6 Top tips for sticking with a training plan
Use these six top tips to keep on top of your training plan, make progress, and to enjoy your running and/or training.
Whether you’re a beginner to running or run year-round, sticking to your training plan and finding the motivation to train from time to time can be rather challenging. We’re not machines… we have other commitments, responsibilities, families, jobs, and so forth, so it’s no surprise that from time to time we struggle with sticking to our training plan.
Although it’s completely natural to struggle with motivation when it comes to sticking with a training plan, we do have a few top tips to help you actually stick to it – these can be seen below.
1. Set realistic and achievable goals
Want to know the secret to achieve success not only in sport but in all aspects of life? Set goals, write them down, and get after them.
If you set goals and go after them with all the determination you can muster, your gifts will take you places that will amaze you. -Les Brown
Did you know that according to a recent study, you’re 42% more likely to achieve your goals if you write them down? It really is that simple!
Get into the routine of writing your goals down, whether this is daily, weekly, or monthly. We do, however, advise setting multiple training goals, both short and long-term. For example, your short-term goal may be to run five times in the next week, while your long-term goal may be to run a marathon in six months time. Your short-term goal should help you work towards your long-term goal, increasing your motivation and confidence to achieve those long-term more challenging goals.
Finally, make sure the goals you’re setting are both realistic and achievable. For example, an achievable goal may be to train for a marathon within six months, however, whether or not this is realistic is a different question. For example, are there any time constraints or family commitments which will limit your time to train? These must be taken into account to increase the likelihood of sticking to your training programme. Get it just right and you’ll be on your way to a happier, healthier, more motivated self.
2. Plan your training in advance
While everyone follows some sort of a ‘plan’, there is a big difference between roughly knowing what each run or workout looks like, and following a specific day by day, session by session training plan. If you’re following a pre-existing training plan, this shouldn’t be as much of a problem. However, if you’re currently not following a training plan then you should seriously consider following one or alternatively creating your own.
Following and or creating a training plan provides greater structure into your routine, providing less opportunity to wiggle out of a run or workout, while knowing exactly how far to run, how fast to run, and even what time to run.
Moreover, each Sunday we suggest planning what times you have available each week to train. It may differ day by day depending on commitments, so it’s worth knowing when you’ll have time to get out the door and run. Doing so increases the likelihood of you sticking to your training plan, while also providing more routine to your everyday life.
3. Keep it fun
If you’re not having fun, then there’s a very good chance you’re not going to stick with your training plan. If you don’t enjoy running or exercise in itself, consider bringing along a friend or attending a group class – helping you embrace the suffering together while even making some new friends!
Likewise, mix up your running routes, playlists, and running partners for a quick refresher – helping you find the motivation to stick to your training plan week after week.
4. Visualise your success
If you haven’t tried visualisation before, you’re missing out. Think of what you want to achieve, perhaps it’s your long-term goal, winning a race, running a marathon, reaching that goal weight?
Now close your eyes, take deep breathes and visualise what the feels like, how you see your success, how others react, how great it feels, and how the hard work has paid off. Visualising your success and goals is a great way to maintain motivated, while it may seem a little voodoo, definitely don’t knock it until you try it!
This is the Law of Attraction…when you visualize good things happening, that’s easy. What’s not easy to do is when things are going bad, and you’re visualizing the good stuff. That’s what I was able to do. -Conor Mcgregor
5. Reward yourself when needed, especially when it’s becoming tough to stick to your training plan
We all have those days, perhaps it’s raining outside, the temperature is below freezing, you’re sore from training, or maybe you simply lack the motivation to run. However, creating and implementing a reward system is a great way to combat this.
For example, on days where you really don’t feel like training, reward yourself with something, a bar of chocolate? A quick massage? Your favourite Netflix show? Whatever it is, only reward yourself if you go and train. This will quickly turn into a habit on those days where motivation is lacking.
However, exercise with caution. Get it? Exercise? Rewarding yourself when not running and or training will trick the brain and derail your training plan. Be honest with yourself, reward yourself only when needed, and keep your rewards to a minimum.
6. Allow yourself rest days
A recipe for disaster amongst any training plan is not including a rest day or two. Not only are you increasing your likelihood of injury, but you’re also not allowing a mental break from training. Without a break, training quickly becomes stale, more of a chore like activity, and generally something you want to avoid.
Instead, implement in a minimum of 1-2 rest days, more if you’re a beginner. Remember, rest is not for the weak, it’s when our muscles recover, our mind gets a break from the pavement pounding, and we reassess and maintain our motivation to run and train.
Related: How to recover after a run or race.
Sticking with a training plan isn’t easy. Heck, it can be very challenging. However, using these six top tips is a damn good way to start. Remember to plan your training in advance and keep it fun, without those two you’re basically setting yourself up to fail.
Matthew is an avid runner, freelance writer, Durham University graduate, and the founder of Running101.