How to Choose a Training Plan That Works

Jess Milcetich is a runner striving to maintain a healthy lifestyle while working 40+ hours per week and trying to balance a social life. You can follow her training and fitness adventures at and on Twitter @run_girl_run.

When I was training for my first marathon, I didn’t do any research on training plans or consider my schedule demands. I picked the first plan I found–one in Prevention magazine, which luckily for me was geared toward beginners.

I survived training and did well in the race, but since then I’ve gotten a lot smarter about picking my training plans. Here’s how you can find a plan that you’ll stick with:

1. Get a blank calendar and write down your current time commitments and the hours they occupy each day of the week. Do you work 9-5? Do you need to get your kids to school at 8 a.m. and pick them up at 3 p.m.? Write down the times you know you absolutely cannot workout.

2. Look at the time left over. Do you see a few free hours? If not, could you make some free time by waking up earlier or working out over your lunch break? All you need to find is one hour a couple times during the week and a few hours over the weekend.

3. Once you’ve blocked off work out times, make sure you still have at least 30 minutes each day for down time to relax and decompress. No training plan will stick if you’re running yourself into the ground and not getting time to take a break.

4. Finally, research beginner training plans online to find one that works for you. I’ve had great success with plans from Runner’s World, Hal Higdon and Jeff Galloway, who specializes in run/walk plans that are great for beginners.

The key is flexibility. If one week you need to move a workout from a Monday to a Tuesday, that’s OK. Find something that works with your life and schedule, and you will be much more likely to stick to it and get to the starting line prepared.

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