What To Do When You Have A Bad Workout
Analyze Your Workout
The first step to take after a bad workout is to perform a post-mortem and identify what went wrong and any potential areas you can improve. Sometimes the reason might not be something within your control – a long day at work, too much time in the car, etc. A lot of times you won’t be able to pinpoint anything. However, if you do find things you can improve upon for your next workout — making sure you’re hydrating well, for example — you can prevent yourself from making the same mistake twice.
Be careful with changing too many variables at once. If you believe your bad workout was a fueling issue, don’t try to change what you ate the night before, breakfast the morning of, and drink choice or gel frequency during the run, all at once. In this case, it will be hard to identify which might have been the culprit.
Learn From The Negatives
One way to turn a negative workout into a positive is to identify mistakes you can learn from and improve upon. Big lessons, such as starting out too fast, will be apparent. There are less obvious lessons you can learn from, however, if you really pay attention.
For example, one of my athletes recently ran a half-marathon tuneup race and got to the starting line a little late. As a result, he wasn’t able to start in his appropriate corral. He spent the first mile panicked about getting on pace and weaving through the field to where he should have been running. All that surging and stress used up lots of energy, both physically and mentally, and he bombed the second half of the race.
Afterward, he realized two valuable lessons. First, it’s not likely he will show up late for his goal race. He’s already made plans to be better organized the night before his big race. Second, if the start is more crowded or slower than he anticipates, he now knows first-hand that it is better to relax and work his way up gradually. Both of these lessons will help him perform to his potential on race day.
Think Big Picture
One workout is not going to make or break your training segment. If you’ve trained properly, you’ve had at least a couple months of specific training, four to five solid long runs, and countless workouts. Having one bad day is a blip in the grand scheme of your training cycle. It’s easy to lose perspective after a tough workout, but you have to remember all the other solid workouts you’ve had and keep in mind the opportunities you have remaining on the schedule.
Remember that workouts are designed to improve your fitness, not to prove how fit you are. Too often, runners use workouts as a constant barometer to measure improvement and compare themselves to how they will be able to perform on race day. Rarely will your performance in a workout translate to how you will feel on race day, so don’t get too stressed about a bad day or two.
As you work through your marathon specific phase of the training cycle, remember not to get too down about a bad workout. When you’re pushing the limits for weeks at a time, it’s difficult to feel good every day. Put each workout in perspective, extract a few good learning lessons, and maintain confidence as you continue gearing up for your goal race.