Sticking to the Training Schedule—Or Trying

FBM Susan shares her update on training for not one but two half marathons back to back!

training calendar
Do what it takes to stick to your training schedule! Credit: Susan Wagner

I’m a big advocate of The Schedule. I’m the type who likes to know exactly what’s coming next, so I can be sure to be ready. My calendar is a crazy cross reference of baseball games, karate classes, school commitments and work deadlines. And written in at the bottom of the page, every day, is my training run, because that run is as important as anything else on the schedule.

Except that nearly every single day since I started training for these half marathons has involved jiggling the running schedule somehow. Of course.

I’m using the Runner’s World Smart Coach training plan; it’s a 16-week plan that increases my mileage by 10 percent each week. I’ve done this plan before and it’s terrific—when I can actually stick to it. Which seems to be extra hard this time around. So far, I have followed the plan for exactly zero weeks. Go me.

I’m still feeling good about my half marathons, though. I’m getting my long runs in, and I’ve done all of the mid-length tempo runs. But it’s still making me a little crazy that I’m not following the plan. I go into each new week swearing that this time, I will do all the scheduled runs, on their scheduled days. And every week, something comes up that throws my carefully plotted week totally off schedule. Like what, you ask? Oh, the usual.

The Weather. Until Labor Day, Oklahoma City was trapped under a “heat dome,” with daily highs over 100 degrees (and worse, lows only in the mid-80s). Because of this, I was having to get up at 5 a.m. to get my run in before it got dangerously hot outside and be home in time to get my kids up and off to school. Six miles was the longest run I could squeeze in during the week, so my long runs fell on the weekend, always. For the most part that’s fine; I run with a great training group on the weekends, which is super helpful—except when it’s not…

The Training Group. We have a fantastic local running club here in Oklahoma City. Starting in August, they organize progressively longer runs to prepare for the Route 66 marathon and half-marathon. Because they’re a pretty large group (about 300 people show up for each training run), they can plot out routes that are more interesting than the around-the-neighborhood loop I run when I’m on my own, and it’s good practice running in a crowd. The down side is that their training plan isn’t exactly the same as mine, so I’ve been running more miles than I had planned, which probably won’t kill me, but does mean I’m having to be extra cautious about not injuring myself. Which is already hard when you don’t follow the schedule in the first place…

My Own Stupidity. My schedule calls for me to run 30 to 35 miles per week. This is a totally reasonable number of miles for me, unless I read the schedule wrong and run too many miles in one week, as I did recently. Twice, in fact. Whoops. Adding an extra 5 miles to my weekly total left me feeling worn out, and my recovery time was significantly slower than it had been when I was increasing my distance at the standard 10 percent. That little brush with overtraining left me tired and crabby and made it hard to juggle all the other things on the schedule. I won’t let that happen again, if possible.

The Rest of My Life. Running is only a small part of my day, and it’s only one piece of the schedule. In the past few weeks, I’ve had to work around a sick kid, a new karate schedule, parent-teacher conferences and days out of school (which explains how I accidentally ran too many miles—who can keep up with all that other stuff going on?). Weekends are crazy because in addition to the regular kid things on our calendar, my husband is a cyclist and the weekend is his only time to get out for any sort of long ride. Fortunately, he sleeps later than I do and our kids are old enough to stay home alone for short periods of time, but it’s still complicated, and sometimes the bigger family schedule trumps my training schedule.

So how am I managing to stay on track with all this chaos? I’m not sure I am. I’m feeling good about my preparation for the first of my two half marathons. I’ve done three 11-plus mile runs and have felt good afterward, which is encouraging. And in my mind, 11 miles is almost 13 miles, which is almost a half marathon.

For the most part, though, I’m trying not to worry about it. I love running because it’s a break from all the other things I do all day—making it one more thing to stress about is counterproductive. I’m trying to roll with the schedule changes, to make healthy choices about how many miles I run and how hard I push myself, and to remember that I’m doing this because it’s fun. So far, that part of the plan has not changed one bit. And in the end, that’s what will keep me running.

How do you balance your training and all the other pieces of your life—work, kids, home? Is your training schedule inviolable, or are you able to move things around to keep everything else flowing smoothly? —Susan

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  1. Lately I’ve been TERRIBLE about this. I’ve had loads of travel, and aside from one trip, it’s been all for work and all RIDICULOUSLY busy, meaning that, even though my running shoes have come with me on every trip, they haven’t seen much road. I think the fact that you’re still hitting your long runs is key. I’m so proud of you!

  2. Thanks, Kristen! This month, I’m traveling, and I’m already fretting about getting my runs in. It always seems like it should be so simple, but somehow it just never is. Sigh. 😉

  3. As a mother who runs I think juggling the run schedule *is* the normal schedule. I trained for a marathon last spring, just finished a triathlon and am training for a 15K in a few weeks. I move the workouts to whatever days & times work best for this week’s schedule. I make sure I hit the long runs and I try my best to hit my weekly mileage totals.

    And when I don’t hit them I remind myself that I’m not going to win anyway 🙂