Even with thousands of running programs available, it can be hard to find a running schedule that meets all of your needs. From your ability level to training goals, frequency, mileage, speed and more, stock running schedules can be hard to personalize.
Most beginner runners automatically opt for a pre-designed running program, as it can provide helpful guidance when getting started. However, it’s easier than most runners think to design their own training plans.
Create a running schedule you can use for life.
Once you take the time to design your own running program, it’ll be easy to make small adjustments and tweaks to suit each new goal. As you enter a new training season, all you’ll have to do is adjust your mileage and pace to work up to your specific race goals.
Whether you’re just running to maintain fitness or training for a specific race goal, designing your own running schedule has many advantages.
Reasons to Create Your Own Running Schedule
- You can plan your training around your own schedule (longer workouts on days with more free time, etc.)
- You can begin exactly at your current fitness level
- You’ll be able to choose how often your run, cross train, rest, etc.
- You’ll be able to make adjustments based on how your body responds
- You can give yourself time to work up to any speed or mileage goal
- You won’t have to include workouts that you hate or put too much stress on your body
These reasons, along with a multitude of others, make designing a training plan appealing for many runners. Stock running programs often begin at a level that is too easy or hard, include longer workouts than you can fit in, don’t allow for adequate rest time, or squeeze in more runs than you can fit in your schedule.
Using a few simple guidelines, you can easily create a running schedule to use for the rest of your life. Running on your own terms allows you to avoid the guilt or embarrassment you might feel if you’re unable to complete the workouts in a stock training plan. Instead, you’ll be able to start where you are and take the time needed to build up to your goal.
The 7 Pillars of a Running Program
- Running frequency: how many days per week do you run (3 times, 4 times, daily, etc.)
- Running pace: what pace you’ll run during long runs, speed workouts, and easy runs
- Speed workout structure: what type of running workouts to include (tempo runs, intervals, race pace miles, etc.)
- Long runs: when and how far you’ll run for your longest run each week
- Easy runs: how many easy runs you’ll complete each week + what will be your easy pace
- Rest days: how many complete rest days and/or active rest days to include
- Cross training: when and how often you’ll complete any cross training
Sample Running Schedule
Using the 7 pillars, you’ll be able to design a running schedule that best suits your schedule, fitness level and training goals. This sample has 4 runs per week, including one designated speed workout and one long run. There is one complete rest day, one cross training day and one active recovery day.
Using this running schedule, you’d be able to modify the pace of each run as well as the distance based on your current training goals.
|3 miles @10:00 min/mi
|6 x 400s @8:50
|30 min elliptical
|4 miles @10:00 min/mi
|10 miles @10:45 min/mi
|20 min yoga
Many runners find themselves feeling overwhelmed or lacking confidence in their self-designed running programs. However, it’s easy to adjust as you go.
Even without a professional coaching certification or exercise science degree, you are ultimately the most qualified person in the world to create a running program for yourself.
No one knows your body, schedule or ability levels better than yourself.
Creating your own running plan can be very beneficial.
Building your own running schedule allows you to tailor your mileage, rest days, speed workouts and cross training to best suit your current fitness levels, goals and schedule. By creating your own running program, you’ll set yourself up for long term success and a schedule that you can maintain for life.
These 7 guidelines provide a running plan template that will help build your own training program.
If you’re thinking about designing your own running program, use these guidelines to help get started and create a running schedule that you can stick to for life.
7 Guidelines for Creating a Running Schedule
These guidelines will help you get started mapping out your training schedule. Use these tips to decide on key components that will set you up for maximum running success. Through each different training season, you’ll be able to modify your running program to best suit your goals and ability at the time.
Schedule at least one complete rest day each week.
One of the most important, yet often neglected, components of any running schedule is regular rest days. Many runners get so caught up in planning their training runs and workouts that they forget to incorporate rest and recovery.
However, rest and recovery are two of the most critical elements to include in your running training plan. Every runner should schedule at least one complete rest day each week, and many choose to include two or even more.
If one rest day does not provide enough time for your body to recover, try adding some active recovery activities to your training plan. Include things like yoga, foam rolling or stretching to speed up the recovery process and enhance your training each week.
Plan for strength and cross training.
When creating a running training plan, it’s also important to make time for regular strength and cross training workouts. Planning to run each day may sound like a great idea, but this leaves little extra time for any strength training.
