If you are a runner chances are you’ve had your fair share of failed running workouts.

Failed Running Workout

We love our training plans don’t we? We’ve got a set goal for each day, paces for workouts, and know exactly what is expected of us as we step foot out the door.

Some workouts go great, some we have to really work for, and some we fail. 

Failing is a part of any training plan and if you are someone who hits every workout then count yourself very lucky! It’s not something runners like to talk about but it is a very real part of any runner’s journey at some point.

In many ways, these failed workouts make us stronger even though we don’t feel strong when we don’t complete our goal.

The key with these unfortunate times is to step back and focus on how to handle it properly. Sure, we all want to sulk for a while and that’s okay but coming back from the failed workout is what is most important.


You failed a workout, now what?

You didn’t complete the workout. You couldn’t hit the required paces. Your legs just wouldn’t go any faster. Your mind gave up on you just a few minutes in.

There are a number of reasons why a workout doesn’t go as planned and chances are you’ve dealt with a number of them. The question is though – how do you handle it?

The first and most important to step is to figure out what happened. If I’ve learned anything over my years of running it is that 8 times out of 10 the reason for the workout not going as planned is mental. Running is 80-90% mental and if your mind gives up so do your legs.

There are other reasons of course – weather, sickness, burn out, life, or it could be that it just simply wasn’t your day.

You failed a workout, now what? Tips for coming back from a failed workout! @runningwifesara Click To Tweet

Some  of the reasons why we don’t hit a workout have solutions to them:

Weather – Was it too hot? too humid? Did it start to rain? Whatever the reason may be for the weather there are ways around this. Try running your next workout indoors if it’s too hot or run early in the morning or later in the evening when the weather is more conducive to running.


Sickness – Are you trying to push through sickness? 99% of the time if I am sick I am not going to attempt to push through a workout. Pushing too hard when sick is just going to run your body down more and delay the healing process. The best thing to do is to rest. 


Burn out – Burn out is very real, and I see it so often in runners. We often just push it to the side and excuse it as a “lack of motivation” but it really is so much more than that. There are two very simple solutions to burn out: stop all workouts and just run easy until you feel mentally ready again or simply stop running for a period of time. You will never perform at your best when you are suffering from burn out.


Life – Life happens. Sometimes I can’t complete a workout because my son simply isn’t having it in his stroller that day or something else comes up that takes up more time than i’ve expected. Most of us aren’t running professionally (in fact I venture to say none of us are) so running isn’t our top priority. If life happens – let it. You can always do the workout another day.


Sometimes it simply just isn’t your day.

Sometimes there isn’t a clear answer as to why you failed the workout. There are days when it simply just doesn’t happen and that’s okay – that’s just one of the not-so-fun parts of this crazy running life.

There isn’t anything you can do about it expect to brush it off, move on, and be ready to tackle the next workout.


How do you know when you need to try again?

Many runners feel that if they don’t hit a workout then they need to try it again to “redeem” themselves. I get it. It’s really hard and frustrating when we feel like we should be able to hit a workout and we can’t.

There is a time and place for giving the workout a go again. It is often dependent on:

The demands of your training schedule. Running day in and day out is no joke and it can be tough on your body. If you are in a very taxing training cycle and run 2-3 workouts a week, it may not be in your best interest to try and add in the workout again. Chances are you have many other great workouts on your schedule and trying to try again would offer more risk then reward.


How important the workout was. There are certain workouts in every training cycle that are key to determining if you are ready to hit your goal pace in your next race. These workouts


How much of the workout you were actually able to complete. Just because you didn’t hit your prescribed paces doesn’t mean you should do it again. For example – if you had a 7 mile tempo run on your schedule with a goal of running an 8:00 min per mile pace and you were only able to average an 8:10 this may not mean you “failed” the workout. You still got in good pace work and there could have been extraneous factors (such as mentioned above) that altered your pace.

If you only got 0.5 miles into the 7 mile tempo and then called it quits because your mind was working against you that day, then it is probably okay to give it another go.


Where you are in the training cycle. If you just started your training cycle then there really isn’t much of a benefit it trying the workout again because you have plenty of time and plenty of workouts ahead of you.

If you are a week out then it also is probably not a good idea to try it again because there is no reason to compromise the hard work you’ve put in and increase your risk of injury.

However; if you are a couple weeks out and truly feel you should have been able to hit the workout then it might not be a bad idea to try again to help your confidence and to help you see where you are in getting ready for that goal race.


The reason you didn’t hit the workout. As I mentioned above, being off pace slightly because the weather conditions are not optimal doesn’t mean you didn’t hit it and isn’t a reason to try and put your body through it again. If you’re burn out or sick then it’s better for you to take time off then try to push again. However; if you feel that you mentally gave up or that it just wasn’t your day then sometimes adding the workout again the next week or in the future might be a good idea.


It’s important to remember – at the end of the day just because you failed one workout doesn’t mean you won’t hit your goal. Some days we just don’t have it and it’s more important to simply pick yourself back up, sulk for a few minutes, brush it off, and keep moving forward.


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