Lost Time

It happens to everyone. At some point, something happens and the well thought out, perfectly built training plan is in tatters. It can be from injury, a prolonged illness or something else and the athlete is left staring at a training plan that is no longer appropriate, wondering how to recover from the setback. The first thought is to cram as much training as possible into the time left following recovery or clearance. Then come the thought of just abandoning the race and training because the fitness won't be there. Finally, the realization that the goals might have to change, and the training plan needs to be modified to reflect the new reality. Cramming sounds good in the beginning, since even a few weeks won't affect too much fitness - but it's a good way to get injured, especially following another injury. Abandoning the race might have to happen pending the timing and recovery status. The important thing is to balance the reality of the injury, current fitness before the injury, goals leading into the race and timing. But how to do that?

Here is where a good coach is helpful. Redoing a training plan can be challenging when there is a personal investment - time, money and goals. It's hard separate that investment from the reality of not being able to partipate or not being able to meet goals. If the injury is something that will heal easily and allow the athlete return to training quickly, the rework is simpler. Allow the needed time to heal and then gradully build back into the training. But something that has no defined healing process? That requires a more flexible approach. An athlete with strong fitness might be able to bounce back a little faster, but the quality of the race might not be as anticipated. A race that is further away will be easier to refocus for, but one that is only a few weeks away is going to be more challenging. How will the time off affect the performance? Theoretically, all the training has been done at that point, but will trying to race when the injury hasn't fully healed aggravate issues and cause a longer recovery period? Racing on a not-fully healed injury of any kind can lead to the loss of an entire season. Obviously, the decisions must be based on each individual athlete and the specific injury. A good coach with a strong athlete relationship will be able to balance the needs of the athlete to train and race with the need to behave and allow things to heal.

The choice to race or pull out is the first decision. If the athlete decides to race, how will the goals need to be addressed? If the time off is only a week or two and the race is further away, then the goals might not need to be changed. A longer time off or when there is minimal ability to do higher intensity workouts will require modifying goals. Not addressing the goals when there have been setbacks is a recipe for athlete disappointment or even injury. As the coach, it's important to communicate with the athlete as to what is considered an acceptable goal and performance at a race. If needed, it's the coach's job to be the voice of reason if the athlete doesn't want to modify goals to reflect changes in training. Winning a challenging race on minimal training might not happen. On the flip side, if the athlete decided to pull out of a race, the coach needs to respect that decision. Pushing an athlete to do a race to satisfy your ego as a coach is wrong. It's okay to say that you can review the training and see how things will work, but the coach has to understand the motivation the athlete has for each race. If reworking the training plan won't let the athlete achieve their goals, then pulling out is the appropriate decision.

Recovering the time lost to an injury isn't going to happen. There's no cramming in training like there is in school. Balancing the time lost with time remaining for training while still providing time to heal is the key for success later in the season.

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