Following Training Plans: The Do’s And The Don’ts

Ah racing season.  I love summer for this and beach/pool time.  However, these days we are spending a lot of time inside sleep deprived and falling in love over and over again with this little sweet pea.

For those athletes training for the Chicago Marathon we are about half way through at this point.  Hard to believe, I know!  Tis the season for nagging injuries to start, work schedules pick back up, and training boredom to kick in.  And that is when I start fielding a lot of e-mails about training plans.  Many runners are feeling a sense of guilt for slacking off and look to me to make them feel like it will be okay.  Others are just trying to figure out how to get it all in and still maintain a sense of sanity.  All of these are totally normal reasons to want to take a second look at your training plan.


First of all, it is important to keep in mind that training plans work in a certain way to help get you to the starting line in the best shape possible.  If you look at a typical training plan it is filled with peaks and valleys of low mileage and high mileage that wears your body down just enough and then recovers it just enough to make you stronger.  These plans also tend to have various short mileage runs throughout the week and you will often find a variety of prescribed paces.  These help to build stamina and speed.  Therefore, in an ideal setting you want to hit all of these types of training runs to make you the strongest runner possible.

However, if there is one thing I have learned about race training and marathon training in general, the hardest part is making it to the start line injury free.  Odds are that at some point you will find yourself injured.  For most of us, these are small, nagging injuries that annoy the heck out of us and cause paranoia.  But you can just as easily end up sidelined with a more serious injury.  Either way, these are necessary reasons for adjusting your plan.

When injured, it is important to step back and assess just how bad the situation is.  Are you injured enough that you need to take weeks off?  Can you run through it?  Do you need to take a few days off and ease back in?

Whatever the ailment is, more often than not, there is a way to adjust your plan to allow you to ease back in and be okay for race day.  Keep in mind that the further out from the big day, the easier it is to take time off and come back.  As you get closer to your race, you might have to adjust your goals if your body requires time off from training.

While race plans are created in an ideal way to get you to the start, they are not a running bible.  Just because Monday is prescribed as your short recovery day, Tuesday is a speed work day, and Wednesday is an optional day off, it doesn’t mean you have to adhere to that plan.  Maybe Monday is your softball league day.  So swap Monday and Wednesday on your plan and don’t sweat it.  Perhaps you hate doing long runs on Saturdays because you want to drink beer and eat pizza on Friday nights.  Nothing wrong with getting up super early on Friday and getting that long run over and then enjoying a full weekend of running free bliss.

Some weeks are better than others.  Perhaps you started out feeling great and motivated but during week 5 of training you started to get bored with the whole racing notion.  Maybe you slacked off and missed a few runs.  Sure, I don’t recommend this.  But we are all adults here.  Life happens.  Take a deep breath, reflect on how great those extra days off were and then promise yourself to get back on plan the following week.  Sometimes a mental and physical break is all we need to feel ready to tackle the game plan again.


What is your best technique for staying on plan?  What causes you to miss you training runs?

4 thoughts on “Following Training Plans: The Do’s And The Don’ts

  1. Plans to me are just that–they are PLANS, they are not set in stone. I tell my clients to plan in pencil, record in pen. You have to embrace what you have done, not focus on what wasn’t accomplished that day. And you MUST listen to your body.

  2. The reason I can stay on track with my training plan is because RLRF has me running only 3 days a week. My schedule changes so much that I need the flexibility of running when it’s convenient for that week. If I were on a plan that had me running more often I’d miss too many days.

    So far no injuries that needed anything more than an additional rest day. Knock on wood for the second half!

    • This is a great point. You need a plan that will work with your body and your lifestyle. I have enjoyed reading your training recaps and I think that this is obviously a great one for you!

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