Do you really need a training plan? Some runners don't like the structure of a training plan but can you hit your goals without one?

Stephanieruns Fitness

March 3, 2019 Newsletter

Do I Need a Training Plan?

A lot of runners like to get up, lace up and get out the door for a run. They like to wing it with their runs often running similar distances and paces for most of their runs. I see this all the time. I review runner's training plans as part the running strategy sessions I offer and see this time and time again. I love the phrase 'a goal without a plan is just a wish.' This is very true when it comes to running and training. If you're getting up and running everyday without a plan, you're healthy and running but you're not working or pushing towards a goal efficiently. 

Today I want to go over if you need a training plan, spoiler as a trainer and coach I'm a big believer in plans. In fact I create and sell training plans. However there are times you can be a little more carefree and flexible with your running and not utilize a training plan. I am well aware that not every runner likes to follow a training plan but when you're training for a race it is the best way to ensure you're prepared and that your goal is realistic. I recommend you have and follow a training plan any time you have a specific goal. Your training plan is your roadmap to help you reach your goal.

Let's talk about when you don't you need a training plan. There are times when you can be a bit more carefree and flexible with your training. This is for the most part when you don't have a specific goal in mind. You're looking to maintain your current level of fitness or even take a break from long runs and switch up your fitness routine. This can also be when you've lost your love and spark for running. Sometimes following a training plan can make you feel like a robot, and your running is a little too routine. Which means you need to switch it up and remember why you fell in love with running. So here are the times I think it's okay not to have a training plan:

1) You're not training for a race. If you're not training for a race there's no specific plan you need to follow. Of course if you're looking to maintain your conditioning there are mileages you want to hit, but you can be much more flexible with your training.

2) You just completed your goal race. Once you've trained and ran your goal race you probably need a bit of a break. After some rest and active recovery you might not want to jump back into a training plan. This is a time to take advantage of not having a training plan and enjoy running. This can help re-energize your training and help you prepare for your next training cycle.

3) In a period of extreme weather you might want to forgo your training plan. If you have a hot and humid summer or a freezing cold icy winter it can throw your training plan off. If you're not training for a spring or fall race this gives you an opportunity to not strictly follow a training plan. I find when you have a training plan and extreme weather it can make you anxious when you can't hit all your workouts. Take that away by not strictly following a training plan.

4) You need a break from training. If you're always in a training cycle it can become more of a job than something we do for fun. Sometimes we need to rip up our training plan and 'un-train.' I consider un-training running and working out on your own terms. you can find new workouts and classes and recharge yourself.

When was the last time you didn't follow a training plan? If you're training for a race of have a specific goal like getting faster I would recommend you follow a training plan. There certainly are times when you don't need a training plan or you don't strictly need to follow a training plan. You need to judge where you are and what's best for you.

Weekly Challenge: Review Your Plan

This week I want to challenge you to review your training plan. Ideally this would happen before you start your training plan, but reviewing your training plan should be something that happens way more often then most of us do it. I want you to review the following things.

1) Does your training plan fit your life? Are you able to get in all your workouts around life, family and work obligations? Does it feel like a chore to make time to workout?

2) Does your training plan challenge you? Your training plan needs to push you forward towards your goals. It shouldn't be too challenging that you can't accomplish it, but over time you should see progress with your training and improvements.

3) If your training plan helping you reach your goals? Are you going to be able to crush your goal by following this training plan? Is it setting you up for success?

These are great questions to start with. They should give you a good chance to dive deeper into your training plan and make sure it works for you. One of the services I offer is reviewing your training plan and making suggestions. If you want a deeper look into your training plan with some actionable recommendations send me an e-mail at I'd be happy to help!

How Do I Know a Plan is Right For Me?

This is a question you should be asking yourself every time you're reviewing a training plan. When I design training plans for my athletes I take the time to get to know my athlete and their life. I believe that your training plan should fit into your life. If your training doesn't fit into your life it can seem like a chore and you can get sick of it pretty quickly. I also believe that we train to add value to our lives, which means if your training doesn't fit into your life it can easily take over your life.

Your training plan also needs to fit your athletic capability and it needs to be realistic. When you're googling for training plans it's easy to find ones that are above your current fitness level. They might promise certain goals, but hands down your training plan needs to set you up for success not failure. Your training plan should build you up. Yes it can be a slow process to build yourself up, but trust me it's worth the work.

Your training plan also needs to fit your goals. If your goal is to become a faster runner then your training plan should help you work towards that. Just as if your goal is to run a half marathon your training plan should set you up for that.

Every time you start a new training plan you need to review it and see if it fits you and your life. Your training plan should push you forward towards your goals but also fit seamlessly like a glove.


You can find my training plans on my Training Peak's store. I'm always updating and adding more plans. If there's something you want to see let me know!

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Stephanieruns Fitness

461 North Service Rd West
Oakville Ontario,  L6M 2V5 - Canada

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Disclaimer: Always seek medical advice before starting an exercise program. This newsletter is not medical advice. Medical advice should be sought from a medical professional. Stephanieruns Fitness assumes no liability for any injuries or damages as a result of the above content.