Are You Running Without a Plan?

Someone busier than you is running right now.
Image stolen blatantly from Pinterest

Hey Salties! Remember how I told you about my busy life and then all of a sudden had time to blog a ton and also run tech design and support for SR? Well in one short burst, all that has changed. I’ve been hired full time to finish up a job on a major motion picture shooting here in NYC, with hopes of continuing onto another big job after this. It’s great! But I’m back in the weeds, trying to cram my whole life in between 13-15 hour work days.

Where running is concerned, that means I’ve got scheduling on the brain. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from Assistant Directors it’s that it’s important to budget your time if you’re working on a tight schedule–and aren’t we all working on a tight schedule? Just add a little structure into your week and you may find that fitting everything into your day is a whole lot easier.

'' photo (c) 2008, Sarah ᵀᴴᴱ'ᴼᴿᴵᴳᴵᴻᴬᴸ MURRRAY - license:
You would schedule a meeting with a good friend, right? So why not schedule your running?

If you’re between races or have just completed a training plan it can become really difficult to squeeze in your runs, I know.  Think about all the people who remind you to get it done just by asking “are you still running the marathon?” or by wishing you good luck.  They’re holding you accountable!  When the race is done and you’re just conditioning to stay fit until the next big thing, the only one holding you accountable is you, and it becomes a lot easier to make excuses. Without a goal at the end, running can seem like something extraneous that we do, something outside our “real” lives.  But think about that long and hard; is running just an extra, or is it the main attraction for you?  Taking ten minutes to plan out your week and think about how you want running to fit into it can go a long way toward helping you stay in line with your goals.

Frankly, if I don’t spend a little time planning my workouts, I will never fit them in. And I’m not the only one–the other day I was on the phone with Salty, who was frustrated that she didn’t have time to for training because of adding the sleep demands of her pregnancy into her busy days. “Maybe I should make a schedule or something,” she complained. I smacked my forehead. “Of course you should make a schedule! There’s no such thing as training without a schedule!”

Salty later packed her kids a lunch and they had a picnic in the jogging stroller while she ran 6 miles.

Dry-Erase: The greatest scheduling tool money can buy. img via pinterest

As an iPhone user, I have a great digital calendar that syncs between my computer and my phone. I plug my plan in once every couple weeks with an alert that rings each night telling me what the plan is for the next day. 7 easy? 5 mile tempo? I have it all laid out so I don’t have to think about it, I just work out what I have to do to get it done. If that means running home from work I do that. If it means getting up early I do that.

No smartphone? Just hate plugging data in electronically? If you have a calendar hanging in your house, just pick up a pen and write in what you would like to run each day for the next week, then check the calendar every day. That’s it. Plan done.

And another quick point: don’t beat yourself up if you miss a day or run a little less than planned for whatever reason. It’s no big deal, just pick up the plan again the next day.  What’s great about base-building time is that it’s flexible – you want to stay strong, but you have a little more room to adjust what you run to meet your other needs.  And if you’re so busy you can only run two miles, then run two miles! Something is always better than nothing!

How do you keep yourself going between goals? Do you use a schedule or calendar to help you stay on track?

Cinnamon made Salty Running, takes lots of pictures and drinks lots of coffee. By day she's a camera assistant for films and tv in New York, and by night she's on a quest for zen in the 10k. Her writing is a mix of satirical humor, finding wholeness as an average runner, cheering for runners at all paces and more.

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  1. I first schedule my long runs, and then some other tough workouts like hills or speed, but the rest I just let my legs tell me what the schedule will bring. They have a built in alarm that rings when they are about to be injured. Unfortunately, I often just hit the snooze button and keep going.

  2. My first time getting in to running, I used a calendar to schedule my runs and work-outs. I tried to treat them like any other important item I would have on my calendar. This time around, I have it scheduled out based on my work schedule.

  3. Thanks for all the information about planning your runs. I usually run without a plan and that means running gets put last on my list. I have two kids and I am currently working on my masters degree, but I really want to add more running into my schedule. I will definitely try to plan as you suggested, including the dry erase board. My kids are too big for a jogger, but I am thinking of putting them on bikes with me running along beside them. Anyone have success with this?

    1. I see parents in the park do that all the time, Katy! I think it’s a great way that you and your kids can spend some quality time together, and I know Mint would commend you setting a good fitness example for your kids as well!

      If you don’t have a dry erase board yet, write your weekly plan out on a piece of paper and stick it to the fridge – it’s as easy as a shopping list and takes less time. And it can help motivate you to snack like a healthy runner too. 😉

  4. I’m terrible at setting a schedule but I’ve found that if I have a calendar or email system, I’m far more likely to complete some running objectives. I trained for the Cleveland Marathon this year using the TrainingPeaks plan (an email every morning telling me what I should do was helpful – then I’d give myself a flex day to run it a day before or after, depending on how it aligned with life!). Does anyone know of a website/plan/resource like that which is not so much working towards a particular distance & time goal…. but just for the sake of running & fitness?

    Love the blog!


    1. Thanks for sharing, Joy. To answer your question, I don’t really think you need to use a website or other resource to keep conditioning, just consider what you think is a comfortable level of running for you and plan your weeks out that way (until you decide to start training for another race). For myself, I do “Marathon Week” a lot when I’m really busy, which is a goal of 26.2 miles for the week. I plan longer runs on my days off and then spread out the rest of the mileage over the week. For instance, right now since I’m working Saturday-Wednesday with Thurs/Fri off my weekly schedule might look like this:

      Sun – 4 miles
      Mon – 4 miles
      Tues – 4 miles
      Wed – off
      Thurs – 8 miles easy
      Fri – 6.2 miles medium tempo
      Sat – off
      Total: 26.2

      If I’m feeling saucy and want to go for more mileage, or if my hours aren’t so ridiculously long I might do something more like this:

      Sun – Commute to work (about 7.5 miles)
      Mon – off
      Tues – Commute to work (about 7.5)
      Wed – If I get out early enough, run from work to meet friends (about 3 miles)
      Thurs – 6 miles
      Fri – 10 miles
      Sat – off
      Total: 31-34 miles

      The trick is to figure out what a good balance is for you. Push yourself, but don’t feel pressured to go all out if you’re happier keeping your conditioning relaxed – you can always save the balls-to-the-wall for your race training plans!

  5. Awesome post, Cinnamon. I’m mostly with Mark and partly with Joy. Particularly when I’m running high mileage training for a goal race, I plug in my long runs in first, but then give myself some “flex” on the filler miles. I typically do a twelve week training period, and I start with a calendar that maps out my weekly mileage progression. Next the long runs go in, and then the remaining miles get put in pencil week to week. That way, if work, life, weather (or a good meal!) get in the way, I can move stuff around a day or two if needed.

    For me, the schedule is critical! I would be lost without it.