Short answer is yes you can and sometimes you should but only to a point. For reasons beyond performance and fitness though you might not always want to either. So that’s an answer but it’s a very complicated one. So the bad news is sometimes you really should go out and find a whole new plan, which can be tricky… I have often repeated a plan and I’ve sought out new ones too. Your goals for race day and what’s going on in your life might also influence whether you repeat or get a new plan for the same race. I actually write and sell what I think are some great training plans for running and triathlons over in my Etsy shop. Many of those actually have a step up for second time users built right in.
When to repeat for best performance
In general I think you should always use the same training plan twice. The first time we train for a race it’s the most mentally taxing. Repeating that plan let’s you actually relax into the physicality of it. Many of us fall into the trap of just covering the distance on the first go and that’s totally fine. I’m definitely one of those people! The second time around you can really work the plan by pushing yourself on speed days and hard workouts and still get a PB using the exact same plan.
If the first time (or all the times) you’ve used a plan you objectify didn’t give it your all. If you skipped more than 5-10% of the workouts then you can get more out of the redo than you did the first time around. On the other hand if this time around you know that you won’t be able to be super duper dedicated there might be no reason to buy something new. The year I got married and started a new business I still wanted to run my annual big race. I mostly wanted to run the scenic route, collect a cool medal and wear a cute pirate outfit doing it. In those years by all means use an old plan if you want to!
When to get a new one for best performance
If you want to get a PR and grow as an athlete you will have to do more in some way during your training then you did before. Traditionally that means you either need to do some of your workouts harder (faster) or run more miles. So you can reuse a plan over and over again if you give it more each time to the same workouts. At some point though you just aren’t going to be able to train harder in the exact same way doing the exact same thing. Not to mention that gets stale after a while. You might opt for a plan with fewer workouts per week but a generally longer duration or you might add distance in the form of an extra workout. You might also go for a plan that makes your one hard workout even harder.
Your new plan might also have a combination of these things too. Do be careful though no matter what plan you chose just make sure to be honest with yourself. Is it too much or not enough of a step up or too basic from the plan you are coming from. Do you really have time to add an extra workout every week for months? Can you handle much longer speed workouts every week? The nice thing is that when you set out to pick a second plan for the same challenge you’ll be much better at deciding which is a good one for you!
When to get a new one for another reason
Sometimes even if you can totally repeat a training program you already have you might not want to. If you’ve done it once or even more already you might just be the sort of person who always wants something fresh. That’s totally fine but a couple of notes, one you might be sending more money than necessary but that is also up to you. The second note of more importance is that we have a tendency to always step up the intensity when we move on to something new. Just be careful that looking for a new plan doesn’t have you doing too much too fast. So if you are looking for a new plan because it’s new be prepared to make a couple of lateral moves along the way.
I’ve used my realistic half marathon training plan twice now when I was looking for PR’s and my bare minimum half plan once because I just wanted to cross the line. My realistic plan has some minor changes to the schedule for intermediate runners compared to first timers. I certainly could have dropped back to that level the third time but honestly I wanted to run one less day a week! Both are great plans that I would totally use again but you never know I might want a third option down the road.
If you’ve always wanted to PR and crush it but now you’re running with someone else or you’re not in it to win it seriously consider a less intense plan than you used in the past. These are sometimes labeled as bare minimum planse. A participation plan if you will. Whatever plan you choose for your event just make sure it’s a good fit for you. I know you can’t always see all the workouts when you pick it out but if it arrives and it’s not a good fit pick another one. If that does happen reach out to the designer and see if they can offer you modifications or even another plan at a discounted rate. Because doing something that you don’t feel great about on day one is just not the right plan!
I write (and sell) running and triathlon training plans and as much as I would like people to buy them I mostly want them to be a good fit. For many, including me, the best fit can be doing the same one again knowing exactly what’s in frost of you! Are you a repeat offender or is it always something new for you? Leave it in the comments below!