Principles of Training
Many runners just run and when a race comes along that they feel like entering they just do it, and don't really have a plan. Other runners have detailed plans and have to stick to these plans and they cut the year into cycles and phases. The idea of this being that each training phase prepares you for the next one so that you get stonger and stronger.
Lots of coaches feel it's important to follow a detailed training plan and whilst I believe a plan is important to help reduce injury and to make sure you achieve your goal, the truth is the majority of runners want to enjoy running and want to enjoy doing well in several races, not just one. The most important aspect of training is for self improvement and having some fun and not taking it too seriously. I believe that training for an event is exciting, especially if it is your first one or if you have a specific time goal in mind. However when you train for an event, your first 5k or your first marathon your training requires that you put your body under a certain amount of stress so that your body can adapt to the stress, and subsequently get better and improve. Remember when your first minute felt like a marathon? Your body was stressed but you soon adapted to it this stress and as you adapted you became stronger and fitter and more able to run for longer. However as you progress and as you increase your miles you may find that after the huge surge of improvement of 0 to 5k that you may be a little disappointed as in the subequent weeks or months that there seems to be very little improvement in your perfermonce. There is a fine line between doing too much too soon and actually seeing an improvement in your times and your distance and remember that life gets in the way sometimes, life, family, illness all can play a part in how a training plan can pan out. I believe you do need a goal to focus on so that you don't plateau and become disheartened about your running but also running is an art and a science, you have to see what works for you and what doesn't.
Here are a couple of ideas of how to stop yourself plateauing without getting too caught up in a regimented training plan
Improvement doesn't necessarily mean doing more running, you could try something different and maybe that could be something that you've never done before.
Try running a bit quicker up that hill next time, even if it is a surge between 2 lamp posts, then recover and then go again, these simple fartlek workouts helps us get used to running a bit faster and help relieve the boredom of too much of a certain type of running.
You can progress from surges between lamp posts to walk, jog, sprint between lamp post.
Go to a parkrun and run the first mile as a warm up, the second mile a little bit faster and then slow down for the last mile. This is an introduction to tempo runs which are good for challenging you and getting you used to feeling a little bit uncomfortable.
And here are some definitions explained that you might see on a training plan
Interval sessions are designed to push you beyond your normal pace, increasing your Heart Rate, raising your anaerobic, aerobic and lactic threshold so the idea is that you will get faster and fitter quicker. Doing Fartleks in our running groups gives you a great opportunity to try pushing your normal pace. Hill work is also a great training tool in helping you get stronger and increase your pace and stamina.
The long runs are there to increase your stamina and endurance so that you can build up to an event, there isn't one distance fits all and they are not set in stone as it really depends on how long you have been running for. If you are a complete beginner training for a 5k then your long run should be anywhere between 3-6 miles whereas if you were winning events your long run could go up to 12 miles to train for a 5k.
Over training is a trap that’s very easy to fall into, training everyday, counting every mile or minute on the road. Rest is part of any training schedule, rest is when the body adapts to the training and compensates for the stresses applied to it so that the next training session you can work it that bit harder, run that bit further or faster. Ignore the need for rest and you're stacking up trouble. If you overtrain you are risking loosing your mojo and you can easily become obsessed with mileage and pace which can take the enjoyment out of running. Listen to your body.
I am a great fan of X-training, as it really helps prevent injuries and makes you strong. It doesn't have to be a massive trip to the gym or swimming pool, you can easily do 10 press ups at home in the morning. Start off on your knees and gradually build up to the full press up. And cross training stops you becoming bored you can try cycling, swimming, indoor rowing or walking, a good hard walk is great training if you have time. And as you know I am a huge fan of Pilates.
Over exaggerated running movements help with muscle memory and conditioning so the high knees, bum flicks, arm drives and what ever other fun activities I throw at you all have a purpose and are the fundamentals to running especially if you are a late starter to running.
When you start any type of new activity you will feel muscles that you have never felt before and this is normal, you will feel stiff and sore, remember when you run there is 8 x your body weight impacting on your hips, knees and ankles and if you try doing a speed session for the first time expect to feel DOMS, Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness, this is perfectly normal as you have worked hard and created tiny tears in your muscles, as they repair your muscles get stronger and fitter during recovery, so it is important to allow time for your body to recover, your body will gradually adapt to the physical demands that you are putting on it but little by little to prevent overuse injuries.