We’ve all had THAT day. That day when life happens and we simply cannot get in a workout as scheduled on our training plan. We miss the workout, and then we are confronted with this: what do we do about it?
In my experience, many, many athletes want to do what I like to call “double up to make up.”
Basically, the athlete wants to stack the workout on a different day of the week so they don’t actually “miss” the workout. Sometimes this is OK to do, but many times, it’s not the best course of action.
Training plan design is an exceptionally detailed process that takes many years to understand thoroughly. While coaches like myself might make it look “easy” to design training plans and make any adjustments to them, the reality is that these processes only look “easy” because we have accumulated years of experience working with many athletes and learning best practices for training plan design and modifications along the way. As such, it’s actually a big decision when deciding how best to manage a missed workout, and this is especially true if it is a key workout session.
The truth of the matter is this: for most athletes, they cannot “double up to make up.” Whether working from your own training plan, or one constructed by a coach, workouts are much more than the individual sessions written into each day of a training plan.
They are scheduled and timed to optimize what the specific workout objectives are and to further optimize the result that is coming from the training plan as a whole. I say this often: there is a method to the madness.
Workouts are almost always intentionally scheduled in a particular order to achieve a desired result. Some examples of common reasons for this include: deliberately imposing accumulated fatigue, recovering from key workouts, managing lingering injury concerns, working around the athlete’s personal life and mental/physical recovery.
When life happens and workouts cannot occur on the days that they are originally scheduled, I always encourage the athletes who I work with to reach out to me so we can decide the best course of action together. Sometimes we can simply move the workout onto a different day without modifying anything else about that day. Other times, we may want to modify or eliminate another day’s workout in favor of getting the “missed” workout completed.
And there are definitely days when the best course of action is simply to miss the workout and move on with the training week/plan from where we are at.
The reasons behind these decisions include the athlete’s goals, the time they have for training, access to facilities, and perhaps most importantly: the reason why the workout was missed in the first place.
Sometimes moving the workout to a different day without any additional modifications to the plan will increase injury risk to a level that is unwise. Other times, it may complicate the athlete’s recovery overall and harm their chances of hitting the objectives of other workouts in the training plan.
And yet still other times, it may cause too much stress for the athlete and their family for them to make up the workout.
Missing a single workout (or even a couple of workouts) isn’t a major cause for concern. Missing many or all workouts would definitely be cause for concern.
I often say that I worry just as much about the athletes who complete every single workout as I do about the athletes who miss many workouts. The reason for this is that life does happen to everyone and if an athlete is actually completing every single workout on a training plan without ever having any modifications what-so-ever, there is an exceptionally high probability that something else in their life that is important (such as sleep, recovery, family time, etc.) is being compromised in their quest to complete every workout.
This kind of sacrifice is not in the long-term best interests of the athlete and often results in a lot of stress or even worse, burnout.
Doubling up to make up is not the best strategy. When the day comes when you can’t complete a workout as planned (and that day will come), know that missing a workout is very okay.
Instead of immediately looking to find where you can squeeze it in to make it up, instead seek to implement the best strategy to keep you both working toward your goals, healthy, injury-free, and engaged in sport over the long-term.
Your future self will be so thankful that you did.
Coach Laura Henry
Laura Henry is a Syracuse, NY-based coach who is a USA Triathlon Level II Long Course and Level II Paratriathlon Certified Coach, USA Cycling Level 2 Certified Coach, VFS Certified Bike Fitter, and has successfully completed NASM's Certified Personal Trainer course. Coach Laura is passionate about helping athletes of all ability levels reach their goals and has coached many athletes to success.