What to do following missed workouts

It’s nice to have the world’s most perfectly planned training schedule—or at least some plan at all—but what happens when life throws you a curve and you can’t follow the plan as written? I don’t know a single person who is able to follow a pre-written plan without missing a workout due to work, weather, unexpected travel, or some other reason. But when you get back to the bike, do you pick up where you left off, only 5 days later? Do you skip those 5 days and stick with what’s already on the plan for today? Will you be “ready” for the workouts that follow?

What do you do? The unfortunate answer is, “It depends.”

Of course you can always ask for advice. A coach can give you direction and not leave you assuming where to pick up your training. Some coaches even give specific directions on what to do when you miss a workout. If you don’t have a coach, you can ask a fellow cyclist you trust to give you some insight, but you can probably make a decision on your own.

If you have identified some key goals for the season, those dates are set and it is probably more important to continue with the plan mostly as written (do the workout written on the calendar for today) so the general progression of your training stays on schedule for those big events. Chances are the missed workouts were just more intervals—maybe there were a few more or they were a little longer than previous workouts but nothing that different.

Sometimes, however, there can be a few key skills or efforts that are important to “go back” and do. If you had planned a time trial, fitness assessment, drill, or something else specific to prepare you for an upcoming goal or determine your upcoming training, then you will want to work in that specific workout. If none of those were on the schedule, it’s just water under the bridge.

If the break was longer than a few days, then you can assume that you’re pretty well rested (at least from a training perspective). But if it’s been a few weeks, it may take some time to feel good on the bike again and get some endurance back. That doesn’t mean going back to old workouts, necessarily, but it does mean looking forward from this point to your next goal(s) on the calendar to see if some other adjustments are necessary to your overall plan. If you’re working with a coach, this would be a good time to talk. If you’ve developed your own plan, it’s now time to revisit your planning process and come up with a new training progression to lead up to your key goals.

Missing a workout or two rarely affects if you’re “ready” for a future workout, so don’t worry about that. If you miss a longer block of time, just revisit your goals and adjust your overall schedule accordingly. But regardless of what training plan you follow, missed workouts simply mean missed time and repetitions of intensity and recovery. You can’t get that back, so the best thing to do is move forward and let the missed workouts go. And for those compulsive types of us out there, that may be the hardest part of all.