Ask These Questions Before You Ditch The Workout
We all have been there. You have been on a workout routine and have some great goals in mind but there are some days that you just don’t want to get at it. Well we have found a great article for you to help you decide whether or not you should skip your workout routine. Scott Douglas at Runner’s World wrote this article for women’s health magazine but we think its a great resource for both men and women.
You go to the track to do six 800-meter repeats. On your first one, you’re a little slower than planned. You tell yourself not to worry, because you usually feel better on the second repeat of a workout. But then your second 800 is slower than the first. On your third 800, you push hard, yet you finish even slower.
Should you finish the workout as best you’re able? Switch to a different workout? Or will you ultimately be better off by cutting it short?
Perhaps the two most pertinent words in running are “it depends.” That’s certainly the case when it comes to deciding what to do when a workout is going poorly. Here are nine things to consider to help you choose wisely.
1. Whats the purpose of the workout?
Knowing what you’re trying to achieve “is critical for the runner to know ahead of the workout,” says Greg McMillan, who has coached everyone from beginners to 2:10 marathoners. Having a goal of “running hard” isn’t enough. Are you trying to practice running at a certain pace? Or are you trying to accumulate a certain volume or duration of work at a given effort level, such as VO2 max or lactate threshold?
“When you can say what the stimulus should be from the day’s workout, then you have a starting point for deciding what to do if the workout isn’t going as you hoped,” says Pete Magill, author of The Born Again Runner and holder of three American masters records.
Take, for example, the workout of six 800-meter repeats cited above, in which each repeat gets slower. “If the purpose is goal-pace practice, then running slower is not good at all, and the workout should be stopped immediately,” says McMillan. “If the purpose is to boost VO2 max (aerobic capacity), then it’s okay to keep going as long as the effort is appropriate.”
In the second, more common scenario, where running at a certain effort is the goal, consider not timing your remaining repeats. Simply focus on maintaining an equivalent perceived exertion level. If you do time the rest of the workout, and find you’re still slowing by a couple of seconds per lap, “chances are you’re not ready to do that workout and it might be time to pull the plug,” Magill says.
2. Is Your Workout Goal Realistic?
You might be ready to do a good workout, but you might sabotage that possibility because of overly ambitious expectations.
When you’re struggling to hit workout times you think you should be able to hit, “generally it is because the paces are unrealistic, or they are unrealistic in the context of what other stuff you’ve loaded onto your plate surrounding the workout,” says Lauren Fleshman, who won two national 5,000-meter titles during her professional running career and now coaches Oiselle’s Little Wing team.
If you’re doing a workout at goal race pace, it’s unrealistic to think you can always run that pace in training—by definition, it’s not a pace you’ve recently held for the duration of a race. Even if you have recently run a certain pace for a race, you shouldn’t expect to be able to produce at it will in workouts, says Magill.
“Your race times often don’t pertain to workouts,” he says. “For your races, you’re rested, and you run the max you’re capable of on that day. That’s usually not the case with a workout in the middle of the work week. So you shouldn’t expect to come to those workouts with the same capabilities.”
3. Can You Benefit From Breaking The Desired Volume In Short Chunks?
McMillan will sometimes have runners try to hold the desired pace for shorter repeats, such as 600 meters, or even 400 meters, instead of 800 meters. “Adjusting the workout allows you to get a good workout in that day and avoids the mental outlook that you ‘failed’ the workout,” he says.
Magill cautions against shortening VO2 max repeats too much, because it can take the first minute or longer of a repeat at that effort level to reach the right intensity level. “If you couldn’t hold the pace for 800 meters and switch to 400s, then you’re only hitting the VO2 max stimulus for the last little bit of each 400 before you take a recovery jog,” he says.
Magill is okay with breaking a tempo run that isn’t going well into shorter segments, such as 10 minutes at tempo effort with a 2- or 3-minute recovery jog between.
4. Can You Switch To A Different Type Of Workout?
If your initial pace goal was too ambitious, you might struggle to hit the right effort level for the rest of your planed workout because you “went anaerobic and aren’t clearing the lactic acid during the rest intervals,” Fleshman says. “One sign of this is tingly arms early in the workout.” In that case, “I’d just finish with a 10-minute tempo run and call it a mixed session,” she says.
If you didn’t start the workout too quickly but are still having a hard reaching the desired effort level, you’re probably not ready to provide a proper stimulus to that energy system, says McMillan. In that case, “we might change the purpose of the workout and try to hit a different energy system,” he says. “If we can’t do VO2 max repeats, why not do a few lactate-tolerance repeats—maybe 6 x 200 meters fast—and call it a day? We get good speed training but don’t run up against the fatigue issue we’re seeing in the 800s.”
Magill says that if you switch to a different type of hard running and find that you’re still struggling, “then your nervous system is tired, and you’re not ready for any type of hard workout, because if you fry your nervous system, it could take you 10 or 11 days to recover.” In that situation, it’s time to end the workout.