2011-06-01

Workout Schedule Disruptions

Working Out and Life (Not Working Out Is Life)
As important as it is to me to stay healthy and fit, as fun as it is for me to run and work out and feel great, life inevitably throws you curve-balls along the way. Unless you are a professional athlete, you will never be in a situation where working out is life's foremost priority. Among the things that are more important than working out (and I mean this objectively speaking, so if you disagree, you may want to think long and hard about your priorities and your philosophy) are: providing and caring for your family, maintaining a strong sense of ethics and values, and accepting your responsibilities with open arms.

All that is to say, as I mentioned in an earlier article, that life can and will demand flexibility in your workout schedule. A certain amount of flexibility is both expected and desired. We are not robots. I like to believe that my recommended training schedule accommodates itself well to necessary, ad hoc changes due to what we can call "unexpected life shocks."

You can easily overcome these unexpected life shocks if you know how. Today, I'll attempt to explain how to adjust your workout schedule on the fly. I warn you, though, it is a bit of an art, and therefore requires some practice.

Adjusting Your Workout Schedule: A Real-World Example
Today, while the rest of you are enjoying your evening easy run, I'll be hammering away at a fartlek workout. What happened yesterday was that I worked late, and then got stuck in traffic on the way home. As a result I didn't make it home in time to workout and eat without having to do one or the other too close to bedtime. There is a risk of overnight hypoglycemia in either case. Ironically, the other reason I had to adjust my workout today is because I had a hypoglycemic event last night that resulted in a morning blood glucose reading high to the point that exercise is contra-indicated. (Exercise raises blood glucose naturally and safely, but beyond 16mmol/L, exercise can induce diabetic ketoacidosis and cause serious bodily harm.)

What this means is that I missed last night's fartlek workout and today's morning strength training.

Looking ahead, I see that this evening's workout is a welcome recovery from yesterday's crusher - an easy run. Tomorrow's run is a basic 45-minute run, and we have a long run on Friday. My task is to minimize the amount of deviation from the prescribed workout "pattern" established by the schedule.

So, I have elected to engage in a fartlek workout this evening. Tomorrow, I will go on a 45-minute run at a slightly easier pace than I otherwise would have, because I will need some recovery time. However, I will not need as much recovery time as the rest of you, because I missed out on the back-to-back plyometrics/fartlek training that the rest of you had to do yesterday. This means that, by doing a fartlek workout today and taking a slightly easier basic run tomorrow, I will still be back on track for Friday's long run.

Adjusting Your Workout Schedule: Alternative to Real-World Example
Another option I could have chosen in this scenario would have been to sacrifice my rest day, having essentially replaced the equivalent of one full workout day (one evening, one morning) with a rest. This is a viable choice and appropriate for certain people in certain circumstances. I chose not to go this route due to the fact that my prescribed rest days occur only once every 14 days. Therefore, it's important to keep this on track because otherwise I may have to workout more than 14 days in a row before my next rest day. This, in my view, isn't safe.

Those of you engaged in the Level 1 schedule, however, do not have this problem, and could easily take the above approach. It is also slightly less of an issue for Level 2s than it is for Level 3s.

Adjusting Your Workout Schedule: The General Theory
As I mentioned above, what you want to try to do is minimize the extent to which a necessary change in the day's workout impacts the overall direction and pattern of your regimen. You'll want to take a look at a few important items:
  • The previous 2-3 workouts
  • The next 2-3 workouts
  • How you feel and how much time you can commit over the next few days
  • Planned rest days
  • "Important" workout days
In regard to the first two items, try to prevent yourself from having to do two speed/tempo/fartlek workouts in a row. Two such workouts in a week is a significant undertaking. Two in a row will break your muscles down far too much. You'll risk injury and fatigue, and it will cost you more workout days in the long run.

As for how you feel, this does relate to previous and subsequent workouts, but it also relates to the reason you have to change your workout schedule. For example, if life's other commitments are driving the workout change, then your body likely feels fine and you can undertake to do more to make up ground. On the other hand, if an illness, injury, or late night is driving the change, then you should opt out of powering through a lot of difficult workouts to make up ground. Your body likely needs the rest.

Speaking of rest, one must never underestimate the importance of planned rest days. These are not "days off." These are important, deliberately established workouts. They are there for a reason. Your body needs them. You cannot skip them. If you choose to work out on a rest day (or do something physically exerting in a non-workout context), you must make that rest day up soon. Sometimes people have a hard time understanding that taking a rest day is a type of workout. Exercise involves constantly breaking your body down and rebuilding it. Rest days are when the major rebuilding and healing occurs.

Finally, with regard to "important" workout days, you should keep in mind that some workouts are more important than others. For marathon runners, the long run is arguably the most important day of the week. Speed work, on the other hand, is of less importance. For a 5K runner, the opposite is true. Therefore, if you find yourself in a situation where you have to choose between a long run and a speed workout, choose the option that better addresses your training goals.

Conclusion
It's no fun to have to miss a day, but it happens sometimes. With a little logic and some planning, you'll be able to adjust your workout effectively, no matter what life throws at you.