Maintenance Question | 80/20 Endurance

Maintenance Question


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    Good Evening,
    I have two questions regarding the Maintenance plan.

    1. Since threshold testing should be done every 4-6 weeks, should I substitute some workouts to do this testing since it is not formally scheduled in the plan?

    2. I’m currently shutting down my racing season early and plan to do the Maintenance plan until next season starts (April/May). I read in other posts that it is not recommended to repeat this plan multiple times. What do you recommend to do instead (other than scheduling races/events in winter here on the east coast.


    David Warden


    Thanks for posting on our Forums. Your first question is addressed in our document Intensity Guidelines for Running (also in our document Intensity Guidelines for Triathlon, not sere which plan you have) the relevant section included here for your convenience:

    Keeping Your Zones Current
    As your fitness level changes, you will need to adjust your zones to keep them current. The easiest way to do this is to perform a Talk Test during a Foundation Run or Recovery Run whenever you feel that you have “outgrown” your current zones.

    Races, of course, are natural opportunities to update your pace zones. For example, if you complete a 5K race during Week 6 of a 12-week 10K training plan, use your 5K time to update your pace zones.

    Many athletes like to update their zones on a regular schedule. If you wish to do so, choose a preferred testing method and repeat it during every second recovery week beginning with the first recovery week of your plan. Note that recovery weeks fall every third week in all of our run plans. Thus, if you elect to perform scheduled testing, you will test in Week 3, Week 9, Week 12, etc. Your zone tests will be least disruptive to the overall training process if you do it in place of the most challenging workout of the relevant week that features efforts in Zone 3 or higher. For example, the most challenging workout featuring efforts in Zone 3 or higher in Week 9 of our Level 1 Half-Marathon Plan is a Hill Repetitions Run (RHR37). This would be the best run to replace with a test.

    Also note that if you are an intermediate- or advanced-level runner and you use heart rate as your primary intensity metric, you probably don’t need to update your zones very often. This is because LTHR doesn’t change a lot with changes in fitness once you’re past the beginner (or starting-over) phase. What you will find as you gain fitness is that you run faster and faster at the same heart rates. Indeed, one simple way to update your pace or power zones is to do a test where you run at your current known LTHR and identify the corresponding pace/power, then plug this number into the appropriate calculator. For example, if you know that your LTHR is consistently stable at 160 BPM but you notice that you’re running faster at any given HR lately, do a run where you lock into a heart rate of 160 BPM and note the corresponding pace/power. Say your pace is 7:07/mile at this HR. This, then, is your approximate Threshold Pace. It’s best to do this particular test within the context of a scheduled run that targets Zone 3.

    For your second question, you are right, the maintenance plan really should not be used for more than 3 months. It’s very difficult to “maintain” fitness for 8 months. Instead, split up your next 8 months into two distinct seasons of about 4 months each, which can include and be bridges by brief positions of the Maintenance plan.

    You say you have no events in winter on the East Coast? In the age of COVID, there is always an event. Find either a virtual 10K, HM…whatever and use it as your anchor for Season 1. It can even just be a solo treadmill event you train for on any date you choose 3 months from now. Season 2 is the same, find a virtual event or just make up your own goal for a PR. Even with a triathlon, aim for a row, bike, run at your local gym.

    Then, you start your formal training for your 2022 events.



    Thanks so much for your reply! I’m currently on the triathlon plan just for reference. For the idea of splitting the 8 months into two 4 month blocks, would that entail me switching to one of the other duration plans (20 weeks etc)? Thanks

    David Warden

    Yes, that’s an easy and reliable option, and you can use the Maintenance plan in between plans for a few weeks at a time to bridge the gap. Here is an example plan:

    Weeks 1-12: 10K plan
    Week 13: Rest
    Week 14-18: Run Maintenance plan
    Week 19-31: Tri Maintenance plan or Sprint plan
    Week 32: Start 70.3 plan



    Hi David – Question on this above, related to the triathlete who asked the original question, and this triathlete/me – are you suggesting for a triathlete who wants to maintain and improve their performance in triathlon that they should spend 12 weeks doing the 10K running plan (week 1 has 7 days of running and no swim or bike, I assume the other 11 weeks are similar), then 5 weeks of run maintenance plan with still no swim or bike, then in week 19, after 18 weeks of training that didn’t include swim or bike, pick back up swim and bike? Seems like a lot of time for a triathlete to take off of swimming and biking, doesn’t it?

    What is it about the tri maintenance plan that makes it problematic to repeat either in whole or in part?

    I am finishing up 2 weeks after 70.3 WC of no strenuous activity, am scheduled to begin IM Level 2 on Feb 14 to complete 70.3 Chattanooga on May 22 (week 14 of the plan) and then IM Lake Placid on July 24 (week 23.) I have 19 weeks ahead between Oct 4th and Feb 13th and want to spend that time optimally – what do you suggest? I am planning to begin Maintenance Plan Oct 4, week 12 concludes Dec 26, take a week Dec 27 to Jan 2 a bit more relaxed if not totally void of structured training, and then repeat Weeks 7-12 of the maintenance plan from Jan 3 to Feb 13, going right into IM Level 2 Feb 13. How should I modify my plans to still be active in swim, bike and run but address your concerns?



