How I Plan My Runs
I read that professional marathon runners train twice daily, six days per week in general.
They are the people who will run the marathon in 2.15hr and below. Their speed is simply insane and incomprehensible for amateur runners. They plan their lives, their lives revolve around running, they are super talented and their results show.
I stretched in bed reading it, coming from an opposite end of the running world. I respect and admire those guys immensely.
In our world, the care-free amateur running arena, life is different. Do we…do I even need to plan my runs?
Pressure is off, we are allowed to create our own schedules, no sponsor will pull their hairs if we finish our marathons hours after the pros have cleared theirs. We call the shots and if the weather is not to our liking we can simply call off the run and stay in. There will be no disappointed news camera crews outside waiting for us, no frantic calls and texts from ‘the team’.
So how do WE plan our running business then? (I bet there would be hundreds if not thousands of different scenarios coming from all of us and I would LOVE to read that book.)
The way I do planning around my runs is as unique as anyone else’s, tailored by me, around me. My run will be based on various factors and options that I need to consider in order to maximise fun. So here we go.
How I plan my runs on work days
My running plans revolve around two basic options. Working day or free day.
Although I am as far from the professional running world as my old car is from a new Ferrari, I still take my things seriously and will plan my running affairs down to details.
On my work day I will slip into my running gear at work and start running the moment the work is done.
I learned that travelling home from work in the winter can cause more tiredness than necessary, and whoever has been privileged to enjoy the rush hour public transport in London will agree. Once you get home, going out for a 16km run can be a big ask.
I did it, and that’s why I then altered my plans and I now run straight after work.
The method is always the same. The running clothes stay in the office. My colleagues will see me change into basketball gear, no matter what weather outside, and roll their eyes as I shoot out. I always run in basketball gear. The colours, designs and comfort work for me best.
After an hour or so I will be back, change into my civilian attire and be ready for any traffic conditions on my way home. Why? I will be in the post-run zone. Chilled. A simple trick that always works for me.
I never missed any of my after-work scheduled runs. You do need a little bit of discipline, especially if the work has been draining but the way I deal with it is simple. I go and run without a second thought.
Running on my days off
When I am free I have no preference when to run, morning, afternoon or later. It will depend on what’s outside.
On a very hot day I’ll try and be out there as early as possible. You don’t mess with the noon sun or late afternoon punishing humidity.
If cold rain is falling hard I will wait for when it gets drier. If it’s cold and bright, I will probably go to the Thames and run in the sunset.
London sights can be unbeatable then.
Full moon, bright or slightly overcast skies? I will time the run around the local park when I know the moon will become visible above the trees on my route.
In other words, I like the scenery to complement my runs and get the most joy out of it. There are so many options wherever we are, we just need to be a bit imaginative.
How I plan my runs in different weather conditions
Weather plays the factor. Sometimes we get violent storms that can fall trees. You’ve got to be careful there, that’s when I stay in.
If I stay in that doesn’t mean I will miss my run. I will wait for the right pockets when I can go out and do it. There have been rare occasions when that simply wasn’t possible but very rare they thankfully were.
Weather forecast will give me all I need to plan my run time, location and gear.
Basically it’s very simple. Bad weather? Run near home. Good weather? Run anywhere I like. Hot? I wear little. Cold? I wear a bit more. Wet? See hot and cold.
I don’t mind any weather conditions except strong winds that can slow me down, bounce me about and ruin my hair.
There is no good or bad running weather. The weather just is.
If we choose to run outdoors I believe we should never complain. There are more than enough options in terms of weather appropriate clothes so there should be no excuses.
Otherwise there is always an option of a treadmill in the gym if you fancy that kind of thing.
Some of my most memorable runs were run in very hot weather, driving rain, and snow. I like the occasional extreme that will spice up the run. Something that will make it special, amusing, different.
Weather is an important part in the overall running experience and I believe that those who only run in certain conditions, like fair weather runners, are missing out badly.
I need an occasional boost of difference during long runs and those dark clouds gathering in the horizon are guaranteed to deliver a slap of new.
How I plan my running route and location
That will be determined by two factors. The length of the run and weather conditions during the run.
If the weather is not sightseeing friendly, say cold February rain, I will run close to home.
In running, things may happen outside the plans. The wet may start to trouble you, you may start cooling down and you may need to get inside and warm up sooner rather than later.
Hence the local area runs where I can go home within minutes. If the weather is agreeable and I am marathon training, I will go away as far as I want.
