I have to admit, I’m not one to get super excited over training plans. I’m more of a let’s go run, and let’s see where we end up or what we do kind of runner. Running wild and free, without rules, is why I love running. It’s why my kids love running, too.
But running plans exist for a reason. They work.
Following a training plan is like brushing your teeth. Once you get into the habit of doing it regularly–using a plan, that is, in the case of running, you see good results come check-up time–race day.
I’ve scoured the web for training plans for kids, tweens, and teen runners, and I’ve compiled some of these awesome training plan finds, so you don’t have to do the dirty work. After all, your time is better spent with your feet playing in the dirt on trails alongside your children, instead of spending hours looking for running templates and training formulas for making your kid stronger, faster, and more confident.
The Kids Trail Running Compilation of Awesome, Free Running Training Plans for Kids, Tweens & Teens (and Beginner Runners)
Many of these running plans have running generally in mind and aren’t specific to trail running. However, they are tools that can serve as a guide or base for designing a personal training program that will work for your child–and for you.* Keep in mind that even with a kid-specific training plan, you must take into account a child’s age, fitness, abilities, maturity, development, physician’s and coach recommendations, other non-running specific training, activities or commitments, to make sure it is appropriate for a child.
Trail running is a different beast than off-trail running. The trail, trail conditions, and weather (including trail exposure and rapidly changing weather) are just some of the factors that you may also need to take into consideration when designing or tackling a training plan or determining whether a generic training template will work for you.
- The Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) features a FUNdamentals of Youth Running Guide. This guide (a PDF) offers general training advice for youth runners.
- LA84 offers an online coach manual for run training. The manual includes stretches, training tips and advice, and incremental, weekly run training lesson plans.
- Runner’s World offers General Training Advice For Preschool through Teenage Runners
- UK Athletics offers this Guide for Coaching Young Athletes. This PDF provides a lot of training information, including topics on aerobic and non-aerobic power, dehydration, appropriate training for different age groups, as well as daily training suggestions.
- New York Road Runners (NYRR) features a Track & Field Training Guide for Middle Schoolers. Don’t be put off by the title. Even trail runners can benefit from the training in this guide. Why it looks great: The guide provides warm up and dynamic training ideas for middle schoolers, and guidance for working on sprinting form and technique. The guide also provides links to enhance stretching, strength and aerobics, and offers adaptive modifications.
- Doctors Nova Scotia features 2.1, 4.2, or 5K Training Plans. These plans are part of the Kids’ Run Club to ensure that kids can cover the distances of 2.1, 4.2, or 5K come fun run race day.
- Training Peaks features a 8 Week Youth Beginner 5K Running Training Plan. The plan is for youth ages 10-15 who are in good health, with no health problems or cleared by a licensed physician, and can run/walk a 1/4 mile without stopping.
- Girls on the Run offers five 5K training plans for youth. These training plans (PDF) include: 5K Walk, 5K Walk-Run, 5K Run-Walk, 5K Run, 5K Advanced Run. Why it looks great: There is a plan available to suit training needs of any level of youth runner/walker.
- Seventeen Magazine offers a Training for a 5-K Feature. Though not trail specific, this may be a useful guide for a parent to text to his or her teen, especially if she happens to be a little reluctant to try running, since it ‘speaks’ to her audience.
Beginner Runners – Not Kids Specific
While not kid specific, these beginning training plans could be easily modified, or used as is depending on a child’s current fitness or athleticism, and/or used as guidance for a family new to running or getting back into the sport.
- Women’s Running has a Beginner Trail Running Plan. This plan will help beginners build the base, stamina, experience, and confidence on the trails.
- Trail Running Movement offers a Trail Running Training Program/Guide. This guide offers tips and advice broken into Monthly Training (e.g., 1st Month, 2nd Month, etc.), as well as training advice depending on desired race distance.
- Aventuras features a Road to Trail Training Plan. This 8-Week Guide will help road runners transform into trail runners.
- Active offers a 10-Week Training Plan to Get A Beginner Ready for the 5K distance.
- The Running Clinic Beginner 5K Guide. The Running Clinic features several training plans, but this beginner guide offers a wealth of training advice and information for the beginner runner.
- Couch to 5K Beginner Running Plan. This plan is designed with the beginner runner in mind. Also offers Couch to 5K Running Apps to enhance training.
- Coach Jenny Hadfield offers 5K Training plans. This site offers several 5K plans, so there is an option to find a plan or tailor one for every beginner, as well as this How to Train for Your 1st Trail Race Plan.
>5K Trail Distance
- Backcountry features this Trail Half-Marathon Training Guide. A basic (PDF) guide that will help you get toward your longer distance training goals.
- Training for Young Distance Runners by Larry Greene, PhD and Russ Pate, PhD.
*Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor or a certified running coach, so I can’t tell you what training plan will work for your specific child, runner or situation. I also can’t tell you whether these training plans mentioned above will get you the results you hope to achieve. Consult a physician before beginning a training program.