Stay in shape off-season with the right maintenance running plan

Training doesn’t always need to be towards a specific goal; the time between your last race and the moment you decide to start to prepare for the next one is just as important. Become a better runner with the right maintenance training plan.

Man running in the city.

How to train during off-season

The key to reaching your top running potential is consistency and dedication – and that also includes off-season training. 

Off-season is a time when you don’t train for a specific upcoming goal. This doesn’t mean that you stop running, though – it simply means that you reduce the intensity.

The main purpose of maintenance running plans is to help you maintain your fitness level and your hard-earned performance gains as much as possible, while also giving you enough time to recover from any lingering fatigue or past injuries.

Depending on where you live, the specific weather conditions, the dates of your next races, and your own schedule and preferences, “off-season” might happen during the winter or summer months – or at any other time of the year, really. 

Maintenance training is also a time when you can simply take a step back, allow your body to recover, and focus on the joy of running, without the pressure of an upcoming race.

Consistency and accountability are as important for maintenance running as for training for a specific (distance- or time-related) goal. Some of the best ways to stay in shape during off-season are to:

  • Keep your weekly running routine while reducing the intensity and/or mileage
  • Put running sessions in your calendar to keep them top-of-mind
  • Sign up for your next race – even if it’s further away, having a future goal will help you stay motivated 
  • Make running a social activity: Run with friends, join a running club, or find a running buddy in your neighborhood

To help you with all this, we’ve built Runna, a dedicated running coaching app that you can use to build your own personalized maintenance running plan that sets all training sessions for you, enabling you to focus on the pleasure of running.

In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about maintenance and off-season running: how to choose the right maintenance running plan, how to stay in shape, how to use strength training to support your objectives, and more. 

Our personalized maintenance running plans

No matter whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned runner with plenty of experience, slowing down is sometimes necessary – and one of the best ways to still maintain your running performance is to use a personalized maintenance running plan that adapts to your preferences, current running level, and schedule. 

A tailored maintenance running plan will help you make the most of your off-season training, stay in shape, and make the transition into training for a goal much easier. 

With Runna, your running coaching app, you get a personalized running maintenance plan that:

  • Sets out all training sessions for you
  • Automatically adjusts your mileage and types of runs to your performance and preferences
  • Provides you with strength training sessions adapted to the equipment you have
  • Helps you manage your recovery and nutrition

In short, having a balanced maintenance running plan will help you stay on track and enable you to improve your running game week after week.

Whether you are a beginner looking to build and maintain a running habit or are an elite runner with countless races under your belt, our plans will adapt to your goals and level. Pick the one that best suits you: 

12 week running maintenance plan

Between races and want to keep your hard-earned fitness? 

Get some fun sessions and new personal bests! With this plan, you can maintain and improve your fitness and get ready to smash your upcoming running goals. 

Runna sets out every session for you, so you can focus purely on your running game and not lose the results of all that hard work you’ve put into your training. You can also add personalized strength training sessions to it. 

This plan is suitable both for beginners and experienced runners: 

  • If you’re a beginner, you’ll receive a variety of runs from intervals and tempo sessions to build a solid fitness base. Long runs will help you gradually build your endurance so you can meet your next goals head-on.
  • If you’re a more experienced runner, you’ll be working on improving your speed performance with faster sessions, while long runs will help you enhance your ability to run a whole range of distances.

16 week running maintenance plan

Have more time between races? You can simply repeat a couple of weeks of our 12-week maintenance plan to stay in shape. 

We’ll set out all your training sessions, so that you can focus on improving up your running game and maintaining your fitness level. This plan is for runners of all levels; with it, you’ll get a variety of training sessions, from tempo and interval running to long runs – and you can even add optional strength training to the mix. 

3 week post-race recovery plan (5k, 10k, 10 miles)

Just finished a 5k, a 10k, or 10-mile race and wondering how to best recover from it? This plan is the perfect fit. 

We’ll help you actively recover from your race to get you back into peak condition.

This 3 week post-race recovery plan uses a combination of easy runs, gentler intervals, and some longer runs, to help you get back into top shape, ready to smash your upcoming goals or transition to a maintenance running plan. 

We’ll structure each week and set out every session for you. This way, you can simply focus on leveling up your running game. 

3 week post-race recovery plan (long distances)

Still on that new-PB high and wondering what’s the best way to recover from a race? Then this plan is for you.

We’ll help you actively recover – whether you ran a half-marathon, marathon or even ultramarathon – to get you back into peak condition. 

