So I traveled to corporate for work last week leaving a gaping hole in my training schedule and ambitions.  I went with bright-eyed plans to work out daily, eat well, post a few blog additions, and complete some more coach specific education, but to no avail.  I had no energy at the end of the day and dragged myself through a 45 mile Saturday ride with one of my local groups.

While I was training for the Ironman, I learned a lot about workout schedules.  I can’t say I’m the overanxious type, but here are a few tips and tidbits from those who have been around for awhile.

1- Fitness is a Journey – I read that it takes an average of 9 years to peak in your endurance fitness.  There’s a good reason why the 40-44 age group is the most competitive in Ironman. Experience and years of aerobic fitness, technique, and slow twitch muscle efficiency development really add up in this sport.

If you’re sick or miss a day in your schedule, look at the larger picture and keep moving forward.  If anything, we tend to overtrain.  Give yourself a well deserved break when other priorities or sickness comes calling.

2- The 14 Day Rule – According to the GAS Adaptation Syndrome, after your body is subjected to stress (exercise), your body adapts to that stress during the resistance phase.  The adaptation comes in the form of aerobic, neuro, and muscular development which will better enable you to perform during your next stress phase.

The 14 days come into play as your body takes roughly 14 days to fully adapt to a workout session or block.  Missing a day may decrease to total adaptation, but not as much as you may think.  Think baby steps.  One missed step won’t destroy your fitness program.

3- One Day Missed – If you miss one day’s workouts, you shouldn’t need to worry about it if you’ve consistently trained.  There is a difference in the importance of a missed endurance or interval workout, however.

A missed endurance workout won’t set you back to much as your body will not need to adapt significantly to overcome the stresses involved.  Endurance workouts provide valuable learning regarding efficiency maintenance, nutrition, hydration, and mental toughness building.

A missed interval workout may have a greater impact as it provides a greater stress and can influence your VO2 max and aerobic thresholds.  Stressing the system to the degree you do during an interval workout is key to breaking through plateaus and continually improving.  Keep in mind that it is also trickier to replace and interval workout as adequate recovery is also needed.  (24 – 48 hours)  You may need to push some of your other non key workouts back as you are flirting with danger by doing several interval workouts in as many days.  Ultimately, you know your body best.  Be wise.  Remember, Fitness is a Journey!

4- Several Days Missed – Remember that proverbial bank account that can be used in so many ways?  Well, this is one of them.  Each consistent workout builds that bank account.  If, for some reason, you miss several subsequent days, you will need to adjust your training plan.  Sometimes you can bounce back within a week and get back on plan, but this is largely related to your overall fitness level and the ambitiousness of your goals.  You may need to repeat the workouts missed and move your training schedule forward optimizing it for your race schedule.  The important thing is to get back on the horse.

Try not to worry about the missed days.  Enjoy them!  Live in the moment and return fresh to your exercise routine.  Unless you’re income depends on you winning races, and the majority of ours don’t, you’ll likely be much more successful if you can roll with the punches without stressing.

5 – Illness – If you’re sick, give your body time to fight the illness.  If you’re doing 1 – 2 hour workouts, you’re stealing valuable resources which your body needs to combat the disease.  You’ll likely end up sicker.

Gale Bernhardt wrote an article on sickness on Active.com.  I thought it was well said:

 If you miss between one and three days of a training plan, just forget about the days you missed and pick up on the next workout, though with these modifications:

  • Keep any intensity above Zone 2 out of all your workouts for about a week.
  • You may need to cut down the time of your workouts by 20 to 50 percent. Do enough so that you feel good and leave the workout wanting more.
  • If you start a workout and feel worse as you get going, just stop the workout and try another day.

If you miss three to seven days of a training plan due to illness, forget about the days you missed and pick up on the next workout with these modifications:

  • Keep any intensity above Zone 2 out of all your workouts for one to two weeks, maybe more. Keep any intensity above Zone 3 out of your workouts for an additional two weeks.
  • Definitely cut down the time of your workouts by 20 to 50 percent. Do enough so that you feel good and leave the workout wanting more.
  • If you start a workout and feel worse as you get going, just stop the workout and try another day.

If you miss more than two weeks of a training plan due to illness, you’ll need to go back and rebuild lost fitness. If you are in the preparation or base phase, there are some options:

  • Go back and repeat the three or four weeks prior to the onset of the illness. This may mean you eliminate some intensity workouts later in the plan or closer to the race. This is a better choice than trying to skip foundation workouts and go right to intense exercises.
  • Continue with the training plan, but keep any intensity above Zone 2 out of all your workouts for at least two weeks—maybe more. Keep any intensity above Zone 3 out of your workouts for two more weeks. (A minimum of four weeks total.)
  • Definitely cut down the time of your workouts by 20 to 50 percent. Do enough so that you feel good and leave the workout wanting more.
  • If you start a workout and feel worse as you get going, just stop the workout and try another day.
  • Once you begin to do faster workouts, you may need to reduce the volume (accumulated time) of the intensity scheduled by 20 to 50 percent.

Most of the time, it’s okay to do some strength training if you feel like doing something but you don’t want to risk an aerobic workout. Don’t get carried away and make yourself exhausted, just go push around some iron and get the blood moving.

 Closing thoughts

Life happens.  Let’s not live to workout.  Let’s workout to live.  Enjoy fully the time you have in the water, on the bike or running path and build up for those days where you are exhausted, need to place other priorities first, or are sick.  Treat them as an unexpected gift.

The only other thing is to moderate your diet accordingly, unless it’s the holidays!  You’ll burn it all off again in the new year.  Santa wouldn’t be so jolly if he were skinny.. right :)