No matter how hard we work, how carefully we plan, or how dedicated we are – missing a few runs is inevitable at some point during any lengthy training plan. Regardless of how motivated we are, there will likely come a time during training when life will get in the way. Whether it’s unexpected travel, family matters, weather, or just a really long day, a day will come when you are unable to fit in your scheduled run.
Luckily for us, missing a few training runs won’t throw our training completely off course. Even skipping out on a couple runs right in a row isn’t enough to lose any fitness or strength. However, understanding that it is okay to adjust a training plan once we get going is easier said than done.
As runners, we hold ourselves to some pretty high standards.
When others are telling us how they didn’t have time to fit in their run for the day, we always understand. But when the tables are turned and we wind up with no options but to miss a run, we find ourselves plagued with guilt.
Learning what to do if you miss a training run is important, even before training begins. Having a plan in place for how and when to return to running in case of an emergency that requires you to miss a day or two of training makes navigating its arrival that much easier.
These guidelines will help you make a successful return to running, adjust your training for missed runs, and outline when it’s important to make up for missed runs and when you should skip them altogether.
Here is everything you need to know to get back on track after missed running.
How to Successfully Adjust Your Training for Missed Runs
Whether we like it or not, a missed run always affects our training – even if it’s just our mental game.
How a missed run affects your training
One missed run likely won’t cause you to lose any fitness or strength you’ve gained during training. It takes about 10 days of missed runs and workouts before you begin to lose any fitness. That is good news! For those of us who panic when we have to miss a simple 3 mile run, knowing that this has no overall affect on our training helps put our minds at ease.
Related: What Happened When I Didn’t Workout for 10 Days
More often than not, missing a run or two here and there may only affect your mental game as you return to training. Missing a run usually makes us think that we are slacking off or rapidly getting out of shape. While these thoughts may initially help motivate us to return, the more running days we miss, the more laid back our attitude becomes and easier it gets to skip even more workouts.
Related: Should You Skip a Run? Here’s What You Need to Know
Don’t let those few off days ruin the rest of training. Before you begin training for any race, remind yourself that you will miss a few workouts along the way. Expecting yourself to complete every single workout on your training plan without adjustment is unrealistic. Understand that illness, emergencies and stress will occur during the next few months – but know that missing a day or two here and there has absolutely no effect on the fitness you’ve gained.
However, there is always the chace that you may wind up coming down with the flu or dealing with a family emergency that causes you to miss a week or more of running. The good news is – this doesn’t mean your training is doomed.
What to do if you miss a run
In the event that you miss one or two days of running throughout training, make your peace with it and move on. Don’t adjust anything on your training plan. Cross those runs off your calendar and pick back up on the current day. Trying to make up missed workouts will put added stress on your body and often do more harm than good.
If you encountered some unfortunate luck (or maybe just low motivation) this training season and missed a week or more of running – returning can get a little tricky. But just because it’s tricky to resume training doesn’t mean it can’t be done.
Here are the general guidelines I use to return to training after missing running workouts:
- If you’ve missed 7 days or one week of running, adjust your training volume by lowering it 10%.
- If you’ve missed two weeks of training, lower your training volume by 20%.
- If you’ve missed 3 weeks, lower it by 30%, etc.
Having a lower training volume the week you return will allow your body to ease back into training, all the while still completing enough workouts that you are able to gain back any fitness you may have lost.
Should you make up a missed long run?
We all know that long runs are a crucial part of training for most races, especially half marathons and full marathons. Long runs are most often scheduled on weekends, which is convenient because this is when most of us have more free time. However, it is likely that you may encounter a busy weekend when you are unable to fit that long run in as planned.
Related: How to Have Your Best Long Run Ever
In general, if you miss a long run in the first half of your training plan you will likely not need to make it up. Skip your long run and resume training as scheduled with the start of the new week. If you miss a long run in the last few weeks of training, say one of the last long runs before taper begins (within the last 4-6 weeks of your training plan), it may be beneficial to make it up.
Adjusting your training plan to fit in missed runs sometimes means that you need to prioritize each of your workouts, and replace the low priorities with the important workouts you missed. For example, if you had a long run scheduled on Saturday but missed it, you could complete that long run on Monday or Tuesday in place of your short, week day run (which you will not make up).
It’s important to remember that every runner is different, though. If you feel confident in your training up to this point and have not missed any other long runs, your body might bounce back to training just fine even if you miss one of your final long runs. Listening to your body is so important!
How and when you should return to running after missed workouts
If you miss an extended period of training due to illness or injury, be sure to allow yourself extra time to heal. In general, you’ll want to wait until at least 2 days have passed after your illness or pain is completely gone. Once you have been healthy for a few days, return to training slowly. If you feel sick or pain at any point, stop your workout.
Related: How to Make a Running Comeback After Taking Time Off
If you’ve missed some workouts due to a busy schedule, travel, stress, or another life event, you are safe to jump back in to training as soon as possible. Remember to adjust your training volume if you missed a week or more of running.
For most of us, it’s unrealistic to expect that we’ll be able to make running our number one priority. No matter how much we love it or how motivated we feel, other people and events arise that are more important. Remind yourself that missing a few workouts here and there is completely normal. If you find yourself sick or injured during training, skipping your running and workouts is a must.
Taking care of your body means finding a healthy balance between running and life. Finding that balance reduces stress, thus making you a better, stronger runner as you continue. Always have a backup plan, and don’t let life’s surprises get you down. Running will always be there for you when you return!
Tuesday 28th of February 2023
I planned to run while I was in California visiting my son, but the weather was horrible there. This article was very helpful, thank you! Another question that I've had in the past, is what to do if you start a training plan that doesn't end at the right time for a race. In my case I started a 15 week training plan, but I really needed a 20 week plan. I didn't know where to add the additional training, during the "base" phase or the "peak" phase. thanks again Mark
Runnin' for Sweets
Thursday 2nd of March 2023
Hi Mark -- so glad the article was helpful for you! Thanks for reading! Timing a training plan is always a bit of a puzzle. My suggestion would be to add on 5 extra weeks in the beginning of training for base building (i.e., running shorter, easy runs at the same frequency you will be once you start your training plan) to get your body adjusted to the schedule. Then you can jump in with your training plan exactly 15 weeks before race day and follow it accordingly. If you have already started your training plan, another option would be to repeat the first 5 weeks two times. I hope this helps! :)
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