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Back on Track (How to Not Panic When You’ve Skipped a Few Runs)

Training for a marathon is a long-term commitment that requires a lot of planning, flexibility, and sacrifices. Over the course of so many months of training, things are bound to come up — even with the best laid plans.

And I’m not just talking about big things like injury or sickness. Even small day-to-day stuff like having to work late or just feeling run-down can cause you to skip a run here and there. For me, one thing that always seems to get in the way of sticking with my training schedule is travel. When I visit a new place or go to see family or friends, I don’t usually have a hard time being active. Exploring my surroundings on foot or by bike is one of my favorite things to do. But getting in my training runs is a bit more difficult. Because, let’s face it – it’s much easier to convince a friend to join you for a nice long walk than it is to get them to come along on an hour-plus long run.

This past weekend, I struggled with this very dilemma. I took advantage of the holiday to make a trip down to DC to visit 2 of the HOTR-sisters. 16 hours in the car and only a couple of days with my sisters left me with little time (or energy) to fit in all my scheduled runs. So instead of tempo and recovery runs, there was a lot of this:

DSCN0825 Exploring DC


And this:

DSCN0795 Eating my weight in frozen yogurt at FroZenYo

DSCN07943 kinds of frozen yogurt in one bowl = heaven

DSCN0798As a sidenote: If you’re ever in the DC area, I suggest you hightail it over to FroZenYo – an amazing self-serve frozen yogurt place where you can add all the toppings your heart desires.

And this:

DSCN0802Lots of relaxation




And sadly — not so much running. I enjoyed every minute of my stay in DC, but I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a little nagging voice in the back of my mind, reminding me of all those miles I should have run. I can’t change the past — so what’s a girl with 2 big running events coming up in the next two months to do?

How to Not Let a Few Skipped Runs Ruin Your Running Mojo

I know I’m not the only one out there who has ever been faced with this dilemma. So if you’re training for a big race (of any distance) and find yourself in a situation where you’ve skipped a few runs, here’s a list of do’s and don’ts to get you back on track.

  • Do not panic. Yes, it’s important to run consistently, build up your mileage, and get in your key runs. But skipping a run here and there is not the end of the world! It’s not going to ruin all your efforts, put you back to square one, or cause you to run an awful race. I promise.
  • Do not try to add those missing miles onto other runs. I’ll admit, my first impulse after skipping a couple of days was to add them to my weekly long run. I wanted to get them in somehow, even if that meant doing it all at once. But if I had really done that, a week that should have been a step-back in my training would have turned into another week of heavy distance…which would then have made me more tired and could affect the 20 miles I’m supposed to run this weekend. When I’ve fallen into the trap of running extra or without rest days in the past, I’ve always ended up injured. Don’t let a couple of missed miles make you do something you’ll later regret.

  • Do try to carry on with your schedule as usual. It may be tough to just forget about a run that you’ve missed, but the best thing you can do is to just pick up where the schedule says you should be. If you can make adjustments and safely re-arrange rest days to find room for an extra run, great. If not, don’t stress! Just get right back into training.

  • Do try your best to run your scheduled long run. This is especially important if you’re training for any sort of distance race. Each week’s long run builds off the week prior, so try to get in those miles – even if it means you have to be flexible and do your long run on the first day of the next week.

  • Do make the miles you do run count. I’m a huge advocate for incorporating easy runs into your schedule, but if you have to do less runs in any given week, make sure each of those runs serves a purpose. Even though my weekly mileage was lower than it should have been, I made sure to do several quality runs last week. On Sunday, despite being tired from traveling and bored from running laps around my sister’s hilly neighborhood, I was determined to get in 10 relatively quick miles. Since I had skipped a tempo run earlier in the week, I pushed for several of the middle miles and made sure that I kept my pace quick enough throughout to average a sub-8:00 min/mile pace. This was still technically an “easy” week because the overall distance was less, but running faster than race pace will help increase my speed and endurance (or so I hope!).

And finally,

  • Do start the new week refocused and ready to run. Training plans last a long time. And chances are, you’ve still got many weeks before the big day. Don’t let the runs you skipped in the past affect those you need to do today, or those you will be doing tomorrow. Just chalk it up as a learning experience, and an unplanned opportunity to give your body some extra rest. Then hit the ground running the next week. Literally. :)

Now if you end up missing a week or more due to illness or injury, your approach to getting back on track will be a little different. In that case, you’re going to seriously have to re-examine your plan to see what you can fit in and how you can safely re-build up your mileage to get to where you need to be. But even then – it’s usually not the end of the world! I won’t go into it in this post, but I missed an entire month of running when I was training for my first marathon. I spent that month in the gym, logging many sweaty miles cross-training on different machines. Was it ideal? No. But I made it. And with a little flexibility and smart planning, you will too!

