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How to Save a Bad Training Cycle (Running Coaches Corner)


Is it possible to save a bad training cycle? How do you do it? Today on Running Coaches Corner, I am discussing how to get to the finish line when the months before the race don’t go exactly as planned!

It doesn’t take someone a lifetime of running to have a bad training cycle, and bad training cycles don’t just happen to beginner runners, either. Even the most experienced runners can have a rough go of it, for various reasons.

Is it possible to save a bad training cycle? How do you do it? Today on Running Coaches Corner, I am discussing how to get to the finish line when the months before the race don't go exactly as planned! @suzlyfe

What are the reasons for a bad training cycle?

  • Number 1: POOR PLANNING
  • Doing Too Much Too Soon
  • Poor Recovery
  • Lack of Mental Engagement or Burnout
  • Delusions of Grandeur (aka setting the wrong goals)
  • Over-Committing Yourself Outside of Training
  • Bad Luck

Did I mention poor planning? Because if you look at all of these reasons, almost all of them can be explained by poor planning (bad luck doesn’t care about your planning). 

What constitutes a bad training cycle?

  • Injury
  • Mental burnout
  • Physical burnout
  • Getting to the race and never wanting to race again
  • Not getting to the starting line

Now, notice that I didn’t include “not meeting goals” as something that constitutes a bad training cycle. That isn’t to say that not meeting one’s goals isn’t disheartening and might cast a shadow over a training cycle. In my mind, however, a bad training cycle is one that gets you to the starting line in a negative fashion or not at all. If you make it to the starting line injury free and you make smart decisions during your race to get to the finish line in one piece, then I consider you to have had a successful training cycle ie one taken to completion. Qualitative goals first, people!

Can You Save a Bad Training Cycle?

So, I (admittedly belatedly) must give credit for the idea for this post to Marcia, who wrote yesterday about whether or not she could salvage her training cycle for the Berlin Marathon. In my response to her, I wrote that YES, she absolutely can save her training cycle based on what she has done so far, but that she should reassess her goals and strategy for the race.

This leads us to the How of today’s post.

How to Save a Bad Training Cycle

  • Forgive yourself your transgressions.

The past is in the past, now it is time to look forward and come up with a plan of attack.

  • Be honest with yourself about where you are RIGHT NOW

Get reallllll honest and take a look at your cardiovascular and muscular/skeletal fitness. Look at what is required of you in x number of weeks.

Say, for example, that you have a half marathon in a week and a half, but you haven’t run further than 6 miles during your training (cough cough). That said, you have had several days of logging sufficient numbers of steps that would carry you through a half marathon, you get about 20-25 miles a week of running on average. That said, at the ends of your runs (of 4-5 miles), you feel pretty spent and ready to call it. Other considerations? Varied terrain from what I am used to, more poundage than what I am used to, and oh yeah, I am pregnant.

Can you run the half marathon? Most likely, yes.

How should you approach it? 

  • Do not try to make up for lost time

If you haven’t already figured it out, I am talking about myself and the upcoming Empower Race Weekend, which will feature a 5k (which I know I can do) and a half marathon (which I am considering). I have a week and a half before my race, and the qualifiers from the previous point. 

The worst thing that I can do would be to go out and try to do a 10 miler this weekend–that will give me confidence (unless it bombs), but it also might injure me or make me so exhausted that I cannot finish my target race. 

Rather, I should…

  • Adjust my goals and restrategize the race itself

Considering I didn’t have any goals going into it to begin with (I only started running again about 4 weeks ago), adjusting my goals is moot, but let’s say that I am used to a 1:45-2:00 half marathon (which I am). The facts are that I am currently running 9-9:30 miles over 5 miles and feeling pretty well and done by the end of those. I am not going to be running a sub 2:00 race weekend after this. I must accept that. My goal instead is to finish happy and healthy.

My strategy? I have a few options:

  • Slow down and try to run the entire race
  • Run/walk the entire with my runs at my usual speed and walks at a power walk. 
  • Or run as far as I can and then crawl home.

These are all strategies for finishing the race. It goes without saying that there are many strategies for how to crash and burn, but I am not really wanting those as options. What I also don’t want? To finish just for the sake of finishing–particularly right now, if I get out there and things don’t feel right, I will pull myself from the race. This isn’t about pride! But I know that I am physically capable of running 5 miles and then walking another 8 miles on foot–I do that every Saturday, just about. 

Want another example of a salvaged training cycle? Check out my recap of my first marathon!

The answer is yes, you can save a bad training cycle. The key is to check your pride at the door and adjust your goals and plans accordingly (and ask for help if you need it!).

Yes, you CAN salvage a bad training cycle! Coach @suzlyfe explains how #runchat #marathontraining Click To Tweet

Also, remember–recovery afterwards will be key! You likely will be over-exerting your body on race day, so treat your body like a palace with these tips. Nutrition is also key!

Have you ever had a training cycle that went awry? How did you deal?

Join the link up and Running Coaches Corner for more great running advice and content!

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I am linking up with myself, RachelLora, and Debbie for Running Coaches CornerPattyErika, and Marcia for Tuesdays on the Run, NicoleAnnmarieMichelle, and Jen for Wild Workout Wednesday.

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