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What to do about missed training runs

what to do if you miss a training run

Say you’re training for a marathon and training has been going great to date. Your paces have been on point and your long runs don’t feel too long. Then it happens. You get sick — or extra busy with work or the kids. And before you know it, you’re missing a training run (or two or three).

Relax, you’re not alone. Training plans are long and life just gets in the way for many of us. In the grand scheme of things, missing a handful of runs over a 16-week training cycle is probably not going to hurt you (as long as they’re not all long runs).

Here’s what to do when you miss:

One training run

The takeaway: Missing one run isn’t going to set you back. In fact, it may give you the extra recovery time you need so that you can push harder the next day. Don’t sweat the missed run and don’t worry about making up the skipped miles. Just pick up training on schedule with the next workout.

The exception: However, if you miss a long run as part of marathon training, it may be OK to make it up. This only applies if you skipped the run for a reason other than being sick or injured and if you can make it up the next day. If you were tied up at work on Saturday and missed your long run, it’s OK to go for it on Sunday. Just be sure to adjust the next week’s plan accordingly to allow for ample recovery time. One missed long run during a training cycle is not a big deal physically, but if you skip an 18- or 20-miler, it could affect your mental-readiness.

One week of training

The takeaway: Missing an entire week of training may seem like a lot, but experts say you can take 6 days off from running without losing significant fitness.  You may feel a bit rusty when you get back, but missing out on one week is usually no big deal. Simply cross out that missed week, and pick-up training with the following week’s plan.

The exception: If you’re coming back after illness or an injury, your body may not be ready to resume training as normal. You may need to ease back into running gradually and miss more runs. In this case, you may need to tweak your race goals.

Two weeks or more of training

The takeaway: The two-week mark is when you may need to adjust your training plan. After two weeks off, your body loses 3 to 5 percent of fitness. It may not be realistic to pick up training where you left off. Consult a running coach (or an experienced running buddy) and ask what you can do from here on out to be race ready. You may need to follow a different training approach. If you have specific, lofty time goals, you may need skip the race and focus on an event that’s further out.

The exception: You’re a seasoned runner and it’s early in training. If you stay in half marathon shape year-round and miss weeks 2-4 of a 16-week training cycle, you may still have a shot at meeting your race goals. Just know it will take a good two weeks of running before you get back to where you were before the break.

What do you do when you miss training runs?

Written by Jen Matz.