Adapting Your Training Schedule After Missing Workouts

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As I said last week I’m honored that Joe Friel is keen to contribute his invaluable experience, knowledge and wisdom to CyclingTips.  If you aren’t familiar with Mr. Friel I’m glad to make the introduction.  The groundbreaking book he authored called “The Cyclist’s Training Bible” was the first book on training I ever picked up.  I was a changed cyclist thereafter.   I’ve been a student of his ever since and many things I write about with regards to training are influenced by him.   I may not practice everything that’s preached in this book (I’ve found through experience that some things don’t work for me), however it changed the way I approach training and racing.

Many of you may be unfamiliar with some of the nomenclature Mr. Friel uses.  I’ll try to explain before each article to make sure it’s clear.

In this article Mr. Friel refers to some different cycles throughout the training year (called mesocycles): Preparation, Base, Build, Peak, Race and Transition.  These are the progression of training blocks in a periodized training plan. The Build, Peak and Race periods may be multiple several times during the racing season.   The type of training during each of these is different depending on the time of year.  All of this info is defined and discussed in depth in “The Cyclists Training Bible“. You can purchase a copy here if interested (warning: I receive 5% affiliates fee if purchased from this link. Just search “Training Bible“).

Adapting Your Training Schedule After Missing Workouts

by Joe Friel

JoeFrielThis one isn’t an “if,” it’s a “when.” It happens to everyone. Just when training is going great, when you’ve been consistent and can tell that fitness is progressing well, that’s when your job throws a curve ball at you and you have to miss a day of training. Or you catch a cold and don’t train for four days while your body is fighting it off. Or your knee becomes inflamed and the doc says no running or biking for two weeks. Or you decide you’re too tired to train and need an extra day off. What should you do? Try to fit in the missed workouts between the others? Or just continue on as if nothing happened? How will this affect your race preparation? Here is how to handle such dilemmas.

Missing Three or Fewer Days. If the down time is just a couple of days then continue your training with no adjustments. The worst thing you can do now is to try to wedge the lost workouts between the others on your weekly schedule. That’s likely to set you up not only for poor training quality due to accumulated fatigue but also has the potential to initiate an overuse injury, illness or the early stages of overtraining.

Missing Four to Seven Days. Now is the time to rearrange your workouts for probably up to two weeks in order to make up for some of the lost training time. But you won’t be able to do all of the missed workouts plus those originally planned. The most important are those related to your limiters (race-specific weaknesses). Select and schedule these so that you can do most all of them. This may mean not doing some of the workouts that maintain your strengths. Be sure to include easy days just as you would normally do in training. Don’t try to cram more hard training into fewer days.

Miss One to Two Weeks. Now is the time to change your Annual Training Plan by stepping back one mesocycle and omitting at least a portion of planned future training. For example, let’s say you missed two weeks of training in Build 2. When ready to train normally again go back to Build 1 for two weeks and do the appropriate workouts. You’ll need to adjust your Annual Training Plan by cutting out two weeks of formerly planned training. One way to do this is to make Build 2 three weeks long instead of four and omit Peak 1.

Miss More than Two Weeks. Again, revise your Annual Training Plan only this time you should return to the Base period as one or more of the basic abilities—endurance, force, or speed skills—has probably been compromised. If you were already in the Base period when the training time was lost, step back one mesocycle. So let’s say you were in Base 3 and had to miss three weeks of training for some reason. Return to Base 2. If you were in Build 2 when it happened, go back to Base 3 and then continue on from this new starting point. You will need to make major revisions to your Annual Training Plan to accommodate this change by omitting some portion of Build 2 and by possibly shortening the Peak period from two weeks to one.

No matter which of these unfortunate situations occurs you will have less fitness by the time race day rolls around. There’s just no getting around it. The body has a limit to how much stress it can adapt to. You can’t force it to become just as fit on less training. This is why it is so important to minimize high risks in training in order to avoid injury and time off.

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