A few days ago, we talked in this Magazine about when to make the decision to skip a training session. Sometimes, day-to-day obligations or simply fatigue can force you to opt out of a planned training session.
But as we explained, there’s nothing wrong with taking a break and recharging. In fact, overtaxing your body in a situation of fatigue or stress can end up taking its toll later on.
While proper planning is key to improving as an athlete, this can become a double-edged sword for those who feel the pressure to stick to the plan no matter what. But life doesn’t always go according to plan, and you need to be flexible and able to adapt to change.
When faced with a break in your training, whether for one day, several days or even a week, the question is always the same: do I continue where I left off or stick to my calendar?
In these cases, it’s best to count on the help of a coach if you can. There’s no subsitute for expertise. But if that’s not possible, here are some guidelines for adjusting your training plan when you’ve missed a workout.
Learning to adjust your training plan
Here are some guidelines for adjusting your plan after missing a workout, (remember: these are guidelines, not commandments). The most important thing is to listen to your body and try to figure out how the break has affected your fitness.
To do that, it helps to be able to measure resting heart rate and look at any other data to guide you in making the best decision about your status.
Only one day
If you’ve missed a single day of training, you probably just needed to rest or maybe day-to-day obligations prevented you from meeting your schedule. Resting was most likely the best decision. In principle, you don’t need to worry and you can continue with the planning as prescribed as long as your body and circumstances allow you to. Ride without fear!
Two or three days
If you’ve missed several days of training, let’s hope it’s not for lack of desire. If it is, there are many ways to combat demotivation.
If the reason was due to injury or illness, the first thing to do is to make sure you’re fully recovered. Otherwise, you can prolong your recovery and jeopardize your entire season.
If you’re well enough to return to training, start by adjusting the first few sessions to be a little easier than planned. In two or three days, get back to your previous pace and workload. Forget about making up any sessions you’ve missed: the only thing that will do is make you overtrained.
If you’ve missed a week of training because of something like a planned vacation, that’s okay. When you come back, resume your workout as planned. On the other hand, if you missed all those days because of injury or some other unplanned interruption, that’s more serious.
Missing a week of training can have a real negative effect on progression and performance, so it may be best to pick up where you left off and not overlook all that missed training.
If you’re close to a targeted race and you’re not going to be able to accomplish everything you planned in training, our advice is to make up key workouts.
More than one week
If this happens, you’ll have no choice but to make major (and probably unwanted) changes to your training plan. You may need to set different short term goals. Either reduce your aspirations or opt for other competitions later in the season.
Losing more than a week of training can be a huge setback for progression and performance. But if you’re an experienced athlete with a decent fitness base, you should have no problems regaining fitness. It will take a few days, however. So be patient.