Stressed, tired or ill? Don’t push yourself too hard – just adapt your workout, says Greg McMillan.
Every runner goes into every workout hoping for the best. The reality, however, is that you’re likely to have a few workouts where you just don’t feel good. Or the wind is howling. What’s a runner to do? One difference between elite athletes and us amateurs is that pros are comfortable with adjusting their workouts – and their expectations. This allows them to transform an otherwise compromised workout into a positive training session, whereas many recreational runners might throw in the towel in the face of ‘failure’.
How to adapt your workouts
Let’s say you have a workout of five one-mile reps at your 10K pace with a three-minute recovery jog after each. Let’s also say that you find you’re just ‘off’ that day or that the weather isn’t cooperating. The best option, if available, is to move the workout to another day – one where you hopefully feel better or the weather is more cooperative. Let’s say, however, that you can’t move the workout or the weather won’t change. Here are three ways you can adjust your session.
1. Slow the rep time
The best option for 10K runners to marathoners is to slow down. If your ideal pace for this workout is 6:30min/mile, shoot instead for around 6:40min/mile. Then you can complete the workout, feeling good that you salvaged what could have been a disastrous day. In such a situation, elite runners see no need to push so hard to hit the prescribed times that they overtrain.
2. Reduce repeats
A second option is to adjust the number of repeats. So instead of doing five, which would require too much effortin tough circumstances, run three to four reps and then call it a day. This is the best option if you’re concentrating on racing shorter distances – from 800m to 5K – because practising race pace for these is critical.
3. Up recovery time
Increasing the time you spend recovering between repeats can help with both of the first two options. Instead of taking three minutes between each repeat, take four or five minutes. We should get more comfortable making these compromises – doing so leads to more positive training results, which always builds our confidence for racing.