You are encouraged to customize the training schedule to meet your needs given your work, family, and personal schedules. Everything offered in these programs is optional, as long as you are accountable for your choices, for example, scheduling your long run on another day if you can't make it to a certain group run. In all cases, balance out the structure provided by the schedules with what you can actually do.
You will notice that for each level, mileage is suggested in the form of a range rather than a specific number. For example, Monday may suggest 3-5 miles, Tuesday 2-4, and so on. Essentially, within each level, there are 3 more sub-levels to more specifically meet your needs. This allows you to choose the low, middle, or high end of each day's suggested workout range. Stick with the mileage that most closely picks up where you left off.
The Hard/Easy Rule
A generous amount of recovery is built in to these schedules in terms of hard/easy days and hard/easy weeks. During recovery is the time when your body will adapt to the stress placed upon it and become stronger. Whether you choose the low, middle, or high end of each day's suggested workout mileage range, stick consistently with the low, middle, or high end for every workout. It's far more effective to train with your mileage going up and down (hard/easy) than to simply run the same route every day. On the recovery weeks, do every run at a very light intensity to ensure that your body can recover and adapt from the overall training.
In looking over the training schedules, you'll notice that no more than 1 day off from training is included. That's because after 2-3 days, the body will actually begin to lose any fitness that has been gained. If you need any references simply reflect on experiences you may have had with this, or, just remember the saying: "use it, or lose it"! To improve, you must choose to be consistent with your training. Be sure to balance this rule of thumb with staying injury-free. It is wiser to take off a few days, or weeks, and cross-train if you are injured, rather than risk further injury.
Optional Conversion of Mileage to Time
It's okay if you'd rather go by time than by mileage. Besides being much easier to figure out, time can be as equally effective and structured. This can be accomplished in 2 ways:
- Multiply the mileage for a given workout by 10. For example, if you're scheduled to run 4 miles, multiply that number by 10 and plan to run for 40 minutes.
- To be more precise, multiply the mileage for a given workout by your typical running pace. You may want to round it up or down to the nearest whole number and stick with that formula for simplicity's sake. For example, if you typically run 9:15 pace, round it down to 9 and multiply this number with every workout's suggested mileage. There's no need to get super technical. Simply stick with an easy-to-use formula and you'll do fine.
Doing other aerobic activities to give your legs a break is a good idea. As a result, cross-training is presented as a viable option 1-3 times a week. There is no adequate substitute for running, only adequate complementary activities. Good aerobic cross-training activities include biking, swimming, the elliptical trainer, rowing, and any type of aerobics. A particularly effective workout is aqua jogging due to its similar movements with running. In any case, pick the cross-training exercise that you'll actually do. They should begin at 15-20 minutes and increase to 30-45 minutes. Weight training is also an excellent complement to running due to its strength producing results. Be sure to cross-train at conversation effort since the purpose of these workouts is to allow your legs to recover while maintaining a good level of cardiovascular fitness. However, if you've suffered while running but can cross-train injury-free and are training to run a certain time, it is a good idea to do 1-2 hard workouts a week. Simply do these on the days you were originally scheduled to do hard workouts.
Choose at least 2 races recommended on your schedule to practice running your race within the throngs of other runners. Think of these as dress rehearsals before the actual performance. You'll get an excellent opportunity to experience how to run at an even pace, how to deal with the aid stations, where to line up at the start, etc. There's no substitute for experience and having practiced ahead of time, you will be less likely to do something foolish like going out too fast in your target race.