I know London and I know what to expect in each location. Sightseeing will assist my running and if anything happens I can always get on the bus and schlep home. That happened once when just over 30km into my marathon run the right hamstring seized up and I could barely walk.
Some buses later, and I was home.
I know so many different locations and running routes and will generally plan them in advance but if the mood takes me I will equally change them in the middle of the run.
Planning the duration of the run
Again, two factors. If I am following a running program I will simply follow what’s written in the good book. If there is no scheduled program to follow then I will alternate between faster 5km and slower 10km-16km runs.
Normally, the fives will be run in the week, the tens at weekends.
Most of the time I will follow some program though. I enjoy the structure of good planning, it makes a lot of sense to me. It’s also easier to plan my days around scheduled runs, as I know what I need to do and how long it will take.
Once I complete a long program, as was recently the case with ultra marathon, I will freestyle it for a few months before I decide what to do next.
It turns out that I plan my running first and then my life around it. Many do it in reverse but then, we are all different, aren’t we?
How I plan and pick my running gear
Ah. Pandora’s box. In theory this should be a simple task. Trainers, shorts, top. Perhaps a pouch for the keys and the phone. A watch, maybe.
Technically speaking you don’t need anything else to run successfully.
But that’s all in theory. Real life can distort it a bit. Those unfamiliar with the secrets of running won’t know the options available on the gear front.
And some options they are.
There is no such thing as a simple running top. Or, ‘just’ the shorts. A humble top can come in so many different designs, materials and colours. And you won’t need just one. And it’s unlikely that the others will be the same.
And then you’ll have to match them with the shorts. That could be a long journey.
Finally, you have people like me who decide that basketball jerseys are things to wear. You’ll need basketball shorts for that. I mean, you can try and get away by wearing a long basketball top over skimpy running shorts and see where that takes you. Jail, perhaps.
In my case it’s all about colours.
And given that I’ve decided to mix and match and never wear full team colours, my choices have at times become my headaches. Boston green won’t go with blue shorts. Has to be black or white. Indiana yellow/blue may go with some shorts, Chicago red or Philly blue are the easier ones with many options in shorts colours, etc, etc….
Why did I make my running life so demanding in terms of couture?
I love basketball and I have a list of my legends from the past whose playing styles I admired. I feel inspired when running with their names on my back. It’s literally as simple as that.
I may resemble an overgrown parrot when running but that look makes me feel most comfortable.
And to be frank, If you put that gear together and the colours match you will look very smart. Or so I believe that the case may be.
Don’t tell me if you disagree.
Food & drink – planning what to eat and drink for running
That’s now fairly simple. Breakfast before the run is always the same. Boiled eggs and tea. Stomach expects and tolerates it. This will be enough for anything up to half marathon.
Anything longer and I will carry an electrolyte drink with me. I won’t forget regular hydration and carb rich meals the evening before long running.
Otherwise, a healthy and versatile diet will be in place at all times.
After a while I figured out what works for me in terms of how the body will react. Running life gets more simple once that has been resolved.
Why I plan my rest in between runs!
I know my limits, I can tell if a knee is going to be grumpy and I know how to make peace with it. By resting. Especially if I’ve run for three or four consecutive days. No reason to push, no logic in going hard.
I want to enjoy my runs and rest is part of my preparation.
If we push ourselves without professional supervision, we are risking injuries through overtraining. I did that and to be honest, that area of discomfort and frustration is not something worth revisiting or recommending.
Cross training as part of a running plan
This is not strictly about planning but there are reasons for cross training. You get stronger and keep fitness levels on the high even when not running. As you get stronger you can then start planning for longer or faster runs.
Some turn to gyms, some swim, some cycle, some walk. Cross training takes place when we are not running and walking is my preference. I prefer walking to public transport. If I’m meeting up with someone and they are, for example 10km away, I am likely to walk if the weather allows it.
With walking you can rely on the time of arrival more than anything else. If you are driving in London you’ll be at mercy of many a road factor. When I walk I know exactly how long it will take. Walking is good. People should walk more.
Final moments before the run
I know how long my run is going to be, I know what weather will greet me and based on that I picked my clothes and the choice of routes. I will get excited, not needing an extra push or motivation. I will have fun and enjoy myself. Running is great.
The main point is that your planning helps deliver an enjoyable run, either physically when you feel the body is enjoying it or mentally when regardless of physical demands you end up being happy because of the sense of achievement. Or preferably both.
I hope that sharing my story, and what I have learned along this journey, will inspire you to get started and to keep going. To keep striving and being the best you can be. In running and in life.
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