When should you skip a cycling workout?

Rebecca Bland
6 mins

It’s very rare that an athlete can complete a training plan without adjusting, moving or missing a session. And as amateurs, perhaps it’s not something we should strive for. While consistency is the key to seeing improvement no matter your athletic level, focusing on completing your training sessions despite things that might be telling you to stop, slow down or skip a few workouts can be detrimental in the longer term.

In this article, we’ll discuss reasons why you might skip a workout (as laid out in the Spoked app and the options available), and talk about why you might choose this and how you can adjust your training around it.

Skipped workout page in Spoked
Reasons to skip a workout in Spoked
Struggling to stay consistent with your riding? Spoked is free for the first 14 days so you can download the iPhone or Android app and create a plan today.”

Skipping a workout because of holidays

Going on holiday can be a great time to relax, and if you fit your training schedule around it you can do so ‘guilt free’. There are a couple of ways you can adapt your training schedule to your holiday plans.

For example, adjusting your plan to fit in shorter training sessions if the time on holiday allows. If you know you’ll only get 30 minutes or an hour free, then adjust the length of your workouts. If you do this when using Spoked, it will automatically adjust the intensity and type of session to maximise your time. Just because you’re doing less hours doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still see gains.

Change workout time
Easily change your workout time

Of course, if you’re there to relax and enjoy some time away from real life (and maybe even the bike), then the goal would be to align your recovery week to match up to your holiday schedule. This may mean you need to stretch your training cycle by an extra week or two, however, doing so for too long can mean the quality of your training could drop.

So what does this mean? By stretching your training phase, for example, if you’re in a build period where the intensity is relatively high, you might need to back off the intensity by about 10-20% to ensure you can complete the extra week or two of workouts without the usual recovery week. In practice, this could be as simple as not doing the extra loop on the social ride with your friends, or dropping a set of efforts from five to four. You don’t want to go into the red too often, otherwise this could lead to burnout - there is a good reason coaches and Spoked schedule in recovery weeks!

Skipping a workout because of your menstrual cycle

Not everyone experiences menstruation or their cycle in the same way. People can have a wide range of symptoms that are more intense than others, and so if you know that you’re going to be struggling around a certain part of your cycle, then the best thing you can do is arm yourself with the knowledge and prepare. What we mean by this is if you recognise at which point in your cycle you might feel more run down and unable to train at your usual level, then perhaps you can try and schedule your recovery week around it.

Naturally, not everyone has a cycle that is regular, so if this is the case it won’t hurt you to skip or move a few sessions if your recovery week doesn’t line up. Spoked will always be able to adjust and adapt to your schedule, but if you find you’re struggling to be consistent in your training because of your cycle, then you might find you’re skipping more workouts than is ideal.

Move your Spoked workout
Move your workout to a different day in the week

If you are feeling unable to ride at your normal capacity, or are unwell with menstrual symptoms, then you’re left with three options in the Spoked app. You could either carry on as normal, but you may not be able to complete your workout to the best of your ability, bring forward your recovery week, which will shorten the times of your workouts, or, reduce the intense efforts that were planned for the week.

Skipping a workout isn’t an easy choice, and if you are unwell from your period then there’s no shame in doing so. But if you think you could ride, and you might feel better afterwards, then consider reducing the intensity rather than skipping. But, at the end of the day, everybody is different, and everyone reacts to their menstrual cycle differently. So don’t compare yourself to others, as hard as that may be!

If you want to start tracking your cycle and jot down any symptoms etc., there are several apps you could try. For example, Garmin Connect has a section where you can track your period and note symptoms, or FitrWomen which has the same features but is an app dedicated to period tracking so covers more training and nutrition advice.

Track your menstrual cycle within the Garmin app
Track your menstrual cycle within the Garmin app

Skipping a workout because of illness or injury

Illness or injury are another two reasons you might consider skipping a workout. Likewise, pushing through when you shouldn’t or coming back too soon after an injury or illness can lead to you having to take longer off the bike to recover.

