Dealing with a Bad Day (Week or Month)

All runners have bad days. Whether you”re Bernard Lagat or Susy WalksAlot bad days happen. Sometimes you even get into a funk and have enough staggering, slow, painful runs to make a bad week or even a bad month. I have had my share of rough runs and Sunday was a prime example.

Bad days come in a variety of forms. Sometimes it”s just a lack of motivation to get out the door, sometimes it”s a nagging ache or pain, and other times it just feels nearly impossible to move your legs to create any type of forward motion. They can happen on easy days at a jogging pace or during workouts when trying to run fast.

Sunday I was doing progression run. It was coming at the end of a two week cycle and I was tired and hadn”t been sleeping enough. Maybe I should have scrapped the workout and just got in an easy run but I didn”t feel too bad at the start. My plan was to do a 13-mile long progression run starting at 8:00 for the first mile and cutting off 15 seconds per mile so I finished at 5:00 for the final mile (current 10k pace). I thought it would be hard but doable as I set off at 10:30 am.

I started out alright with miles of 7:50, 7:30, 7:30 and found it difficult to run that slowly. I was quite comfortable when I got down to 6:40 – 7:00 pace. Below 6:30 pace started to take considerable effort and concentration. Daydreaming had to be set aside for the rest of the run. Once I got down to 5:30 – 5:45 pace I was maxed out and went anaerobic on any hills, even the slightest inclines. I held that pace and was still going to try to hammer the last flat mile near 5:00. I started pushing the pace and then at 12.3 I threw up in my mouth a bit, stopped and started dry heaving. That really sucked because for the last week I”ve either had an inguinal hernia or a badly strained lower abdominal. I walked for 10-15 meters and then shuffled a half mile home.

I don”t think that 5:40 per mile should have had me maxed out (see heart rate below; my max is 194) even 10 miles into a run. Now I could

be really bummed out about this workout, question whether I should have done it, question my fitness, or my iron levels. I could try to figure out how much impact the heat and humidity had on me (I lost 6 lbs during the run with a starting weight of 138 lbs; 4% of total weight loss from sweat). In reality, the best way to proceed is to move on and keep it in perspective. It was one run out of the 400 I”ll do this year. It is only one workout. Most importantly, I got in a hard training effort and if I allow my self to rest and recover I should adapt and improve. And really that”s the whole goal here. Do a workout (stimulus), recover, and improve your fitness (adapt). I certainly had a stimulus and now I have a down week. Hopefully in the next couple of weeks I will be incrimentally faster because I did that workout.

Not every workout needs to be a killer, world-beating workout. The most important thing is to be consistent and stay healthy so these small, infinitesimal improvements can add up to real, noticeable gains in fitness and faster races. My last 5k was 14:58, hopefully after recovering from that workout (10 days later) I will be in 14:57 shape. It wasn”t a good workout but it was still a workout. When you have bad days, the only thing to watch out for is that the cause of the bad day doesn”t lead to an injury, illness, or severe over-training. If bad days become frequent and lead to a bad month it becomes imperative to look for the root cause and change something(s) in your training and/or lifestyle. Otherwise the result is inconsistency and the small improvements can”t add up because you”re not recovering sufficiently for adaptation to occur.

Three days into my down week (10% drop in mileage and 0-1 hard efforts), I am already feeling better. Next week when I do my primary workout it should go much better. Until then, Sunday”s workout was just another workout and I don”t need to look into it for any more meaning than that. I”ll leave you with some good advice from American Record Holder Molly Huddle:

[box style="rounded"]“The training doesn”t have to be spectacular and it doesn”t have to kill you. It just has to be consistent. I think that”s a good thing to learn this year.” – Molly Huddle after breaking the American Record in the 5k (14:44.76). During this FloTrack interview she noted that none of her workouts were anything special and they didn”t seem like American Record type workouts. A good lesson to learn indeed.[/box]

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