How to Create a Training Plan for a Race


Per my training schedule, (which I’ll show you at the end of this post) yesterday I ran four miles with an average pace of 8:58. However, it wasn’t effortless. If you’ve been reading for a while, you know that I like to run in the morning, not long after I wake up, right after coffee. But lately, I’ve been choosing slumber over mileage, which is completely fine, but it also leaves me to do my runs at night.

I officially do not enjoy running in the evening. My legs are lead, my body feels full and heavy, and my energy is low low low. Plus, there’s the whole two showers a day thing which in my opinion is just a waste of time 😉  Not to mention, my appetite is all out of whack!

Needless to say, I was very excited to do my sunrise speed work run today.


Unfortunately, my body wasn’t as enthused. Apparently it’s not keen on running again 12 hours later. I felt a twinge in my quad, and knew the elliptical was a better choice 😉


Over the past few days, I’ve had several questions regarding how I create a training plan for a race.

Now, before I go on, I want to preface this by saying this is what works for ME. The mechanism in which I create my training plan and the criteria that goes into it works wonderfully for me. If you choose to take any of this information and use it for your own training plan, please don’t go by my word verbatim. By this I mean

It is important to keep in mind your schedule, your motivations, and your abilities when creating your training plan.


Obviously, I’m not a pro. I’ve only been running in races since last summer. What I share in this post is based on my experiences with races and training plans, doing research on running and training plans, and my knowledge as a personal trainer. Consider there’s an unsaid “in my opinion” after every statement 😉 There are, however, professional training plans out there for a multitude of different distances, such as Hal Higdon and Cool Running. Be sure to check those out, too!

How I Create a Training Plan

1. Pick a race. Most recently, I signed up for the Frank Lloyd Wright 10k and the Hot Chocolate 15k. The training plan shown at the bottom of this post includes the training for both races in one training plan. Criteria to keep in mind when choosing your race:

  • Distance – do you want to get faster at a distance you’ve already raced? Strive for a Personal Record? Go for a new distance? These are all things to consider
  • How far away is race day? If you’re planning on running a new distance, or haven’t been keeping up with logging too many miles, it’s best to choose a race that’s at least 6 weeks out; eight weeks is preferable.
  • Terrain – If the race involves multiple hills, and you’re not into including hill repeats into your training plan, stick with a race with a fairly flat course. If you’re ready to tackle the hills, go for it!
  • Weather – If you know you won’t be able to get out and train during super cold temps or in snow, don’t pick a race in January in Illinois. Same goes for running in the summer. If you know the heat and humidity stops your from running, stay away from July races – in any state, really 🙂

2. Once you’ve picked a race, it’s time to come up with some goals. Do you want to run the fastest 10K you’ve ever run? Or are you increasing your race distance from a 10k to a 15k or half marathon? When I create a training plan when my goal is to PR, I include slightly less weekly mileage and add a day of speed work.


  • Speed – For a super speedy run, I make sure to incorporate at least 4 but never more than 5 running days into my week: A long run, an interval run, an easy run, a tempo run, and perhaps a pace run. If I have a four runs/week week, then I usually cut either the interval OR the tempo run, and replace it with some cross training.
  • Distance – When increasing my distance, I tend to hover around 5 running days per week: a long run, an easy run (3 ish miles), a tempo OR interval run, a pace run, and an easy-moderate run (3-6 miles depending on where I am in training.)

3. After determining your goals, consider your schedule and consider yourself. You know yourself. I know running three days in a row is my max. After three running days in a row, I need a rest day or a cross training day. If the thought of running five days a week is already intimidating, knock it down to three or four. In my opinion, the most important runs are these three: 1 long run, 1 easy run, and 1 speed work run. Now, think about when would be best to do your long run. Do you have one day that’s less busy than the others? This is what I base my week around. Right now, I run my long runs on Sunday. So I cushion the days before and after with a rest day and an easier day.

