Participants at a free training sessions, Singapore

There are so many training programs available online, from books and magazines. Runners are spoilt choice but that adds to the confusion. How do you choose the right program to save you time and effort when training to meet your race goals?

Principle of specificity

Putting your trust in decades of sports science is a good way to get it right. And the science says you should train specifically for the race you are preparing for. A 5k race is shorter and faster than a marathon so you should train with faster, shorter workouts. It does not make sense to focus on long slow runs for a shorter faster race. The converse is true, for marathoners, your key workout is the long run at a comfortable pace.

There is no one-size fits all

If you are just starting out and new to running, following specific plans might not fit you. Beginners are better off focusing on time spent running (eg run 30 minutes) rather than distance covered and build up your ability to run non-stop for the duration of your race.
More experienced runners planning to meet a timed race goal should train based on time and pace. A properly designed and executed training plan covering three key ingredients – speed, lactate threshold and aerobic training should be able to help you predict your race-day time goals. Each runner is unique so ideally you should customize these ingredients to suit you. More on how to customize these ingredients is available at


Self motivation is what drives you forward

A training program can only be effective if you are motivated to follow it. Getting up early to run, putting aside work to get that training session done takes discipline and self-motivation. Having regular checkpoints like ‘time-trials’ helps you track your progress and increases your confidence and self-motivation.

Keep it simple

Stick to training programs that improves your speed, lactate threshold and aerobic capacity. These are the three simple key ingredients for successful running. All good plans have these, you just have to know where to look. Also consider these questions :

How many miles per week are you currently running? A training program that starts you with more miles that you can handle may increase the risk of injury.

How many weeks left to your key race? Most training programs range from 12 to 30 weeks. The length depends on how well conditioned you already are. A good program allows you to modify it to suit your starting fitness and end goal.

What is the longest run in the training program? Based on the principle of specificity, a marathoner would have to complete a few 30km long runs. A 5k program only has 8k to 10k long runs.

Does the program include cross training? What type? Cross training helps with recovery, corrects muscle imbalances and makes training more interesting.

Does the program include non-running activities like stretching and resistance training? There are different types of stretching, and knowing when to apply each is important. Resistance training helps build core strength which lowers injury risk and makes you a stronger runner. is offering free training sessions, three times a week covering speed, tempo (lactate threshold) and long runs (aerobic training) to help JustRunLah! readers train for your next race. This structured training program includes regular time trials and progressive runs to motivate you to improve at your chosen pace. Regardless if you are planning to race a 5k to the marathon, they have a training plan for you – to find out more and join, register at


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