“My recent training sessions have become significantly more challenging for me to successfully complete.  At what point do you bail out or modify the session to something achievable during the day?  How far do you let the current training session carry on with the knowledge it may influences your ability to complete the next day’s training session?”

Dane Newman (and every other athlete on the planet essentially)


A variation of this question has been asked by every athlete at some point. Right now many athletes are in the thick of marathon, IRONMAN, and 70.3 training for the fall races. It’s the race specific phase and CTL is starting to build. Inevitably there will be times when you cannot meet all the objectives in a workout. What should you do next?


The answer like many things in life is it depends on your phase of training and the workout objectives. Here are a few questions to ask yourself to determine whether you should stay or bail.


Is is a pattern? – Think about it this way. If you were able to perfectly meet every workout objective 100% of the time, then it’s also true that your plan wouldn’t be challenging enough for you to continue to improve. So if you have a workout or two where you don’t hit your numbers, that’s one thing.  But if you’ve had several sessions in a row of fail it’s time to revisit your plan. You may be in need of a recovery period.


Is it the plan? The process of training is essentially digging a little hole of fatigue, then recovering with the body adapting to become stronger as a result. Therefore, if you’re reaching the end of a training block, it’s likely you will be feeling the last few weeks in your legs. This doesn’t definitively answer whether you should bail on your training session but it’s something to keep in mind as you consider your options.


Is the completion of time or distance a primary objective? Let’s say your in the race specific phase for IM training have a six hour bike ride with some IM – HIM specific intervals thrown in. You’re three hours in and realize that no intervals will happen on this day. What do you do? Bail or carry on? In this situation, it’s quite likely that your coach intended the completion of the specified time as the primary objective (but ask).Therefore, the first order of business is to cut the intensity and carry on at an easier pace.


But sometimes the primary objective of the workout is to hit your numbers. A counter example would be that your workout for the day is VO2 intervals and after a solid warmup, you start the first interval only to find that you can’t even push your legs into the threshold range. It’s likely for this workout, your coach intended the prescribed intensity as the primary objective of the workout. Therefore, it may be a situation that facilitates pushing the session back a day


Is it a ‘duh’ moment? In other words is there something specific about today that makes the workout impossible that will change tomorrow. For example, if you stayed out all night singing karaoke, you may feel like your workout is impossible (and for good reason). Since it’s an acute “duh” situation you also know that tomorrow (or the next day) you should feel more rested and prepared


Do you still have good form? Above all, be smart! Running is the time to be especially careful. If your primary objective is to complete a certain time or distance and your pace has slowed, that’s one thing. But if your pace has slowed and you’re limping or your form has degraded significantly, then you don’t want to push yourself to the point of injury.