    Thinking more about this… eager to put a plan in place because the schedule, whatever it is, begins on Monday… I see two potential options for my time from Oct 4 to Feb 13 before I begin the Ironman Level 2 plan on Feb 14…

    1. 12 weeks Maintenance Tri Plan, then 1 week during Xmas-New Years week dialing things back some coinciding well with a week that can be tough for scheduled training, then another 6 weeks repeating the half of the Maintenance Tri Plan (weeks 7-12.)

    2. Olympic Level 3 plan – 18 of the 19 week plan… Since there are only 19 weeks between Oct 4 and Feb 13, and we’d want to have a week off after the end of the Olympic L3 plan, that places a virtual race on Feb 5-6, and I would skip week 1 and do the last 18 weeks of the plan (with some “red” workouts expected the week of Dec 27 to Jan 2.)

    Maybe there is another option I’m missing…

    Evaluating these two options above… on one hand, I have been looking forward to some “off season” after finishing 70.3 WC, and if I start up option 2 Monday, that seems to mean my off season is over after the last 2 weeks… Some less intense time where protecting and executing my workout schedule aren’t always my top priorities each day, and I know I will be going deeper into training next May-June for IM Lake Placid (first 140.6) than I ever have before and that training volume next year will be difficult for those around me and me.

    Looking at this time from a slightly different perspective, when I think about what I want to accomplish before Feb 14 IM L2 kickoff, I would like to make gains in my cFTP and rFTP. I don’t want to spend 19 weeks treading water on fitness. I recognize that my endurance will, and should drop in the next 19 weeks because it’s not productive to just try to maintain that year round, but to the degree I can make gains in cFTP and rFTP before Feb 13 that would position me well for improved race performance in 2022. Would 18 weeks of Oly L3 be a better way to make cFTP and rFTP gains than the Maintenance Plan? Is my 2 weeks break (so far) enough of a break before kicking back into gear on training (I realize I’d also be giving myself a week off after Oly plan before IM plan if I go this path.)

    Which way would you recommend I go for the strongest Ironman 70.3 finish on May 22, 2022 and Ironman finish on July 24, 2022?

    David Warden

    Ted, give me a couple more days on this one.


    Thanks, David. Would be great to be able to plan my training that starts this week based on your guidance.

    David Warden


    My reply was an example to afcmd, and not a general recommendation. afcmd had 32 weeks before the start of formal training. My answer would be different for 10 weeks, 18 weeks, 25 weeks, 32, weeks, or 45 weeks that needed to be filled in before A race training started. There are many, many ways to spend 32 weeks of maintenance, that was one example and not the ideal.

    Fortunately, even in that example, all of our run plans include cross-training options for swim and bike. So, afcmd could do nothing but run plans, add swim and bike into the appropriate crooss-training options (essentially any RF workout) and enter their Ironman training ready to go.

    Regarding the Maintenance plan, I just didn’t write it for fitness gains. It’s written to maintain fitness for maybe 12-18 weeks. What makes it that way? It’s has a lower ramp rate and lower volume than a plan I would want to peak for. Also, no taper. It’s just a general fitness plan, not a peak fitness plan.

    Let me borrow a technique I learned from Matt Fitzgerald and use a “thought experiment.” Why not just use the Maintenance plan for 30 weeks? 50 weeks? 100 weeks? When you extend the possibility out further it becomes clear that there must be an upper limit of effectiveness somewhere, and I feel good about 18 weeks as an upper limit.

    You have two very good options to cover your 19 weeks. It’s not a matter of bad or good options, it’s a matter of really good and really good options. It depends on your priorities:

    1. An advantage of doing the maintenance plan 1.5x is
    – Lower risk of burnout (not training on a formal plan for ~40 straight weeks)
    – More time for other non-training tasks
    – Less stress and more flexibility to miss workouts

    2. An advantage of the Oly plan is
    – Higher fitness base heading into A race training
    – More likely to meet your FTP goals

    With that in mind, the best option for the strongest Ironman 70.3 finish on May 22, 2022 and Ironman finish on July 24, 2022 is the Oly plan option BUT you can’t repeat this pattern of 40 weeks of training year after year. You can get away with it for a year or two, but sooner or later you need a longer break without a formal fitness-building training plan.



    Thank you, David! This is super helpful to me and I bet others too. I have seen some other similar questions pop up on the forum so anticipate these questions about off season and season planning will have evergreen demand.

    Marius T

    Hi David,

    In the same scenario that Ted exposed, but for a less ambitious competitor, can a Sprint plan be used to achieve similar results (cFTP and rFTP gains)?

    Thank you,

    David Warden

    Marius, I feel less confident in the Sprint plan for building FTP than the Oly or Maintenance plan. I’d say the Sprint would improve FTP for a weaker cyclist (under 3.0 power-to-weight ratio), but the Maintenance plan would be better, and the OLy plan even better. We also have a dedicated cycling FTP plan coming out by December.

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