I’m getting more and more nervous for my half marathon in January. I know that I should “trust the plan” but maaaan – I’d really like to be running longer distances right now, if not for my physical strength but for my confidence. Soon enough, I guess!
One of the reasons I feel so nervous about this half marathon is that 13.1 miles is a LONG, LONG way to go. I’ve raced a few halves before, but I last covered the distance in April 2011 when I walked a half marathon in NYC (<— let me tell you, in many ways, walking a half is way harder than running one).
I last ran a half marathon back in October 2010 during my last marathon – man, time flies.
I think I’ll feel a lot better when I do my 10, 11, and 12 mile long runs and don’t feel like dying in the process.
Speaking of long runs, I thought it’d be fun to break down three ways to complete training plans. I’ve tried all of these methods and love each for different reasons.
The Traditional Plan
I also call this version of a training plan ‘the strict plan’ because – well – it’s really strict. These plans are organized by day of the week. Advantages to the Traditional Plan include: a clearly defined method for success, little wiggle room for slacking off, set daily goals, the ability to map out your week in advance. Disadvantages to this type of plan include: very little wiggle room for slacking off! Taking an unplanned rest day can screw up the entire rhythm of the week. This type of plan works best for: Type A people, people with highly structured work weeks and little variation in their scheduling, people who enjoy following instructions.
Instead of being organized by day of the week, Flexible Plans prescribe workouts for a certain number of days a week. This is actually the type of plan that I’m following right now for my half marathon. I modified a Traditional Plan (this one from Hal Hidgon) and organized it by Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, and Day 4, making a cross training day a Bonus Day. I complete the workouts when I can, sometimes doing Day 3 before Day 1.
The biggest advantage to the Flexible Plan is that it’s… flexible! It’s great for college students or parents or anyone who has a varied but busy schedule. I may think that Monday would be a good day for a long run, but if Henry is sick, I’m going to have to push it. With the Flexible Plan, I don’t have to worry about ‘missing’ my day because I can just do it later. The disadvantage to this plan is that you have to have a pretty good understanding of how your body reacts to training and how many off days you need prior to long runs. You’ve definitely got to plan ahead. For example, last night, I realized that I had three runs left this week but only four days to complete it all. I had to run last night and must run today so I can take a day off (Saturday) before my Sunday long run. I feel like Flexible Plans are friendlier and more relaxed, but you do have to hold yourself accountable a bit more than you do on the Traditional Plans (v. just following instructions).
Blank Plans are like Flexible Plans but they are blank. I used a Blank Plan all through my pregnancy, and I think it’s an amazing way to stay motivated. Blank Plans are best when you aren’t training for a specific race – instead, they work well for people who are just looking to stay active. The ‘goal’ with a Blank Plan is to fill in all the blanks every week. As mentioned, this plan worked really well when I was pregnant. I knew I wanted to exercise three days a week but couldn’t commit to certain workouts in advance – I was sometimes too tired to swim or not in the mood to walk or whatever. The advantage to a Blank Plan is that it encourages you to mix it up. Like Flexible Plans, the disadvantage is that it’s more self-directed.
Are you a training plan kind of person? Which technique is your favorite?
I used Hal Higdon’s plan for my first 10k, and I was amazed that the structure actually helped me build up my mileage so easily. I found it toughest to adhere to the prescribed low-mileage days and rest days!