One of the hardest parts of signing up for a race is choosing the training schedule that works best for you and your schedule. It’s important to recognize any obstacles that your everyday life will throw at you. Make sure that you can handle the program and if not, keep searching for one that works. Life can get in the way. It’s how you manage it that makes training either successful or unsuccessful (as well as enjoyable or not). I’m going to outline programs that I know have worked out for both myself and my family in the 5K, Half Marathon and Full Marathon distances.
Although I’ve never trained for a 5K, I know a few people that have used the Couch to 5K (C25K) training program. This is a 9 week program that allows you to gradually increase the amount of time you’re running and doesn’t even start worrying about miles until Week 4. My mom, who has never been a runner in the past, recently decided she wanted to try this out. She’s always been active, whether it’s walking with a friend or doing work-out videos in the house, but was looking for a new challenge in running. I asked her how she felt while she was training and she offered some great words of wisdom.
“C25K tricks your mind by pushing your body farther than your mind thinks it can go. By breaking down training runs into smaller run/walk segments which build each week, it’s amazing how your body is ready to move on to the next section. And there is no shame in repeating a week instead of moving forward – it actually helps makes the transition to the next segment easier. I honestly think people who have never run before will most likely be more comfortable and thus more successful by repeating weeks as often as they need in order to master the run times for that segment before moving on. I found that my body knew it was ready to move on before I knew – I would find myself running right through the walk breaks and feeling great knowing that I was ready to move forward to the next week of training.”
C25K makes it super easy with an app you can download right to your phone which tracks your progress. There are TONS of 5K charity races throughout the year, so find a race that works for you and sign up! Once you sign up, you’re tied to it and can’t make any excuses!
I ran 5 of my half marathons with the same training program (as best I could!). It’s the Nike Running Race Coach and combines 4 days of running a week with 2 days of workouts using the Nike Training Club (NTC) app*. They have different levels (beginner, intermediate and advanced), so you can pick which level you’d like. I did the beginner level for 4 of my races and chose the intermediate level for my last half and if I do say so myself, killed it. The training does get much more intense when you up levels and it gets harder to do the longer runs during the week, but it pushes you the perfect amount. I highly recommend this program because it combines the 2 days of cross training that you can do from the comfort of your own home, with minimal equipment I might add.
Another program that I would recommend is the Hal Higdon Half Marathon program. This is a 12-Week Program and he also implements a variety of difficulty levels to cater to all different running experiences. His program includes 5 running days, 1 day of cross training (whatever you’d like to do) and 1 rest day per week. He also provides great tips on how to optimally get through your long runs, mid week runs and the best ways to cross train/what muscle groups to focus on.
The great thing about both of these, which is similar to the C25K, is that there are apps you can download directly to your phone. This technology makes it so easy to maintain and coordinate your training, work and personal calendar. Can you go to that happy hour at work? Do you need to wake up and run in the morning? Easily look at your calendar to see what you need to do that day or any day in the future.
Having never ran a full marathon and having never been anywhere close to that amount of training distance before, I was really stuck on which program to use. I was pretty much going right from training for my half in May to training for a full in October. I knew that I shouldn’t start from the beginning in the full marathon training because I was already past that and I didn’t want to reverse too much. I decided to take 2 programs and merge them together into one that works best for me. The 2 I’m using are the Beginners Nike Running Club Coach program that you can find directly in the Nike Running Club app (which I also highly recommend using to track your runs- training or not) and a Women’s Running Training schedule. I did a lot of research and the Nike Running app starts off a little slower than I would have liked, so I combine both plans for five running days, one cross training day and one rest day training week. Eventually, the plans even themselves out, but doing the hybrid program for the first month or so makes sense right now.
Again, it’s best to take a schedule and tweak it the best you can to fit into your busy everyday schedule, while at the same time not messing with the integrity of the program. However, you also have to be able to tweak your everyday schedule to fit into your running schedule. It’s a fine balance! Waking up earlier or staying up later may be necessary, but totally worth it in the long run (pun intended). You don’t want to skimp out on your training just to be disappointed on race day!