The body is a complex organism with hundreds of complicated physiological processes occurring every second. On days when running feels effortless, all these elements "click" and you clip along the sidewalk or trail. Unfortunately, sometimes you're out for a hard workout—or even an easy run—and your body just doesn't want to cooperate. You feel like, well ? let's face it, crap.
I've been a competitive runner for more than half of my life, and I know these "bad" days all too well. They can be some of the most confusing and frustrating parts of the training process.
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Perhaps the most difficult aspect of a bad workout is deciding how to proceed once you know it's not your day. Do you back off your pace, cut the distance, lengthen the rest, or stop entirely? Even after you've made the decision, you'll likely spend the rest of the day agonizing over what you should have done.
In this article, I'll explore the two best options for adjusting your run mid-workout to make the most of a bad day, and to keep your training on track for the long term.
What Should You Do When a Workout Goes Poorly?
Based on my experience as both an athlete and a coach, the two best options when faced with a day where your body doesn't want to cooperate are:
- First, try slowing the pace
- If that doesn't work, stop the workout entirely.
Adjusting the Pace
It's better to slow the pace of the workout instead of lengthening the rest or shortening the interval.
The rest period and the length of an interval are specific to your goal race and training plan, whereas pace is merely an estimation of the effort it should take to hit the specific physiological adaptation you're trying to achieve.