Skip A Workout? What Next?



What to do when you miss a workout?

No matter how dedicated you are to your training, you will at some point miss a workout. *gasp!*

What's important is how you handle that missed workout.

Simply put, proper training is the act of putting your body under stress, and allowing it to recover so it can more readily handle that stress in the future.  The word I want to emphasise here is “stress”.  We like to think that physical and mental stress exist apart from one another.  That they each have their own compartment that they fill up. While that would be very nice, it is not the case.

Your body can only handle so much stress, and you MUST remember this when you miss a workout.

There are 2 basic scenarios that cover 95% of missed workouts. The first step is identifying why you missed today’s workout.

Family/work/life emergency?  We'll call these “External Factors”.

Accept that you were unable to get in today’s training and shift your focus to the training that lays ahead. Do not beat yourself up about it and “add” to the stress of your day.  Try and give yourself 15 minutes before bed to relax and focus your energy on the future, not on the past. Use whatever anger/frustration you have to crush the next set of intervals that come your way.

Too tired/fatigued/sick/plain unmotivated? We'll call these “Internal Factors”

Your body is smarter than you might give it credit.  When fatigue really starts to set in, even the most dedicated athletes will lose that innate desire to go smash some training. This is your body's way of telling you to back it off and get some extra rest.  If you have the chance to get an extra hour (or two) of sleep that night, take it!

The next question is always “how do I make up for that missed training?"

Not only does that depend on the "why", it also depends on the “where”.  As in, “where are you in your training cycle?”

With all of these different factors, let's simplify things with a table.  For the “why” factors, we have External and Internal Factors.  For the “where” we look at what part of a training block you are in (training blocks are separated by rest weeks and can be 2 to 3 weeks in length depending on ability/age).  One level down from that we look at what is planned for the next day of training, specifically if it is a rest day or not.


First ⅔ of Training Block

Final ⅓ of Training Block

Next Day?

Rest Day

Hard Day

Rest Day

Hard Day

External Factor

Do the session tomorrow. OR Add on 10-15 minutes of ride time to your next few training sessions (Until you hit 100% of missed ride time)

Add on 10-15 minutes of ride time to your next few training sessions (Until you hit 80% of missed ride time)

Do 80% of the session tomorrow. OR Add on 10-15 minutes of ride time to your next few training sessions (Until you hit 90% of missed ride time)

Add on enough ride time to the remaining training sessions to make up for 75% of missed time.

Internal Factor

Get some extra sleep, try and get in a 10-20 minute recovery spin.

Get some extra sleep, start with a 15 minute recovery spin.  Feeling better? Give the planned session a try.  Not feeling better? Another 5-10 minutes of recovery spinning then call it day.

Sleep sleep and more sleep

Extra sleep followed by a 10-20 minute recovery spin.

Yes, consistency is the most important factor in training. That does not mean you have to ride every single day (nor should you). What consistent training means is getting in the majority of what you have on the schedule. A single missed session, or even a few missed sessions will not obliterate the consistent work of the previous weeks. In some cases, like when you are sick, not training at all will actually make you faster in the long run.

Keep a separate log of your missed training sessions. Make sure you record your “why” and “where” and any other information about what contributed to missing that session. This will help you find any patterns that you might want to take into consideration the next time you  map out your training. Keep the journal going for long enough and you'll soon discover how little of an impact that missed workout from 9 months ago had on your fitness. This will be the perfect reminder that no single missed workout will make or break your fitness, and that should make accepting missing today's workout a little bit easier.

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