If You’re Going To Succeed, You Have To Have a Plan!


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One of the major components of marathon training is the long run. Once a week, I run much longer than any other day, gradually increasing the length of my run until I reach a distance of 20 miles.   I usually increase my long run by a mile a week. As I pass the 9-10 mile distance I start adding fluids and carbohydrate intake during my run. The weeks where I ran 12, 13 and 14 miles my long runs went horribly.  I didn’t have the physical energy, nor the mental motivation to keep going. In last week’s post I contemplated how my runs would be easier if I weighed less.  While that is true, there is something else missing from my training that is just as important.

I didn’t have an adequate plan for my runs.

I waited until I felt like my energy store was depleted to take in some carbohydrates. I waited until I felt dehydrated to drink fluids. When running long distances, if you wait until you can feel you need something, it’s already too late.

I searched the internet for how other runners handle long runs, and developed a re-hydration and refueling plan.   I tried planning my entire run around stopping at a known location where I have a cooler filled with fluids and carbohydrate packets. Every 3-4 miles I stop, refuel and rehydrate.

The results of my planning were astonishing. Even though I was increasing the distance, and the weather was warmer and more humid, my long runs of 15 and 16 miles went smoothly. They actually seemed easier than the previous long runs.

The difference was my planning, and the execution of that plan.

By not having an adequate plan, I actually made things harder on myself. I did the very same thing with my finances for a very long time.

Emergency Fund:

As sure as dehydration after running for hours, an unplanned situation WILL arise that requires extra funds. If you wait until you need an emergency fund to conclude you need one, it’s obviously too late.


The goal of having a refuel and rehydrate plan when running a marathon is to successfully get to the end of the race. The goal of a successfully executed financial plan is to get to retirement with enough funds and/or streams of income to live off of for the rest of your life.

Day To Day Life:

I work a lot with my pace when training for a marathon. If I start off to fast, I’ll burn out. Such is the same with your day to day spending. You have to have a plan for your pace of spending, or you’ll run out of funds.

There is one HUGE difference between building a plan for running a marathon, and real life. I’ve spent almost a complete year building my strength, my endurance, and my overall fitness level. I’ve tried different strategies with my long runs, tweaking them slightly to find the one that will work best for me.  I’ve been doing all this as part of my training leading up to the actual race in October.

There is no training for real life.

You have to just get out there and do it. You can learn new skills and make adjustments along the way, but if you are going to succeed, you’d better have a plan.   By having a plan for your day to day spending, unexpected emergencies, and your future retirement goals you will make your life easier, and more enjoyable.

Do you have an example of when lack of financial planning as actually made life harder than it needed to be?  Are you putting the necessary planning into these three areas?

About Travis

26 Responses to “If You’re Going To Succeed, You Have To Have a Plan!”

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  1. Always so many correlations between running and personal finance, maybe that’s why I’m into both 🙂 I admittedly, “wung it” (is that a word?) when training for my marathon last year. I didn’t incorporate long runs over ten miles into my training until September when the weather started to cool down, simply because I would be too dehydrated, and I failed to plan for that.

    • Travis says:

      In my opinion, Stefanie, there are so many correlations simply because becoming financially free and running (fitness) are both huge life goals that take a lot of the same mental skills. I’d love to see how you’d do in a marathon that you properly trained and planned for…ever think about doing it again?

  2. Without a plan we racked up $109K worth of debt, with a plan we have paid off $103K worth of that debt and are on track to be debt free in 3 months. It’s just that simple. After that piece of the plan is done we move on to the next steps building wealth, larger e-fund, retirement, etc.

  3. Michelle says:

    I try to keep the pace. Now that have a plan I actual am able to achieve things-I’m not just spitting in the wind.

    • Travis says:

      I feel like we’re “running” a bit fast with our finances as of late…time to slow that spending down! Great to hear you are now able to achieve greater goals, Michelle!

  4. Great post! There are so many parallels between running a marathon and life. For me the biggest mistake was lack of an emergency fund, and I ended up having to put things on my credit card. Being a freelancer, you not only have to plan for emergencies, but lack of income due to slow months, so it’s like double the amount!

    • Travis says:

      I’ve been there with the lack of emergency fund as well, Tonya – the WORST is knowing you need it but unable to build one up. I can imagine it’s touch to constantly be planning for slow periods of work…..hope things pick up for you soon!

  5. “I waited until I felt like my energy store was depleted to take in some carbohydrates. I waited until I felt dehydrated to drink fluids.” That explains a whole lot about what I’ve done wrong with personal finances over time. The emergencies hit with such a force because I was totally unprepared for them. Even things I should have anticipated – like Christmas expenses and vacation expenses – blindsided me. It’s not as if I didn’t know December 25 happened every year! I just lived and spent from day to day with no perspective on the bigger picture. All the best in your training! (And how is that midnight snack habit coming along?)

