John Skevington is an experienced UKA level 3 performance endurance running coach. He is an endurance running coach mentor for the England Athletics area coach development programme, as well as being the national delivery manager for the new Athlefit project which was his own brainchild. In this guide he provides a comprehensive training plan for intermediate/advanced runners...
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Well here we are, you can run up to 10k comfortably, have an established warm up and cool down regime and have come through the jogger ranks, or you are perhaps a “returning runner”. You are beginning to notice that you are getting a bit quicker than those around you, running is now in your blood; you have taken part in some races and feel that you are ready to go that bit faster or further, perhaps a half marathon or marathon?
Congratulations! You are on the way to making running a way of life rather than something that you just do to keep fit.
Taking the step up
If you are taking the step up to being a “proper runner” you will need to make way in your life for your training; depending on just how committed you are to the ambition you will have to plan more carefully your training, recovery ,and diet.
Below are some helpful tips to keep in mind!
- You must make a progressive plan one which will enable you to build up both speed and endurance in safe increasing loads.
- Set goals which are realistic and measurable – and work backwards to where you are now, you will then be able to work your plan progressively back towards your goal.
- Don’t forget you should also include some landmarks along the way to keep you on track.
- Once you have made your plan, make sure that you keep a training diary; this will enable you to plot through your training and is a great tool to look back to to see where things have gone well or not so well and to establish why.
Build up your endurance
If you are moving up from a 10K to a half marathon it’s a fairly simple step up, if you are feeling determined to tackle something longer, try doing a marathon. The key either way is to continue to build up your endurance; more miles at a steady pace will ensure that your blood capillaries are enlarged and your heart will be working more efficiently. Therefore your building block for the week will be the “long run”; this is usually done (by those with a normal week working pattern) on a Sunday when time pressures are less. This run should make up around one third of your weekly planned mileage, so if you are planning to run 30 miles in a week your long run should be 10 miles.
We then have the building block of your training; your long run will make you fitter, stronger and can be the social highlight of the week, as you take off with like-minded running buddies. To couple with your long run, you are also looking to run faster; so part of your weekly plan should include variations of pace with both some longer and shorter fast runs which are referred to as intervals, “tempo” runs which are just under your race pace and on a regular basis some hill runs, which should be on varying gradients and distances. All these different sessions work your different energy systems, and this mixture of training planned progressively and increased gradually should see you through to your target or goal.
4 week run training plan
A sample of a four week cycle which assumes that you have built up to a reasonable mileage of around 30 miles per week and have already done some training at higher speeds might be as follows – it goes without saying at this stage that you will have properly warmed up and will cool down and stretch afterwards!
You will see from this sample that the volume (mileage) has not increased in the same week as the speed/interval work and that the Sunday run has been reduced for this week as the faster runs are increased.
Do you need a run coach?
Many runners go through their running life looking after their own training, however at this stage it may be time to look at getting some outside experienced help. If you are not already, it would be worth visiting some of your local running clubs; against much common belief these are not elitist and at your stage in your running career you will undoubtedly not be one of the slower runners in a club. All clubs will welcome you to come and have a try with them without any commitment, so take advantage of this to talk to club officials and other runners to see if what they have to offer suits you.
The added advantage of joining a club is that many have coaches who will be able to guide you further with your running. Ideally a club coach should be a level 2 or above or if they are recently qualified, hold a UKA coaching certificate. A coach will be able to help you not only with your training but also offer tips on pacing in races and setting further targets. At the very least joining and running with a club will get you amongst like-minded people who will often have lots of knowledge. You will also often get discounted race entry from all future races that you take part in!
Nutrition – fuelling and re-fuelling your body
As a runner with some experience, you will already have a good balanced diet. However, as you increase your distances and introduce more speed training, you need to ensure you are eating sufficient carbohydrates to fuel your body both before your run and afterwards to help repair your muscles.
The key is to always eat a well-balanced diet. However, you will benefit from having a higher intake of carbohydrates on those days that you run, and as you are now running regularly you need a good intake on your recovery days as well as some protein to aid recovery. Your carbohydrates should be predominantly “complex” such as bread/pasta etc, rather than from sugars, which although giving you a quick boost will not sustain you. Post run, you should as soon as you can get a mixture of protein and carbohydrates back into your body; the protein will help repair micro tears to your muscles and the carbohydrates will replenish your energy stores. If you are someone that can’t eat after exercise, a milkshake drink will do the same job. Don’t forget that protein is the fuel that rebuilds your body, so you might look at having slightly more on your rest days as well as straight after training.
The old adage “listen to your body” is still as true as ever and this applies to running as well. If you are feeling tired and you feel that you are not doing as well as you should (or of course feeling better than you thought!) then it is your body telling you that it needs more rest or fuel. However, nowadays there are hundreds of gadgets on the market to bring a little science to your running. As you have been running for some time it is assumed that you already have a running watch, however if you are doing more intervals it’s a good idea to get a watch with a “multiple splits” function so that you can check your times post session. The most popular of these is the Timex Ironman which you can locate from most shops and websites, prices start at around £35.
Run computers and GPS devices
If you want to go further gadget wise, a GPS system will help you plot your routes and some also include heart rate monitors, which will assist you in finding those easy/hard training zones. Whichever you go for, always listen to your body first! If you are someone that listens to music whilst running, please don’t forget that you are exposed to dangers when crossing roads and junctions; pay special attention when crossing roads and perhaps just have one earphone in, even better why not run with a buddy and have a chat!
Running as a way of life
Now that you are embarking on the life of a runner you have opened up a whole host of opportunities, try broadening your horizons by having a go at a track race, look out for “open” meetings where you will race against others of a similar ability or look out for fell or adventure races which will get you out to places you probably never thought existed.
Good luck in your life as a runner!