"Do you think I need a training plan?"

Training plans are a hot topic amongst athletes and runners in particular.  As a coach I provide personalised training plans for my runners and I also answer my fair share of questions about training plans from friends, family and other runners. In fact, I was asked this seemingly simple question by a beginner runner in an email a couple of weeks ago:  

"Do you think I need a training plan?”

She was looking to improve her 5km time over the coming months and was weighing up whether a training plan would work for her.  At first this seems like a no-brainer for a running coach to answer. Yes.  Simple.  But actually it is nowhere near as easy as that.  I wish!  

Go Run Australia is still young, but even in this first year, I have noticed a few things about who responds best to training plans and who is sometimes better off doing their own thing.  I have no problems with either way.  I have plenty of close friends who would never dream of getting a running coach and are improving and enjoying their running regardless.  For others, with the help of a coach, they have improved beyond what they thought possible and are getting the personal best times that they were after. It is a very individual thing.

One of those people who is continuing to go from strength to strength with the help of a training plan is Sally.  When I asked her what she thought of her Go Run training plan, she said, 

“Loving it! Structure and routine is great for me and being accountable to someone.  I don't have to think or stress about my training plan now!” 

For me, as a runner I have personally made greater progress than I thought possible with the help of a coach and a tailored, individual training plan.  There is no way I would have been able to complete 2 Ironmans, 2 half Ironmans, get half marathon and marathon PB’s in the last 2 years without it.  

So what can I genuinely, honestly advise people who are asking this question,"Do I need a training plan?”  

My first piece of advice would be to ask yourself the following…. (please answer honestly!!)

  • Am I stressing out about how and when to train? YES / NO
  • Do I like / work well with structure and routine? YES / NO
  • Do I do better with my fitness goals if i am accountable to someone other than myself? YES / NO
  • Do I struggle to keep consistent with my fitness regime? YES / NO
  • Am I prepared to trust and work with someone else on my training? YES / NO
  • Am I prepared to pay for that knowledge and expertise? YES / NO


If you are answering mostly YES to these then I would say that a training plan developed with the right coach could really make your training thrive.  If you are answering NO, then it probably won’t be as effective. That is not a problem.  Ultimately this is about finding the best way for YOU to improve as a runner.

So, for those of you who answered YES to the majority of those questions and have decided that a training plan can improve your chances of reaching your goals, what should you reasonably expect of an individual training plan? 

Here are my four things to look out for….

It should be unique to you.

The whole point of coaches developing individual training plans, is that they are for you, created with you and that they cater to your individual circumstances.  So this is your plan, no-one elses!  It should take into account the specific dates and work, social or holiday circumstances that you outline to your coach.  The plan should consider your current fitness levels, your health, your lifestyle, your needs and your personal goals.  There is definitely value in generic plans, but let’s be honest, you are not hiring a coach so they can give you a cookie cutter program!

It should save you time and reduce stress

As we all know, trying to fit your running around kids, dogs, work, gym classes, partners, family and making sure you still have a life, isn’t easy…. a good training plan should help you, not hinder you in managing your time a little better.  As i mentioned in my post to you last week, trying to figure out how to train and when to train can be stressful, especially with the mass of information available to us these days.   The right training plan can filter this information, simplify things and show you the way to your goal.  That will save you time and reduce stress.

It should be adaptable

As they say, "sh*t happens!” The best results come from consistent training, but sometimes injuries happen, work gets hectic, or you get sick, which prevents you from running.  That isn’t ideal but its not the end of the world.  When this happens, don’t panic.  Let your coach know and they can adapt the plan as they go.  Thats what you are paying for! There is nothing worse than falling hopelessly behind on a plan and then feeling demoralised because of it.  Nobody, especially your coach wants that.  On that note, it becomes really important to  give feedback on your sessions and injuries to your coach, so that the plan can be adapted if needed.

It should build momentum towards your goal

Whether your goal is to run non stop to the corner, run around the park, complete your first 5km, run a half marathon or marathon, it takes effort, time and commitment to reach that goal.  I believe that one of the most important factors in achieving your goal is 'building momentum.’ Where possible, training plans should help you build that momentum.  Simple things like having the ability to print off your plan and having a box there to tick off the session, can help to add a sense of achievement and build momentum as a result.  When I asked Allison about her plan she said,

“Having my plan adds accountability, structure and a sense of achievement as you tick things off every day.  It’s amazing to look back at the end of the week and see what I have done!” 

Overall, most of us want to make more time for running, keep improving, actually enjoy it, and look great when we run.  Not much to ask.... That combined with being time poor, lack of structure, sometimes lacking confidence and being overloaded with training options, means it is difficult to know where to start.  I believe the right training plan should really help cut through that.

I hope this post has given you an idea of what to look for in a training plan.  The plan doesn’t have to be overly complicated or long but I believe that if they are individual and tailored, then they should: 

  1. Be unique to you
  2. Save you time and reduce stress
  3. Be adaptable
  4. Build momentum towards your goal

Good luck with your training over the coming weeks and months!  If you are interested in your own Go Run training plan, check out our training plans and packages page and / or drop me a quick email at chris@gorun.com.au and we can have a chat about what that could look like.

Happy running!