When a workout doesn’t go as planned

Posted: July 11, 2012 in Training
Tags: , , ,

Training is not easy.

That is a concept that is amazingly easy to forget sometimes. When the weather is cool and the athlete is fit and healthy, ticking off workout after workout hitting your target paces becomes commonplace.

If you are getting your rest, eating and recovering well and working through a well-balanced training plan several weeks can go by before you have a day where you are just “flat” for lack of a better word.

A “flat” workout is not the end of the world, in fact, it is usually your body’s way of letting you know that something is a bit off. Whether it is physical, mental or a combination of the two. It is your opportunity to take a step-back, evaluate your training schedule and maybe even mix in an extra rest day to recharge the batteries.

All very good things.

It is when a “flat” workout rears its head unexpectedly however that the athlete needs to remember that no individual workout – whether it is good or bad – means much of anything when it comes to endurance training.

It is actually the body of work to be considered, where gains and losses are to be measured over a period of time that measure progression and/or unfortunately sometimes a loss in your fitness level.

On Tuesday morning I had one of those unexpected “oops” workouts where my target paces for my “On” miles of my Off and On workout simply could not be maintained.

I was running the same workout as the previous four Tuesdays, over the identical course, running one “Off” or easy mile followed by one “On” or up-tempo mile alternating back and forth for 8 total miles. Then an easy 1/2 mile cooldown back home.

Each of my “On” miles tracked :04-:06 seconds slower than the week before.

The harder I worked, the more I seemed to struggle. There was the variable of heavy, heavy humid air (98%) to deal with after thunderstorms roared through Austin overnight, but the past several weeks have featured steamy morning temperatures.

It was simply a combination of a tough workout falling on a day where I was a little bit off. I had been not feeling 100% as Landry and I have been trading a little bug back and forth the last few days and I had my mind on my first day of work at a new job in a couple of hours. I was physically a bit run down and I was mentally distracted. The result? Not my best effort.

One thing I have learned over the last few years is that when this happens there is only one thing to do in order to get past it as quickly as possible. Flush it.

I try my best to have as short a memory as possible when it comes to a bad workout or an off race. Just flush it, move on to the next day, the next workout, the next run – get out there and do your best. Allowing a poor workout or race to creep into your psyche and derail your confidence is a waste of energy, but more importantly, can lead to more pressure for your next effort and another day where the mental struggle affects the physical.

No race is ever won on a single training run. Preparing for a marathon over 18 weeks will feature close to 100 individual runs for me. One bad workout represents 1% of that preparation.


So to focus on a particular humid Tuesday morning where my goal pace of 6:03 over mile 4 fell short at 6:07 or my mile 6 goal of 5:59 was missed even wider at 6:04 is not anything
to fret over.

Reload and come back the next morning ready to fight.

As I passed the mile 9 mark on my run this morning on a soft, muddy trail from all of the recent rain I dropped my hips and lengthened my stride. Clipping along at 7:50 pace to that point on my scheduled “easy day” I decided to drop :30 from my pace over the final mile to feel a little bit more push over the soft terrain.

I exited the trail, sped uphill over the final climb and hit the driveway with a closing 7:21 mile – steady and smooth.

:29 faster without looking at my watch vs. a goal of :30.

Almost exactly 24 hours after a disappointing workout my engine and machine were back running perfectly. I’ll never think about Tuesday again.

  1. robin says:

    Great post and so true. Those days happen and I think it’s all part of the process. Almost a little reminder/reality check. Hope you and Landry both feel better!

    • joerunfordom says:

      Hi Robin! Absolutely, it is the price of admission for race day – those tough workouts. Baby Bear and Daddy Bear are feeling MUCH better thank you! That science experiment//petri dish environment at Day Care is making Landry strong, but Daddy gets A LOT of colds now it seems.

      Take good care! J

  2. Andy B. says:

    Good timing for this post. I had a rotten workout on Tuesday that I eventually just shut down.

  3. Joseph Hayes says:

    Wow, this post couldn’t have come at a better time. I did 14 miles on Sunday and haven’t had much energy since. I rested Monday and skipped Tuesday. I went out for a tempo run on Wednesday and after the 2 mile warmup I knew tempo wasn’t going to happen. I did manage one mile at about 6:20 (faster than tempo but I just wanted to see what I could churn out at an uncomfortable pace) or so but then just ran at 8:30 back to the car for 3 miles; felt like hell the entire time.

    I keep telling myself the same things you said in this post and now seeing this post just reinforced my confidence that my head is in the right place.

    • joerunfordom says:

      Joe – just trust in your fitness and training and you are going to bounce back just fine! Flush it away and don’t look back on it. Tis time of heart takes a lot longer to recover from long or intense workouts. Just stay the course Joe! Next one will be great!

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