I have posted on this subject on another running site last year but since finding my new running home, allow me to share a few thoughts on a subject I feel strongly about.
It is human fantasy that we will find the one system, the one book, the perfect solution to our running goals. Runners devour staticistics, biographies, training scheduals/programs of record breakers, sit glued to the TV for hours and go back to churning out the miles inspired to follows these idols to the letter.
Having been around the athletic scene for more years than I am prepared to confess, I have often been approached by runners, both experienced and new to running asking for a program for an upcomming race be it road, XC or track.
Rather than give them a program, I always suggest that they train with my group so that I can at least see how they run (form) or refer them onto another coach that can keep a eye on them and give advice.
Whenever the word "program" is used it suggests in the minds of those lacking experience, a set of rules laid down to be followed to the letter.
So many days/hours, distances, intervals/repetitions to be performed each session, increasing load and effort on top of that so many miles per day, week, month etc.
We all have to start somewhere and a conservitive general running program is as good a place as any to start but the point I want to make STRONGLY, is that a PROGRAM is only a GUIDELINE and NOTHING IS SET IN STONE.
Now should you be on a program ask youself this?
What do you do if it rains? Do you run if you are feeling crook and coming down with the flu? What if your held up at work or school or the house looks like a bomb site and the kids have all gone feral and its eating into your running time. I'm sure you can add afew more.
Say you have been running a while and are merely looking for a few pointers to make your training more effective, again ask yourself Are there days when you feel better running than others? When does your running feel good? Even when you don't feel like running when you start off, does your mood brighten once you get going.
Is everyone starting to crack on to where I'm going here?
You see, and this is by no means an original concept of mine: TRAINING is very much tied in with how you feel, with listining to YOUR body, removing the everyday tensions of home, work, school and cares.
Most of you from what I read are running distance, so you are looking at a prolonged effort, which can increase unwanted stress. So your training must be geared GRADUALLY and GENTLY to accustom the body to more effort without distress. Sure you can have a hit out a couple of times a week or use a shorter race to lift your rate of performance.
So rather than a program look at how can organise your various commitments into a time frame Family, work, school social and running.
Now after all my bagging the proverbial out of programs, let me give you some very loose GUIDELINES
Establish time slots or a number of time slots during the week. They don't have to all be the same duration but try for at least 3 sessions per week.
5 or 6 is better and should you get caught short you can still fall back to 3 or 4.
Building up towards an hour on the move for most of your sessions over a 1 YEAR period lays a good solid foundation.
Mix fast/short and easy long sessions. Regularity and variety is the key, your ability to improve being determined by your ability to run without Stress.
NOT BY PRE-DETERMINED PROGRAMS
Also, a lot of what you said can also be attributed to dieters. We're all an experiment of one as Jrjo quoted. What worked for me may not work for you.