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Coach's Column: When To Push Through a Bad Training Day

Posted by: Shannon Boffeli |August 1, 2013 2:14 AM

Coach's Column with Andy Applegate: When To Push Through a Bad Training Day

Question: How do I know during a training ride when I should push through it feeling like crap and the body not coming around or when to call it quits for the day?  Should I try again the next day?


Answer: This is a good and very common question. Here are some thoughts: First, donít make your decision to stop or cut the workout short on the first effort. Sometimes you can have a poor first effort, but recover and continue for a great session. Wait until after the second effort to make your decision, or if the efforts are very long (longer than 10 minutes such as during a threshold interval session), make the call in the middle of the second.

Next, assess the metrics you have available to monitor intensity. We all have perceived exertion, many have heart rate and some have power available as these metrics. We could include pace (speed) as well if you are doing the workout on a known course and "normalĒ conditions. If one of these metrics is "offĒ, lower than expected or desired, donít worry too much. However, if 2 of these are below expectations, then you might want to cut the workout short. For example, when doing a set of VO2max intervals if you canít seem to get your heart rate to jump into the range you expect, but your power is good and perceived exertion is ok, then you should be good to continue the session. Conversely if your heart rate is low along with a lower than expected power or higher than normal perceived exertion, you should consider pulling the plug.

With very hard efforts, specifically those above Lactate Threshold you can expect a little "fadeĒ in power across multiple efforts. Normally we would expect to see heart rate go higher and power fade as you progress through a series of hard efforts. However if you see the power fading greater than about 10% you might want to consider cutting the session short.

If you do end up bailing out of a hard session due to fatigue, generally I donít recommend just trying it again the next day. Too often riders will do half the hard session (still some real training stress), then try it the next day and fail, then do the same thing the day after in a never ending cascade of somewhat hard, mediocre  workouts. Rather than this approach, if you canít get through a scheduled session,  just do an easy day the next day or at least continue with what you had originally planned the day after had you been able to complete the offending workout.  If you were fatigued enough to not be able to complete a session you probably need the extra recovery time to get you ready to hit your next hard workout.   

Andy Applegate is a Pro level coach with Carmichael Training Systems. He has over 20 years of racing experience and has been coaching cyclists full time since 2001. His passion is endurance mountain bike racing. We would like to welcome Andy to our amazing group of elite coaches. You can find out more about Andy and his training programs at

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