Best way of completing a failed workout?

Obviously, the best way to complete a workout is exactly as the video says but I’ve had a few times that I wasn’t able to complete due to just switching to new numbers or going too hard over the weekend or other factors of life. In situations like this, I see three options for finishing the workout:

  1. take breaks as needed to complete the workout at full power.
  2. reduce the 4DP numbers so the workout can be completed without stopping
  3. stop the workout when it gets hard and call it a day (clearly not the Sufferlandrian way)

I’m doing a MAP block right now and finished a very hard 12 mile hike last weekend and it is taking my legs a while to come around (they felt like garbage most of the week). In these types of situation, I always choose Option #1. My rationale is that I need my body to acclimate to the load of these workouts so I keep it at full power and take the breaks as needed. This gives me that same time at power but spread out a little bit longer (I had to take 2 breaks this past time of about 30 sec - 1 min each time during A Very Dark Place). Is this the right approach?

1 Like

Does this help?


I just found that same blog post, but Sir @Glen.Coutts had beaten me to it!


You could also check out this topic: From the Coaches: What to do when you miss a workout?

1 Like


Xoom Xoom!

1 Like

The Knowledge info is good. For me, when I’m partway through a workout that is seeming like I won’t make it to the end, I’ll dial back the power considerably (say 20%) for the next interval, then up it 1/2 way back for the following interval, then up it all the way back. For me, this can reverse the downward spiral and I often find I can finish strong. It some sense, this is like the Knowledge suggestion of extending the recovery between intervals.

1 Like

Thanks Sir @Glen.Coutts. That was what I was looking for. That reference seems to talk a lot about how the rider feels, which makes complete sense, but is there also something the type of workout and which method to go to first? Since I was doing MAP intervals, I thought that keeping the power at 100% was important and increase my rest period where as something like a long, sustained threshold effort it would be better to drop the power some given how long the effort is. I was just trying to understand whether it only involves how the rider feels or if there are additional circumstances to consider

There is. It’s a much older one but I’ll try to dig it up.

Edit: so there’s this, I’ve got a PDF but you can’t upload those here. You’ll have to zoom in for the details:


I do not think you are completely wrong about keeping the power at 100% during MAP intervals.

What you want to avoid is lowering the power to the point where you are accumulating fatigue, but not getting the benefit of doing the interval. I think that is why the advice is to just adjust it 10-15%. I think if you have to lower it more, you are better off skipping the interval.

There was another chart which I do not have available right now, that was actually a flow chart as to how to decide, depending on the characteristics of the workout, what to do when you are fatigued.

1 Like

My coach always told me that if you have to drop more than 5% to go directly to zone one and spin your way home. She told me that if my body is telling me No it is better to listen and recover than to waist valuable time and energy doing crappy intervals. Missing those extra couple of intervals won’t make a darn bit of difference in the long run. In the times that I can recall bailing on a workout I have always finished the weeks training strong and on target for the rest of the workouts, with the exception of the occasions I ended up with the cold or flu. For on the road training i give myself a 5% window to work in. On Sufferfest I give myself a 3% window. This works well for me but may not for others.


Interesting that this comes up now.

I just had the same thing yesterday with Nine Hammers.

Having gone seriously over prescription at the weekend (mainly Saturday, but quite a bit Sunday as well) the one day of rest on Monday didn’t cut it at all.

Made it through five of the nine hammers but my RPMs were dropping-dropping-dropping in the MAP efforts and was clear I wouldn’t make it to the end like that. A drop of 5% (across all thresholds) and I managed to limp through the last 4 to the end, all be it grinding out the last minute of the last interval at 80rpm.

For me, an increased recovery helps out when I’m “generally” tired and the HR is going up more than usual; whereas this was “legs hurt” tired, and it felt like no amount of extra recovery was going to help turning those pedals.


One thing that informs me is my experience in challenging group rides of 2-3+ hrs. I might start a ride and my legs feel like lead, but after ~30 minutes they’d often wake up and I’d be good for the next KOM or town line sprint. Sometimes those would gas me and I’d be sucking wheel barely holding onto the back, but after ~20-30min, I’d recover and be contesting the next KOM or town line sprint. So now, when starting a workout when my legs don’t feel up to it, I’ll try adding more warmup, and if I’m running out of steam after some harder or longer intervals, I’ll dial it down and recover before hitting it again. One or the other of those can often get me through a workout that otherwise seemed impossible. Of course, that said, there are times where I’ll just bail and try again another day.

1 Like

I’m so in the habit of using ERG that I don’t consider switching to Level mode when I’m struggling to finish a workout. Back when I had a dumb trainer, I’d simply do the best I could with the workout. Remembering how to adapt while in agony is not the easiest thing to do. Do I skip the interval or extend the recovery or dial it back or SWITCH to level 0?

@Saddlesaur Warmups are so underrated. I am always faster (cycling, running or rowing) and can lift more (weightlifting) when I warm up. The extra time spent isn’t always convenient but if I want to train to potential a good warmup is critical.


@Sir_Brian_M Good question! You can extend your recovery by 1 minute before hitting the next effort, but if you fail to hit the next effort and you are not near the end of your training block, it’s best just to spin easy and focus on maintaining a high cadence to flush the legs for the next session. If you are in the last few sessions before finishing off your training block, you can drop the intensity by 10% and finish out the workout!

Happy Training

1 Like

As an older rider (70) I find one thing I often need is more recovery, which is not at all surprising as it is a well researched and documented aspect of training for older athletes. SYSTM makes no adjustment and makes no adjustment available for this in their plans, outside of an individual deciding when and how to modify the plans and manually making any modification. I believe SYSTM could and should make their plans easily adaptable/adjustable to take this into account for older riders.

1 Like

As a fellow older rider, I currently find that I do need more recovery between hard workouts, but I do not need more recovery time within a workout.

I do think it is confusing to use the same word for two different phenomena.


Yep. I’m mixing apples and oranges, though for me, sometimes I’ll start to falter in a hard workout that I otherwise wouldn’t have had I had more prior recovery, and find I can still make it through with a bit of mid-workout recovery. In this case, needing to dial back a workout or needing in-workout recovery is likely attributable to insufficient recovery (for me) designed into the plan.

1 Like