When to modify the plan

This article was originally posted by Ryan at the original HillRunner.com Blogs.


You are training for a race that is highly important to you. You have a detailed plan laid out. Month by month, week by week, day by day, you know what you’re supposed to be doing.

Then something happens. Do you push through or do you change the plan?

Many times, the answer is that you should push through. There are definitely times when we should push through some lingering fatigue or uncomfortable but not unsafe conditions.

There are other times, though, that we’re better off changing the plan.

How do we know the difference? Well, it’s not always easy. Experience goes a long way in determining what the right answer is. However, there are some general guidelines that you can think through to answer the question.

Is it safe?

Thanks to HillRunner.com’s partnership with the Seattle Marathon, I work with a number of runners in the Seattle area. If you haven’t heard, smoke from the wildfires in the area has been a real problem in and around Seattle. What advice have I been giving to them? Think twice about running outside. If it’s not safe, don’t do it. Take your running inside. If that’s not an option, think of your health first and don’t run. Don’t run is not a message I like sending to uninjured runners but sometimes it’s the appropriate thing to do.

Obviously, smoke from wildfires isn’t the only safety concern you have to think about. Severe weather of any kind is what most of us will most frequently face. If the weather is dangerous, don’t run. I’ve taken off or cut runs short due to lightning, snow storms creating slippery conditions where an out of control car may hit me, and various other reasons.

How will it affect my training/what is my training goal right now?

This past winter, I went through periods where I was very fatigued. I was laying my base for this year and I was far from any races, though. So I pushed through. Right now, I’m again experiencing a lot of fatigue. I’m trying to build to a peak and roughly 2 months out from my last race of the year. I’m adjusting my plan, making my easy days extremely easy so I can still get in quality work on my hard days. I’m also constantly monitoring my condition to decide if I need to skip a hard day.

Why push through in one situation and not the other? It’s all about the circumstances.

In the winter, I wasn’t trying to peak for a race. I was trying to log a lot of miles and build stamina. Fatigue was part of the equation. So I pushed through.

Right now, I’m trying to peak for 3 races in the next 2+ months. The stamina is as good as it’s going to get and I need to work on running fast. I want to be more rested so I can push my workouts and so I can ensure I’ll be feeling good two weeks from now when I’m lining up for my first race of the season. So I do whatever is necessary on my recovery days in order to both be ready for my next workout and recover from/benefit from my prior workout.

Sometimes it can be tough to know where to draw the line between these scenarios. What would I have done in June? July? That’s where experience comes into play. If you don’t yet have the experience, it’s probably better to play it safe. Very experienced runners will often just know, it’s like a sixth sense. We just need to make sure we’re doing what we know we should be doing.

Photo credit: Run by Jerzy Sobkowicz, on Flickr

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