Reinhold has e-mailed with many good questions about running. He asks (he is German and his English is rough.. but much better than my German, and maybe English) in a comment left yesterday what a good training plan would look like. Below is a re-post of a picture of a 4 week cycle that I am using as a basic structure for my own training.
Part of coaching and planning is looking at an athlete's schedule and finding the subtle mistakes in structure. For instance, 5 hard interval sessions in a row is a mistake. One of the more common pitfalls I see with athletes that plan their own schedules (and I did this for years- hind sight is 20/20) is the traditional Saturday/ Sunday big workouts... Monday lift weights... Tuesday/ Wednesday/ Thursday hard workouts... Friday lift weights... repeat. This schedule has no rest day.
The above template has gym workouts on Mondays and Fridays but they are core work only. There are structured easy days surrounded by hard days. One thought that I think is worth mentioning is that athletes should be wearing a HR monitor as often as possible in order to learn the subtleties of fatigue VS effort VS pace. HRMs can keep us honest- forcing us to truly run easy on easy days and to run hard on hard days. Perceived exertion (PE) is ALSO used on these days. Never be a slave to just one feedback tool! By using a HRM and PE you will become a more rounded athlete.
Another structuring thought- we often times have delayed fatigue from a workout. If I run hard on Tuesday I will most likely feel good on Wednesday and tired on Thursday (call this "hard/easy/hard"). I know this so I try to plan back to back harder workouts (hard/hard/easy) or take 2 easier days after a hard workout (hard/easy/easy). I have also found that I can trick my body by running hard early on (say) Tuesday, then run moderate on Wednesday, then hard again on Thursday (hard/moderate/hard). That's 3 days in a row of difficult sessions which feels better to me than hard/easy/hard. But- I also know that I will probably "crash" at the end of this 3 days and may need to take several easier days to recover. These differences may seem subtle- but if you have ever run on the edge of over training you will see that it is those subtle differences that can make or break a schedule, or an athlete.
The best thing I can tell you Reinhold- is to pay strict attention to your training logs and note when you feel very fatigued or very good.. then start to look for a pattern that will allow you to plan your schedule more accurately. I also suggest that in order to find your limits you need to be fearless and go there. With the exception of getting injured, it's those weeks where you will push yourself the hardest that will be the most satisfying and productive.