If you’re about to “fail” a workout

I know the answer is “it depends”, but give me some feedback, depending on whatever circumstances you want.

Let’s say you’re halfway through a workout, you feel your legs loading up and it’s not a good kind of pain, you feel your form slipping, and know you can’t finish this at 100%, or 99, or 98. You know to finish this workout meant to target ___ zone, you’re going to have to lower the intensity to the point of not being in the same zone and targeting different kind of work.

Do you lower the intensity considerably (say 10%) and push through, or do you cut your losses, finish what you can at 100% with the most quality you can muster, and move on with an incomplete workout?

Had this today with Mitchell, was deteriorating quickly and knew I still have Junction and Tallac +3 this weekend, so decided to stop the bleeding after 4 sets and leave as much as I could in the tank for the weekend. Friend asked why I didn’t just turn it down 5-10% and finish which I contemplated during one of the breaks, but I didn’t think it would really be beneficial at this stage in the plan (maybe if it was the last ride before a recovery week)

Curious what you guys think, what would you have done, how have you handled failure before, and how do you look at this situation?

I would bail on it and try to figure out what went wrong.

I failed Palisade last spring and I determined the flu I had just recovered from whacked my power or perhaps I jumped back in too soon. I was succeeding at workouts prior to that (though I could definitely sense things were off). I went through some intensity reduction and reset interval backspinning but it was brutal and I too figured excess intensity reduction probably would take me out of the intended benefit. I bailed and in fact that was essentially the end of my structured training for the year as I figured COVID19 was going to for the cancellation of racing. I rode free and easy the rest of the summer and started back with formal training in September.

It sounds tome like you have a challenging workouts. Missing or bailing on one workout is not a big deal but missing a slew of them is definitely bad. Carry on and try to figure out what went wrong.


I would’ve pushed through, only because I’ve gone through Short Power Build a few times and IMO Bitchell’s the hardest workout in the entire plan.

Worse than Kaiser+2 and Xalibu+4.


I would and have cut workouts off.

Look at the bigger picture. Maybe Mitchell had you beat. Maybe today just wasn’t your day. If this is the first workout in a while that has got the better of you, that’s a good thing. You’ve got something solid to work towards.

By the sounds of it, you’ve got two more tough workouts on the horizon. You’ve given yourself a chance of really cracking those.


I know some people will say bail the workout and just finish the time with some zone 2 type stuff but for me personally I prefer to climb off. One bad workout wont matter, if it keeps happening that’s another story and things need looking at.


I would lower intensity until I’m out of zone. although Mitchell is in Z6 @ 125%, I would accept lowering it until the target is around 110%. Then bail if I can’t finish.

One off is OK.

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First i’d use all the tricks in the book, like focussing on my pedalling dynamics, making sure i add a bit of lift into the back part of the stroke, that can buy you a bit of easing, and then i’d stand and pedal for a couple of seconds to give the legs a chance to recover a tiny bit. I’d push through until i really just ground to a halt. At that point i’d say “fair enough, that was a good workout” and get on with my life.

Mitchell is a hard workout. I’d expect a fair number of people to fail that, and indeed having just checked its history a lot of people do fail that, so don’t extrapolate this failure to being systematic of a greater problem. It’s just failing a very tough workout. If you fail Mount Field then i’d get worried, but not this one.

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When I was pushing a higher FTP I would toggle to Resistance mode on the laptop if I felt like I was failing a workout. I am running a FTP 10w lower just now and mainly running workouts on the tablet in parallel to RGT running on the laptop. So far I’ve managed to complete my workouts in ERG but IIRC the highest has been an IF of 0.89 average. It will be interesting to see what my tactics will be if I start struggling on a IF 0.90 + running on the tablet. Its not as simple as pressing a key :thinking:

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For me this was the first fail this year but I’ve only been doing Traditional Base 1,2,3 MV and Short Power build so I haven’t had anything this intense yet. I did do fine on Pierce and Whiteface in prior weeks too. I’m not worried about one incomplete workout but just was wondering if I would have been better off turning down and finishing or not

Psychologically for me I like to finish but whether it’s the best thing. I ve been out with ex coach, whilst not very often, he has called it a day and he was an ex pro. So occasionally calling it a day might be best :thinking:

Yesterday i would do a 2x30min SST but after 20min i quit the workout. On tuesday i did a hard Zwift Race and wednesday i did a 65min tempo ride. So i feel tired. My legs were ok, but my heartrate didnt go as high as normal with SST. For me a reason to quit the workout and do an extra restday.

So it depends on my feeling.

If I cannot complete intervals in the right zone, I am not getting the intended benefits of the workout and will usually drop to z2 for the rest of the workout. If I’m feeling really bad I’ll just hop off. I think if you are pushing your limits and challenging yourself there are going to be times where its hard to complete workouts, even going in fresh, but also due to accumulated fatigue, insufficient recovery, fueling, etc. I usually at least get through warmup and first interval to make an assessment as the first interval usually feels the worst to me.

I don’t know if you’ve read the latest edition of Training and Racing with a Power Meter, but there is a section where they discuss at what point workouts should be ended based on drop in power output.


I had this happen last week with Lamarck. I finished the workout by lowering the work periods by 50%, took a full day off even though I had a z1 ride scheduled the next day and pretty much nailed both Leconte and Wright Peak the next two days after. I fully endorse the full day off when you are struggling, perhaps two if it’s really bad and I think you can absolutely be stronger than before this failed workout for the next ones.

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Specific to something like max aerobic intervals there are some great coaches out there who say keep pushing (Tim Cusick). There is a world of difference between stress (watts) and strain (rpe even HR). If the stress goes down but the strain goes up or stays elevated you’re generating stimulus.

This happened to me yesterday with Warlow – kept falling into Erg death spiral even when I knocked it down to 97% then 95%, so I called it.
I think others are right – if this is happening to you frequently, maybe your FTP is too high or you should take a hard look at your nutrition or the amount of fatigue you’re carrying (esp if you have a lot of stress or physical fatigue from other sectors of your life). But I think that it’s a good mental exercise to know when you’ve reached your limit, and to just move on from there.

Stay positive, rest up, and nail the next workout!