Maintenance running Plan
Of course, there is a huge difference between cutting back training and taking time completely off. If you stop training altogether, your fitness will decrease significantly in two to three weeks. In the first week, your running performance is likely to actually improve as your body recovers from the fatigue of training, but shortly thereafter your fitness level will start to slide. If you keep training at a reduced level, however, you can sustain a high level of fitness for several months. How long you can prevent detraining with a decreased training load depends on how you go about reducing your training. The goal is to find the minimal level of training stimulus that will prevent losses in hard-earned physiological adaptations such as increased aerobic enzyme activity, heart "stroke volume" and capillary density.
Volume vs. Intensity
If you cut back the volume of your training (i.e. how often you train and/or how far you run), you can maintain your fitness level for a surprisingly long time. Studies have found that when either the number of runs per week or the distance of each run is reduced (while the intensity of training is unchanged) a runner’s aerobic conditioning can be maintained for three to four months. You can reduce your training volume by one third with very little effect on fitness, and reductions of up to two-thirds cause only a slow loss of physiological adaptations. When the intensity of training is reduced (even while the volume of training is sustained), however, then aerobic fitness and racing performances decline more quickly.
If you are going into "maintenance mode, " therefore, keeping up your training intensity is the key to maintaining your running performance. You will hold off detraining by sticking with your normal training pace as you shorten your training runs or cut back the number of days you run per week.
Training two days per week is the bare minimum to prevent rapid losses in fitness. If you are having the ultimate week from hell at work and are struggling to get out the door to train, then doing two runs will go a long way towards preventing detraining. In those situations, resist the temptation to "write off" the week as a lost cause.
Maintenance Training Program
The training program below is for Jean or any runner who typically trains about six times per week. The mileage is reduced by 40 percent, and the number of runs per week is cut back from six to four. A key component of this maintenance program is the 12 mile long run, which is far enough to retain endurance-based adaptations, but short enough so that Jean won’t be too drained on a hot day.
The schedule also calls for one tempo run per week. Jean