Injury

If you become injured, the first step to take is to decide (or have confirmed by a medical professional) whether or not you can in fact ride. If your injury is okay to be ridden with, take it easy for the next three or so days. The last thing you want to do is aggravate it! Don’t go looking for pain when you ride  - be patient and wait until you’re fully healed to ride with any intensity.

A Spoked steady state workout
When you're injured stick with steady state workouts, that's if you can start to ride.

After three days of no pain, you can start to introduce some intensity. For example, a progressive effort where you move through the zones. This is a good time to make sure no niggles arise before getting back into your training programme. If there are, consider referring to a physiotherapist to start a proper rehab programme and treat the injury.

“Remember, the key here is to not turn acute injuries into something chronic where they hang around like a bad smell.”

If you can’t ride due to your injury, take the rest and use the time to focus on other things that aren’t cycling. It’s not easy to rest if you’re 100% focused on your plan, but cycling is full of ups and downs and you can come back stronger.

Illness

Illness is a topic we’ve covered previously on the Spoked website, because it needs to be taken seriously. Even if it’s ‘just’ a chesty cold, pushing through when you’re under the weather can lead to more serious problems and further time off the bike if you don’t take it easy. Want to learn more? Read our blog on getting back to cycling after illness.

Spoked Readiness Score
Know exactly how you're doing today, via the Spoked Readiness Score

If you come down with something, the first thing to do is figure out how serious it is. If you need to, seek medical advice and step away from the bike. If your symptoms are above the chest, i.e. a light head cold, then it’s commonly accepted that you can keep riding, but at a reduced intensity. We suggest keeping the first three days of training to something light like Z2 for 30-60 minutes.

You can build your own readiness score in Spoked and understand exactly how you're doing today. Spoked is free for the first 14 days so you can download the iPhone or Android app and create a plan today.”

If your symptoms are in your chest or you’re in a bad way, maybe you’ve had a stomach flu, for example, then take at least three days of rest. If you’re still not feeling better after those three days, take another three. While it might feel like the end of the world to take so much time off, remember that your form isn’t lost in a 7-14 day period. If it has, your training probably wasn’t right before you got sick. Once you think you’re good to go - take another day. Trust us.

Finally, once you are back on your feet and feeling better, start with some light Z2 work, and then once you can do this without feeling bad after a session, you can layer in some intensity.

Spoked free ride
Add in a free ride into your plan, when returning from illness to keep the intensity low

Of course, skipping sessions when you’re sick, particularly in blocks for a bad illness will lead to a bit of a gap in your training programme, but Spoked can adjust your plan so you can still reach your goals.

Spoked Adaptive Mode
Spoked Adaptive Mode can adjust your training plan daily based on how closely you followed the planned workout

Skipping a workout because of other reasons

The final reason we have in Spoked for skipping a workout is ‘for other reasons’. There’s plenty of reasons why you might not want to complete your workout, for example, stress, burnout, or simply a lack of motivation. If it is something like burnout or motivational issues, it might be worth investigating a little further - try to remember why you’re riding, think of your goals.

Of course, life often gets in the way of training. We don’t all have hours to kill on the turbo trainer every weekend, and life is unpredictable often making it hard to slot in our workouts. But it’s how we deal with the setbacks and skipped sessions that determines how much we get out of our training.

One or two skipped sessions isn’t going to harm your plan, but if you’re consistently skipping them, maybe it’s time to dial it back and go back to the fundamentals. What was your training goal, is it too hard, or too ambitious? Or maybe your head isn’t in it. If this is the case, it might be time to re-evaluate why you began cycling in the first place, and try to re-find the enjoyment of pedalling.

Final thoughts

Training plans are rarely completed 100% perfectly from start to finish. Even professional athletes have off days and life can get in the way of even the best laid plans. The ability to be pragmatic is key to success, and trusting in the process. Spoked can adjust the plan to help you reach your goals, but you need to meet it halfway.

Want to give it a go? Download the app and try it for free for 14 days. Download from the App Store or from Google Play.