If you’re not already using one of the many great tools out there to log your runs and other activities, I highly recommend starting to help you stay on track and reach your 2011 fitness goals. It’s very satisfying being able to look back on your efforts and see yourself improve from one run to the next! Sometimes we’re so focused on a particular day or week that we miss the big picture. Speaking of which, I just used the handy custom report feature on one of my logs to calculate my 2010 mileage, which came to over 1,040 miles – satisfying (and somewhat scary) to discover, and great inspiration for 2011!

Currently, since I run with a Garmin Forerunner 405CX, it’s handy to get back from a run and have my watch automatically upload my efforts to the Garmin Connect site, which I then edit and can make public, if I choose. For example, here is my Garmin entry for the NYC marathon.

I also use Runners World’s training log, which primarily helps me keep track of the mileage on each pair of shoes I use. Most people recommend getting rid of your shoes after about 350-500 miles, depending on what kind of training you’re doing, if you’re alternating with other shoes (which extends the life of each pair), and personal preference. I am currently alternating between four shoes – the Brooks adrenalin trail shoe, two older Saucony Omni 8’s (which are nearly dead) and one newer Omni 9s – so this log is very helpful as you can imagine!

With any log you keep, it’s useful to not only track the details of your run (ie type of session, distance, pace, route & time of day), but also how you’re feeling before, during and/or after each workout or anything else you believe is notable about the session. Try to think about what contributed to your performance – perhaps the amount of sleep you got the night before, what you ate, or lingering injuries, for instance – then you can look for patterns that may ultimately lead to more good running days than bad.

Lastly but perhaps most importantly, I keep a training schedule in an excel spreadsheet, which is the only tool I use to PLAN runs, but where I also track my runs. I know – overkill – but it’s the foundation of my training. This stemmed from working with my running coach, who would send me schedules two weeks at a time, and then I would enter my notes into the spreadsheet and email it back to her so she could tailor the program to my progress.

Even when training on my own, I find it incredibly helpful to set out my weekly running goals in the same way – if you’re looking at a schedule that tells you you’re supposed to do a certain run on a particular day, then you’re far more likely to actually do it, and when combined with notes on each session that you’ve done, it becomes an invaluable part of your training.

Take today for instance – a killer hill session was in my schedule, and believe me, it was the LAST thing I wanted to do this morning. I was quite close to pulling the covers over my head and going back to sleep, but I hadn’t done any hill work in nearly two months and didn’t want to put into the spreadsheet that I flaked without a good excuse, so I did it. The session kicked my butt, but I am very pleased that I put in the hard work because I know it will pay off later.

So what does my training schedule look like?

Many of my runner friends have asked to see my 12-week training schedule for the Fleet Half Marathon in March, which officially began the week of December 27th. Because I haven’t had the chance to figure out my full program yet, I’m including below my training from the last four weeks (December 6th through January 2nd), to give you an idea of the types of runs I often do. It’s not an ideal schedule because of holiday gym closures and other things that prevented me from doing certain runs on planned days, but I’m still quite pleased with the progress I’ve made so far!

I’ve also included a Training Schedule Template, which I’ve personalized to include information that I find most helpful, to encourage you to start planning out your runs in 2011.

A few things to keep in mind about my December training:

~I highly encourage you to try some of these sessions, as they are really great and taken from the early/middle stages of my previous marathon training schedules (sent to me from my coach). Please don’t forget, however, that I gradually built up to all of these distances, speeds etc. for several weeks, and all the paces I did were of course my own personal pace guidelines based on previous training/race performance. It’s always important not to do too much too fast, to prevent injury! Also, as a general rule, never do two hard running days in a row – instead, rest, cross-train or go on an easy run!

~My pace guidelines: Easy is 8:45-10:00 min/mile and is used for recovery and long runs; Steady is 8:00 – 8:45 min/mile; Threshold (tempo) is around 7:15-25min/mile and should be “comfortably challenging” or around your goal half marathon pace; and Hard or VO2 max is around 6:30 – 6:40 min/mile for interval sessions. When running off-road or on more challenging terrain (hills, for ex), pace guidelines are relaxed and/or focus is more on perceived effort level rather than actual pace.

~You can figure out your own pace guidelines from a recent race time – check out Runners World’s Training Pace Calculator, for instance. Lucozade also has several handy tools here, including pace bands and race predictions. If you’re looking for more general advice, the training pages on the Runners World website have tons of good articles for beginners and more advanced runners alike, including training schedules. Note, however, that if you’re not a subscriber, the info you will be able to see may be limited.

~If you’re a slower runner, the gaps between your easy, steady, tempo and hard paces will probably be smaller than mine. Either way, even if you’re not following a set plan or training for an event, try not to run every session at the same pace. Pace-wise, just think in terms of easy, comfortably challenging, and hard. Mix things up to get the most from your running!

~I tend to do tempo and speedwork on the treadmill (at 1.0 incline) because I don’t have a track nearby and find it easier to control my pace on the treadmill.

~I do spin class as my cross training once a week, I strength train (runner-specific lower body and core exercises) at least once a week, and I do upper body strength training twice a week. I always have at least one rest day per week, sometimes two depending on how I’m feeling, and I try to take one week off the long run about once a month.

Enjoy!

Claire’s December 2010 Training Plan

Training Schedule Template

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