How to Hang on to Peak Fitness

How to Hang on to Peak Fitness

Have a question about running? You’re in the right place. Every Tuesday, world-renowned coach, author and athlete Hal Higdon posts and answers athlete questions here. You can submit your question by joining the discussions on Hal Higdon’s Virtual Training Bulletin Boards.


I was hoping you could help me (again) with some advice on an unfortunate situation. I used your Advanced 2 program this year to train for the Pocono Marathon. Due to a death in the family, I could not compete. Worse, I probably will not be able to run a marathon until September due to the nature of my career and lack of local races between now and then. I am looking possibly at a marathon in Allentown, Pennsylvania in September. I have improved much lately and want to continue to do so. How do I hang onto peak fitness?


It’s tough when you reach a peak of fitness only to lose the opportunity to perform. Yes, we do want payback, a moment of glory, after all the work training. Between now and September, you will not lose fitness. And maintaining it is not all that hard. The only danger is that you can become “too fit” if you remain at the peak for too long a period of time. You can become stale, overtrained, and while there is some risk of injury, more the problem is decreased motivation to grind out the miles without focus or fulfillment. Three months is a long time to stay atop the peak.

So let’s take our eye off the prize, at least for a short period of time. I would downsize to a short-distance program and work on your speed for a month or two, maybe maintaining some long-run mileage measured in minutes or hours on the weekends rather than miles, then segue back into Advanced 2, or even drop back to Advanced 1. The time you spent this spring was not wasted. You simply need to find a way to benefit from your fitness rather than using it to overtrain yourself into a corner.

Hal Higdon

Hal Higdon is a Contributing Editor for'Runner's World'and author of 34 books, including the best-selling'Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide. He ran eight times in the Olympic Trials and won four world masters championships. Higdon estimates that more than a quarter million runners have finished marathons using his training programs, and he also offers additional interactive programs at all distances through TrainingPeaks.Hal uses'TrainingPeaks'to power his interactive marathon and half marathon training plans.'Check out more of Hal Higdon's training plans here'or on'his website.