4. Start backwards. I find it easiest to work from the race day to the present day. Decide how long your longest training run will be, and schedule that run at least a week before race day.

5. Implement some strength training. I like to have at least one day of full body strength training, even when I’m at my busiest.


6. Use your resources! I don’t like to follow preset training plans verbatim, but I do use them for reference. Again, Hal Higdon and Cool Running both have great baselines.

7. Be ready to not follow your training plan. Life happens. Plans change. Body parts will ache! Be flexible with your schedule. Even though I have a training schedule planned out by the day, there’s usually not a week I follow verbatim. Rollllll with the changes. And it’s OK to have to skip a run or two. However, with that said, it’s usually pretty important not to skip the long runs, in my opinion.

Currently I have two upcoming races, and I’ll probably throw in a 5k (hopefully)  soon too. I’ll have to tweak it a bit, but no big deal 😉 The thing is, I have two different goals within one training plan. For the 10k, my goal is to get a PR. And the for 15k it’s to build up my distance. I haven’t run more than 8.5 miles since my half marathon in May. So it kinda transitions a bit mid way through.

So with all of this in mind, I created my 2+ month training plans for my upcoming races.

Paige’s 10k + 15k Training Plan

I’m sure there will be TONS of tweaks along the way 😉

Do you have any additional tips or suggestions for creating your own training plan? I know there’s stuff I’m forgetting. Speak up! 😀

**Before I go… if you’re looking for something to do tonight, head on over to the Twitter party! LOL yes –  a party on Twitter. It’s hosted by Thermos about their new series of cold matters. The party is tonight at 8pm ET/7pm CT. Join @ThermosBrand to celebrate the launch of our new series with a group of renowned health and fitness experts (including Caitlin from Healthy Tipping Point !)as the cold matters coaches. Ask questions, provide tips about what matters to you and help your family stay active, cool and hydrated through the rest of the summer. Participate using the #ThermosCold hashtag and you will automatically be entered to win some of their newest insulated hydration products.

Off for another busy day! “See” you all tomorrow 😀


12 Responses

  1. I can’t wait to train period! I don’t usually train for 5 or 10ks but when I find a half or full marathon for next year I can’t wait to create and start training!

  2. I use Hal Higdon as a base- so far it’s worked well for me!

    My only tip is to be flexible to changes- they will always happen. My biggest thing was learning how to roll with it. And that’s one convenience of the rest day- you can feel free to swap it if you’ve got plans that pop up on another day that don’t allow you to get your training in…

  3. I like #7.
    In the past, I would get really freaked out if I missed a planned workout, but over time I’ve learned that it’s not the end of the world. At all.

  4. One of my biggest struggles with training plans is they some how turn something I love into something I’m “forced” to do. I really need to find a way past that particular mental barrier. Any tips?

    I’ve been considering signing up for the Hot Chocolate 15K this year.

    (I hear the race swag is awesome.)

  5. This is fabulous!!! I always start with the Hal Higdon plans because I love that cross training is so incorporated. Then I adjust the workouts to fit around my schedule- work days, weekend plans, trips, etc. Then I give myself permission to not follow any of it & adjust as necessary! 🙂

  6. As someone who doesn’t typically run races, these are very helpful insights! Thanks, Paige!

  7. this post could not have come at a better time! i just decided to sign up for a race!

  8. Great info, Paige! I have always used Hal Higdon as my guide and then tweaked my plans along the way. The more I train, the more I put myself into the plan. Making you own plan is a great way to fit training into a busy schedule.

  9. Great post – this is in-depth but yet not intimidating. My kind of how-to guide!
    LOVE Hal Higdon – his “Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide” got me through training for my first.

  10. Awesome post on training. I’ve always started with a tried and true plan (higdon usually) but I always have to modify it somewhat and make it work for me. Even my first 5K plan had to be changed up. And I give a standing ovation on the strength training. That is something that I depend on to help keep my muscles balanced.

  11. […] But my love of running didn’t waver…and eventually the race bug bit me […]

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