of runs

    1. 2hrs - 6hrs

    2. 3 - 5 runs a week

  3. Design your assortment of runs for the week:

    1. Speed Workouts

    2. Tempos

    3. Easy Runs

    4. Long Runs

  4. Assess Opportunities for Supplementary Training and add in where appropriate:

    1. Core Exercises

    2. Stretching (daily or a weekly class (Yoga))

    3. Nutrition (if reminders are needed)

    4. Sleep

    5. Weekly Form Focus

  5. Plan your next two weeks of running and Supplementary Training and put them in your calendar

  6. Schedule your next planning session for 1.5 weeks from now.

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