3+ ways to draw out a training plan

I got not one but two emails this week from big local races and it looks like runners AND race directors are betting on vaccines and a fall race schedule. Which means we are all probably training for fall races this year and only fall races. Hot tip: register early! I also imagine we’ll all be in pretty much the same training boat as well. We’ll all be excited to get back to training this spring but… we’ll be training for only one event a long, long way off into the future. Which means we might want to really draw out a train plan this year. Usually plans (like mine) are not quite just enough, those do exist, to get you over the line. We tend not to write long, season encapsulating plans. With that in mind here are a few ways to draw out that training plan you planned on doing last year. There are a few options available and I’ll also talk about the pros and cons of extending your training plan each way. Of course you don’t have to choose just one feel free to mix and match to make your extended training plan just right! 

The just double it

This is basically just doing every week in the plan twice or even thee times. While this is the most simple option I think it’s probably the worst one. It is what it sounds like so the explanation is short.

Considerations: Doubling a plan is simple but it will probably lead you to doing too much. This could be a great option for you if you don’t have lofty goals for you this season. For example if you’re almost always running a marathon but this year it’s just a half then this could work for you. But most of us are planning on doing as much or more than we did in 2019. That’s okay at the beginning few weeks of a plan but as you get closer to peak week doubling it will lead you to doing too much for too long. Not only will this make you super tiered, potentially cranky it also puts you at a higher risk for overuse injuries which could prevent you from racing all together! Instead check out some almost as simple options below!

Just double it with modifications

Just doubling it is likely going to be too much but there are several other easy options. Things like:

  • Doubling the first few ‘easier’ weeks then proceeding as planned
  • Repeating every second week
  • Doubling it but dropping a workout each week (keep the speed work and long run though)

Considerations: These options have all the desired effects of doubling your plan but aim to minimize the chances of winding up injured. If you start to have some pain with any of there options above or below then the good news is you have time to rehab it. I would recommend any of these options over option one.

Weeks on weeks off

In this version of extending a training plan you follow the schedule the plan lays out but every three or four weeks you drop back your milage. The off weeks of the plan however do not involve just sitting on the couch but rather you simply reduce your training volume. One great thing about this is that you get a rest week every once and a while which feels just great. It’s like the calm and free time of a taper but without all the nerves. This is also fully customizable. 

You can choose how often to have an ‘off week’ say every two to four weeks and what that will look like. During your weeks off you can pick a pre-training milage to maintain, dial back by half to the week before or run by feel that week. Do your best to get out there and run at least 40% and often and as much as you did the week before.

Considerations: This plan modification is pretty hard to mess up. I’ve written in the past that we really don’t lose fitness all that fast. While it’s probably not ideal to that your off week off be completely off your progress really won’t suffer if you do. This arrangement is so customizable that it really can work for anyone. After a more restful week you’ll have extra energy week after week to really put in quality training time. That more rested feeling and the work you do will lead you to better results on race day.

Planning for plateaus

Another option is to plan to get to a certain level in your training plan and then hold it for a while by repeating a week a few times in a row. A really smart idea is to repeat your first week a few times just in case you rushed into training and didn’t build enough of a base. Depending on how many times in the schedule you hold and how long you hold on for you can add just a few weeks or A LOT of time to your plan this year.

Considerations: I like this idea a lot but… it’s not a great idea to have a plateau at the very end of your plan. Those weeks just have too high a training volume to keep repeating. For example in marathon training you’ll run about 4-6 30km long runs on consecutive weeks. You don’t want to plateau in this stage of the plan. Really the last few weeks of any plan are prone to getting you injured compared to how much you normally train. If you want to drag out at this stage of the plan I recommend the weeks off method. Plateauing in the first week or two and again before your training load gets crazy is appropriate for most though. This strategy can be combined with other strategies as well.

You can check out my training plans here!

In conclusion

It might have been hard to believe a few years ago that we’d all be this excited at the possibility of maybe running one race this year. But here we are. In actual fact done right drawing out a training plan in 2021 or any year will better set you up on race day for crushing your goals. If you do have to pull back due to injury at some point when your working a drawn out plan you will likely have time to deal with that before your race though. So rather than thinking about disappointments that might be around this race season draw out your plan and get ready to be better set up for your favorite distance than you ever have been before. Have you ever extended a training plan? Did it help you on race day? Leave it in the comments below!

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