Getting past a bad training session

Let’s face it, we all can’t be in peak form for every training session. You break down. Whether you’re fatigued from accumulated intensity/volume, lack of sleep, job stress, family stress, or a few poor nutrition choices, you feel like it’s a slog just to complete the session. And this doesn’t just apply to age-groupers. Plenty of professionals have their off days.

Yesterday was one of those days for me. I woke up at my normal 5am to go swim. But, I felt off. My head was cloudy and breathing felt a little constricted. Maybe I was just a little tired?Fatigued-Cyclist

Well, after 100 yards during my warm up I could tell something was off. I felt out of breath the entire time. My muscles were tight, tired, and seemingly thirty for oxygen. I even felt out of breath from a normal flip-turn. Something was not right!

I completed my 800 yard warm up and moved on to the main set: 1×400 / 2×200 / 4×100 / 8×50 / 4×100 pull with paddles. On any normal day, when I’m feeling up to par, this is a pretty easy set. Start out smooth and gradually increase the pace with each shorter interval.

I barely made it through the 400. I was totally gassed. Something was really off. In my head I’m going through the list of potential culprits for my feeling like absolute garbage. I’m pretty sure it was food related. I ate something the day before I shouldn’t have, and my body was rebelling.

Now, we come to this critical point in every bad session. We’re faced with the all important question: slog through and bag the session? I’ve heard and sympathize with opinions on both sides. Which do you choose?

I’m stubborn when it comes to training. So, even when I feel horrible, I can’t throw in the towel. I’ll feel like a quitter and that I’m cheating myself. I carried on.

Probably a poor choice. Every interval, and I mean, was a good 5-10 seconds slower than normal. Just abysmal.

Session complete. I threw my pull buoy at my bag in frustration. What the heck is wrong with me today?

Now comes the important part. Whichever route you choose when faced with a bad session (bagging it or finishing it) the toughest mental hurdle always comes afterwards. One bad session doesn’t define a training block. Just like one good training session doesn’t either.

So, when the session is over, it’s over. Walk away and move on to the next one. Don’t let one bad session turn into two or three. But do take a few moments to analyze what could’ve happened. For me, I narrowed it down to one or two things, and made sure not to repeat the same mistake. And then things slowly improved during my afternoon run yesterday, and then this morning, I was back on my game.


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