miss a workout

What to do when you miss a workout

Topics Covered In This Episode:

  • Determining key workouts vs. everything else
  • What to do when you miss a key workout
    • Example: Missed a key Tuesday interval workout
    • Example: Missed a key Thursday workout before big weekend
    • Example: Missed long ride on a weekend day
  • Adjusting training start times based on recovery-duration-between-key-workouts
  • When to do or miss a recovery ride
  • Adjusting ride intensities after shifting workout days


Adam Pulford has been a CTS Coach for more than 13 years and holds a B.S. in Exercise Physiology. He’s participated in and coached hundreds of athletes for endurance events all around the world.


Article: Missed Workouts – A guide to adjusting cycling training
Article: What Runners Should Do If You Missed Training

Listen to the episode on Apple PodcastsSpotifyStitcherGoogle Podcasts, or on your favorite podcast platform.


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Episode Transcription:

Please note that this is an automated transcription and may contain errors. Please refer to the episode audio for clarification.

Adam Pulford  (00:08):

Hey trainright fans. It’s good to be back recording. After a few weeks away, I had a death in the family, which is never fun to deal with, but got through it. And now coming back to coaching podcasting in creating content for you all. I’m also trying to ride my bike a little bit too after actually like three weeks away. So it’s, it’s all coming. It’s all coming back, but it is good to be good to be back to some normalcy, but I tell you all that because if, if you have been paying attention to the train right podcast we are in a three part series with the final episode still yet to be recorded. And that’s our getting fast getting faster series. And so that will be coming. But today I’m, I’m recording this individual episode because that little speed bump in the road.

Adam Pulford  (00:59):

So the individual episodes like this are sometimes some of my favorite to record because I get to answer questions from you, all that you submit to the CTS forms or to athlete services. And so we have, we have athletes emailing and submitting questions daily. And, and if you didn’t know that simply go to train right.com. You can go to the contact us link and fill out a short form right there. Or as I said, you can simply email us. And some of those questions get filtered up to the podcast team and they sometimes become fodder for future topics like this. So episode today. So let’s jump right in and answer and kind of an always timely question. And that question is what should I do when I miss a workout? The, the quick answer is it depends because it depends on so many different variables, but first before we get into the depending aspects of it, and also to answer the question directly is I want you to think about, or rethink on how you look at your workouts on a daily basis.

Adam Pulford  (02:11):

I simply categorize them for my athletes into kind of two different categories. One are the key workouts and then the other category is all the other stuff. Okay. So first, what are the key workouts? Key workouts are hard, structured interval days, hard group rides or long rides, long rides, meaning something that is longer than normal and that normal. And I’ll talk about that here in a minute, but something that’s going to be pushing your fitness forward, a long ride that is maybe times two or so of your current CTL, something like that along maybe for a lot of us, you know, five, six hour sort of train session. That’s a long ride and that’s a key workout, right? So this could also be key strength training sessions, especially when we start to enter in off season, or if we have a, a specific strength building phase specific to the demands of the race, maybe cross country, mountain bike racing, for example, something like that.

Adam Pulford  (03:16):

The main thing is if the coach or the whoever writes your training program, if, if it’s communicated that this is a hard day, either by typing it out or, or, I mean, clearly if it has a huge, you know, a bigger TSS or a bigger stress on the day that that’s a key up so first identify if it is a key workout or not second, if it’s part of the other stuff. So first of all, the other stuff, it’s still important stuff don’t get me wrong, but I call it other stuff because the it’s ranging in, in, in different aspects. Okay. these, these workouts and these training sessions still keep the fitness moving forward. It keeps our habits strong. It keeps our, our, our legs feeling good. It has provided time and space for our brains to kind of, you know, unfold from stressful days or, or even between stressful training sessions.

Adam Pulford  (04:12):

And so what I’m talking about here are maybe the shorter endurance rides, maybe though one hour endurance or one hour recovery session between hard training days, or maybe, maybe it’s a couple hours of just zone two endurance. And that could be like a, a normal duration that could be considered part of the other stuff. Now let’s talk about normal duration real quick. What I mean, when I say normal duration is if you’re used to writing, if your, all of your training sessions are kind of between on average, one to 1.5 hours of total training, and you have a zone, two training session coming up, and all of a sudden you miss it. Well, that’s another stuff sort of session, but if you have a three and a half hour ride scheduled, that’s two hours beyond a normal sort of duration. And that would be what I consider a a key training session.

Adam Pulford  (05:12):

So something that is, you know, that longer than normal, kind of like I was saying before, but more specifically right now you wanna make sure that that is a key workout and not the other stuff. So just because it is zone two endurance or kind of a mix of, you know, zone two tempo, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s non-important or other stuff it’s really about what the intent of that training session is. And so to distinguish between a key workout and the other stuff that’s first and foremost, when you’re trying to make a decision on what do I do when I miss a workout. Now back to the question, if you miss a day, if it’s a key day, you want to make that day up, for sure, like in the week or in that current training period or something like that, you don’t want to skip it.

