Hey everyone! Welcome to Runs on Espresso with me, Jenna a mid-pack runner. Runs on Espresso is a podcast all about running. I’m not a professional but have been running since 2012 so I think I’ve picked up a few things. I’m also still learning and trying to be better. I hope you will join me on my journey!

This week we take a look at training plans. If you’re new to running you might be asking why do I need a training plan? I know I used to ask that. I would think, can’t I just run for 30 minutes a few times a week and then run for an hour one day? You can. And it’s perfectly fine if you want to do that. But some of us are a little OCD and need a guide to get better. Like me. I’ve used many different training plans over the years and even designed my own. I like having a road map.

Imagine taking a road trip without a map! It’s like that.

There are so many options out there for training plans. So many. And then if you get the general idea you can design your own. When you have a moment just google 10k or half marathon training plan. I bet you’ll get thousands of results.

So how do you pick a plan?

I don’t know, close your eyes and point?

Sometimes it feels like that is the way to go but I promise your perfect or almost perfect plan is out there. It’s all about knowing what you need or want in a plan.

Let’s take a quick break from my sponsor before we dig into it.

And welcome back! Settle in because this next part has a lot of info.

First and foremost is to figure out what distance you want to run. I know, it seems simple but it isn’t always that easy, even more so with many races being canceled or pushed until next year. If you don’t know what distance you want to do there’s really no point in finding a training plan.

How many miles are you currently running or walking? How many can you realistically do each week? Some training plans will start off with low mileage and build up slowly over 12-20 weeks. Others will start off with a long run of 8 miles. 

A few things to consider when picking a distance. How many weeks do you have before the race? You can train for a 5k in a lot less time than a marathon. How much time do you have each day and or week? Again, a 5k will take maybe an hour on long run day while a half or full marathon can take 2-4 plus hours.

Are you able to run the entire time? There are plans out there for running and plans for a run/walk method. And I think if you look hard enough you can find plans for walking a marathon. Think about your fitness level and what your goals are as far as running and walking. And remember, there is no shame in taking walk breaks. I still take walk breaks as needed! 

How many days can you workout? Or rather how many days do you want to workout? You can find plans with 3 days of running or 7 days of running. Honestly, this is all on you. I know I can run 5-6 days a week but prefer 5 with other workouts added in. Some bodies can’t handle more than 4. Know your body and limitations and choose an appropriate plan. I know I can do well with an active rest day (bike, lifting, or hiking) but others need a complete rest day with no planned workout. 

Another thing to consider is how many days do you want to run? How many days do you want to cross train? A lot of plans are four days of running, two cross training and one rest day. But I’ve seen plans with only 3 days running all the way up to seven days.

Beginner plans don’t always include speedwork. If this is your first time training for anything you probably don’t need speedwork. But if you’ve done a couple and are looking to improve your time definitely find a plan that incorporates speed work. Most plans will have one day of speed work, usually intervals. Sometimes plans will add in a second day with tempo runs. I highly recommend previewing an entire plan (if you can) before deciding on it. You don’t want to get four or five weeks in and then suddenly have a temp run thrown at you if you don’t want that kind of work.

Plan intensity will vary. Usually the longer the plan the slower the build up. For me I always look for a plan that keeps weekday runs to 5 miles or less. I have a hard time fitting in longer runs during the week. Most plans will slowly build your long runs. Some plans will do a build up over a few weeks and then a drop while others will go every other week. Make sure you look at the long runs and weekday miles to make sure it works for you.

The most common type of plan is a PDF you find online. You can print it off and go. You follow the plan and adjust as needed. It doesn’t change. You know what you will be doing for the next 12-20 weeks or so. In the past few years, adaptive training plans are becoming much more popular. Garmin has a 5k, 10k, or half adaptive. I talked about the Garmin Coaching in an earlier podcast because I was using it at the time. Basically, you pick your distance and answer a few questions and the computer creates a training plan for you. You only see a week at a time because it adjusts your future workouts based on your past workouts. It’s a really cool idea and I’m currently trying out a different app. 

I can’t decide if I like it or not. I love the adaptability of it. It’s almost like having a real coach except you can’t spitball problems and concerns with the program. I am a planner by nature and it’s hard only seeing a week at a time. Some allow you to look ahead but the workouts may change as more data is added.

