Adjusting Your Training For Missed Workouts

July 21, 2015

Don’t let a few missed training sessions throw you off track. 

Following a training schedule to the letter rarely goes according to plan. Inevitably, you’ll miss a workout or two due to a work deadline, getting sick, travel delays, and of course both minor and major injuries.

Given all the potential issues that could derail your running for a few days (or more), how do you adjust your schedule when you miss training?

While sometimes there is nothing you can do about having to miss a few days of training, there are a few general principles you can follow to get your training back on track as quickly as possible.

1. Don’t make up for lost training.

The number one rule to follow when adjusting your training for missed days is: Do not try to make up missed workouts or mileage. Squeezing in extra workouts, adding “missed” miles to your warmup, cooldown, or easy days is the quickest route to injury and overtraining.

Squeezing too many workouts too close together cuts into recovery time, meaning you’ll begin your next workout while your muscles are still repairing from the previous workout. This can create a vicious cycle if you’re not careful.

Likewise, adding extra mileage to runs for the sake of hitting weekly mileage totals will usually defeat the purpose of that run. For example, a warmup is designed to prepare your muscles for the hard workout ahead, not to build aerobic endurance. Adding mileage to your usual warmup does nothing to advance your fitness. On the same note, recovery runs are designed to aid in recuperation by speeding the transport of blood, oxygen, and nutrients to broken down muscle fibers. Running longer on your recovery days doesn’t aid in this process and can actually inhibit recovery.

2. Don’t worry about losing fitness.

Why do we freak out when we miss a few days of training? Most often, it comes down to an irrational fear that missing a few runs will ruin all the hard work we’ve put in over the previous months.

While you might not gain any fitness during your time off, you won’t lose that much, either. You’ll experience a negligible reduction in fitness after taking as many as seven days off. Even if you need to stop running for 10 to 14 days, the amount of fitness you lose is insignificant – as little as 3-4%. Here’s some of the data.

Don’t fret if you’re forced to take time off for sickness, injuries or travel. You’re not losing as much as you think, and with a few quick workouts, you’ll be back up to speed.

3. Don’t let missed training get you down.

Many runners find it difficult to rebound after missing a few days of training. They’re off their routine, lose momentum and struggle to get started again. As we learned earlier, it takes more than a few days away from running to lose significant fitness, so you shouldn’t let a few missed days ruin the rest of your schedule.

Use the time off to work on other aspects of training, such as core work and strength training. Instead of losing time to injury, you can strengthen your body and become a more complete runner.

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