How to Prevent Missed Workouts from Derailing Your Momentum
By Chelsea France
When it comes to running, consistency is always key. The more consistent you are, the better your workouts will be, which correlates to better results. Often, when we have a rough week at work, at school or in our personal lives, we lose the motivation to knock out that next workout. This is can happen without knowing that missed workouts can ultimately lead to a loss of progress and fitness, whatever your personal goals.
As a coach, I tell my athletes all the time that it’s so hard to reach a peak level of fitness, but it’s so easy to lose it. Studies have shown that loss of fitness can happen within just 10-14 days without any running or workouts. Your body is no longer used to a certain level of activity. "An athlete’s VO2 max, the maximum oxygen he or she can uptake and utilize, plunges within the first month of inactivity,” notes Competitor Running in its 2014 article, "How Long Does It Take To Get Out Of Shape?".
Think about it.
You spend months building up your fitness level for that next race or fitness test, but then in only a few days, you can completely derail your progression. Your body operates on muscle memory, with your heart being one of the most important muscles you’re training throughout your workouts. When that muscle memory is lost, there’s a steady progression required to build back up and retrieve the lost progress.
Six-pack abs don’t happen from one or two nights of doing sit-ups, right? Your heart and running can be thought of the same way. You must train your heart to a certain level of intensity consistently in order to get results and maintain/increase fitness levels in running.
Inconsistency breeds problems as well. Say, for example, that you haven’t taken 10-14 consecutive days off from running or workouts, but you’ve also been very inconsistent in your training cycles; missing a workout here and a workout there. That’s not so terrible, BUT note that long bouts of inconsistent training can and often will leave you with stagnant results and lower momentum leading up to that next race or competition.
As most coaches would say, “Running is 80 percent mental and 20 percent physical.” If you can tackle the mental portion of the sport, the physical end of training will take care of itself.
Keeping momentum and energy levels high at all times can be very difficult; it might even seem impossible. Some of the world’s most elite runners find stretches of their training where the grind is rough, training isn’t going quite as well as they had hoped and the motivation needed to lace up their shoes and get out the door feels all but gone.
Here are my five quick coaching tips on avoiding missed workouts and maintaining a spirit of motivation:
Set goals for yourself, both short-term and long-term. Sample short-term goal: What’s the weekly mileage you’d like to hit that week? Example long-term goal: What are some time goals you’d like to hit for your next race?
Training partners are everything. Grab your partner, your friend, your co-worker, a family member, anyone (!) to get out and workout with you. You’ll find that it’s much easier to get out of the door knowing that someone is also depending on you to get that workout in on that particular day. You can also motivate each other if one of you is having a tough time giving your that day.
Join training groups. Sign up for that next spin class, check your local running store for group runs, ask a friend about organized running groups in the area. This will increase your reasons to not only get out and train but you can also meet people that share some common fitness goals.
Visualize your goals. To have a goal means to have a vision of the things you want to achieve. Envision yourself crossing that finish line, hitting that goal time, feeling good in your own skin. Your vision you should spark your motivation and serve as a daily reminder of the goals. Embody your vision, motivation will come even on days that seem extra tough to find the motivation.
Most importantly, KNOW YOUR WHY! Every day, remind yourself of your goals, the things you want to achieve either that day, that week, that month or even in years to come. Remind yourself why you’re lacing up each day and what that means for you.
Remember that no one has ever regretted getting out and training on the days they lacked motivation. You have only to teach your mind and body that even your worst days can still be a success.
Chelsea France is a USATF Level 1 Country / Track & Field Coach at the University of Pennsylvania. Chelsea holds certifications in Strength & Conditioning as well as Fitness & Nutrition. She recently coached her Track & Field team to a 2018 Indoor Ivy League Championship amongst many other previous athletes to conference and national recognitions in the sport of Track & Field and Cross Country.