Adam Pulford  (06:00):

Okay. You don’t wanna just blindly kind of move on, but you might have to structure the week a lot or a little, depending on what else is going on. Okay. cuz you want to have time, energy and bandwidth to hit that hard key training session. Now it could be as simple as moving the whole week forward and I’ll run into, or I’ll, I’ll talk about some examples here, but you know, say you miss Tuesday simply slide everything forward. And as long as you can still kind of get that, that rhythm in the, the total sessions in, for the week, all good. But if, if it’s an other stuff day that, that you miss, you might actually be able to just blindly charge charge forward, not have to deal with a complete restructure of, of such and just kind of like pick up with Wednesday as it is could be as, as simple as that.

Adam Pulford  (06:55):

So let’s run into a few examples because examples are always, I think the best way to kind of run through different scenarios and then how to learn best because ha having a, having a good plan or a great plan that’s first and foremost for building fitness in, in performance. But learning how to adjust, I would say is just as crucial as having a really good plan in place, if, if not more so, because of all the athletes I coach, I mean very, very, very rarely does everything go as planned as I put it on training peaks, something’s always changing because whether you’re lead athlete or weekend warrior or somewhere, somewhere in the middle, like our lives are chaotic and we just have to learn how to adjust along the way. So let’s run into some examples that will hopefully help make you better decisions on the fly.

Adam Pulford  (07:44):

First, if you miss a key day, let’s assume just for this example that your hard key workouts for the week, there’s three of them and it’s Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Let’s say that you miss your Tuesday key workout. You wanna move Tuesday to Wednesday first and for, or you wanna move that Tuesday to that Wednesday, assuming that Wednesday’s an other stuff thing. So you’re simply just sliding that session forward. Then if you, if you are working with a coach communicate that and just say, Hey, I’m moving this day over one. Let me know if there’s anything else that needs to be changed to make that happen. Oftentimes you may not need to change much especially if we’re in maybe like threshold and below sort of training phase where meaning zone four, zone three, zone four and lesser intensities.

Adam Pulford  (08:40):

And you say, well, how come I had that, that <laugh> other stuff day in between? Well going hard on Tuesday and hard on Thursday and giving the athlete endurance in between that, that gives, you know, 36 to 48 hours of full recovery before that next training session, that’s a very appropriate way to do it. That’s great. However you can also get those two sessions in, especially if it’s threshold below, you can have 24 hours or, or less in between if the athletes habits recovery habits in particular are dialed along the way. So when I’m writing a training program like this with Tuesday, Thursday, hard, Wednesday, easy, let’s call it. That’s a buffer time period where I it’s maybe a little bit more conservative of approach, but I also know that the chaotic life of an athlete happens. And if we need to move things around, that’s, that’s already kind of built into the plan.

Adam Pulford  (09:39):

Additionally, your body can handle it. If you do your training session, say you have to move the Tuesday to Wednesday, you do your training session in the afternoon on Wednesday, you get some like a recovery shake or some kind of food into that recovery window, which is post up to 45 minutes post workout, and then you get good sleep and then you carry on into Thursday with your life as it is. And then I would also advise hitting that next training session on Thursday. That’s gonna be a key workout and hard doing it in the afternoon or the evening. Again, trying to put about 24 hours between hard training sessions, less than 24 hours that can be done, but it’s, it’s just more stressful to the athlete. You gotta kind of rally your mind and your body a little bit more and that you could have performance compromise on that second day.

Adam Pulford  (10:31):

If it’s, if you just have too short of a time real quick, I guess if, if you do have to do it with less than 24 hours, I would then as a coach and as an athlete, I would make sure the third day in a row is more recovery or kind of an other stuff, sort of thing, where you’re not driving a huge sort of stressor or an adaptation forward. Again, kind of recap if you miss a key day and if it’s a Tuesday, Thursday, sort of hard training pattern, simply slide it over a day, get really good on your recovery and don’t need to change much more than that with the exception of your recovery habits in between. Now, if you miss an other stuff day, let’s just use the same example or the pattern as above where Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday are the hard days.

Adam Pulford  (11:18):

And let’s say that you miss that day in between the Wednesday recovery ride, let’s just call it a recovery ride. In that case, you likely won’t have to change anything. Simply pick up with Thursday as the hard key workout and away you go very simple. So then intellectually, you then say, well, why the heck do I have the recovery ride in there? Coach? Well, recovery it’s, it’s not, it’s not so much that it’s recovery for your legs. It’s also recovery for your head. It’s is something to do to make sure that you’re doing the proper things in between hard sessions, so that you’re ready to go on those hard sessions. And it’s also to ensure that we have some buffer time period kind of in place. So say I go really hard on Tuesday and really hard on Thursday. I know I need at least 24 hours in between.

