12-, 16-, and 20- Week Training Plans: Let's Talk Structure & What's Right for You

12-, 16-, and 20-Week Training Plans: Let’s Talk Structure and What’s Right for You

By Laura Barreca PT, DPT

You have been searching for a race to sign up for and finally decided which to do.  Now you are officially signed up, yay!  What’s next?  Finding the right training plan.  There are several different types of training plans with different structures, specifically those that differ in length.  If you are looking for results driven running, it is important to craft the perfect training plan that is specific to you and your needs!

Let’s talk about the 12-week plan.

This length plan can be used for a super short marathon build OR for a half-marathon build.  It can also be used for training for shorter track/road races such as a 3k/5k/10k.  At Custom, we recommend a 12-week plan for our half marathoners or for our marathoners that are struggling with injury and need to shorten their plan mid-training.

The 16-week plan

The 16-week plan can be used for both a half-marathon build AND a marathon build with slightly different structures within the plan itself.  The 16-week plan is the longer option build for a half marathon and the shorter option build for a marathon training plan for an experienced runner.

The 20-week plan

The 20-week plan is typically used for a marathon build but can also be used for an extensive half-marathon build.  At Custom, we recommend the 20-week plan for a half-marathon build ONLY if the runner is experienced.  Ways to get around this if you are a novice runner and ready to start training but still have some time until your next race is to extend the base building phase.  This is the phase of a training plan where you are running easy, slow, conversation-paced miles.  Integrating this along with something called “down weeks” or recovery periods is an easy way to navigate a longer training cycle.

Now that we have discussed the length of your plan, let’s talk structure.

When creating an individualized plan, we like to tailor every detail to YOUR life.  We can really deep dive here but some general details to cover are how many days of running per week, the weekly mileage build, workouts, supplemental activities and of course, your races/goals.  This is a lot to take in – first let’s talk about days of running per week and pacing of runs.

For novice runners, we recommend starting with a slow build with only a few days per week of running and if you are completely new to running, integrating the run/walk technique.  More experienced runners can start their plans with anywhere from 4 to 6 days a week leaving time for a rest day, which is important in overall improvement & recovery purposes.  Pacing can be calculated using several different methods, one of my personal favorites being  the VDOT pace calculator.  This is a decision that you & your coach will make together utilizing prior race history and training blocks.  Weekly mileage is another piece to focus on making sure to have a slow & steady build including down weeks for recovery purposes.

There are different phases of a training period which can be broken down specifically when looking for results driven running.  This also includes incorporating supplemental activities that you may enjoy or those specific to injury prevention.  The end goal of this process being your race and the goals YOU want to accomplish!  Always consult with an expert to create the perfect plan for you!    

By Laura Barreca PT, DPT

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