Runners of all abilities can benefit hugely from using a plan to help structure their training towards a target race or goal. Louise Damen explains how and why a training plan can help you to run faster.

1. Structure

It’s a mistake that countless runners have made; being overzealous in training in pursuit of a goal. We’ve all done it! A sensible training plan however can temper the desire to hit your training like a bull in a china shop by providing structure. Fitness is built through a cycle of stress and rest. You need to stress your body with training and then rest in order to let the physiological adaptations and gains in fitness occur. A good training plan therefore helps you to achieve the optimal balance between stress and recovery, which will reduce your risk of injury and illness.

2. Routine

It’s important to remember that a training plan can help to provide a sense of routine which many of us thrive on. It gives you a sense of ownership and order. When a training plan helps to dictate your daily or weekly routine you may find that you gain a sense of momentum and you are more likely to get your training done on days when your  motivation is tested.

3. Progression

Many runners fail to realise that the order in which you do training sessions is crucial. In order to see the biggest gains in fitness and to minimise the risk of injury, your training should be progressive. At first your goal or target race can seem overwhelming. However a progressive plan can help to break down training into manageable chunks towards your goal. As you tick off the days and weeks you will start to see your fitness and confidence soar.

4. Forces you to work on your weaknesses

It’s human nature to avoid doing things that we dislike. If left to our own devices we generally tend to stay in our comfort zone and like to do the things that we are good at. Following a training plan however forces you to step outside of your comfort zone and to work on your weaknesses.

5. Adds variety

Perhaps you’ve reached a plateau with your performances in training or your racing results have been a little disappointing recently? Are you starting to lose motivation? If this is the case then it may be due to a lack of variety in your training programme. If you keep doing the same thing then you will keep getting the same results. The body and the mind respond well to changes in training stimuli and a god plan can ensure that your training is both varied and well-rounded to maximise your motivation and your fitness.

6. Purposeful training

Many runners, without realising, spend far too much time in that ‘grey area’ when training. That is they run too slowly to gain any real aerobic benefit but too fast to recover fully. However, a structured training plan will ensure that every run you do has a purpose, whether it’s a hard workout or simply an easy recovery run . Training smarter in this way will help you to maximise the physiological adaptation to training and you’ll be able to see your fitness soar.