It feels like everyone is training for something right now, and I just finished.

But my hard work paid off. In fact, I took a whole minute off my 5K time in three months (and scored a second place finish in my age group!) following the Runner’s World Run Less Run Faster (RLRF) plan by Bill Pierce, Scott Murr and Ray Moss. It’s an intense plan and I really enjoyed it…to a point. Each workout is so focused that I began to feel a little burnt out as I got closer to my race, which was Saturday.

But after the 5K, I felt different. Recharged. And I’m ready to start training again. I’m planning to run the Seattle Rock ‘N’ Roll Half Marathon at the end of June. I’ve tried quite a few training plans since I began running as an adult. Here are my thoughts on the plans I’ve tried:

Hal Higdon Half Marathon Novice: I used this 12-week plan for my very first half marathon. I began running in July of 2009 and ran my first 13.1 in November finishing in about two and a half hours. I liked the plan, but I wouldn’t recommend it for beginners knowing what I know now. For beginning runners, like I was, try something that incorporates walking and running.

Hal Higdon Marathon Novice: Since I’d had success with the Hal Higdon Half Marathon Novice plan, I decided to use his 18-week marathon novice training plan for my first marathon scheduled in May 2010. First of all, I was just trying to do too much too soon in general. I think this plan was more advanced than where I was at in my fitness level at that time, and I ended up hurting myself (fracturing my shin) and not running my first 26.2. I think the thing to keep in mind is that “novice” is different than beginner. I was not able to finish this training plan.

Couch-to-5K Running Plan: After fracturing my shin, I could not run for an entire summer. In the fall, I was allowed to begin running again…gradually. I chose the Couch-to-5K to help me ease back into the run. And it was perfect for that. If you are just starting out as a runner, I would recommend beginning with this plan, which alternates walking and running, and will help to keep you from getting injured by doing too much too soon.

Jeff Galloway “To Finish” Marathon Plan: If you are a beginner who is training for a marathon, like most people, I would advise you to rethink that plan. But, let’s be honest, we’re probably not going to change your mind. So, if you are going to do it anyway, at least use something like Jeff Galloway’s marathon plan “to finish.” It is a long plan at 32 weeks, but it eases you into the mileage and keeps you at relatively low mid-week miles. There are three 20+-mile runs. I missed two of them due to life. Twenty miles was my longest run. And I finished my marathon in about four hours and 45 minutes. I used the run-walk-run method that Jeff Galloway recommends during the training and the race. I had an awesome first marathon, one that I enjoyed and will remember for the rest of my life. Note: The run-walk-run method is great, too, if you are injury-prone.

Runner’s World Run Less Run Faster 5K Training Program: If you are ready for some speed, I highly recommend this plan. I even bought the book to get all my paces. (You can get just the plan online at the link I provided.) RLRF has you running only three times a week with two other days of cross training, plus strength workouts. I liked that the RLRF book gives you actual cross training plans and a challenging strength routine. This plan is very intense. Every workout has a purpose, and will have you challenging yourself with new track workouts, speedy tempo runs and a faster-than-most pace for long runs. In the book, there are plans for beginners, as well, that are less intense. I wouldn’t recommend the other plans for beginning runners, though. I’ve been running for almost three years now and I felt that Run Less Run Faster took me just to the edge. If I wasn’t paying attention, if I didn’t know my limitations, I might’ve hurt myself. Overall, I’m very pleased with this plan and am so happy that my hard work paid off last Saturday.

Are you training for something? What plan are you using? Do you like it? What other training plans have you used?