PT365 Run Plans: Need to know – Part 3



These drills and types of runs are the foundation of the training plans, so be sure to get familiar with them before you jump into training.

Catching up? Read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.



The drills in this program first develop coordination through repetition of correct movement. As you progress, they add strength and mobility. Like sprints, this should be fun and a bit challenging!

Work on mastering the movement before trying to add speed or power to the drills. A grass field is the ideal surface. Give yourself a full recovery between sets. Beginning runners pursuing the 5K plan should stick with jumping rope, lateral jumps, four square, heel lifts, grapevines and razor scooter. For correct form, check out the videos at www.militarytimes.com/runplandrills. Those doing our half-marathon and marathon plans can progress to tougher drills such as ABCD skips, “run with tether” and more. Look for these here. Do these twice a week at the end of a run.

Body adaptation: Strengthens and adds mobility to the key muscles and tendons used in running. Develops coordination and skill of running.

Common mistakes:

Doing drills with incorrect form.

Not recovering between sets.

Applying power before mastering the movement skill.

Muscling through the exercises without focusing on form.



Pick an enjoyable activity you can fit into your day to get 30 minutes of relaxed activity. Swimming, biking, CrossFit, gym work, yoga … it’s all good as long as it’s not stressful and it promotes relaxation and recovery.

Different activities allow you to recover from the tissue stresses of running, especially for the beginner. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that everyone try to get 30 minutes of physical activity daily with the safe guidelines of increasing running volume no more than 10 percent a week. Cross-training can be fun and will work your entire system in a different way to produce greater overall fitness. It’s not specific to running, though, so don’t assume that cross-training will greatly assist you in passing your PT test.

Body adaptation: Continued aerobic development as well as specific strength.

Common mistakes:

Going too hard on recovery cross-training days.

Using poor technique in new activities, adding to existing mechanical stress on tissues.

Assuming that the cross-training will make you run faster.

If you are using cross-training during an injury, assuming that when the injury is healed you can jump back into the same volume and intensity of running as you were doing with cross-training sessions. Remember that the tissue load of running is different, even if you are “fit.”


Maximum aerobic function test

(Used with permission from Dr. Phil Maffetone)

This test measures the improvements in aerobic speed while you’re working on building your base. Building aerobic speed means you can run faster at the same aerobic heart rate. Without objective measurements, you can fool yourself into thinking you’re progressing.

Perform the MAF test on a track or measured flat with your heart-rate monitor, running at your maximum aerobic heart rate found with Dr. Maffetone’s 180 Formula. Three to five miles provides good data, although a one-mile test still has value. Do the test following an easy warm-up.

Below is an example of an MAF test performed by running on a track, at a heart rate of 145, calculating time in minutes per mile:

Mile 1: 11:32

Mile 2: 11:46

Mile 3: 11:49

Body adaptation: The MAF test should indicate faster times as the weeks pass. You are building capillaries, mitochondria, fat-burning capacity and relaxed running form. This means the aerobic system is improving, enabling you to run faster with the same effort. Below is an example showing the improvement of the same person. In these plans, an MAF test is prescribed regularly only for beginning runners pursuing the 5K plan. Others should perform the test regularly throughout the year, ideally every month.

Sept.     Oct.        Nov.    Dec.

11:32     10:29     9:35     9:10

11:46     10:46     9:43    9:22

11:49     10:44     9:47     9:31

Chart your progress!

Common mistakes:

Running different courses in different conditions for the test. Examples would be an extremely hot day or a course with significant wind, both of which affect your speed at the same effort.

Doing the test on a day when you’re extremely fatigued.

Not warming up.

Doing too long a test when you are starting. If you’re a new runner, do this for only one or two miles.

“Cheating” and running faster than the pre-determined AHR.


Pre-event practice race

This run is a race simulation done at a comfortably hard pace but not all out. You practice and develop rhythm, relaxation at higher speeds and pacing. You are maximally tapping your aerobic system and becoming slightly anaerobic to help develop tolerance to lactate and fatigue. This should only be done four to six weeks out from your or event — make it one of your long runs around that time. It will build confidence in what you can do on the day of your event.

Simulate what you will do on race day. Wear similar clothes and footwear, find a similar course, eat similarly, and warm up for 10 minutes. Do a few light strides. Do not stretch. Try using positive affirmations before and during the run.

Body adaptation: Raises your anaerobic threshold and rehearses relaxed speed.

Chart your progress!

Common mistakes:

Going 100 percent. Try 95 percent instead. Finish strong and save your best for event day.

Starting out too fast and slowing down at the end.

Trying to run faster each time.

Read the complete PT365 Run Plans program, here.


Sara Davidson

Sara Davidson is an ultrarunner and contributor to PT365. She's run 7 marathons and 32 ultramarathons -- including her first 100-miler. This fall she is training for the Marine Corps Marathon using our PT365 Run Plan. Reach her at sdavidson@gannett.com .