It's almost spring in Minnesota. In fact, we're supposed to get an early dose of spring weather starting Saturday, with a high of 50 or more. With the coming warmer weather, you may be thinking of starting a training plan. Whether you're looking to run your first 5K, marathon, or to just get in shape, there are lots of good options out there.
When choosing a training plan, you have several choices. First, you can find a free training plan on the internet. There are several advantages to this option, namely the cost. These plans are also very straightforward require little prior knowledge.
Another option would be to pick up a book on training. There are plenty of good ones out there, and reading about the training plan helps you understand more precisely how to execute the plan. You also usually get other information on recovery, nutrition, and race strategy. A book is a good option for those looking to get a little more in depth and gain more knowledge about training.
A third option is writing a training plan yourself. This is the option I employ, but for the first several years of running races ranging from the mile to the 50K, I stuck with a pre-made made training plan. Writing your own plan can be daunting, and it requires some knowledge of training theory. The advantages, however, are that you can tailor the plan to your strengths and weaknesses, and you can make it work for your schedule.
Following my second marathon, I decided to try writing my own training plan. While my training went OK, I was somewhat disappointed with my results. At that time I didn't have the knowledge I needed to write my own plan, and I probably didn't write a plan that met my full potential.
Your last option is to get a coach or join a training program. There are a variety of ways to do this, from signing up for a program at a running store, finding on online coach, or connecting with someone local. If you're looking for a breakthrough performance or are simply feeling overwhelmed and in need of motivation, this can be a great option.
If you're looking to get started with a training plan this spring, here are some resources to help you find a training plan that works for you:
Lots of training plans to choose from--probably my favorite online resource.
Several plans to pick from here. Galloway's plans are very accessible and good for avoiding injury.
Plans for half and full marathon--very straightforward. I used his novice program for my first marathon in 2009.
A wide variety of plans here for may race distances and ability levels.
I don't know where to start here--there's so many good ones. Check out books by Greg McMillan, Jeff Galloway, Matt Fitzgerald, Brad Hudson, and Pete Pfitzinger to name a few. Just make sure you choose something that feasible for where you are at in your running. Here's a link to some books that I've enjoyed over the past few years: TC Runner: Books
Writing Your Own Plan
There's a lot to cover here. First off, you should have a good knowledge of training in general. This means you should have read several books on training (if not a dozen or more) as well as articles and studies about running and aerobic fitness. You should have also tried a few pre-made training plans and done several races so you know what does or doesn't work for you. If you're just starting out, I suggest the book, Run Faster from the 5k to the Marathon by Brad Hudson and Matt Fitzgerald. It gives a ton of information on writing a training plan as well as example plans at the end.
There are also tons of options here. You can go with a well-known online coaching program (McMillan, Fitzgerald, and Hudson to name a few), a lesser-known online coach, or find someone local. Local options could also include joining a training group such as a class run by an athletic club or running store.
It may seem like a daunting task to find a training plan that works for you, but if you spend some time on it and find a plan that works for you, it's definitely the best way to get in shape or to run your best race.