Cyclists of all abilities have to skip workouts from time to time and there are a few common reasons why.
In this post, I’ll try to cover each of these common reasons and attempt to provide a framework for how to handle each scenario and highlight some of the steps you can take to avoid it happening in the future.
Firstly, you might miss a workout because your training plan is simply be too ambitious. It’s difficult for even the most experience coaches to know what the right training volume, frequency or load might be a week or more down the line and it’s comparatively easy to get carried away and schedule lots of training. However, if it’s too much, it won’t be long before it’s impossible to complete a scheduled workout and that workout will have to be missed in favour of rest.
2: ILLNESS OR INJURY
The next most common reason for a missed workout is illness or injury. This can also be a result of the training plan being too demanding, but can also come about suddenly from a crash (injury) or picked up when a bug is going around at work (illness). Even with an appropriate dose of training, your immune system can still be compromised after training, making it easy to pick up a cold or a virus.
3: LACK OF TIME
Perhaps the most common reason for missed workouts with amateur athletes who hold down a full time job and/or other commitments is lack of time. Whilst there are ways around not having a lot of time to train, such as riding indoors, riding twice a day for shorter periods in the morning and evening, sometimes schedules change and that time has to be devoted to more pressing matters.
The final reason that I’ll cover is a lack of motivation, and whilst this is a distinct reason on it’s own, it often arises as a result of some of the reasons discussed above. If you’re really not feeling like you want to ride, getting on with other things you have to do or simply staying on the sofa can seem much more appealing, forcing you to surrender and not bother with your workout. We’ve all been there, right?
Lack of motivation can come from things like bad weather, no having a plan to follow or just having your head in other projects.
MISSED WORKOUT FRAMEWORK
So, if you have skip a workout for any of these reasons, what should you do take to minimise the negative effects to your fitness? Well, each one has it’s own appropriate course of action, which I believe are as follows:
If you’re too tired and have to miss the workout for this reason then skip the session and don’t try to make up for lost time down the line. Continue with the plan the next day as normal, and if you’re still tired, consider switching the workout to a recovery ride if you have a pure training session scheduled.
2: Illness or injury
When you’re ill or injured, the same rule applies as above with fatigue, i.e. don’t try to cram in more training down the line to make up for the lost workout. This will end up overloading you even more and likely result in the same outcome. Understand that your body isn’t in the right state to train hard and improve fitness and the quickest way back to being able to train properly is recuperation. No amount of fitness improvement is worth getting injured or a long-term illness for.
3: Lack of time
If a workout is missed because you ran out of time, then try shifting the plan around a bit so that you can complete that missed workout on a day with more time availability. You could either perform this workout on a day with another workout to create a double day or combine it with a future session to make a longer overall workout that means you don’t miss out on the TSS or Training Stress Score from that missed workout.
When lack of motivation causes you to miss a workout, the appropriate action is to carry on with plan as usual and not try to cram it in further down the line, unless your lack of motivation was particularly out of character. Trying to make up for lost time might burn you out further, as lacking motivation can often be a psychological signal that you need a bit of a break.
However, I would recommend using a bit of self-analysis to determine the reason for lack of motivation so that you can take steps to avoid it in the future. Things to look out for include lack of sleep or not having a clear goal for the workout.
The take home message is that training plans need to be flexible and the best plans account for the inevitability of missed workouts and deal with them in appropriate ways. It happens to all athletes and it’s dealing with this diversion from the original plan in the best way that is what’s important. Knowing when to stop and recognising when recovery is the best course of action is arguably one of the most valuable skills an athlete or a coach can have.
Finally, this process highlights the importance of actually keeping a training plan and diary, since it allows you to look back at previously missed workouts and learn WHY they happened and how to avoid a similar situation in the future, giving you the ability to look at where you might have accumulated too much stress, what kind of conditions in the days prior led to a missed workout and so forth. It’s always about constantly iterating and learning what makes a great training environment for you as an individual, since there’s never a ‘one size fits all’ approach.