The key to building a running schedule that you can maintain for life is making sure you have enough variety in your training plan to avoid both physical and mental burnout.
Cross training activities provide an excellent source of variety in any running schedule and will help you build strength throughout your entire body. In addition, strength training exercises will help keep your body strong and prevent injuries that could occur with lifelong running.
Be intentional about planning your running schedule each week, and know whether you’ll dedicate an entire day to strength training or split it up with a few exercises after each run throughout the week.
Decide how many runs you can handle each week.
An element that differs between all training plans is the quantity of runs each week. It’s important to remember that there is no right or wrong number of times to run each week – and running less or more doesn’t necessarily mean you will lose or gain running fitness.
>>How often should you run?
Every runner is different, just as every training goal is different. Learn what mileage and frequency your body responds best to and be confident about scheduling this in your running schedule.
Some runners are able to train for marathons by running just 3 days a week, while others need 5 or 6 days of running to feel prepared.
Deciding how frequently you will run each week will help you determine how many days are left over to dedicate to rest, cross training or strength training. If you are building a running schedule that you plan to maintain for life, be sure not to overdo things or plan so much that your body will burnout from overtraining.
Mix up your speed workouts and paces.
Designing your own running program means that you are directly in control of just how easy or difficult your training will be. While the difficulty level you choose will likely have a great deal to do with the goal for which you are training, it’s important to mix things up with a variety of workouts no matter what your goals may be.
Becoming a lifelong runner means that you will need to plan a variety of different runs and workouts to keep things interesting and avoid monotony. Each week, be sure to include a speed workout in your training plan and mix things up with a variety of different paces.
Try to vary your workouts between those that include short intervals, random bursts of speed, sustained efforts and race pace miles. Try some 200, 400 or 800 meter interval workouts, fartlek runs, hill training, pyramid workouts, tempo miles and short sprints. Make sure to include at least one “speed” workout each week, no matter how short or long it may be.
Plan long runs for the weekend.
If you’re building your own running schedule and want to maintain it for life, make sure you are realistic with your initial expectations. It may be tempting to increase your mileage during the week when you are feeling especially motivated, but once life gets busy that mileage might be difficult to maintain.
Create a realistic training plan by scheduling your longer runs for the times when you are usually the least busy – which is most often the weekends. Plan for weekend long runs if you are training for a distance race. If you’re training to maintain fitness, schedule your highest mileage runs on the weekend.
Weekends often bring a bit of extra help with the kids, more time on the agenda for recovery, and the flexibility to move runs around if need be. No matter how tempting it might feel to schedule a long run after work in the evening, stick to weekend long runs for the best chances to maintain consistency over time.
Focus on quality workouts over quantity.
When creating a running schedule that will last you for life, it’s especially important to focus on quality over quantity. Building a schedule that is maintainable, yet provides plenty of opportunity for progress is key to long term success.
In order to do so, you’ll need to focus on the quality of your workouts instead of the quantity. Life has a way of getting busy when we least expect it, often meaning that our workouts and runs are forced to become less of a priority. To prepare for this, be sure to schedule only quality runs and workouts in your training plan.
>>A good running schedule avoids junk miles.
Look for higher intensity cross training workouts that will help you reap the same benefits in a shorter amount of time. Focus on hitting goal paces in speed workouts that are shorter in mileage, but packed with intensity.
Make the most of your long runs and easy runs each week, but try to avoid scheduling in a bunch of extra junk miles with no purpose. Be sure that each day in your training plan has a clear purpose to avoid adding unnecessary stress when life gets busy.
Look ahead each week to adjust based on schedule.
No matter how meticulously you plan your running schedule, remember that you’ll likely need to tweak or adjust it throughout different seasons of life. Build your own training plan to use as a guide, and stick to it whenever possible.
However, when things get especially busy or special seasons occur, remember to look ahead. Check out the upcoming week and adjust your training schedule as necessary.
A weekend out of town might mean that you have to fit your long run in after work on Tuesday night, or plan to complete it on your trip.
Taking the time to design your own running schedule is a great way to set yourself up for long term success with any running goal.
Ultimately, no one knows your running abilities, desires and struggles more than yourself. Creating a running training plan as a guideline to follow for life will help you maintain consistency, avoid burnout and continue to improve.