    • Travis says:

      Ah, yes, the “expected” unexpected expenses like Christmas, new tires, or needed car repairs (how long has it been since our brakes were done???). These are things we should constantly be thinking about, but choose not to execute on the plan we know we should. Having a plan is a good step, but we have to execute too, right Prudence? The Midnight snacking is….well, some days it goes great. Some days, not so much. Work in progress! 🙂

  6. Grant says:

    Thanks for the insight. Whether training our bodies or our finances, we need to plan and then measure our progress alongside that plan. I have seen many excellent spending plans that only collected dust because of a lack of a mechanism for tracking that spending.

    • Travis says:

      I’ve HAD spending plans that collected dust, Grant…..making a plan is great but then you have to execute on it as well. Right now, as far as our finances are concerned, we’re hitting on all cylinders – hope the same for you. Thanks for reading!

  7. Excellent article. I agree there are lots of parallels between running and successful money management. It does take good planning and disciplined execution.

    When younger I used to run a lot so I can identify with much of your content. My plan was to run 2 1/2 miles and 5 miles on alternate days and 10 or so on Saturday. Never did get more involved in events than the 6K runs, but it was really enjoyable. I thought about it but it was a busy time so I thought that was the time I could spare. It is great for your energy level.

    Checked you out from from your comment on MoneyNing.

    • Travis says:

      Thanks for following the link over, James – glad to have you as a reader here on EOD! I agree that running is great for the energy level – imagine how good a plan can be for your finances as well!

  8. Not having an EF or a financial plan has made life harded in almost every way. Now that I have a plan and I know where I am financially at all times, I know when I have “extra” to cover fun things or even unexpected things and/or when I have to say “no” to doing things or borrow from my EF to cover unexpected expenses.

    • Travis says:

      I know that feeling, Kayla – not having an emergency fund or a plan for when an unexpected expense rolls in (and it WILL roll in) can destroy the family finances in a hurry. I’m glad to hear you’ve figured out that line between fun things and when the EF really needs to be used. That’s a skill that many struggle to figure out. Great to hear from you!

  9. I think not building an emergency fund ASAP after college was my biggest financial mistake. Having even a small emergency fund gives me peace of mind.

    • Really significant point. Years ago when I first realized the unreasonable stress I was under and made my decision to start dealing with my money seriously for the first time, one of the things I did was to get some cash ahead until I had $500 in a fold of my wallet.

      No one even knew about it but me, and I dealt with my money as if I didn’t have it, but it made a huge difference in my peace of mind about money just knowing it was there. I knew it would have made more cents to put it in a savings account, and I did after I gained some self-confidence in my financial affairs, but it wouldn’t have achieved the same results at the time.

      • Travis says:

        It’s interesting that when I didn’t have an emergency fund I would say I cannot build one because it would cause too great of a financial strain on me to cut my spending to do it. But then, WHEN those unexpected expenses showed up, the stress of trying to figure out how to handle them was immense…..stress before or stress after – it’s OUR choice!

    • Travis says:

      I agree, DC – knowing that you have the funds to cover something that may pop up gives me a peace of mind as well. When our emergency fund is depleted I feel financially naked (and that’s NOT a good thing!)

  10. Tony C says:

    Success (including financial success) is a journey, not an event. I’m a sprinter (on my university’s track and field team), and everything is so regimented. In order to win (whether it’s at finance or sprinting), people have to have a clear, well defined routine that they follow day in day out. Make a tough plan and stick to it.

    • Travis says:

      Love your perspective, Tony C – while some flexibility is needed, it’s imperative that you hold yourself to your plan. If you came up with a path to success….you gotta walk it! It’s also worth noting that success is a never ending journey as well – you never reach that finish line. You may achieve goals, but there’s always a new goal to work towards! thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  11. Nowhere has this been more true for me than with our debt payoff journey. A plan has helped us not only to reach our goal, but to stay the course when the going gets tough.

    • Travis says:

      Us too, Laurie – Love your comment that a plan also helps you stay the course when the going gets tough. If you know where you’re going, and you know how to get there – just keep following the path!

  12. Love this, Travis! There are so many parallels between marathon training and finances. One the many reasons I am such a proponent of planning. It’s really easy to get tunnel vision, whether we focus only on our daily lives or our futures lives (or someplace in between). You need to slow down and look at everything from every angle then plant some coolers along the way to keep you going. 🙂

    • Travis says:

      Haha, love those coolers of life, Shannon! The first thing that pops into my head is a great meal, or a family vacation. Those special events let us refuel and put our head down for another round of fighting for success! Thanks for commenting!

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