As I mentioned, I’ve tested out the Garmin Coaching. I didn’t complete the plan but I would use it again. My biggest issue is you can’t put a race date in that is before a set amount of weeks out. Right now, I need a shorter time period but I’ve been running consistently for a while so I don’t need to start at week one. 

So right now I am testing out the Run with Hal app. It’s similar to Garmin coaching with adapting as you go but it let me put in a race date 8 weeks out. It gave me a disclaimer and I had to say I have been running. I am also testing the paid erosion out of Run with Hal. The free version is great (I used it before) but the paid allows you to add other metrics to get a better algorithm. You can also put in other races and blackout dates. It’s hooked up to my Garmin so I don’t even have to do anything except go in and rate my run.

There are so many plans out there. Pretty much all you need to do is google 5k training plan and about a million will pop up (24.8 million apparently). Some I have used and would recommend come from Hal Higdon, Jenny Hadfield, Women’s Running or Runner’s World magazine are all great and have many options for all levels. I think Runner’s World now charges for some plans. Other plans that I haven’t used personally but are recommended come from Jeff Galloway (he is the run/walk king), Nike Run Club, and Strava. 

I say pull up a bunch of plans and compare. Which ones look good? Which ones best fit your training level, goals, and schedule? Which one can I easily adjust if something comes up?

Life happens so you are going to end up adjusting the plan. You may miss a day. You may need to swap days. It’s ok. I’ve missed days. I move runs around all the time. So if you miss a day, figure out can I make this up tomorrow or is it better just to keep going with the plan? You can miss a day or two. The problems start to arise when you start getting further and further behind. So what happens when you are out for a week? Do you pick up where you left off or start where you should be? Or do you kind of do a mashup and make your own week to get back on track?

I’ve done all of these before. It’s really hard to tell you what to do in that situation because it really does depend. It’s one of those where you have to look at your fitness level, why you missed the time, and if it’s doable to jump right back in. If you just didn’t have time to run? You can probably jump right in. If you were sick or injured? You may want to ease back in. 

So, after all of that what is the bottom line? Picking a training plan and working through it is extremely personal. But my biggest advice is to pull up a bunch of plans (how many is up to you) and go through each one. Does it fit your life and fitness level? Set it aside. If it doesn’t toss it. Then look at the actual plan. Does it fit how many days you want to run? Does it give you the plan in minutes or miles? I prefer miles so any plan that’s like Long Run 1.5 hours is out for me. I’ve tried it. I don’t like it. Keep looking and thinking about your preferences as you narrow it down until you have your winner!

One more call for injury stories! I want to know how you’ve handled injuries. I know many runners struggle when injured and it’s a big topic. Email me at jenna@runsonespresso.com and let me know your story.

And now, coffee corner. I’ve been watching The Staircase on Netflix. I’ve been following this case for a while and decided it was time to watch. I have a lot of thoughts and feelings on this case. I don’t know if he did it but I never felt the state offered evidence beyond a reasonable doubt. It seems a lot of people judged him based on his personality and sexuality. As far as the documentary itself, it’s not my favorite. It’s kind of slow moving and they draw a lot of stuff out. The case is definitely interesting and it unfolds nicely in the documentary. I would have just preferred a faster pace to the episodes. Have you watched? What do you think? What’s your favorite documentary?

And, don’t forget to register and attend the Online Nourished Festival this week, starting Thursday the 24th and ending Saturday. I’ll have a virtual booth there and there’s going to be so many gluten-free and allergy friendly businesses! Head to online dot nourished festival dot com to register and I will “see” you there!

Not attending the Nourished Festival? You can still find me on instagram at runs_on_espresso! I hope to see you around!

FYI – The podcast will be dark the week of Thanksgiving (11/23), and Christmas (12/21). I decided to give you all a break from my ramblings!

Until next week, may your runs be as strong as your coffee.

Categories: Podcast


Jenna Volden has a degree in business and has spent the last 10 plus years working for others. She believes it is time to start her own photography and writing business. She enjoys running, coffee and helping others achieve their goals. Gluten-free foods are a lifestyle, not a choice, for her due to celiac disease. She is currently based in Phoenix, Arizona.