Coach Blogs: “Coach- I missed Tuesday’s workout… I’ll make it up tomorrow…”

By CTS Senior Coach Dave McIntosh 

…no, you won’t. And most times, you shouldn’t. As a coach, I frequently get emails from my athletes asking and/or telling me that they’ll “make up” their missed workout on another date… and my response is always the same: you can’t make up a missed workout.

I learned this lesson early on in my athletic career, on my swim team in high school.  I’d missed an early-morning workout, and during that workout I missed, our coach announced that the next morning we  WOULDN’T  be having practice.  I didn’t know that, because I wasn’t there for practice that morning.  The next morning I show up, expecting my teammates to be there as well, and much to my surprise, they weren’t… but the coach was.  Wow… embarrassing.  Feeling guilty, I told my coach, “Hey, I’ll just make it up this morning.” At that point, I’d pretty much do anything to pay my pennance for missing the previous day.  My coach informed me, “There is no way to make up a missed workout; once it’s gone, it’s gone.  All you can do is move forward with what is scheduled next.”

Those words really stuck with me throughout my short swimming career, resonated soundly during my “career” as a cyclist, and become even more important as a coach.  In designing schedules for the athletes I coach, I do my best to schedule appropriate workouts to meet their goals.  As is often the case in anyone’s life, sometimes those workouts get missed due to work, family, and home obligations.  My point in writing all of this is that there is no true way to “make up” that which is missed. What’s more, trying to make up missed training can be counterproductive. What can happen is that loading more work than was originally scheduled into today’s workout – to make up for missing yeterday –  creates more overload than you can cope with and has a negatively impact future workouts.  Interval days are scheduled as they are, typically with some recovery between them, to allow enough time for the body to recuperate and adapt. On any given day, even if you missed training the day before, there’s only so much intensity you can absorb and adapt to. Doing more than that doesn’t help.

It’s human nature to want to make amends for what’s missed, especially in our hard-driven, Type-A society.  My advice when workouts get missed: first, consult with your coach. That’s what we’re here for. If you’ve only missed a day or two, it’s usually not a big deal. Your body is most likely thanking you for a little additional recovery time, and you will be able to just pick up with what’s scheduled for the next day.  If you miss a week or more, then the schedule probably needs to be revised. Changes won’t be huge, but we’ll want to shift workouts keep you on your trajectory to top form. And keep things in perspective: even if you’ve had a week off, for whatever reason – work, family, travel – you haven’t lost much in the way of fitness, and you’ll probably find that within a couple days back in the training game, you’re feeling physically strong, and mentally rejuvenated.

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