What to do When a Workout Goes Badly

What to do When a Workout Goes Badly

Often times workouts or races don’t go as planned and that is okay. Every runner and athlete has those days, and they stink.

Recently I’ve been craving a race.  I haven’t raced since early December, but I haven’t raced well since the Runners World Half Festival in October.  I’m still the same runner and person that ran well there, but I crave to run fast and compete again.  Why haven’t I?  Around here that hasn’t been much or when there has been, dangerous conditions

Runners world half festival me

Thinking out loud, I like workouts, but the satisfying feeling of crossing a finish line and meeting your goals always feels better.

Last week, I had a lackluster workout.  I wouldn’t call it bad because I didn’t hurt myself, but I wouldn’t call it successful either. Like a race, I took it out too fast and couldn’t make intervals.  Maybe I was a little overzealous in the fitness I was in, but I was also exhausted.

One of the hardest moments of the sport is realizing it’s not your day and deciding what to do. 

You have so many options. Should you slow down the pace? Shorten the intervals, or even just cut the workout together?  Last week during my 400s, I thought about all of these things.  Was I just mentally weak and physically able to hit the intervals?

Ultimately, I decided to slow down the pace to 90 seconds per 400 (or 6:00 min pace). My effort level was still high and that is how my body felt for the day.

By slowing the pace, I allowed myself to run at the effort I could give for the day at the exhaustion level I was: both mentally and physically.

When to Stop the Workout Completely:

Some days everything feels off from your body to your mind.

How are you able to determine it’s not a great day to do a workout?

For me two big factors are if I’m sick or completely mentally exhausted.  Over my entire running journey, there have been several workout days I’ve moved around, or several races I’ve DNSed because I felt awful physically or mentally.  The world moved on and it wasn’t a big deal.  Sure it wasn’t pleasant at the time, but it wasn’t the end of the world…at the end of the day, it’s just running.

Some would argue, and I would agree, the mental component of running is the hardest.  It’s hard to realize: today is not your day.  Relaxing, resting, or adjusting your pace can be the best thing you do for yourself.  It can help you move forward with training rather than move backward by further exhausting yourself.

You need to have the courage and mental toughness to realize that a day off and missing one workout isn’t going to ruin your entire training segment.

Finally, Look Back to see what Made the day Not Go as Planned:

  • Were you exhausted from training?
  • Were you exhausted from outside factors of life?
  • The weather?

Every runner has bad runs and it won’t be the first or last time it happens.  If you are mentally able to adjust the pace on the rough days and stop the workout when it’s important, it will lead to better workouts and PRs.

Related Posts:
I Don’t Hate the Treadmill
Why Building a Base is So Important for Running

Questions for you:
Have you had a bad workout?
How do you move forward?




7 responses

  1. I love working out but had to stop road running as I keep getting shin splints and can’t find footwear to make it any easier. I do weight and cycle machine but boy do I struggle some days.

  2. Intellectually, this all makes sense. But in reality, when you are Type A, it’s harder to actually cut back a workout or the pace. A good reminder and message!

  3. I have definitely had bad workouts and lately I’ve had a few more than normal due to being sick with a horrible cold. I tell myself to just do what I can and move on. Even though it sucks, in the long run I know it’s not going to make THAT much of a difference. Weather has been a huge factor too, so until it gets nicer to run outside, I am just maintaining a moderate amount of running inside and doing other cross training. Winter stinks! 😦

  4. I’ve had bad workouts. More than I would like to admit. I generally try to keep enough flexibility in my schedule to move key workouts to different days if its just not going to happen on the scheduled day. Mind you, I’m also a pretty hobby athlete now.

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