Thanks for using our plans and checking in. For sure, the Maintenance plan is written as an aggregate for all athletes. For some athletes, it will improve fitness, for most it will Maintain, and for some it will cause a slight loss in fitness.
The fear of losing fitness is normal. However, the alternative is 365-days-a-year training with no long-term recovery. You can get away with this for a couple of years, but eventually you’ll lose fitness from over-training.
Really, an athlete should ask themselves two questions:
1. Can I continue to improve fitness indefinitely? If you say yes, this means that you think eventually you’ll be able to run a 3-minute mile. However, if there is an upper limit to your fitness, then taking a break and temporarily losing fitness is inevitable anyway.
2. Can I maintain a certain level of fitness indefinitely? This is the tempting questions. Other than age, why not? It’s a complicated answer. If the level of fitness is, say 50 TSS, you probably can. If the TSS you are trying to maintain forever is 100, then you are fooling yourself. You must periodically reset so that you can enjoy several peaks of 100 TSS.
An alternative to the Maintenance plan, after a brief break, is an Olympic or 70.3 plan with a virtual race in mind at the end. This still meets the needs of a break, gives you a bit more motivation, and clearly provides more potential fitness than the Maintenance plan. It meets all the criteria, assuming you are OK with not having an actual race at the end of the plan!