Today we’re addressing one of our most frequently asked questions: “What do I do when I need to make an adjustment to my training plan?” If it’s a training plan from Higher Running, we give you some advice in our Training Guide (included with every training plan) on what to do if you get sick, have a family obligation, or whatever else comes up in life. Today, however, Coach Sage is going to take a bit of a deeper dive into how to adjust your training when life gets in the way:

I’m excited to dive into a crucial aspect of running that often gets overlooked – adapting your training plan when life throws unexpected challenges your way. Many of us, especially those who are self-coached, tend to stick rigidly to our plans. But let’s face it: life is unpredictable, and learning to adjust is a key skill for any runner.

On, we offer what some might call “cookie-cutter” plans, but the reality is far from that. We rate these plans based on various factors such as weekly mileage, training background, and the precious commodity of time. But here’s the catch – modifying a plan isn’t a one-size-fits-all endeavor. Life’s hiccups, be it illness, time constraints, or minor injuries, force us to reassess and adapt.

Let’s talk about illness. It’s not a black-and-white scenario. The severity of symptoms matters. A persistent cough, fever, or other more serious signs might warrant a more extended break. However, missing one high-intensity workout doesn’t mean the end of the world. It’s the overall consistency that shapes your fitness journey. I’m not going to touch on this too much in today’s newsletter, as I broke this down extensively quite recently. You can check that out HERE.

Time constraints present another challenge. Life can throw a curveball, especially when work demands or family commitments suddenly take priority. Picture this: extra hours at the office, sleep slipping away, and all your energy—both mental and physical—getting sucked into a demanding work project or deadline. Your boss and co-workers might be throwing extra tasks your way, making running the last thing on your mind. On the flip side, family matters, like holiday commitments or unexpected emergencies, can disrupt your routine. Making dinner for the in-laws, dealing with school issues with your kids, or heading out on vacation—all these things mean less sleep, more stress, and running dropping down your priority list. It’s not just about skipping a few days; it’s about realizing that your whole plan might be thrown off balance. Juggling time constraints and added stress, both mentally and physically, can make it tougher to gear up for a hard run or workout. When you’re mentally drained from extra work, sleep deprivation, and less-than-ideal nutrition, finding the motivation for a challenging run becomes a real struggle. It’s a delicate balance, considering the mental and physical toll that stress can take on your energy levels and enthusiasm for your running routine. This will be something that you will probably have to figure out for yourself. Are there better days of the work for you to do workouts? Are you going to have to move around a rest day due to a family obligation? Understanding what will work best for you takes time, but we can never stress enough to listen to your body and take care of yourself.

Considering your injury history is also a crucial piece of the puzzle when tailoring your running plan. The goal is to build a robust aerobic base by hitting higher mileage, but there’s a delicate balance to strike. We want you to push your limits without risking injury, overtraining, or compromising your speed and intensity. The last thing you need is to fall victim to sickness or injury. That’s precisely why we offer different levels of training plans and varying durations.

Some plans span 12 weeks, while others stretch to 16. We might even recommend dedicating 3 or 4 weeks to building an easy aerobic base. In certain cases, we suggest starting with our FREE Aerobic Base Building Plan before diving into the main training plans. The decision hinges on your experience level and your specific injury or overtraining history. It’s all about crafting a plan that aligns with your individual needs and minimizes the risk of setbacks.

And then there’s the unavoidable – travel. Whether it’s for work or leisure, sometimes you’re on the move. Adjusting key workouts by a couple of days can be acceptable, but here’s the golden rule – don’t stray too far from the core plan. There’s a method to the madness in training plans, and excessive alterations can backfire.

However, I want to stress the big picture. The goal is to have a consistent sequence of workouts stretched over weeks and months. Whether your goal is reaching peak fitness, hitting a personal record, qualifying for the Boston Marathon, conquering an ultramarathon, or acing your fastest 5k, it all boils down to the accumulation of efforts. Imagine it like building a puzzle—one piece at a time. It’s not just about one or two workouts; it’s about the dozens of them, including those easy days that might seem less intense but play a crucial role in shaping your overall fitness.

Let’s say you miss one of those long runs. Take a deep breath; it’s not the end of the world. In a well-structured training plan, you’re likely to have more of those big long runs coming up—maybe half a dozen or even up to ten in a standard marathon training plan. So, keep the big picture in mind and remember that consistency over time is the real secret sauce to achieving your running goals.

Coaching, as I’ve learned over the years, is a blend of science and art. It involves understanding genetics, mental attitudes, lifestyle factors, age, and more. It’s complex, and we’re just scratching the surface.

Questions? Always feel free to send us an email: support@higherrunning, and we’ll get right back to you.

Happy Running!

Coach Sage Canaday