Coach Tip Tuesday: It's Actually Very Okay if the End of a Workout Feels Tough

Posted On:
Tuesday, April 14, 2020
Updated On:
Tuesday, July 18, 2023
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The finish line of Iron Girl Syracuse in 2015.  This moment is what those final hard intervals and moments in training workouts prepare athletes for: to finish their goals STRONG!!  Christina Barker is running into the finish chute, and I am standing outside of the finish chute cheering her on.

Well, hello!! And welcome to Coach Tip Tuesday!

Like so many Coach Tip Tuesday posts, this week’s topic is inspired by some feedback that I have been giving lately to a high percentage of the athletes who I work with:

It’s actually very okay if the end of a workout feels tough.

Specifically, it’s very okay if the final couple of intervals in a workout feel tough or if the final minutes of a workout feel hard mentally and physically. In fact, it’s usually a sign that the athlete has executed the workout well and is making progress in their training.

Why am I telling you all that it’s very okay (and actually, rather good) if the final intervals/time periods feel hard? Well, in order to make gains and get stronger, we need to push past one’s current ability. This means that we need to actually plan to GO past one’s current ability.

As I’ve talked about in the past, training plan design is a seemingly “easy” thing, but it honestly is quite complex and takes many years to understand thoroughly and well.  It’s a very fine-tuned skill to be able to write a training plan that accounts for an athlete’s lifestyle and goals, while simultaneously imposing load that yields gains but doesn’t cause injury, and then also having the athlete reach peak fitness shape at exactly the right time.

In order to accomplish all of these goals, when I am writing training plans for athletes, I examine what an athlete has done in training (by looking at their data AND reading the subjective feedback that they give on a workout).  I then build from where they were.  This manifests in a variety of ways, including (but not limited to): 

  • Adding duration to what they have previously completed
  • Adding more intervals than they previously completed
  • Keeping the intervals the same, but adding intensity to that same number of intervals
  • Adding other layers to the workout (perhaps adding strength training, mobility work, etc.)
  • Adding mental skill components to the workout
  • Adding miscellaneous skills to the workout (these can be physical skills, such as swimming drills, or they can be peripheral skills such as fueling and hydration)

I plan training week-by-week for the athletes who are on the Performance Coaching option that I offer. When I write each week of training, I am always seeking to plan workouts that will challenge the athlete so as to help them reach the goals that they’ve set for themselves, but to write those challenging workouts in a way that also renders them DOABLE. So while the final intervals or minutes of a workout might be tough, as long as it’s DOABLE, it’s almost always exactly what I was after when I wrote the plan.

So, the next time you feel like you are testing your limits in the latter part of a workout, realize that you are doing just that.  And realize that ceilings only get higher if you break through the lower ceiling that existed first.  In training, you need to do things you’ve never done so you can go places you’ve never gone.  This means that you will need to do something challenging on a regular basis in order to make gains on a regular basis.  

You are ALL capable of doing ALL the hard things.  As I’ve written about in the past, I firmly believe that we are only as limited as we let ourselves be.  So the next time the going gets tough, realize that YOU are tough.  And then get going. :)


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.

She can be reached at

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