Whether runners, walkers, or something in between, we can all benefit from better cardiovascular endurance. A few things to consider in designing a fitness plan:

  • Frequency: Plan to walk or run at least three times a week to see improvement.
  • Duration: The time you spend training will differ depending on your goal. Workouts to build speed should be shorter and more intense. Workouts to build endurance should be 10-15% longer than you expect to spend out on a course.
  • Intensity: If you want to improve your speed, you need to train harder. Consider intervals, hill repeats, and tempo runs to push you outside of your comfort zone.
  • Overload:  Improvement in physical fitness comes from a program that progressively increases frequency, duration, or intensity. To avoid injury, start by incrementally increasing frequency or duration for the first 4-6 weeks, then focus on increasing intensity. Many running coaches recommend increasing mileage (or total training time each week) by no more than 10% each week.
  • Recovery: Our bodies need time to rest. Many runners take a day off after a hard run, or cross-train for active recovery.
  • Balance: Too frequent or too intense training leads to injury. Most runners include one tempo run and one interval or hill workout in their weekly training, along with one long run to push their endurance. Everything in between is cross-training or workouts to increase weekly mileage. A well-balanced plan incorporates two more key fitness principles:
    • Variety: Besides avoiding that feeling of being "in a rut," variety keeps our bodies guessing. If you do the same workout every week, your body adapts to it and you get dimishing returns for your hard work. Good ways to ensure variety include not just changing frequency, duration, and intensity, but also mixing up the terrain you train on, the time of day you go out, and who you train with.
    • Specificity: The military calls this "training as you fight" - practicing in conditions that are as close to those you will race in as possible. A few things to consider:
      • Terrain: If we were road runners, we would do most of our training on pavement. But we're not - we run on roads, trails, and cross-country in all types of weather conditions. Taking our workouts to the trails and the open woods can mean better micro-route choice and footspeed on uneven ground. This translates to faster splits in competition.
      • Time of Day: Rogainers and Night-O enthusiasts will tell you that darkness changes how you move, how you navigate, and how you perceive distance traveled. Experiencing this ahead of time allows you to make necessary adjustments to your strategy and equipment and builds confidence.
      • Interval training: Orienteering is an interval sport. We plan our routes, run hard along a handrail or between features, then slow down to conduct fine navigation into our control. Then we do it all over again. Our training should reflect this.

Sample Training Plans

  • The Furman Institute's FIRST training plans are available for distances from 5K to marathon.
    • Pace Calculator Jon Campbell designed for use with the FIRST half-marathon plan that includes paces for road, trail, and cross-country. The calculator derives goal times from a 2-mile road run time.

Got something to add? Send your favorite training plan to Tori Campbell.