The Plan B Technique: How to Feel More Accomplished

If a workout isn’t going as planned, do you quit and promise yourself you’ll do better tomorrow? Many runners do – and it’s the wrong approach.

Plan B

Quitting isn’t necessarily bad. Especially if something is seriously wrong like the sharp “vampire bite” of plantar fasciitis. So I’ll give you a handy phrase to use if you’re unsure whether to continue a workout because of an injury concern:

When in doubt, sit it out!

But in most cases, workouts go wrong because you just don’t feel well. You have no energy or your legs feel drained. Maybe it’s super windy outside or it starts to snow.

Quitting might feel like a good option. After all, why try to run a workout if you know your splits will be slower than your goal? Just come back tomorrow and give it another shot… right?


Instead, use the Plan B Technique: modify your workout to guarantee success. This technique allows you to tweak your workout to make it easier – but still get plenty of fitness gains so you can still feel accomplished.

Totally abandoning a workout makes you feel horrible – maybe even like a failure. That’s a horrible way to end a run! Using a Plan B workout (or C, D, E…) lets you modify the workout to suit your physical or weather needs.

The best workout you can do on any given day is exactly what your body needs on that day. So if you’re tired, a tough workout is not right for you even if that’s what the training plan says. You’ll feel like hell, run slower than you hoped, and think it was a failure.

The implications of feeling this way are huge.

Running at your best is much easier if you feel like your training is a success. Want to share that nugget of wisdom? Click here to tweet it!

“I feel strong, accomplished, and empowered!”

Consistently completing your workouts has a wonderful effect on not only your training, but your mental outlook. It spills over into other areas of your life, almost like meditation, making you more calm with a natural high that stays with you for the rest of the day.

The Plan B Technique can help you feel more empowered – even on days when you’re not running well. Turning a bad day into a good day helps reinforce the reasons why you run, so you can keep coming back for more.

Maybe you run to set a good example for your kids. Or because you don’t want to be like family and friends who are overweight and unhealthy. Some runners do it simply because they crave the challenge of pushing themselves and seeing improvement.

No matter the reason for running, your mental outlook can help you feel more accomplished and motivated to tackle your next workout.

So today I’m introducing this concept to help you achieve a better frame of mind during your training. Every day can’t be perfect. You won’t feel good every day (in fact, I felt terrible during most of my workouts before my 2:39 marathon). And that’s ok – it’s normal. It’s just part of being a runner.

The Plan B Technique helps you continue building momentum even when you’re feeling lousy

Momentum Breeds Momentum

There’s a concept in psychology called “small wins” and it’s something we discuss frequently in Run Your BQ. They’re simply mini-successes that you purposefully build into your running to keep your motivation high.

My favorite examples:

  • Starting a run a little slower so you can run a negative split
  • Completing all of your runs for the week
  • Consistently doing your post-run core workout
  • Running strides twice a week for a month

On the surface, none of these accomplishments are that impressive. In fact, none would be considered a real goal by most runners.

But when you string together 2-3 small wins every week, you start building momentum. And momentum breeds even more momentum. It’s a wonderful cycle.

Once you experience little improvements every few days, you’ll crave them and feel dramatically stronger. The Plan B Technique is an effective method of transforming a bad workout into a small win. I’ve used it successfully for years – and you can too.

Plan B Workout Examples

So, how exactly do you use the Plan B Technique?

It’s simple, but best illustrated by example. I want to show you a few “planned workouts” and how you could shorten them to make them easier (but still gain fitness).

If your scheduled workout is a 4 mile tempo run but you feel like garbage, here are two alternatives:

  • Shorten the tempo to 2 miles and add 6 x 1 minute fartlek intervals at your 10k race pace
  • Break up the tempo run to 6 x 800m (or half mile) tempo intervals with 1 minute jog recovery

If your scheduled workout is 6 x 800m at your 10k race pace, here are two Plan B alternatives:

  • 2 x 800m at 10k pace + 4 x 400m at 5k pace
  • 4 x 600m at 10k pace + 4 x 200m at 5k pace
If your scheduled workout is a 20 mile long run but you feel like 10 pounds of shit in a five pound bag, try these:
  • Shorten the run to 15 miles but add a 10 x 30 second fartlek at 10k pace
  • Shorten the run to 15 miles

You’ll see that the Plan B options are easier. But they still accomplish many of the same goals of the original workout. And if you can complete the Plan B workout feeling good (or even just mediocre), you succeed physically and mentally.

