I don’t have bad workouts.
That’s definitely not because I’m perfect, or because I don’t challenge myself. And it’s not like I don’t have good workouts.
I’ve had plenty of workouts that didn’t go the way I wanted. I fail over and over again. I’ve had to cut workouts short, re-configure workouts, turn quality workouts into simple easy runs, stop the workout early and go home, etc.
But none of these workouts were bad. I didn’t screw them up… even if maybe I screwed something up (e.g. ran repeats too fast, went out too hard, didn’t bring hydration, ate or hydrated too much, etc).
I could give you a treatise on the perils of results based analysis, e.g. you ran a race and won, so you think therefore the way you ran the race was good… or you didn’t hit your goal time or finish despite following your race plan, and you decided therefore you screwed it up.
On a similar note, we as human beings often attach emotional judgment to our workouts and races. And so many have a workout not go the way they want and decide the workout was therefore bad. I see and hear this far too often.
To me, workouts are truly bad only if they set back your growth, fitness, or life… for avoidable reasons that were totally within your control.
- Going out for a run if you’re injured and know you should rest, and aggravating the injury
- You’re burned out and exhausted and know a run isn’t going to help you in any way, but you go and run anyway.
- Running in a severe thunderstorm or tornado.
- Chasing after someone while holding a knife, to try and end them.
As you can see, my threshold for labeling a bad run is somewhat higher than most people.
If I go out for a run, feel crappy the whole way, and don’t feel great when it’s done, I don’t consider that a bad run. I consider that a learning experience. Maybe I could have skipped that run. And now I know, thanks to that run, that maybe running in those circumstances isn’t the best idea or use of my energy.
Today I went out for speed intervals after yet another consecutive night of poor sleep (been having an unusual stretch of these nights recently). I was up for the run but my energy wasn’t high, and though I gave a solid 10K effort I couldn’t go as hard in the repeats as I would have liked.
I did knock out four solid repeats out of the five needed, but I knew while finishing the 4th that I was tapped and at the point where the 5th might push me too far for my good. So I stopped after that 4th and headed home.
Was it a bad workout because I never felt quite right, or because I couldn’t get myself to eke out one last repeat, or because I did them closer to threshold/10K effort than the desired 5K/mile effort?
Or was it a good workout because I made progress in my training plan, finished the needed workout minus just one repeat, didn’t lose any ground with training since I’m still in the base/foundational phase, and moderated my effort to where I felt more rewarded than worn out by a key workout in tired circumstances?
Recall I mentioned the value in giving every workout a purpose. On a similar note, if a run doesn’t go the way you want or doesn’t feel at all good, you can still take away some positive value from your workout. It’s rarely a total waste as long as you apply yourself.