Adam Pulford  (12:10):

And, but yet you don’t need to be just laying in your, in your bed. The whole time for recovery recovery is actually anything that you’re doing when you’re not stressing out. When you’re not stressing from training, you’re not stressing out necessarily from work and all this kind of stuff. In an example like this. And I say, I have these athletes too, where they just get super busy with work or life where the kids, you know, in that recovery ride should be the first thing to go. Because if you are stressing to get a recovery ride in, you’re really missing the point of that recovery ride. You’re simply better off hanging out with, you know, your, your partner, your spouse at night, or your kids kind of relaxing, unwinding, just get to bed a little bit earlier, rather than coming home, being cold to them.

Adam Pulford  (12:51):

<Laugh> hopping on the bike and getting a ride in as the, as the sunsets, you know, and meanwhile, you probably didn’t eat properly and hydrate properly throughout the day, but you’re so focused on getting that ride in cuz you want to hit the plan accordingly. It’s it’s really counterintuitive again, if anything to take away from this example is just like recovery rides are more for your head than your legs. It’s great when you can get them in, but know that if the goal is recovery, you’re also recovering when you’re doing nothing when you’re not training. So sleep is the greatest recovery tool of them all prioritize, sleep and less stress in your life and you’re gonna be successful. So let’s run through two more examples using the same pattern or rhythm of training as we’ve been using with Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday hard. Let’s say that you actually, you got in the Tuesday session, you got in Wednesday other stuff, and then you missed Thursday.

Adam Pulford  (13:48):

Now, what do you do? Should you go hard on Friday? My answer is, it depends. Oftentimes I would say yes to the athlete. I’d go hard on Friday, get in a good quality session, rest up all the same, you know, recovery habits that I talked about before and then, you know, give her hell on Saturday. You can handle it as long as your recovery is, is, is solid. And we’re kind of in this training phase. The other thing is like if we’re training, let’s train, train, let’s let’s get fit and go for it. Let’s get the sessions in no matter how it looks. Just know that it’s a little bit more of an aggressive push for it and that’s fine. We’re getting tired. And if you recall from basically any of my podcasts, the whole recipe to forming this adaptation of performance and fitness is stress plus rest sequels adaptation.

Adam Pulford  (14:38):

So we still want to get the training stress in. Okay. And that key workout is crucial to do. Now if we do this though, oftentimes let’s say on a, like a Friday, that athlete is if they’ve had a busy week and they, you know, miss the two, the Thursday session, they’re probably gonna get it in on Friday afternoon or evening and then a hard group ride or, or kind of like a bigger session is gonna start Saturday morning. So again, you wanna prioritize sleep, you wanna prioritize, fueling and go for it, but also know that maybe if it is a group ride something, but that’s more dynamic. Feel free to just sit in on the, on that first hour a little bit more, or just make the, the ride more conservative where you’re on wheels. You’re not maybe driving the group forward. You’re not on the front as much.

Adam Pulford  (15:28):

You’re still gonna get in a good quality session, but you’re just not gonna be as aggressive with it because you you’re carrying in too much fatigue and more fatigue than we had planned for in the original plan. So that’s a little bit of how to adjust on the fly like that. If you’re doing a threshold interval session solo to start on the, on the low end of your interval session. So with zone four could be anything from like 91 to a hundred, 5% of your FTP. Okay. And if you already come in with some fatigue in the legs, just start on the low end, cuz you’re still going to get the benefit of threshold. Training’s just not gonna drive as much fatigue. And as you build into the workout, not only is that a better way to structure the whole workout in itself, but you’ll be able to adjust along the way you’ll be able to go to the upper end of your zone for if you are feeling good or just hug below end.

Adam Pulford  (16:20):

And we still get a good training session in. Finally, if you do that aggressive, hard, Friday, aggressive, hard Saturday, and you come into Sunday now what, well, let’s say you had another stuff, but still a little longer sort of session plant three hours. So two, well, if you’re feeling a little cooked, I’d recommend doing two, two and a half hours and calling it good because having that extra 30 to 60 minutes of life, <laugh> in you afterwards, it’s not gonna move the needle necessarily big picture on your fitness or anything like that, but it might be just what you need to, to have a little bit more bandwidth on the weekend, get back from the ride a little bit sooner. Maybe if it’s, you know, super hot or something like that, it’s, it’s also less time exposed in the elements. So just know that you can also adjust on the back side of a lot of this stuff.

