Adapting Your Training on the Fly

Too often, people can feel overwhelmed, frustrated or as if they aren't doing a good job when they don't achieve all of their workouts to the letter. This happens because an athlete doesn't know how to adapt their training to life's circumstances. Here are some simple tips and strategies to help you adjust on the fly and make the most of your available training time.

Key Workouts

In an ideal world we would all sleep for eight hours, train for three to four hours a day, eat perfectly, take naps and go to bed by 10 p.m. Unfortunately that doesn't happen very often, if ever. When all else fails, concentrate on completing that week's key workouts. This will ensure you are doing enough to maintain and possibly even improve your fitness.

For most of us, our key workouts fall on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday and on the weekend. These workouts usually consist of intervals or specific drills. If you are stuck indoors, your workouts should be kept brief (1.5 hours or less) and very specific. For cyclists, the key workout in the gym is the legs and core day. If you are only going to get one gym workout in for the week, make sure it's that one. And no matter what the workout, always make time to stretch. It only takes five minutes and is critical to performance, recovery and injury prevention.


If you miss a workout, there are two options: skip it and don't give it another thought, or, if it is a time of year when workout sequencing is not critical, get it in when you can during that week. If you have a coach, contact him or her to find out how to adjust your schedule to accommodate your situation.

When you are worn out from stress or fatigue, either riding easy or taking the day off and pushing that key workout until the next day can be beneficial. Leading in to the early part of the season, specific scheduling is not as critical, and we need to keep our training fun for it to be effective in the long term.

Adjusting on the Fly

Sometimes, workouts are longer than the amount of time available to train that day. Here are ways to adjust on the fly so you get in a good workout, even with a minimum amount of time.

Cardio and Bike Workouts
Too often, people skip entire workouts believing that if they can't to it perfectly, then why do it at all. I find the following to be a better approach:

  • Cut your warmup and cool down in half, but still get it in
  • Cut your workload in half by doing one-third to one-half fewer sets
  • Cut the rest periods in half
  • Cut the interval times in half

Their placement within this order is designed to eliminate elements of your workout in order of importance. Of course, this is only to be done in case of emergency, but it will allow you to still get in a quality workout. Contrary to popular opinion, something is still better than nothing.

Strength and Conditioning
The gym is another area where we can save time in a pinch. When in a hurry, simply follow the suggestions below to effectively augment your workout.

  • Start by cutting the warmup and cool down time in half
  • Make sure you are super-setting exercises and performing circuits whenever possible
  • Do two sets minimum so that you are at least maintaining fitness, and then do more next time
  • Just do the key exercises for your core and legs--such as squats, lunges, dead lifts, etc.
  • Leave the stretching for later in the day or week

As you can see, there are many ways to adjust your training to help get it in and avoid the negative energy that's created when life throws you a curve ball. The goal is to make training be effective and fun, and avoid it becoming a pair of handcuffs or a source of stress.

Give some of these suggestions a try and let me know if you have any specific issues with your training program. We can work on it together to come up with a solution that leads to success.

Jeb has a Master's degree in Exercise Science and Health Promotion and is certified by the ACSM, NASM, USAT and USA Cycling as an Elite Level Coach. He is a performance consultant for Jittery Joe's Professional Cycling Team and a continuing education provider to USA Cycling and USA Triathlon. He is the co-creator of The Next Level: Strength Training for Endurance Athletes DVD.

Be sure to visit to check out the upcoming Racing from the Inside Out Tele-course and take advantage of the free training resources available on my site. Please contact me with any questions you may have at

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