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How to Deal with Missed Training Sessions

By Jiri Kaloc

Missing training can feel bad, especially when you’re following a structured plan and you’re motivated by a race coming up. There’s good news and bad news if this had happened to you. The good news is that you lose fitness a lot slower than you think. The bad news is that it also takes time to build fitness back. One great session is never going to be the same as a full week of training. Let’s take a closer look at how to best deal with missed training depending on how much time you were off the bike.

Missing 1-2 training sessions

Fitness has a lot of staying power. You can miss up to a week of training before there will be any meaningful loss of performance. But it’s still a week where you’re not improving, so you don’t want to completely disregard missed training, even if you miss only a few sessions.

To make the right decision about how to approach one or two missed training rides, you have to consider the reason why you missed them. If it was caused by a scheduling conflict, weekend getaway or something similar that doesn’t place extra stress on you, proceed with your training like nothing happened. The break in training will serve as the extra recovery that can make your next session that much better.

Things are a bit different if you miss those training sessions for high-stress reasons. If you’re forced to stay up late working, if you care for a sick family member or if you experience unexpected travel delays, the extra stress demands that you take it easy when going back to training. It’s best to reduce the length or intensity of your next few sessions. This will allow you to get back in the saddle right away but it will give your body time to adjust.

A Cyclist Training
Missing training can feel bad, especially when you’re following a structured plan and you’re motivated by a race coming up. © Profimedia

Missing a week of training

When you know you’re going to miss a week of training for some reason, it’s best to think of it as a long rest period that you can incorporate into your training plan. You can do this in two ways depending on what type of athlete you are.

If you’re someone who gets anxious when unable to train, it’s best to plan high-workload days in the week leading up to missed training. This preloading will make you feel better as you know you worked extra hard and the extra rest is much needed.

If you’re someone who likes a break and always feels more motivated to jump into training afterwards, you should plan for a harder training load in the weeks following your missed training. Try to take 50-75% of the missed training load and spread it onto the planned training sessions over the span of 3-4 weeks. It’s better to increase the duration of several rides by 30 minutes rather than doubling a single ride to try and catch up quickly.

Missing more than a week

As unfortunate as it is, there are times when a cyclist is forced to miss two weeks or even more due to injury, illness, work or other unexpected circumstances. This is when it gets really tricky because every long period of missed training is unique and requires an individualised approach to getting back. You are very likely going to need to reduce duration and intensity but how quickly you can start increasing it back up depends on a lot of factors. If you have the ability, try to work with a coach, their experience can save you a lot of time and pain.

If you’re on your own, you have to mainly focus on being patient. Getting back to a full training load can take anywhere between a few days and two weeks. You have to be really honest with how you feel, especially after an illness or injury, rushing will only set you back further.