How to Adjust a Training Plan After Missing a Few Weeks

If you’re a few weeks behind in your plan, it’s far wiser—and safer—to sit down and figure out how to adjust it than to simply jump in where you ought to be.

Isabella asks: I’m training for a marathon and my training took a hit over the 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 nine kilometres for my long run, but the plan says I should be running 16 kilometres this weekend.

First, put your concerns aside. You have a solid base of training kilometres, 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: 12 kilometres

Week 2: 14 kilometres

Week 3: 16 kilometres

Week 4: 13 kilometres

Week 5: 17 kilometres

Week 6:  19 kilometres

Week 7: 13 kilometres

Week 8: 22 kilometres

Week 9: 26 kilometres

Week 10: 13 kilometres

Week 11: 28 kilometres

Week 12: 13 kilometres

Week 13: 32 kilometres

Week 14: 13 kilometres

Week 15: 32 kilometres

Week 16: 16 kilometres

Week 17: 9-11 kilometres

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: 11 kilometres

Week 2: 13 kilometres

Week 3: 14 kilometres

Week 4: 10 kilometres

Week 5: 16 kilometres

Week 6: 19 kilometres

Week 7: 11 kilometres

Week 8: 22 kilometres

Week 9:  25 kilometres

Week 10: 13 kilometres

Week 11: 29 kilometres

Week 12: 13 kilometres

Week 13: 32 kilometres

Week 14: 9-11 kilometres

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 eight kilometres 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 plan (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 a 29 kilometre run.

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

Week 1: 8 kilometres

Week 2: 9 kilometres

Week 3:  11 kilometres

Week 4: 13 kilometres

Week 5:  9 kilometres

Week 6: 9 kilometres

Week 7: 16 kilometres

Week 8: 11 kilometres

Week 9:  19 kilometres

Week 10: 22 kilometres

Week 11: 13 kilometres

Week 12: 25 kilometres

Week 13: 29 kilometres

Week 14: 9-11 kilometres

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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