Don’t Bail on a Workout, Adjust It

While we all imagine executing our training to a T, rarely is this the case. More often than not, the path to success resembles more of a wet noodle than that of a straight line. The bottom line is: that’s okay. Even more so, it is to be expected. We can’t always be at our A-game, and our bodies should not always be primed to perform. There are days we need to push, and days we need to take it easier. There are also days…we need to take off. (Gasp.) 

How do we know when it is appropriate to take this time off? That depends on the individual and the situation. Below we will dive into a few scenarios that can help you determine what the best solution is for your situation and how to adapt. 

The Scenarios

As said before, not everyone will be your best. Sometimes these “off days” occur once a month, sometimes they are 2-3 times per month. This is different for all individuals, and it cannot be stressed enough that one size does not fit all when it comes to rest. Potentially you may not need a day off, but a scaled-down workout from what is currently on your schedule. Other times you need an extra 30 seconds between intervals. So which do you choose? 


Let’s say you begin a high-intensity session with multiple intervals, let’s say there are 20 intervals in total with short rest. However, you begin to notice by interval number 7 that your legs are feeling like jelly. You find yourself barely making it through that interval, or have to just stop short at the end. You are now beginning to question if you can do the workout at 100% for the rest of the intervals. Next up: Interval 8, and it appears you are faltering again.  Now is the time to build 30 seconds of additional recovery before we quit our workout.  

When you are not feeling great, try to add in some more recovery between intervals, but keep the workload at 100% when you come back.  If that doesn’t work, then we are probably Feeling Rough. 


Let’s take the same high-intensity session with 20 intervals, but instead by number 5 we know there is no way we can do number 7. It is at this time where it may creep into our minds that we are getting ready to quit the entire workout.  While many of us may say it is time to pull the plug, don’t bail yet! When in doubt: skip the next interval and drop your target power (or heart rate) by about 5-10%. Then re-evaluate where you are at mentally and physically. 


This is the time when we need to tell ourselves that today is not our day and we need more rest.  What are the key indicators that let us know that we need to bail on our workout?  

  • By the first set of intervals you can immediately feel the burning sensation in your legs.  
  • It feels really bad, and you have no ability to hit those higher wattage numbers right from the get go.  
  • You may notice your heart rate does not correspond with the power you are producing. 
  • You notice that you cannot push your heart rate up to the top of Zone 3 or into Zone 4 without your legs screaming at you.  

These signs are indicating that it is time to bail on your workout.  There is no shame in this, you need more recovery so that you are able to hit tough workouts in the future. As always the key to success is consistency and missing today, will ensure you do not miss more sessions in the future. Take a few days of easy spinning to fully recover. Always remember: sleep, sleep, SLEEP. Even if you think that spinning easy for an hour will help, more than likely an hour of sleep will be more beneficial than anything else you can do. Don’t beat yourself up mentally for being beat up physically.  Proper recovery is often overlooked, and yet one of the most beneficial tools we can use to make ourselves stronger, faster, more robust athletes. 

In the end, how you feel is very important. While sometimes our minds do not feel like doing a session, our body’s response physically is different. Our bodies are always talking to us and it is our job to listen carefully so we know exactly what it needs on the day. Take the chart and the advice above and use it to properly assess how you are feeling. It is always best to take the rest now than to find yourself overtrained and having to take even more rest later.

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