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Workout take a major nose dive? There’s a surprising silver lining

Not every workout is going to go perfectly to plan. We all experience a session gone wrong.

runner stretch

Understanding why a bad workout happens is an important step in avoiding a repeat failure. It can also help ensure future success.

External factors

Bad weather and conditions can wreak havoc on the best planned workout. Hot and humid conditions make running hard feel even more difficult. It can make hitting your intended paces nearly impossible. Facing a stiff headwind can also slow your paces and waste needless energy. Finally, driving rain, sleet or blowing snow can make any workout less appealing.

RELATED: Adjust your training paces for hot and humid conditions with this tool

If conditions don’t allow for a good workout, don’t beat yourself up about it. Your perceived effort level is more important than any number on your watch. You can work just as hard while running slower in adverse conditions and still get valuable physical and psychological benefits. If things are really bad (think hot, humid or footing is unsafe) consider altering a workout– by shortening intervals or reducing your pace –so you’re more likely to succeed.


We runners often equate stress to that caused by running and training. If we run too fast or too much leading up to an important workout, we shouldn’t be surprised if it doesn’t go as well as it could have. But stress isn’t only physical. A lack of quality sleep, work deadlines, dealing with colleagues, busy times at home, financial or family concerns are all stressful burdens which absolutely impacts how well we run. If you’re feeling stressed out and have a bad run because of it, try to focus on finding ways to bring those stress levels down before attempting any further hard runs.


Your workouts fall into one of several categories. These include speed sessions (such as track repeats, short intervals or hills) or endurance efforts (think long runs, tempo or long intervals). Generally, a runner will tend to prefer one type over the other and will be better suited to that type of workout, both mentally and physically. As such, doing a workout that isn’t really your type, is less likely to result in the best outcome. This is however an important and valuable means of working on your weaknesses.

RELATED: Hard versus easy: Why the intensity of runs matter


The timing of your workout will also play a key role in whether or not it’s successful. Needless to say, running subsequent hard workouts or efforts back-to-back will not likely turn out well. It’s likely that your second workout just will not turn out as desired. In general, a workout first thing in the morning will also seem more challenging given that the body’s temperature and circadian rhythms are off their peak. Working out after a period of high or sustained mileage could also make a workout feel harder than it should. You should always try to go into a workout feeling at least somewhat rested and refreshed, but if not, shouldn’t be surprised if your a bit off.

Occasionally, a bad workout just happens for no explained reason whatsoever and leaves us feeling frustrated. Chalk this up to chance and try not to let it get to you. You’ll likely rebound and the next one will go much better.