Training plans are NOT written in stone

As runners, we can so easily become slaves to our training plans. Miss a workout? Guilt. Change a speed workout to an easy run? Guilt. Cut a long run short a mile or two? Guilt.

But it shouldn’t be that way. This week is my last big mileage week before starting my taper for Richmond, therefore, I wanted to stick to my plan. The plan was to run speedwork (lots of it) yesterday. But, I raced hard on Saturday. My IT band got angry at me. My legs were tired. So yesterday, when my partner in crime didn’t make it to the track, I chose to run easy with my other friends. Today would be the day for speed.

Except…today I got on the treadmill with a Runverals DVD planning to run hard. I cranked up the speed during the warm-up and could tell my legs didn’t need to run fast. They needed to run easy. So–I am going to listen to my legs. Tomorrow will be another easy run.

Saturday will be my last 22-miler and there will be a significant portion of it dedicated to marathon pace. Had I done speedwork yesterday or today on my tired legs, I might not be able to accomplish that goal. Or worse, I might have pushed my IT band to its limit.

The point is, if you are consistent over the majority of your training plan, it’s ok to change  or skip a workout if your body wants you to. Listen to that little voice. Don’t feel guilty. The long-term goal–staying healthy and continuing to run–should always win out.

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  1. Heidi Austin says

    ahh it's so hard not to feel guilty.. i cut 10 min off my run this am because i slept in this am a little and was up late last nite working out… i try to remind myself it's all about balance and the big picture. life does happen :)but you are so right!

  2. Caratunk Girl says

    This is so right on – I have the guilt for sure, but thinking about consistency over the long term is more important than whether you cut that 10 miler to 8, or that hard workout to an easy one. NOW if you consistently bag the workout, that is another story! :)

  3. Kim says

    I go through this a lot. I am always worried that switching something out will RUIN my race goals. I know better, but it is still hard to remember.

  4. Jogging with Fiction says

    this is definitely a good reminder, but sometimes I like the guilt because sometimes it's what keeps me going.

  5. Aimee says

    Great post! I think a lot of people do feel guilty about skipping/modifying a workout, but it's much for important to listen to your body!

  6. Lesley @ says

    Exactly what I needed to hear today… I cut my 8-miler short today, but tried to remember that Saturday is my 22-miler, and the rest might actually be a benefit…

  7. Kiesha says

    Couldn't agree more! If I don't allow myself that freedom then running becomes a chore rather than an accomplishment.

  8. Evolving Through Running says

    Excellent advice, all the more meaningful coming from a certified coach. I tend to beat myself up a bit when I change my plans, but my injuries have forced me to listen to my assorted parts a lot more, which is a move in the right direction.

  9. track coach and adorable wife says

    As a newer runner that is good to hear from a way more experienced runner! Soon enough I will be starting my half marathon training plan (my first) and I have many injuries to watch out for, but I often guilt myself into doing stuff because I don't want to be a failure. I am glad that the body, not the plan comes first!

  10. Leah B. says

    That is so smart to listen to your body! As runners, most of us beat ourselves up for missing runs or running easy days. Good job to you and thanks for the inspiration!


    guilt pushes me more than anything else.

    can't wait for you to run Richmond. I'm sure you will do excellent!

  12. Kenley says

    Thanks for the post. Very true indeed, as I am always making adjustments here and there to my training plans. Best wishes on your next marathon!

  13. Candice @ I Have Run says

    This is a great post! You were smart to listen to your body. I think we ignore it way too much. Good luck on your 22!

  14. Regina says

    Truer words were never spoken. I feel totally guilty when I don't do the workout as prescribed. I probably always will, but I have learned to listen to my body and I get the majority of it done as planned. Nice to know I'm not alone.

  15. Lisa says

    training for my first marathon last year I made myself stick to the plan as close as possible. I only missed one long run because I was incredibly sick and it was cold and rainy that day. I have a feeling that if I had listened to my body better, like you did, then I would have finished stronger.
    Good luck with the long run this weekend!

  16. Amanda - RunToTheFinish says

    amen to this!! I think i was always afraid of a plan because i felt like it was cement and I was often weighted down by it. This week I was determined to do my speedwork but when it wasn't happenign, I stopped and decided to try later that day when it went great!

