Answer is yes, it is absolutely okay to miss a training run. There are plenty of reasons why it is a good idea to skip a training run. Life happens right? We don't train in a bubble and so yes, it is absolutely okay to miss a run.
What's most important is the consistency over time rather than one individual training run. So if you find yourself consistently missing runs, one or two every week, then it's time to rethink your race goals and your training schedule. But if once a month you end up having to skip a run or two because work gets in the way or children or illness or life stress that's a different story.
I try to remind my athletes that I coach in group settings or one-on-one that a training plan is written with the idea of perfection in mind, but it knows and your coach knows that very rarely is a training plan followed 100%. And what I mean to say is, it's great if you can get in every training run on a training schedule, but that's not realistic and your coach knows that.
I'm going to talk a little bit more about how to adjust when this run happens and then the actual physiological side, the science behind why it's okay if you miss a run.
What happens if you miss a day of running?
If you miss a day of running not much happens. From a physiological standpoint, missing one run does not change your fitness level at all.
The thing that can get affected with a missed run is if that adds to a second missed run and a third missed run but one individual missed run because of illness or kids or life or work it doesn't change your training at all.
Is it OK to miss a week of training?
Even if you have to take up to a week off of training, like I mentioned before, for illness or parenting or work or travel it doesn't change your fitness. Studies have shown that it takes up to about 2 weeks of sedentary activity for your fitness to really be affected in terms of running. I know that that doesn't seem like the case and that's because of the other stuff that happens when we have those life changes
For example if you go on vacation for 10 days and don't run much, don't do your training, and come back and try and jump back into training, the struggle that you are going to have isn't that you didn't go on a training run while you were gone. You are going to struggle likely because of the change in your schedule while you were gone, the stress of travel, the coming back from travel, heading back to work, and the food and drink choices that you made while on vacation. All of those things add up and will make coming back to training harder even though you have not lost any fitness
This changes a little bit with illness. Even though you technically haven't lost any fitness, things like having a cold and congestion will make running feel harder. Your muscles and all of the little pieces that go into running right your tendons, your bones, your heart, are still really fit, the lungs are that part that will take a second to get used to what you're asking it to do again. Even though you haven't lost any fitness.
In short, yes it's okay if you have to take a week off of training but I would really recommend that you try not to for all of the other stuff that goes with training. When we're not training we tend to stop eating like an athlete, we tend to not hydrate like an athlete and then we get out of the habit of working out. It's harder to get back into a habit than it is to just continue going with it.
How quickly is running fitness lost?
Like I mentioned above it takes about 2 weeks for running fitness to be lost. Again there's all kinds of reasons why it might feel like you've lost fitness. But studies have shown that that's not actually the case.
When should you skip a run?
There are plenty of times when you actually should opt for skipping a run rather than pushing through. If you are sick, if you are feeling body aches and pains, if you are nauseous, those are all really good reasons to skip a run. I would also skip a run if you're feeling any congestion in the chest you don't want to cause any damage to your lungs. If you were at the end of a cold and you just have some head congestion left or you have a mild headache and want to go for a run, that's a different story, go for it.
Another good time to skip a run is when you're feeling very overwhelmed and the idea of going for a run makes it worse. Sometimes we use running as a really good healthy outlet. I like to say that running should add to your stress in a good way. You should be *generally* excited about it. It should not add stress to your life in a bad way; where you are constantly stressed about the workouts and fitting it into your schedule. If you feel like it is constantly daunting to get your workouts in and to get your runs in, it's time to look at a different training plan that more accurately fits into the rest of your life in this cycle that you're in.
What to do if you miss a run?
If you miss a run it's just that it's a missed run and you don't have to do anything. You don't have to make up the miles. You don't have to add them on to something else. You can just accept that you missed a run, let that go and move on to the next one. I know this is hard for us type A runners, but if you’re sick or overwhelmed, stressing about a missed run doesn’t make anything better!
If you miss more than a handful of runs, so if you're talking about if you miss a week full of runs, then I would repeat that week of training and push everything out. I you are training for a race and that's not doable because you need to build mileage I would include more easy miles in the next week so that while you’re increasing miles, you’re still not increasing intensity (i.e. remove a rep from the speed workout and replace it with a longer warm-up period).
This is when it becomes really helpful to be working with a coach because that's what we do. We look at your schedule and we look at the runs you're doing and the data from those runs and we can adjust and move things around. I can give a lot of advice here and it can start to feel really overwhelming about when I think you should move runs and when I think you shouldn't and all of these different scenarios.
(If you want to learn more about 1:1 run coaching, you can here!)
But generally, if you don’t miss more than 2 weeks of training, jump back in with training!