We'll work with you to gradually build back your running with a combination of easy runs, gentler interval sessions, and long runs to help you get in the best possible position to maintain your fitness level and double down on training for the next goal – or switch to a maintenance running plan. 

We’ll set out each running session for you, and you can even add some strength training to the mix. With the logistics taken care of, all you have to do is focus on your running game.

6 week returning to running plan

If you have some experience with running but haven't run for a while, this returning-to-running plan will help you get back to running a 5k in just 6 weeks. 

It sets out all running sessions for you, based on your schedule and preferences, so that you can simply focus on becoming a better runner. It features all the running essentials for beginners, including a mix of walking and running sessions, optional strength training, and plenty of running tips and advice on your nutrition and recovery. 

Rediscover running and get back on track quickly, regardless of your current running ability. 

8 week get fit plan

Once you get to running a 5k comfortably and without stopping or walking, you can switch to this plan to get fitter and faster, develop healthy habits, and build a sustainable weekly running routine in just 8 weeks. 

In it, you’ll get an introduction to intervals and structured training sessions, plus lots of easy runs to build a solid fitness base and gradually improve your running skills.

With time, you’ll gradually improve your speed with faster sessions and build up your endurance with long runs to prepare you to run a range of distances. 

Take your running to the next level

Start your plan today for just $17.99 per month / $109.99 per year.

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First week free. Cancel anytime.

Maintenance running nutrition

Training is only one part of the equation of becoming a better runner. Nutrition is an essential element that’ll fuel your recovery and help you reach your goals, regardless of whether you’re aiming to get faster or simply maintain your running performance during the off-season. Making healthy choices on a daily basis is key for this.

During maintenance training, you need to:

  • Eat enough protein to facilitate muscle recovery
  • Increase your carbs slightly before more challenging sessions

If you’re looking to boost your speed or increase the intensity of a given session, we encourage you to experiment with caffeine, too. 

Carb-loading is not necessary off-season, but carbs are still a great way to fuel your runs. Before you step out the door for your next run, eat a carb-rich meal or snack. 

Keep in mind that carb-rich doesn’t mean high in sugar, though. Prioritize complex carbohydrates, such as oats, whole grain, quinoa, sweet potatoes, and fruits. 

Running for weight loss: Is it possible to lose weight by running?

In short, yes, it’s possible to lose weight by running, but you need to be mindful of what you’re eating. To lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you consume – and movement can definitely help you use more energy. 

If you’re running to lose weight, keep in mind that when you start running, your appetite will probably also increase. So, if you’re not making an active effort to eat less and make more healthy choices, you might end up actually eating more. 

The best way to set yourself up for success is to combine running with a healthy diet, an overall increase in your activity level (for example, by cycling or walking more), a reduction in your caloric intake, and some strength training. And if you’re running for abs, strength training is a must.

Cross-training and strength training

Off-season is the ideal time to double down on cross-training and strength training. This will help you achieve two things: reduce the risk of injuries and improve your running performance, helping you prepare better for your next race. 

Cross-training adds variety to your training regimen and keeps things fun. Cycling, swimming, boxing, rowing, functional training, yoga, or hiking are just a few of the many excellent cross-training options out there – but what’s most important is to choose a sport you enjoy.

Strength training improves your running economy by 8-12%, enabling you to become a faster runner. It also enables your muscles to manage loads better and therefore helps protect against injuries.

Runna enables you to add a fully customized strength training plan to your running program. Tailor it to your strength level, equipment, preferences, and the time you have available to make the most of your training. 

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Take your running to the next level

Your personalized running coach with tailored training plans to achieve your goals, from running a faster 5k to finishing your first marathon.

Download on the App Store.Get it on Google Play.
First week free. Cancel anytime.

Types of runs to help you stay in top shape: speed work, long runs, easy runs

The best approach to maintaining your running performance when you’re not training for a specific goal is to vary your workouts and use different types of runs.

Long runs

Maintenance training involves long runs, which help build up your endurance and speed. Getting used to running longer distances at slower speeds will help you run faster when training for shorter distances, too.

Speed work

To run faster, you need to practice running at faster speeds. Speed work is not the focus of maintenance running, but you can still use it in your training. There are two main ways to approach this:

  • Do interval training: Interval training means running faster for shorter periods and walking between laps. This way, your body adapts to running at higher speeds and you become a faster runner even for longer distances. 
  • Use tempo sessions: Tempo sessions mean running a bit above your usual pace but for longer stretches – and between them, you jog rather than walk. This helps you build up your tolerance for faster running and improves your speed performance.

