What if I Miss a Day of Training?

Woman blowing nose
Tom Grill

"I recently started a 5K training program. I'm feeling a cold coming on. What should I do if I have to miss a day of training? I'm worried that all my hard work will be lost if I take a break."

This question comes up all the time, from runners of all different levels who are training for all different types of races. In other words, ALL runners miss days of training here and there. Sometimes we get sick, work gets in the way, or we have to deal with a family issue.

Even professional runners take days off when they need to.

But I know how you feel -- it's easy to get discouraged if you get busy or sick and you miss a day -- or several days -- of training. Don't beat yourself up for missing a run -- life happens. It's especially important if you're sick that you give your body a chance to recover.

You're not going to suddenly lose fitness because you missed a workout! Keep in mind that you're supposed to be taking rest days during your training. In fact, research has shown that taking at least one day off a week reduces the frequency of overuse injuries, such as shin splints and stress fractures. Running puts a lot of stress on your joints, and taking rest days will give your joints a chance to recover from all that pounding. It's also good to take a mental break from running, so you don't lose motivation by running every day. If you're feeling worn down or like a cold is coming on, that's probably a sign from your body that it needs a break.

Should I Make Up Missed Workouts?

So, if you miss a day or two of training, don't feel pressure to cram it into your schedule and double up on workouts. Don't be hard on yourself for missing a day, no matter what the reason. Pick up where you left off, regain your momentum, and get back on track. Just try to return to your schedule as soon as you're able, since we all know how one or two days off can quickly turn into a week, then two weeks, and then you get to a point where you're feeling totally unmotivated to get back to running.

When you begin a new exercise regimen, you may be more vulnerable to getting sick, since you're more tired than useful and your body is worn down. To avoid getting sick and keep running, make sure you get plenty of rest, drink lots of water, eat a healthy diet, and wash your hands frequently.

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