Here is the answer to the multiple choice question I posed in Episode 127 of the podcast, Running Fundamentals:
You may not like this, but the right answer depends. It depends on several factors; so, whatever you decided was the right answer may, in fact, be correct.
And it makes sense that there is more than one right answer because, like I always stress in the podcast, we are not all alike. Differing levels of fitness, natural abilities, age, weight, lifestyles, and family and work commitments, all come into play.
Let’s look at each option.
A. “Do the scheduled 3 miles.” I don’t think you can go wrong with this answer. If you miss one 5-mile run out of a whole training cycle, you’re actually doing great, but, if you’ve missed other runs – or expect to – then this is definitely not a good choice.
B. “Do 4 or 5 miles, today, to add at least partially make up for tomorrow.”
This is a great choice. It won’t overtax you, and it will keep your total weekly mileage up; however, this would be the wrong choice if you’re already feeling tired and were looking forward to doing just 3 today. In that case, ‘A’ is a better choice. On the other hand, if you feel fine, I’d say do it, for sure.
C. “Do 8 miles today to add all today’s miles to today’s to make up for tomorrow.”
This is only the right choice if you are a very experienced runner and have done back to back long runs in the past with no problem, AND you’re feeling completely recovered from yesterday’s 9 miles. So, for most people this isn’t a good choice, but say, for someone who been averaging high mileage for many years, then this won’t be difficult. On the other hand, if that describes you, then you also can certainly get by with the day off or with the planned 3 miles, too. Again, for the great majority of runners, this would be the wrong answer.
D. “Do 8 miles, today, and make it a tempo run, increasing the intensity because you’ll be off tomorrow.”
This is also the wrong answer unless you are training at a high enough level that the 9 you did yesterday represented little effort. As a general rule, though, doing a tempo run the day after your long run would be a bad choice. This question assumes that 9 is a long-ish run ‘for you,’ in which case D would be the wrong answer.
E. “Add a mile or so to all the rest of your runs this week in order to get in your total miles, even though you can’t run tomorrow.”
This is a good choice for most people. An extra day of unplanned rest will likely make it completely reasonable for you to add a mile to several of your other runs, but don’t feel like you have to make up for every mile. Maybe add an extra mile to three runs; that might be ideal.
If you’re feeling the least bit tired, anyway, then definitely just look at the added rest day as a day for your body to renew and refresh, and let it go. Often, runners get a bit too caught up in sticking to a schedule, but other runners are far too random in their training, resulting in going into races unprepared, leading to poor performance, a bad attitude about their running, at least, but more often leading to injury.
Bottom line, you need to follow a good schedule and then make good decisions based on sound knowledge along the way.