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How to Make the Most Out of Cookie-Cutter Training Plans

Updated: Aug 18, 2023

Workout Plan.

If you’ve searched online for a running training plan, or even picked up any running magazine, you’ve most likely come across preformatted, generic training plans. They give specific plans on how to reach a desired goal and there are countless of them available for anyone to use.

While these plans may work well for someone, they certainly don’t work well for everyone. Why? Preformatted, cookie-cutter training plans do not adjust or adapt to meet your specific needs.

You aren’t like everyone else, why should you train like it?

I spent most of my beginning running years using these generic plans I found online. At first, I followed them as strictly as I could, thinking that this was the best way to be successful with my running goals. When I couldn’t keep up with the plan or found myself modifying it, I somehow thought this was a reflection of my running abilities; I wasn’t trying hard enough, I was a “bad” runner and I needed to get stronger.

The reality was that these plans did not meet my needs and that was no reflection of me. After repetitive running injuries and doing more research on the topic, I started to modify the generic plans to meet my needs.

Of course, the best option is to work with a running coach who considers your strengths & opportunities, as well as your availability, recovery rate, and your interests, and provides you with a customized training plan that meets your unique needs. If you’re interested in learning more about the customized training plans I offer, learn more here.

If you’re using a generic training plan and want to make the most out of it, here are three things to keep in mind:

1. Starting Mileage on cookie-cutter training plans

Most generic training plans assume runners are starting with the same starting training volume. For example, a 10k starting training plan might assume that you’re already running 8+ miles per week. This is not always the case.

Take a look at the starting weekly volume of the plan and if you aren’t there yet, slowly build up to that volume before using the plan.

Increasing in volume too quickly can often lead to injuries and set you up for a frustrating training journey.

2. Recovery Rate on cookie-cutter training plans

Every runner recovers differently. For example, runner A might be ready for an easy run the day after a long run, while runner B may need a rest day. However, the generic plan doesn’t take this into account and has the same running schedule for everyone who uses it.

How do you know what you need or how you recover best?

Listen to your body! Your body will always let you know.

If your leg muscles are extremely tight and you feel extra fatigued the day after a long or difficult run, take the next day as a rest day or do a yoga session – regardless of what the training plan has on the schedule for you.

3. Pacing on cookie-cutter training plans

Most generic training plans have each day mapped out with the miles to run without regard for specific pacing or types of runs.

It is extremely common for runners to run every single training run at what they think their race pace will be. This can be a recipe for disaster.

Most training runs should be run at a slow, conversational pace. This enhances your aerobic capacity and helps to prevent injuries. If you’re using a generic plan, keep this in mind and slow down on most of your runs. This will help you get the most out of the plan and reach your goals.

Keeping these three specific areas in mind when using a generic training plan will better help you meet your goal(s) and prevent avoidable injuries.

If you've recently signed up for or are training for your FIRST half-marathon (or even your second), download my free training video here. I cover how to customize a generic training plan, the basics of heart-rate-zone training, the importance of nutrition & hydration, mindset challenges, and MORE!
Amy Bostick running coach.

If you find yourself getting stuck in the process of trying to make a generic plan work for you, schedule a free introductory call with me here. We’ll chat about your goals, your running history, your strengths & opportunities, and how my customized training plan can meet your needs!

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