In other news, summer is coming to a close. And that means it’s time to announce the winner of my extremely competitive Shape Up Summer Challenge! (I know you’ve all been waiting for this with eager anticipation).

After my super scientific pick-a-name-out-of-a-hat drawing of the names of those who commented or emailed me, the winner is…… Alex, who got extra entries for doing the challenge right from the start! Congratulations Alex! Please email me your choice (gift certificate or Larabars) and your address and I will get that out to you ASAP. :) Thanks to all of you who participated by trying the workout!

17 Responses to Back on Track (How to Not Panic When You’ve Skipped a Few Runs)

  1. This is so important! LOve your do’s and don’ts :)

    I try to stick to my training plan, but sometimes life gets in the way. It’s so hard mentally for me to deal with this, and it’s incredibly tempting to want to “make up” the extra miles somewhere. I just try to remind myself that rest is training too, and missing a couple of non-long run days won’t hurt me in the end; it may even help.
    Jen´s last post ..Running rules

  2. More great advice, Lauren! When I started training, flexibility wasn’t my specialty. I was so worried about following “the plan” that I started feeling overwhelmed and anxious. Eventually I realized that training is an 18-week process. I’ve learned to make it my own.

    I’m glad you had a great time in DC. My best friend lives there, so it’s one of my favorite places to visit! It’s so much fun to rent bikes and explore. You can bet we will be going to FroZen Yo next time I’m in town!
    Becky´s last post ..Running on Ratatouille

  3. Thanks for this. I went off track this weekend and was starting to panic a little so its reassuring to see that I can just get back intot he swing of things without too much to fret about.

  4. Lauren, these are such great tips! I think every distance runner really needs to read this post!
    Katie @ Health for the Whole Self´s last post ..Re-Post- Bad Food Bad Girl

  5. First of all, I am still mad that we missed each other this weekend. But I guess I can forgive you for torturing me all those weeks with the SORE. Did I win by default because I’m the only one crazy enough to keep up with this?

    • Don’t be mad! Next time we’ll meet up no matter what — I promise!! :)

      Haha….well, you had some pretty fierce competition in the craziness department — from my mom. ;) Besides you, she was the only one who actually did it consistently. Everyone else just tried it once. So the odds were definitely stacked in your favor.

  6. What a fun time in DC! And I love your get-back-at-it attitude. Even though you missed a few days it sounds like you’ll do just fine at your upcoming races!
    hbobier @ Basil Vodka´s last post ..Nevermind Wordless Wednesday- This is Wordless Weekend

  7. This is great advice! Marathon training is such a long process it’s inevitable that you will miss a workout or two!
    Madeline – Greens and Jeans´s last post ..sneaky and a giveaway!

  8. I adore these tips. I never thought of things this way. I am OCD when I’m training, but these helpful queues really are enlightening. Make the miles count!
    Nichole´s last post ..Picture Pages

  9. great tips!

    love the pics

  10. This post couldn’t come at a more perfect time for me as I have missed not just one, but TWO runs in a row (gasp! the horror! lol)…for a while, I was trying to concoct ways to slip in the mileage that i missed before my long run, but now after reading your post, I realize the best thing to do is just to jump right back into my normal marathon training schedule. Thanks for this push toward getting back on track in a healthy fashion!
    Lindsay @ Summit Sandwiches´s last post ..Burnout Phase

  11. GREAT advice!!! I have definitely tried to overcompensate in the pst after not running for a while and it has always ultimately ended up sidelining me with my knee or IT getting too stressed. I need to work on consistency and just doing what I can.
    Courtney (Pancakes & Postcards)´s last post ..A Foodie Tour of Cape Town

  12. oh my gorgeous running Guru! i swear i have a whole folder of links to your posts that i save for referral! ur amazing! i always start my week telling myself that “im gonig to get a good strong positive run in, and if i feel good, im going to put in some extra time to do another” definitely helps me stay boosted for the week :)


  13. Those are some great tips about getting back on track, Lauren! I can tell you speak from experience, and you know just what to do :) If I was visiting my sisters for just a few days, I would be skipping my runs, too! I think the most important thing is not to panic, like you said, and not to subsequently overdo it. A few missed days is no big deal, after all!

    BTW, gorgeous sandals!!

  14. Great post! Sounds like you had a lot of fun with your sisters without worrying too much about running! That mindset is a healthy one! Good for you!

  15. With havin so much content do you ever run into any issues of plagorism or
    copyright infringement? My website has a lot of unique content I’ve either written myself or outsourced but it appears a lot of it is popping it up all over the internet without my authorization. Do you know any solutions to help stop content from being stolen? I’d genuinely
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    Boyce´s last post ..Boyce

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