When to Abandon a Training Plan and Race

No one want to do it and even though it’s sounds hard it’s so much more terrible than it sounds. The thing is if you’re half ass-ing a plan and consumed by guilt and doubt that’s pretty terrible too. In general if you do have to ditch think of it as putting off rather than giving up. Sometimes you slack a little and think about whether its best to push on or give up but don’t really know where your line in the sand sits. So I’m here to give you some guidance with that. There are several reasons you might decide to bail and we’ll go over as many of those as possible (or that I can think of at least) here.

A doctor told you too

That’s it, no exceptions no explanation necessary. 

You’ve skipped over 20% of your ‘long runs’

For most plans (12 weeks) that’s about three ‘long runs’. I say long runs but it could be a stand in for another hard workout. Canceling those workouts that are really geared to time on your feet and building endurance add up fast. If you’re skipping too many of those you’re putting your race day performance in jeopardy  you might also end up with an injury. Now skipping long runs earlier in a plan is less of a big deal than the last few so decide accordingly based on what you’ve skipped.

You’ve skipped 30% of your speedwork

You’ll be happy to hear that you don’t have to give up on your race entirely. You just have to drop your time goals. This decision to skip speedwork might also make you slower without you trying. If you’re feeling too drained in training or you’re going for a distance for the first time just covering your distances on speed day rather than really going for it can be a good option to save some energy. If you have out and out skipped 30% of your speed workouts you might want to think about your plan overall. This could also be your hard workout of the week in another sort of plan.

You’ve skipped too much otherwise

While your long run is the most important one of the week and speedwork the second most important all the other stuff matters too. It’s teaching you to run on tiered legs, getting you used to time on your feet and your weekly milage to where it needs to be for the big day. Let’s just say you’re doing you long runs and at least covering your distances on speed day. Plan writers get that life happens and sometimes you just can’t get a run in. That’s allowed and shouldn’t put your race in jeopardy if it happens from time to time. Think about the plan you’ve been using too. For reference there is one run per week difference between my bare minimum half training plan and the more typical one I offer. If you’re using a bare minimum type plan for your event then don’t skip more than one workout ever other week. If you’re using a more typical plan skipping more than one less important workout a week most weeks that very well might be too much.

Your life is SUFFERING

This is going to be specific from person to person but it might include almost anything. Pain from training, extreme tiredness, a messy house stressing you out, mental health issues like increased anxiety or financial issues. Training is sometimes hard but often worth it. If your life is just getting more terrible as the weeks tick on it might be time to quit. Usually this is a sign that you have either picked the wrong time to take on such a challenge or you have failed to set up your life to accommodate your training. Most of us are just regular old recreational athletes meaning its not our full time jobs. Us mere mortals must plan, calculate and clear our schedules to take on training.

I usually train in the summer because I’m down a job then, the days are longer and the weather makes cycling actually possible. I talk to my partner/boss about my plans, as if he can say no, ha ha ha. But I would never pick my busiest time of year or the shortest days of the year and try to fit training into that. For most families Christmas busy season or while you’re renovating is probably also off the table. Even then I look at my schedule for each day of the week and fit my training time into blocks around other stuff I have to do. Maybe the planning steps you need to take are exactly the same or totally different planning is still something you should do.

If your life is upside down maybe next year would be better!

Your relationship is the pits

Alright we’re going to start of simple here and then circle back to the harder stuff. Taking on a training plan can lead to hurt feelings in a couple. One is it takes a lot of time away from the relationship. That can also mean you’re not doing the other stuff you’re usually doing. Things like minding the kids, cooking, cleaning, date night, ‘special couple time’ (wink wink), homework and just spending time together. And for what lots and lots of running? Plus you’re tiered, possibly cranky and all you want to talk about is training. It can be more than just you’re training too, last year I was struck by how much time the other stuff in preparing for a triathlon took up. That can all lead to distance, resentment and distance growing up between you. If your relationship is suffering because of your training it might be time to jump ship.

If you’re here though you probably have something bigger to consider and that is the relationship as a whole. I wrote about dealing with an unsupportive partner here. If you’ve planned it out, you’ve made the time and your partner is still being a shit about it well then having to quit might just be a symptom of a larger problem. Do some deep thinking because any partner should be helping you to accomplish your dreams not holding you back. I feel like I have to put it out there this is TOTALLY not the case for me, you can read about how great my partner is to me in this post. Save for a few short words when I’m cranky and tiered, the odd sarcastic comment about me being someone who used to clean the house my partner actually helps day to day in making my training more doable. If you’re looking for tips on how to support your athlete check this out.

You’re in trouble at work

Some jobs lend themselves to a training schedule like lab work. Others like being a crane operator do not. If you have to be awake, alert, and present certain hours (like most of us) you might be presented with some challenges. For me training can mean a choice to lower my income since I work for myself. If I say no it could be a customer lost or no ‘extra’ money that week. If you’re having problems at work and you can draw a straight line from that to training it might be time to bail.

They cancel your event

This has happened to me before and it sucks. I was training for a triathlon in early September but they moved it to July. There was just no way I was going to be ready and there were no other events around the same time. It was the obvious choice to give up that year but I wish I would have spent WAY less time obsessing about it at the time. I even considered ditching a family wedding at the time however briefly to do it before I was ready. Just accept that you can’t change it an move on with your life, there’s always next year!

You’re getting less healthy not more

We race and train for events for a few reasons as recreational athletes. Things like staying healthy, finding the motivation to do that, fun and even a beach body. All of those are good healthy things. The reality of training though means sometimes you miss the mark and your health goes downhill rather than up as time ticks on. It might be more or worsening injuries, sleep deprivation or even wight gain. The pressures and demands of training might also take a toll on your mental heath and mood. You might find yourself very anxious, depressed or on the verge of a break juggling everything. If your health is on a consistent downward trajectory maybe this isn’t the right time. One bad week or two can happen but after that think about trying again. The next time you try start from a higher base, pick a less demanding plan or set your life up more to tackle a training plan but sacrificing any aspect of your health isn’t worth a participant medal!

Sailing away from training? It happens!

Have you ever abandoned a training plan? How did that feel at the time and did you go on to accomplish that goal in the end? What’s your criteria for giving up?

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