On Bad Workout Days // Mistakes Were Made

I have a non-rhetorical question: what do you do when your scheduled workout appears to be headed south? Let’s exclude injury/illness from this question.

This week I learned one way NOT to effectively deal with this situation.

On Wednesday morning when I arrived at my hotel gym to do my mile repeats, all three treadmills were full. Ok, I thought to myself, I’ll do part of my strength training for the day. I didn’t get the treadmill for another 25 minutes. I skipped any lower body exercises but did some some arms/chest/back work. Although I didn’t think it was ideal to do any strength training before my run (not to mention mile repeats are possibly my least favorite running workout), I’m on the road working more than usual, so I wanted to make good use of time.

Strength training before a hard running workout: probably a mistake.

I felt ok in the warmup mile, but when I got to the faster running, I felt rough quickly. I’ve slogged through enough mile repeats to know that the last mile feels terrible and takes all that I have to finish even if the first one feels ok. I decided around the halfway mark of the first hard mile that today was probably a bad day for mile repeats, and since I missed my tempo run last week with a flu bug, I’ll just do that. About 0.1 miles later, I was running for the toilet. I ran a total of 1.6 miles, not including the distance to the toilet.

Changing from one running workout to another mid-workout: mistake.

Since I had an 8:30 meeting, the toilet time plus the waiting-on-the-treadmill time meant that I had to abort the morning workout and get my sweaty self cleaned up and in a suit. I’m especially intimidated by the prospect of beating Oprah without near-perfect training, so Plan B was to try again in the evening, with a tempo run.

Enter my first 12 hour workday since I left my old job 8 months ago. (Work endurance, like running endurance, is real. I have not been training for 12 hour days.)

This situation is where having publicly stated my intention to beat Oprah comes in handy for motivation. I was super tired and had a massive headache, but fear of being publicly humiliated by Oprah in a road race is compelling. 6 miles. Tempo run. I was doing this.

Again, I quickly realized that I was too fatigued to do the planned workout, between the strength training and the 1.6 morning miles of diarrhea-inducing hell, and the 12 hours of work. So I thought about Oprah, and how tired I’d be after running 20 miles, and I thought this would be good practice. I set the treadmill to a little slower than tempo pace (9:15/mile pace, which would be a good marathon race pace to crush Oprah), and managed 4 hard miles before having to surrender to the porcelain gods yet again. By then, it was 10:something and I had a room service turkey burger scheduled to arrive at 10:30. Enough running for the day.

Somehow I’m supposed to do this for 26 miles and 385 yards?!??!?

What I’d really like to take away from this experience (and others before it) is learning how to avoid these mistakes in the first place! How do you tell the difference between a sluggish first mile that works itself out vs. a sluggish first mile telling you that you’d be wise to adjust your expectations for the day? I’d love to hear your thoughts/experiences in the comments.


5 thoughts on “On Bad Workout Days // Mistakes Were Made

  1. Good questions. It seems to happen to me like that whenever I go to a gym. No easy answers I suppose. I’m not a trainer, so I’m sure someone more qualified than myself will chime in here, but the only way I’ve ever been able to tell those differences is by trying to work through it. Sometimes it ends okay, sometimes I have your experience.

    And don’t worry. You’ll finish the marathon and it’s obvious you are taking your training seriously. Oprah doesn’t stand a chance.


    • Thanks for the encouragement Bryan! It’s always nice to hear that you’re not alone in the challenges you face. (And we are so lucky to be able to face the challenges of pushing ourselves in endurance training!)


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