Too many runners feel discouraged if they don’t complete the day’s scheduled workout. But you don’t need to be – just do the next best thing. Amend the workout and make it slightly easier and a little shorter. You’ll feel better and be much more mentally focused knowing you’re “cheating” (even though you’re not).

Often, it’s a lot easier to run faster than slower, so shorten the workout and increase the pace.

You may find yourself enjoying the challenge instead of dreading the effort!

The Plan B Technique is a motivation and training tool that’s included in the Strength Running Boot Campa 4-week step-by-step program to help make consistent running into a habit that sticks. If you ever wonder what you could accomplish by finally being more consistent with fewer injuries, learn more about the SR Boot Camp here.

Question for you: Have you used the Plan B Technique without realizing it? If so, how did you shorten your workout? And more importantly, how’d it make you feel afterward? Let us know in the comments!

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  1. Thanks for this great reminder! In theory I know this, but all too often downshifting a workout does lead to a feeling of letdown. So important to realize that you can keep the momentum going. Thanks again.

  2. Once you hit 4o, you understand the importance of Plan B in all aspects of your life. Quite often I’ll start the workout or run with three alternatives. For example, if I plan on going eight miles, I leave a six-mile option and a ten-mile option depending on how things are going. Ninety-five percent of the time, I hit the planned option or the increased mileage option. If I don’t, at least I got in a good six.

    This method works for me because I know I’m not a quitter and that if I cut a run short it’s for a good reason. Those with a history of not finishing may not like this method.

  3. Ah, Jason, truer words were never spoken! Totally agree with you- it’s far easier to bag a workout than it is to adapt, but mental toughness comes from the latter, not the former! I last recall going with Plan B on a day I should have done a Yassos 9 or 10×800 (don’t remember which)… but, thanks to travel, being locked out of a high school’s track (who locks up their track in the middle of the day? Isn’t that public property?), and not being able to find a straight 1/2 mi worth of land near my in-laws that wouldn’t have me running through stoplights (or some other catastrophe waiting to happen), Plan B became a 5 mile tempo, with a 1 mile warmup derived from the first two Yassos that made me realize that workout wasn’t gonna happen 🙂

    Great resource, as always!

  4. Great article. This past August I had a neck sprain, so I had to skip working out for a week, and after that come take it it a little easier for anothe week, but still had plenty of training left to finish my September half-marathon (my first). Then in December I had the flu, and didn’t run for a couple of weeks, so the first week back I dialed the workouts back a bit, now I’m getting back to the original training plan. Glad to see I was doing something right.

  5. This is the quote that you should have a re-tweet link for:

    If your scheduled workout is a 20 mile long run but you feel like 10 pounds of shit in a five pound bag, try these:

  6. Love the idea of a Plan B approach… I have been doing this for years.
    As an oversized runner (6’8, 295) I know I am not,” in it to Win it ” but having fun. I was a good football player and good basketball player now I am a 49 year old staying healthy and going for 2-4 fun jogs with a couple thousand friends at a few races each year.

    Plan B was very useful in football days when the opponent did something unexpected or a key player got hurt so tomorrow workout might feel like crap after I eat junk food thsi afternoon watching football so it may end up as a plan b . fitness challenge course instead of the 4 miler…

  7. I notice this isn’t one of your most popular posts, but it should be. The other day, on paper, I was supposed to run 1000 meter repeats at half marathon pace, but a few days post-race and with a little cold I knew it was unlikely. In fact, I didn’t even try.

    What I did do was run quarter mile repeats at said pace, and little by little find a rest interval that felt right. In the end I ran 11 x 400 at my desired pace, which was a very satisfying workout. In the past, I might very well have switched to a medium-pace run or even just a few miles at recovery pace.

    The whole plan-B thing saved the day! Thanks again!

  8. Lisa Knopp says:

    I just got back from a run, and totally felt like a failure until I read this Plan B approach. I live in Texas and it is scorching hot outside!!! 90ish degrees right now, feels like 1000…what was going to be my easy quick 3 mile run became a slow, torturous 2 mile run and I had to walk the last mile. Adding in some strength exercises at home after helped me combat the feeling of failure and that I didn’t do enough today. Allowing myself to be OK with walking the last mile will help me mentally, and keep me motivated for tomorrow. Remembering how awful this felt today will hopefully get out of bed earlier to run before the sun comes up!


  1. […] today. Even with a late start it was just cold. I was thinking about a great post I’d read on Strength Running on the importance of Plan B workouts — considering just running something easier, but decided […]