Do you train with a Plan?How to structure your training around your daily life

Scheduling training around your daily life commitments can be hard for a number of reasons such as family commitments, working hours and so on. For me it is very difficult because not only do I have a full time job I have to do all my training after work and around spending time with my wife, family and friends which is very tough. So I decided to right a blog on how to structure your plan. Being a running coach and being coached myself I have lots of knowledge on making a plan.

For me I always start the day with a cup of Green Tea. Then I sit down and look at a six week plan with an easy week on the 7th week that has more rest and stripped down training. My plan is also my diary so before I schedule any training I first write down all my commitments for that 7 week period so I can work around those.

With any plan you don’t want to go straight into hard training so all my training starts off at my baseline and gets increased each week for three weeks, the following three weeks I just maintain my training and for the 7th week as mentioned before it’s an easy week with less reps and duration of training etc. In peak season I may change my plan to a three to four week plan, working around my races and getting plenty of recovery. So its important you get the right balance for you.

So if you are like me and you are training for a triathlon you will be putting in 3 disciplines: Running, Cycling and Swimming. I also put 2 strength sessions into a week to prevent injuries and make me stronger. For me I need to fit in the following each week:

3-4 Runs

3-4 Swims

2 Strength sessions

2-3 Bike sessions

If I am struggling to fit in a session as my day hasn’t gone to plan, then I will try and reschedule it. If your struggling to get out and train due to many reasons, if you can get out and it’s only a short session its better than nothing; but remember rest and recovery is key. Numerous research papers show that having a week off from training doesn’t do too much to your fitness but after that your fitness declines quickly.

So I take my key sessions from each area and plot them on my plan. So my key running sessions will be one of my speed sessions and one long run. This is very similar to swimming; I will have an aerobic, a speed session and drill session which will be my key sessions for that discipline. Once I have worked out my key sessions, I make sure that my hard sessions are followed up by easy sessions. I never have hard session together. Once I have done that I move on to the other sessions and plot this into the plan making sure I get one day full rest a week and two for my recovery week.

Sound easy? Well not really because you then need to figure out the session you want to do. For example, no point me putting in four easy runs if I want to get faster. Once you have the basis of the plan you can then work out what sessions you want to do to achieve your goals.

If you are planning for a marathon you will want to do longer speed reps than if you were running a 5k. For example at least two of my runs I run at 60% my heart rate max. The reason I run these is that it has been proven that running at a slower pace on your long runs increases your endurance and improves your efficiently which in time will make you faster. When running at this pace not only does it do that it teaches your body to burn fat more than carbohydrates which is a much better energy source to use. By doing these runs at this pace you also make your body recover and feel fresh the next day so you can go hard on your hard days. On the early days of my running I would go hard on my long runs and be very sore the next day, now with a slower pace my legs feel fresh the next day.

Remember that the plan may always need to change so be prepared to change things up regularly and because it’s in the plan it doesn’t necessary mean you need to do it because life does get in the way.

With any plan make sure its aimed for your ultimate goal, it’s like a jigsaw puzzle with small goals making the parts and once you put it altogether it should reach your ultimate goal. I like to set high targets and sometimes may not be able to achieve them. But having high targets makes you work towards them and train hard to get to them. So for example some of my mini goals for this year included improve swimming, improve running times, PB in certain races etc My main target was getting on the podium of the National Aquathlon Championships. So its very important to think ahead for the year and not just short term. When planning your plan make sure you have small targets, followed by one big target/goal. So if you are planning a marathon for example your training will build up to it followed by races leading up to it. That leads me on to the next part.

Whatever your goal is you need to build the plan for this. Most importantly, if it’s leading to one race you need to find races to build up and plot them in your plan and target them. There can be a number of reasons why you chose races in your plan and these can be things like building up the race distance or purely race practice and so on. Once you have done your races your pretty much ready to go and start training with your new plan.

Every session has a purpose and don’t go wasting time on junk miles etc. Make sure you know what you want to get out of every session. It might be as simple as running a mile and then next week increasing to two miles.

There is one more important aspect when thinking about you plan. Its fine to keep training and making sure you get easy and recovery weeks, but you must remember whatever target race you do, you need to taper for it so that you can peak and be the best you can be on race day.

Tapering plays lots of mind games, phantom pains, am I losing fitness etc ignore these factors and make sure you have a well-placed taper in place. For my races which are short, such as the World Aquathlon Championships, I will start bringing the following down over a course of weeks as it’s a big race for me. So for strength training the amount sets I do gets reduced over a few weeks and on race week I don’t do a strength session. Running distance comes down but the intensity stays high. So for example if I normally do 6x1k reps I might do 4 with different paces etc. Long runs come down too, I do the similar thing for the bike and swimming. I don’t taper for every race but for my important races this is what I normally do. Marathon plans etc will need a longer taper. Again you have to find what works best for you.

Once you have done your plan you need to access it regular and see if its working for you, your plan will change a lot. You also need to assess yourself with tests during your plan. My plan will include a long run at the same heart rate and place towards the end of my programme, so I can assess the data. I will do other assessments throughout to. Anyway I hope this is helpful and if you need any help, give me a message.

written by

Yiannis Christodoulou

NHS Performance analyst from Canterbury

Age group: 40-44
Club: Canterbury Harriers, Ashford Triathlon Club, GB Age group team, Age group 2017 Aquathlon team captain
Coach: My self in running Level 2 coach in running fitness, Craig Coggle Strength coach, John Wood Swimming coach

10k trail half marathon swim-run Strength Training marathon
olympic distance triathlon