We’ve all asked the question. During those bigger training weeks, when the body starts to feel it, we often wonder, “Should I skip this workout, or do I need to push through?” Making the wrong decision could cause you to spiral into getting sick, fatigued, and run down, leading to several lost weeks of training. On the other hand, skipping valuable sessions when unnecessary can hinder important training gains.
So how can you make an educated decision about when to push through and when to call it a day? The answer lies in tuning into your body — and you can use some powerful, yet simple metrics to do so.
Metrics to Look Out For
Metrics are your allies when assessing signs of fatigue, which you can easily access in your TrainingPeaks app. These data points can give you valuable clues to determine where your body is at on any given day.
There are a few specific metrics an athlete can look at to determine whether the next session may push them over the edge.
- Heart Rate (HR): Is your morning heart rate eight beats higher or more than the previous morning? During an aerobic session, is your HR significantly above what it normally is?
- Fatigue: Has your weekly fatigue number (in pink) jumped dramatically compared to last week? See example below.
- Target Times: Are you not hitting your target times like you normally do?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, it’s probably time to skip your next workout. This will allow you to rest and recover so that your body is primed for real training gains.
Listening to Your Body
If you don’t use data and instead train based on feel and perceived effort, you can still ask yourself a few questions to determine whether or not you should skip your next session.
- Do I have a sore throat or sniffly nose? Am I possibly coming down with a cold?
- Am I truly exhausted?
- Will this session push me over the edge?
If you have answered more than one of these with yes, then my suggestion would be to take a full rest day. Don’t underestimate the power of rest days — this is when you will bank the gains from all the work you’ve been doing! Get into the habit of asking yourself these questions so that over time, you can learn what your body feels like when you’re at the cusp of overtraining.
Having been a professional triathlete for over 13 years — and training with the best in the world — I learned a hell of a lot, and something German Olympic triathlete Anja Ditmer did really stuck with me. She would religiously take her heart rate every morning, and if it was eight beats higher than the previous morning, she would take the day off. She knew exactly where she’d be heading if she were to push on — and that was not a good place!
Trust your data and listen to your body and you will learn to figure out when to push through and when to take the day off. If your numbers are showing you are about to overdo it, you have three choices:
- Do your workout, but take it a lot easier than planned.
- Take your rest day, then switch other sessions around.
- ASK YOUR COACH!