Even the Badass Have Bad Days: What to Do When You Can't Do
Let’s face it, some days you’re the hammer, some days you’re the nail. As a Sufferlandrian, you have high expectations for yourself. You have a reputation to protect. You’re supposed to be able to crush every workout at 100%, re-fuel with a heaping bowl of broken glass, get a few hours of shuteye on a bed of pointy things, and do it all over again.
But there are going to be times when despite your best efforts, you simply won’t be feeling it. The intervals will seem too long, the wattage targets way too high, and the recovery periods frustratingly short. Even the badass have bad days. It could be due to any number of factors: lack of sleep, poor nutrition, overtraining, a compromised immune system. Regardless of the reason, just because you’re not feeling your best doesn’t mean that all is lost. No need to start researching home prices in the chocolate-frosted hills of Couchlandria. You can still salvage your workout and reap some Return on Suffering.
As your Director of Strategic Suffering, I've put together a few strategies to help you get through those training sessions when you just don’t have the legs. Because different types of workouts are designed to trigger different types of training adaptations, the strategies you use will depend upon the kind of intervals you’re doing.
Workout Type: High-Intensity (all above your FTP) with efforts of a minute or less and equal recovery.
The benefit of high-intensity interval sessions comes primarily from the time you spend in that rarified air above your threshold. If you can’t maintain the intensity of a given effort, you won’t get the training adaptation you are looking for. Better to end the workout, get some rest, and hit it hard once you’re back to your normal, pedal-stomping self.
- If you’re doing Violator or Half Is Easy, suck it up. No one ever feels “good” going toe-to-toe with those monsters. Grit your teeth and hope for the best. It will all be over soon.
- If you’re doing something other than Violator or Half Is Easy, skip the next interval to increase the recovery period. If you’re feeling better, keep going.
- If you’ve skipped an interval and still aren’t feeling the love, end the interval when you can no longer hold the target power. Then, pause the session and double the normal recovery time before starting the next effort. If that does the trick, keep going and finish the workout.
- Still struggling? It’s time to pull the chord. Stop the intervals and finish your workout with easy spinning.
Workout Type: High-Intensity (all above FTP) with sustained efforts longer than a minute.
- Try to maintain the target power of the effort as long as possible. If your power begins to dip, end the effort and begin your recovery. This will have the effect of increasing the recovery period before the next effort. Start the next interval at 100%.
- Still unable to hold the target power through the end of the effort? Pause the workout and double the recommended recovery time.
- Feeling better? Great. Put your head down, keep going, and finish the workout.
- Still struggling? You’re not doing yourself any favors. Stop the intervals and end your workout with some easy spinning.
Workout Type: Sustained (right at FTP)
The goal of threshold workouts is to improve your ability to produce sustained power. To do that, you need to focus on maintaining a continuous effort during training. Even if you keep the intensity at 100%, stopping and starting will defeat the purpose of threshold work. You simply won’t get the training adaptation you’re after. It’s better to reduce the intensity to a level that you can maintain for the entire interval.
- Reduce the intensity by 10% and continue your workout.
- Still Struggling? Reduce the intensity another 5% and keep going.
- Lather, rinse, and repeat if necessary.
There’s no shame in making modifications to a workout if you’re not able to hit your targets. If you listen to your body, use your head, and make adjustments, you can maintain momentum and still squeeze some fitness gains out of a session. If you stubbornly try to push through despite what your body is telling you, you’ll not only delay your recovery, but you won’t have anything to show for it. True Sufferlandrians use their brains as effectively as they use their legs. Suffer smarter, suffer better, survive to suffer another day.