Maintain Your Fitness With The Untraining Training Plan

Women runners are a fantastically motivated bunch. We run in addition to working, mothering, wife-ing, styling, schooling, and more. Our lives outside of running are more than a full-time job, and yet we keep lacing up and putting in the miles day after day. Week after week. Year after year. And, for most of us (or most of what we read about), that daily running and #extrasalt routine is dedicated towards a specific race or a specific race goal. Our training plans are geared towards a specific goal, which is the way they should be, according to motivation research.

But what if training for a race or a running goal isn’t what you want to be doing right now (or what you can’t be doing right now)? How do you create a running training plan to train for life and maintain your fitness so that when and if you do decide it’s time to race again, you are ready to start?

Maintaining, not training, is my goal right now. Race-specific training simply isn’t what I want to spend my time and energy on. However, I had been racing for so long, that I didn’t know how not train. Instead, I just wanted to maintain my health and stay in shape, if only to make sure I’m warding off osteoporosis, still able to fit into my favorite leggings (just kidding, this is why I wear leggings), and to combat stress. To do all of those things, I know I need to do more than just run, which is why I’ve worked hard to create this untraining training plan that is manageable, takes about an hour every day (30 minutes in a pinch), and doesn’t require any special equipment.

According to the CDC, we need to be getting in 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise and at least two strength training sessions a week. This is the official minimum; research summarized in the most recent Yoga Journal article suggests that the real minimum is a combination of the following: cardio, HIIT or interval training (1-2 times per week), stretching (at least once a week), weight/resistance training (twice a week), and jumping (once a week or more; running may count as jumping as it relates to bone strength).

These requirements may seem complicated at first, but I’ve created a weekly training schedule that you can tailor to your available time and interests. Best part, since we aren’t training for a race, you can feel free to reorganize and swap days as you please (with the exception of strength training – don’t do two strength training sessions in a row).

The Plan:

Monday: Recovery/Rest or Easy Yoga (stretching workout 1)

Tuesday: 30-45 minutes Running/Other Cardio with Intervals (Get intervals done quickly with Tabata)

Wednesday: 30 minutes easy running; Strength Training Session 1

Thursday: 30 minutes easy running/cardio; 30 minutes yoga

Friday: Functional Training with jumping

Saturday: 60 minutes easy run

Sunday: 30 minutes easy run/cardio (optional); Strength training Session 2

You can mix and match your favorite non-running cardio and strength/flexibility workouts in as you like, as long as you’re meeting the basic guidelines over a week (150 minutes cardio, 2 strength training, 1 HIIT, 1 jumping, 1 stretching).

For example, one week of my non-training training plan looked like this:

Monday: 45 minutes brisk walking: 20 minutes strength yoga

Tuesday: 40 minutes easy running

Wednesday: 30 minutes functional training with jumping

Thursday: Strength Training (TRX)

Friday: 45 minutes cycling

Saturday: 60 minutes running

Sunday: 30 minutes running with internals

I also substitute in bouldering for functional training, Pilates for yoga, swimming for cardio, and even combine my HIIT with jumping. As long as I’m getting the minimum, I feel good, sleep better, and maintain my weight and general fitness. If I do decide, at some point in the future, to start racing again, I know I’ll have a base level of fitness to build from.

How do you train when you aren’t focused on a race?

Note: Everyone is different. Some may need more than the minimum recommendations to maintain their healthy weight. Speak with your doctor before beginning any exercise routine. 

Ultrarunner, adventurer, academic, and feminist. Running Across the USA in 2021. I write about ultrarunning, adventuring, and the intersection of endurance athletics and life.

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  1. Great post! It was exactly what I was looking for. I found it especially helpful how you framed the untraining plan – working out for health and maintaining enough of a base level of fitness that you can more easily enter a training plan when ready. I’m so used to always training for something and struggle that when I’m not, nothing is as good enough as running fast and in shape. You can still be in shape overall while being out of race shape. That’s a new concept to me. Thanks, Cilantro! And the CDC Guidelines were also helpful.

    1. Yes, I used to feel that way too! I started realizing that I was healthier when I wasn’t training hard, so this helped me to find a healthy way to keep running in my lifestyle, without the negative payout.