Adam Pulford  (17:12):

If you do come into it a little bit more aggressively, but if you’re feeling pretty good on that Sunday, and you’ve got a three to four hour ride scheduled and it is like a a more aerobic in nature zone two zone three stick to it. If you’re getting your sleep and everything’s going well then you’re, you’re still hitting or kind of ticking all the original boxes on that plan. Now let’s run through the analogy of all right, you went through like Monday through Saturday or Monday, Monday through Friday, something like that, hitting all the key workouts and you come in to Saturday, something goes sideways and a key workout for the week is actually a long ride long ride. Again, let’s just say it’s a five or six hour ride because most of your training sessions are maybe only two hours. Well that, you know, a, a long training session for someone who’s doing ultra mountain bike races, long gravel events, iron men races, you know, these long training sessions are just as crucial if not more so than interval sessions because of that, the, the fatigue and the strain that happens exponentially on these long workouts.

Adam Pulford  (18:27):

That’s what we need. And it’s very hard to replicate in a shortened condensed version with, with intervals intervals are meant for energy system development, specificity and all this kind of stuff, but that aerobic base and getting the body to in a scenario where it’s so depleted after four hours, five hours and still writing and experiencing that both mentally and physically it’s, it’s crucial, right? So if you’re on this developmental path to develop that extensive aerobic ability or duration, you don’t wanna skip this training session, but you also don’t want to go into it kind of blowing out, depleted stressed out. So let’s say that you missed that long workout, that long ride on the weekend and you didn’t have the time to do it on Saturday or Sunday. We come into Monday now what happens? Well, a couple of things you don’t really wanna move forward with.

Adam Pulford  (19:23):

You can move forward with your energy system development. So you can keep some of the intervals for next week, or you do a complete restructure of the week. Maybe you’re you have the ability to set up a midweek training session where you can kind of get out early and do a, a long session on Wednesday, right? And it doesn’t disrupt your work or your family balance of things. That’s great to do think more creative about that. The long stuff doesn’t always have to happen on the weekend. If you have the availability midweek. However, let’s say that you’re supposed to take a rest stand Monday and come into a hard key session on Tuesday. What I would do if you have Wednesday, a little bit more of a bandwidth is to simply keep things. Let’s use the other stuff on Monday and Tuesday, just to regulate the legs and get everything like feeling happy and good for the body and the mind so that you have the bandwidth and the energy and the glycogen and the hydration for that big training session.

Adam Pulford  (20:27):

You want to go into that a hundred percent ready to go, because it’s going to require all of that to do not only the session, but then to have recovery on the backside, cuz sometimes that, you know, let’s face it in a six hour midweek workout that that’s a, that’s a high cost for a lot of people. So my communication to you, my advice to you on, on that when you do miss a big one is restructure it so that you can still get it, get the session in kind of within the general time period. However, make sure that you are fresh going into that one, knowing that even if you have to skip a shorter key workout to do it, that’s great. Meanwhile, what you can also do is maybe hit some of those key workouts that were originally scheduled for the week and then simply freshen up going into the weekend and make sure to hit that long endurance session before you move on to anything else that you had scheduled out for the training plan on, on weekend work.

Adam Pulford  (21:27):

So in summary, what you should do when you miss a workout really depends on the bigger picture of things. If you can more simply identify key workouts from the other stuff, it will not only help make better decisions on how to navigate future workouts, but it can bring more peace of mind to your workout because you just have less anxiety to fit it all in perfectly as planned, which I, like I said before, that rarely occurs with normal human beings anyway. So don’t think that you have to do that. One of my athletes once said perfectionism is slow suicide and that’s, that’s really the case. Like if you’re striving to perfect, don’t, that’s only going to hinder you. Okay. But learning how to adjust on the fly is just as important, if not more important than following a really good plan. So I hope all of this has helped you learn how to adjust when stuff changes because it always will.

Adam Pulford  (22:25):

Now finally you know, if you do have a general training question and you’re listening to this podcast and you have more curiosities and stuff I don’t, I probably don’t, I don’t say this on every podcast, but we’re open to hearing about it. So as I said before, head over to train right.com. You can use the, the contact us or drop us an email at athlete services. And they’ll either reply directly to you. If it’s a quick kind of like more of a slam dump sort of thing, or they’ll send it to some of us coaches or the podcast team and, and we’ll create some content out of it. So we’re always up for hearing your ideas. You are our, our listeners and our subscribers. And so we’re producing this content for you and we wanna cater it to you. So always feel free to do that. You can also drop me an email too at a Pulford train, right.com. And that’ll be a direct link to me and that’ll give me some ideas as well. So thank you once again and until our next episode, which like I said that should be recorded here soon. And that sh that’ll close out our getting faster series. But until then train right.



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