The short answer to that question is yes.
The plethora of training programs you can find in books and online are filled with tempo runs, speed workouts, long runs and cross training days for a specific reason – to get you ready to run your best race.
If you start selectively picking and choosing which workouts you want to do, you could be tempting fate on race day.
Having said that, most people probably aren’t professional runners. Life can throw you a curve from time to time and that 5:00 AM run you planned to get in before work may not happen if you’re nursing a sick kid back to health, you have to unexpectedly travel for work or any other countless variable that you might encounter. The fact is, even the best laid training schedules will have to work around other events in your life from time to time.
So what happens when life gets in the way and you miss a workout?
Don’t make a habit of it
Missing a run on rare occasion won’t mess with your overall fitness. In fact, studies show little effect in missing runs for up to 10 days in experienced runners (if you don’t consider yourself an experienced runner – someone who has been training consistently for several months – consider cutting that amount of time in half).
While that’s good news for the rare missed run, don’t let that become a rationalization for missing runs semi-regularly.
At minimum, most marathon and half marathon training programs will require you to run three days during the week with at least one long run on the weekends. Truth be told, you need to be running at least that much for several months to get to the type of fitness level where a missed run won’t have a negative impact on your fitness. If you get into the habit of justifying one or two runs a week, chances are pretty good you’re not going to get the results you want.
If you’re going to make it up, make it up that day
One of many benefits to running in the morning is that if by some reason you miss your morning run, you have the rest of the day to fit that run it. If you have access to a shower, you can get a run in during lunch. If you live close enough, you can run home after work. Most running stores have running groups – look up their schedules and see if you can pop in for a run with them.
One thing you shouldn’t do is try to add that mileage to other days. Turning a 4 mile run into an 8 mile run on the fly or trying to fit in two runs in one day might sound like a good idea, but the number one reason runners get injured is because they overextend themselves. You may have heard or read about elite runners pulling two-a-days, but even they have it planned out and have worked up to that level of fitness.
Move your long run if need be
I’ve mentioned before that I’m a big fan of Hal Higdon’s training programs. One of the first things Hal mentions is that his training programs aren’t set in stone. He suggests that if you have a big event that coincides with a long run, reschedule the long run. For most of us, it’s probably not a good idea to do a 20 mile run the same day as your sister’s wedding or another big, important life event is taking place.
According to Hal, you can rearrange your long runs so that you either run a shorter distance on those type of days or you can move it to another day entirely. As long as you’re getting in those long runs, the day of the week it falls on – or within reason the order of the runs - doesn’t necessarily matter.
One of the most important things to realize is that while there are valid reasons to miss a run, they really are few and far between.
Excuses not to run are countless. Valid reasons not to run aren’t.