When Life Gets in the Way: the Smart Athlete’s Guide to Switch Your Training Sessions

Don’t you hate it when life gets in the way of your training?

Me too!

A late meeting at work, parent/teacher nights, getting stuck in traffic, your partner getting home late etc – whatever it is, your commitments can make it difficult, and sometimes impossible, to do your training.

It’s a bummer especially when you love your training and it gives you space and time to think and escape from the rat race – if only for an hour.

So whether you have a customised training program written by a coach or a generic program downloaded from the inter web, there’ll no doubt come a day when you need to move your training sessions to fit around your life.

But that’s ok!

If it doesn’t work for your lifestyle, it doesn’t matter how good the program is.

The Smart Athlete's Guide to Switching Your Training Sessions

The secret is to be smart about how you swap your training sessions around.

Your program is structured in a way for specific reasons. So if you swap the sessions around, you need to do it strategically.

As I often say to clients “there is always method to my madness!”.

Here’s the secret to it ~

Don’t swap your sports; swap your sessions

And I’m not referring to the sport – like swapping your quality (hard) run for an easy run.

Or your hill repeats on the bike for an easy recovery coffee ride.

Swap apples for apples

Each type of session – whether it’s a speed, endurance or strength session – place different demands on your body.

How long it takes your body to recover from each session varies too.

This is why, for example, you’ll never have 2 speed sessions on subsequent days (at least on my watch!).

A session designed to improve your power (such as plyometrics, box jumps or big gear sprints) can take up to 48 hours to recover from.

A punishing, lung busting and nausea-inducing anaerobic endurance session (like a Vo2 max session where you’re working at 92-100% of your max heart rate) can take up to 72 hours to recover from – that’s 3 days!

So the quality of any similar session you do within that time frame will be compromised.

If you aren’t smart about swapping sessions, you can end up doing 2 strength sessions on the subsequent days – or even the same day!

When that happens, the quality of the 2nd session will be lessened. You won’t be able to put in your best effort nor make the most of the session.

We’ve all done those sessions where no matter how hard you try, you just can’t make your legs go as fast as they normally do.

And this is where you’ll find ‘junk miles’ in your training diary.

So swap apples for apples.

Swap a run with hill repeats (a strength session) for hill repeats or strength intervals on the bike.

Swap your time trial efforts in the pool for time trial style efforts on the bike.

Giant jigsaw puzzle

Your training program is a giant jigsaw puzzle; every piece (session) is part of the bigger picture (your program).

And the pieces need to be put together in a specific order otherwise they it won’t work (as well as you want it to).

Of course if you have a chance to chat to your coach about how to swap your training sessions, that should always be the first step.

But if you’ve realised you need to make the switch at the last minute, then ‘swapping apples for apples’ is a good place to start.

Of course, like any guideline there are always exceptions.

Always listen to your body and swap a hard session for an easy one if you aren’t physically up for the challenge presented by a session on your program.

Occasionally swapping apples (hard run) for oranges (easy swim) might be necessary because of injury or for your mental health.

But if you adopt the “swapping apples for apples” mindset, more often than not you’ll get the balance right without compromising the quality of your later sessions.

Not sure about which category each of your training sessions fits into?

Don’t rely on your training buddies for training advice; talk to your coach (that’s what you pay them for) or ask one.

And if you find yourself having to switch sessions around constantly, talk to your coach. It’s a red flag that your program doesn’t quite fit your life and it may need a revision.

So it’s time to ‘fess up – how often do you swap session because (a) life truly got in the way or (b) because you didn’t feel like doing the session on your program? Leave a comment below and let me know! 🙂