  17. ShutUpandRun says

    Yeah I think not being a slave to the plan, but just covering the overall mileage and workouts is key. That way you don't totally burn out. Flexibility is so important. And bottom line is, there is no magical plan.

  18. lindsay says

    i think i'm actually at a point where i only feel guilty if i know i am being lazy/slack, but if i know i need the rest i don't feel guilty. so, most times i feel guilty, haha.

  19. Char says

    I am following my training plan to a T at the moment. It says to run only twice this week and that's what I'll do. Yay, for recovery!

  20. Julie D. says

    I think these are the wisest words for any one who is training for something. I agree, too often we sacrifice our bodies or our races, for 'sticking' to the plan… Your reminder is going to be on the top of my list of things to remember when heading into the next cycle.

  21. Chris K says

    Does that mean our bet is off? I agree with your point, but for me, guilt is effective. It helps and I'm happy to be so committed to my goal and plan that guilt exists. Hey, different strokes….

  22. racing dawn says

    great advice. it's nice to hear/read it rather than always that little voice inside our heads… :) a little validation is nice.

  23. Johann says

    100% with you on this one. Long term goals and thinking is the key. I always adjust my runs to how I feel on the day.

  24. Barbie says

    I so very much agree with you on this. As you have read over my last couple of posts I really needed to stop and do nothing for the benefit of my body.

  25. Jennifer says

    You are so right. I am always reassessing my plan. Since my plan is made up by me any way that makes it easy! Good luck as you begin your taper for Richmond!

  26. Fran says

    Great post and you are so right.

    I'm getting better at this, at first when I missed a run or changed it, I would feel very guilty.

    Nowadays if I feel my body isn't up to a long run and I shorten it I don't feel guilty but say to myself that even though I didn't follow my plan I still did something.

    And if my legs don't feel right I run slower and still make the distance I planned. There's always a next run which usually is a great one then.

  27. Meg says

    I totally agree. On my recover runs I sometimes feel like cutting them short since my legs feel like they're barely moving. The next day, I never regret having done that. I think at this stage of training, flexibility is the key.

  28. Maryland Girl aka Michelle says

    I so needed to read that today when I am in taper and dealing with a cranky hip flexor. It needs to become un-cranky for MCM in 10 days! Resting/stretching/icing it will be.

    I try to listen to my body during training and have missed or changed things up when I life had intervened or I wasn't feeling right. The guilt and self-doubt often creep in – As in "Will I be ready?"

  29. Bethany + Ryan says

    great post!! I always have a general idea of what my trianing will be for the week but i really don't plan it out til Sunday night. I HATE having a plan (well, i do have a plan, jsut not down on paper), it just feels so wrong/stressful. I know what needs to be done and I do it, but i do it on MY time, not because a piece of paper tells me i should. i followed a plan for my first marathon back in 2004 and i never went back, it works for me.
    great post!

  30. Jason says

    Thank you so much for this great advice. I need to listen to the other little voice in my head more often, but the powerful you are not doing as much as your competitor is doing voice always yells loudest.

  31. Julie says

    I totally understand about listening to my body. I learned the hard way! I am so much at ease now knowing that I am not going to screw something up. It was hard at first not to feel guilty for missing a workout. It is no big deal…we just need to be flexible:) Great post!

  32. Black Knight says

    Great post. I agree, listen to your body and don't feel guilty. Our plan works if we are healty and in perfect shape, if we have a little problem it is better to slow down for a couple of workouts or taking a day off.

  33. Alison B., "Runbuggy" says

    I really needed a post like this! I didn't really start to get that it's okay to change the plan when you're not feeling 100% until a couple of weeks ago. I always think that everyone else must be flawlessly following their plans and I'm the only slacker who cuts a tempo run short or thinks about doing the stationary bike instead of a run to avoid injury. Thanks for the post!

  34. Meg says

    I don't feel guilty but sometimes I do feel like a slacker if I don't follow a plan exactly. I like to skimp on my recovery days and cut off two miles or so but I don't do that for long workouts or speed workouts. I also realize that when I was doing my own training plans, I was more likely to cut corners when I felt like it but having a coach as changed that! He doesn't say anything but I feel it.

  35. Colleen says

    Thanks for the reminder… we are often so hard on ourselves when in fact, we need to listen to our bodies and know we are alright!