Easy runs

Easy runs are the cornerstone of any successful maintenance running program. 

Strenuous training sessions can be very demanding and require adequate recovery. And if you aren’t giving your body enough time to recover, you risk injuring yourself. 

The answer? Easy runs. 

Easy runs are less taxing on your body but are also very helpful for building your strength and endurance. Use the 80/20 principle in your maintenance training: Do easy runs 80% of the time and train at or above your threshold pace the remaining 20% of your time.

As featured in

Maintenance training: Weekly mileage and intensity

So, what should be the intensity of your maintenance training sessions? And what weekly mileage should you aim for? 

Off-season training typically means training at lower intensity and reducing your weekly mileage somewhat. 

Here are some key principles to keep in mind: 

  • Reduce your weekly mileage to 70% of your peak season mileage
  • Reduce the amount of speed work
  • Do more strength training and cross training 
  • Continue doing mobility work

If you’ve just completed a race, and especially if it was a long-distance event, you need to reduce your weekly mileage and the intensity of your training sessions to give your body enough time to repair itself and recover from the stress of the race.

For this, you can use one of our post-race training plans, which set out your training regimen for the three weeks after a race. Then, you can switch to our 12 week maintenance running plan to stay in top shape and keep your hard-earned performance gains.

Take your running to the next level

Start your plan today for just $17.99 per month / $109.99 per year.

Download on the App Store.Get it on Google Play.
First week free. Cancel anytime.

Maintenance training and recovery: sleep, mobility work, sports massages

Maintenance training is the ideal time to give your body more time to recover. Although it might sound counterintuitive, having enough downtime will help you become a better runner in the long run (pun intended). 

 Remember to:

  • Get enough sleep: Sleep is essential for optimal performance. 
  • Do mobility work: Yoga, pilates, or simply stretching are excellent ways to keep and enhance your mobility during the off-season. 
  • Listen to your body: Be flexible, switch up training sessions, and take extra days off when needed. 

Running gear: shoes, clothing, and more

The gear you use during training can either help or hinder your running performance, even during maintenance periods. The same rules apply as when training for a goal: 

  • Shoes: Shoes protect your body from the impact with the ground, so it’s important to get a good pair. Go to a specialized shoe shop with an in-store treadmill if you can. And yes, you can use the same shoes for off-season training, as long as they’re not worn out.
  • Clothing: Avoid cotton and use high-quality performance fabrics that wick moisture to prevent chafing and stay warm and comfortable during your runs. 
  • Running watch or GPS tracker: Use your phone or a running watch like Garmin or COROS to keep an eye on the pace and distance. Runna integrates with Garmin, Apple Watch, Coros, and Strava to help you get most of your running maintenance plan.
  • Accessories: Use a running belt or armband to carry your phone, keys, and other essentials.
  • Sun protection: Use high-SPF sunscreen, even in the winter. 

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“Very grateful I stumbled across this game changer! Out of years of different running programs, this is by far my favourite; it’s been so enjoyable”

Ash

“The plan has given me an achievable goal to work towards which has kept me motivated and I actually look forward to my running days!”

Cli

"Training program really adapted to my goals that got me motivated to run again and get ‘back in my groove’."

Eric

"Only into week 2 and loving It already. The structure is great and the app is so easy to use - also big appreciation for the playlists. V happy to be on a runbuddy plan for the next few months!"

Jenn

"Great personalized running plan so I can really be intentional with my training! The Runna team have all been super responsive and helpful making sure the plan and paces are right for me, and there to answer any questions. Great value, would highly recommend!"

Stephanie

"Excellent app, so easy to use! The training programs are fantastic. Can’t recommend enough!"

Matthew

FAQ: All you need to know about maintenance running

What’s the weekly mileage I should be aiming for during the off-season?

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When should I start preparing for the next race?

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Which maintenance running plan should I pick?

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Should I set goals when training off-season?

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Maintenance running and injuries: What should I do if I’m recovering from an injury?

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How can I improve my finishing time for my next race?

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How many times a week should I run?

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Maintenance running and general fitness: Do I need to do strength training during the off-season?

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How can I transition from maintenance running to training for a goal?

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Take your running to the next level

Your personalized running coach with tailored training plans to achieve your goals, from running a faster 5k to finishing your first marathon.

Download on the App Store.Get it on Google Play.
First week free. Cancel anytime.
$17.99
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