5 essential elements of a successful running programme


You’ve booked in a big race and you want to use the upcoming months to prepare and be in the best shape possible on the start line. Here are 5 principles that are essential for a successful training period:

Plan thoroughly

Every time you lace up, you should know exactly what session you’re about to perform. Having the distance and pace in your mind will allow you to focus and get the work done. Deciding what to do during your warm-up will inevitably lead to a below par session as when on the spot, it’s easy to just do what you fancy doing rather than what you should do. Or if you don’t have a target to aim for, you may just stop the run or slow down when you’re feeling tired. I’ve certainly done this in the past and have regretted not having a plan from the start.

Vary your pace and distance

If your training consists of runs with the same distance and pace several times a week, not only will you get thoroughly bored but you’re also not helping the body to reach it’s physiological potential. To achieve it’s capabilities, the body requires a range of stimuli in order to create various stresses and train different energy systems. This is why sessions need to be varied with the inclusion of long easy paced runs, short faster paced runs and interval training for example.

Simple and consistent is far more important than complex and sporadic

For a block to be effective your training doesn’t have to be massively complicated but it does need to be frequent. When coaching my own clients, I ensure they’re performing their must do sessions regularly and this brings about far better results than it would if they were doing the odd highly intricate workout. If you want to improve, consistency is the key!

Ensure you include de-load weeks

It’s really important to include de-loads in your programme. A de-load is a period of time (typically a week) where the amount of training you undertake is reduced. This reduction is commonly included every 4th or 5th week. In a running programme, the number of miles would be lowered significantly and if you’re concurrently strength training, you’d lift lighter weights or decrease your training volume.

The point is to encourage recovery before the next block of tough training commences. It’s essential as training for months with running volume increasing every week will most likely lead to overtraining and therefore injury or illness.

Add strength training to your programme

To improve as a runner, plenty of miles of course have to be covered. However, if your only form of training is running, then it’s highly likely that you’ll experience an injury, plateau in terms of your performance or simply get bored with a lack of variation. Strength training has the ability to:

  • Reduce your risk of injury
  • Improve your running economy
  • Help maintain good running form
  • Generate higher force output when running (increased distance with each stride)
  • Reduce body fat levels
  • Improve flexibility, mobility and coordination

I firmly believe that if you’re not currently strengthening and mobilising your body, you’re missing out on a host of benefits!

Adopt these 5 principles and they'll form a solid foundation for a successful programme. Remember to train consistently but listen to your body when it needs rest, and above all else, enjoy your running!


Written by Marc Brown