Every cyclist will miss prescribed workouts in their training plan at some point, but it’s not the end of the world. The key is knowing how to adjust your training plan to keep your training on track.
Whether you’ve become sick or found yourself on vacation during the middle of a training plan, it’s very likely you’ll miss at least one of your workouts. When this happens, it’s important to remember that in most cases setbacks like these aren’t major.
After missing one or more of your workouts, the natural question is, “Should I pick up where I left, go back in my training, or just move on?” The answer to that question depends on a few variables, but there are certain principles you can use to guide your decision making. I’ll cover those further into this post.
The main thing to consider when missing training is the effect it has on your body. Every training plan prescribes work and rest in appropriate amounts, so your time away from training means that you should neglect either the prescribed work or the prescribed rest. Although your initial reaction may be to manually balance things out, the nature of vacation, illness or any other reasons for time off don’t usually allow this.
Illness- or Injury-Caused Hiatus
If you’re forced to take time off for a cold or other typical illness, your body will be doing a lot of work to heal itself. Normally your immune system is playing a major part in your recovery after your workouts, but in this situation it is just focusing on fighting the illness. So all that rest you are getting while laying low? It’s probably not helping you get faster in any way.
When you are coming back to training after your illness, make sure you ease into it and pay attention to how you are feeling. Turning down the intensity of a workout by 5% or substituting a recovery workout for a hard workout should not be seen as bailing out. If you don’t let your body get back to 100% before picking things back up, you won’t be able to fulfill your potential.
Injury is similar in many ways. Recovery from an injury, just as with illness, is a demanding process on your body. Following your doctor’s orders regarding training is extremely important here. It’s tempting for most athletes to overachieve and get ahead of the curve, but in most situations it only places you further behind in the long run.
Vacation- or Work-Caused Hiatus
In most instances, vacation is an opportunity for your body to recover from all the the training stress you have been putting on your body. It’s important to approach your vacation from this perspective instead of worrying about all of the workouts you are missing. If you can, bookend your vacation with extra training stress in anticipation of the increased rest.
However, in some cases vacation can be stressful. Driving long distances, flying, standing in line at amusement parks and dealing with potential family stresses can take its toll on your body. Although you may be sleeping on the plane and just standing in line at Disneyland instead of doing high intensity intervals, your body is not necessarily recovering.
If your time off is in line with this scenario, then you may have to re-enter your training plan with caution. Much like time off caused by illness or injury, pay close attention to how your body is responding and decrease the intensity of your workouts where necessary.
How to Adjust Your Training Plan
In any of the situations above, there are some guidelines you can use to adjust your training based on the amount of time you’ve missed in your training plan. It’s important to note that these are guiding principles rather than unbreakable rules. You should always pay attention to how your body feels and measure this in the most reliable way possible. Whether you are doing so with the help of software or just measuring your resting heart rate, having data to back up your perception will help you make the best decisions.
Just a Day or Two
If you’ve missed a few days of training you shouldn’t have to worry about adjusting your training plan. Simply carry on with your plan as prescribed, but keep in mind the contingencies for illness, injury and stress that were mentioned above.
A Week Off
Missing a week of training can have a potentially damaging effect on your progression. If a rest week happens to coincide with a relaxing week-long vacation, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about. However, if you are missing a particularly difficult week, then it is a good idea to pick up where you left off.
If the workouts feel unreasonably difficult when you come back, then the next approach may apply.
More Than a Week
If you’ve missed more than a week of your training plan, then you’ve missed a key step in the progression of your training plan. In this case, it’s best to count the days you’ve missed and then count backward that same number of days from where you left off.
For example, if you missed 8 days of training and you left off on the 28th of the month, count backwards 8 days and restart your training as originally prescribed on the 20th of that month.
Going back and doing make-up work like this can be frustrating, but you can rest assured that you are doing your part to keep your training on track.
Having said that, if you’re training is scheduled with no time to spare, then you will have to weigh your options. If the adjustments to your training plan will not allow you to progress fully through your build phase for an A Priority event, then it may be in your best interest to just follow your training plan as scheduled. If this is the case, you will have to accept the fact that your intended progression of fitness may not be realized, but no need to worry. Just focus on making the most out of your current situation.
Missing Time in the Base Phase vs. the Specialty Phase
Finally, consider where you are at in your training plan before making any adjustments to your training plan. The closer you get to your goal event, the more critical every workout becomes. As your workouts increase in specificity, they also increase in necessity.
As a general rule of thumb, missing time during your Base Phase can be handled more leniently. However, missing time during your Build or Specialty Phases are much more likely to require you to take the make-up work approach that was discussed above.
Listen to Certified Cycling Coaches Discuss How to Comeback After Missing Workouts
“How to adjust your training when you miss a workout” is one topic we covered in last week’s episode of the Ask a Cycling Coach podcast. Listen to the episode’s full recording below to hear this and other questions from cyclists get answered by our certified cycling coaches.
TrainerRoad’s Ask a Cycling Coach podcast is dedicated to making you a faster cyclist. It gives you the chance to get answers to your cycling and triathlon training questions from USAC certified coaches Chad Timmerman, Jonathan Lee and special guests. Learn more about other topics we covered in the latest episode with our resources below:
- How to prevent cramping for cyclists
- Does shaving my arms and legs make you faster?
- How much improvement should you expect from a training plan?
- Is low-intensity training or high-intensity training better for endurance athletes?
- How weight loss affects triathlon bike splits
- Power meter price wars
- How to shorten your training plan
- How to use indoor training for mountain bike racing
- How to incorporate cross training with road racing
- How to maintain peak fitness for a long period of time
- Is track racing or indoor training more effective for endurance athletes?
- Aluminum or carbon wheels for a cobbled sportive?
- What tire pressure should you run in your tires?
- How to ride cobblestones, gravel and rough roads on a road bike
- How to raise your FTP for triathlon
- How to plan a big training block for cyclists
- How to train for cyclists with ketogenic, low carb or paleo diets
- How to start training after a serious injury
- How to transition from Half-Ironman training to Full
- How to use indoor cycling for recumbents and Velomobiles
If you have a question that you’d like to ask Coach Chad, submit your question here. We’ll do our best to answer them on the next episode of the Ask a Cycling Coach podcast.