How to Adjust a Training Plan After Missing a Few Weeks

The key to adjusting your plan is to start from where you are, fitness-wise, and not where you hoped to be.


Isabella asks: I’m training for a marathon and my training took a hit over holidays. How do I catch up? I’ve got 15 weeks to train, but my plan calls for 18 weeks of preparation. I’m currently running four times per week and 10km for my long run, but the plan says I should be running 16km this weekend.


First, put your concerns aside. You have a solid base of training miles, and you have time to prepare fully for your marathon.


The second step is to take your current training plan and tweak it to create a solid Plan B. By making a new plan, you avoid the stress of trying to catch up or fretting that you haven’t caught up yet.


Let’s start by looking at what you might already have – a hypothetical Plan A – and how you might alter it to create a reasonable Plan B:


Week 1: 12km

Week 2: 14km

Week 3: 16km

Week 4: 12km

Week 5: 17km

Week 6:  19km

Week 7: 12km

Week 8: 22km

Week 9: 25km

Week 10: 12km

Week 11: 28km

Week 12:  12km

Week 13: 32km

Week 14: 12km

Week 15: 32km

Week 16: 16km

Week 17: 9-11km

Week 18: Marathon


Shave weeks off the end and the middle. Rather than jumping ahead now, it’s better to shave weeks off the end and middle of your current program. If you look at the following Plan B versus the original Plan A long runs, you have a safe buildup early on to avoid injury, a slightly shorter taper at the end, and fewer long runs in the middle. This will allow your body time to adapt to the progression early on, safely get in the longer miles, and avoid injuries that happen when adding too much distance early or later on.


PLAN B – A 15-Week Long-Run Progression (healthy, but behind)

Week 1: 11km

Week 2: 12km

Week 3:  14km

Week 4: 9km

Week 5: 16km

Week 6: 19km

Week 7: 11km

Week 8: 22km

Week 9:  25km

Week 10: 12km

Week 11: 18km

Week 12: 12km

Week 13: 32km

Week 14: 9-11km

Week 15: Marathon!


If you’ve been sick, go with Plan C. If you’re a little behind in mileage but you missed training due to being sick, Plan C is a better choice. That’s because for every day you’re sick, you should invest two days to recover.


If you’re out for three days, it’s wise to spend almost a week to return to where you left off. In this case, I would recommend a more modified approach with your long runs in addition to these strategies to gently return to your training:


  • First Week Back: The first week post-illness should include short 30- to 40-minute runs at an easy effort to allow your body time to get back into running without a lot of stress, and a shorter long run of 8km at the end of the week.


  • Second Week Back: The second week back would include the same amount of training time you were doing pre-sickness, but all the workouts would be done at an easy effort to balance the stress load.


  • Third Week Back: The third week weave higher intensity workouts like tempo, hills or speedwork back into your regimen (if you were doing them before or have them on your plan) and continue to build your long run distance.


  • The long run buildup should still be gradual at the beginning, but due to the illness, the longest run should be 28km.


PLAN C – A 15-Week Long-Run Progression (sick and behind)

Week 1: 8km

Week 2: 9km

Week 3:  11km

Week 4: 12km

Week 5: 9km

Week 6: 14km

Week 7: 16km

Week 8: 11km

Week 9:  19km

Week 10: 22km

Week 11: 12km

Week 12: 25km

Week 13: 28km

Week 14: 9-11km

Week 15: Marathon!


The key is to always start from where you are – rather than where your Plan A says you should be – and build safely. The goal is to toe the start line healthy, rested and ready to run a strong race.



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