This is probably THE concept that I struggled with the most while training for my first marathon. It was easy when I didn’t know what to expect to just assume that a bad workout could have a serious effect on my race performance. Of course, ignoring that it was 4 months of training.
Lesson learned: take the bad with the good.
In the grander scheme of things, a couple of bad workouts across a 4+ month training plan is not going to stop you from doing well on race day. It’s a mental battle you have to win. Sometimes there’s just bad days and miserable runs. There are too many ways that the preparation, the workout, and the recovery can go wrong.
I bring this up because a recent workout for me was just horrible. I felt miserable, the miles were a struggle, and my legs were tired. The tired legs I expected, but wanting to stop before I even really started was not. It can be hard when a big race is looming to just let go and say “I’ll try again tomorrow.” But sometimes that is the best thing you can do.
So this time around I have learned. I know better. I’ll try my best to complete my workouts – but if the variables just aren’t lining up one particular day I’ll cut it short. It can be more detrimental to force yourself through a bad workout & ultimately result in a longer recovery than to skip it. If you cut one short, it’s fine. Add a mile or two of the ones missed to other workouts when appropriate. Maybe rearrange your days that week so you can try that particular workout again. And other times you can just write that workout off as “it just didn’t happen.”
Keep in mind – this doesn’t mean make lame excuses for skipping workouts just because you’re feeling lazy. This is for the days when your mental or physical health will suffer more if you force yourself than if you miss it. And yes, the guilt can do you in sometimes.
A few workouts, spread across several hundred and a few months, will not seriously affect your ability to accomplish race goals. Now skipping 3 whole weeks of training might.
So don’t be afraid to change things up – to modify your days. Don’t guilt yourself into doing a workout that you know is going to hurt more than it helps. And remember that you can always make it up later when you are more physically and mentally prepared to take on this challenge.