How to adjust your plan when the unexpected (or life) happens!
Occasionally we will all miss a session or two: illness strikes, work takes over, or your long lost aunt Betty arrives to visit completely out of the blue. That's life and happens to all of us from time to time so the first thing to remember is that it's not the end of the world to miss a few sessions now and then (just try not to do it too often!)
The important question is how do we get back on track? Here are a few helpful guidelines for getting back to training after various derailments have happened.
1. Just a single missed session due to life (work, family, etc): in this instance I would either just forget that session and move onto the next one, or if you have a rest day coming up swap the session with that rest day. So you missed Tuesday's session but Friday is a rest day: treat the missed session day as rest day, and then do the missed session on Friday instead. Either are pretty valid options for the odd missed session.
2. A regular missed session. Once it becomes a habit then you probably need to only do the swap as detailed above and not just skip the session. regularly skipping a session every week is going to leave you well short on the plan after a few months. If a day is problematic for training then do your best to get that session done on another day: either swap it to rest day, or swap it with a lesser session that week.
3. A whole week missed (family holiday, work convention, etc): Every 3rd or 4th week of every plan I build is a recovery week. The volume is often lower, the intensity is lower or internse periods are shorter or fewer in number. If your week off coincides with recovery week then I wouldn't sweat it. Sure you will lose a little fitness, but at the same time you were always going to be in need of extra recovery that week anyway. This is the least damaging scenario so just roll with it. If it's not the recovery week then see if you can switch your working weeks around with the recovery week. So recovery week is not until the week after and you are missing a hard training week? Treat this week as the recovery week instead, and do this week's scheduled training next week. This isn't ideal, but it's way better than taking this week off and then having a recovery week next week. Keep in mind that to pull this off you may need to shuffle a few weeks back and forth so that you still get an easier week every 3-5 weeks. How you feel, how you are recovering, etc are as good a guide as any that you've been pushing longer than you should if you moved a recovery week too far in the calendar, so compensate by moving another.
4. Illness... this is the more tricky one. The answer to this depends on how ill and for how long, and is probably beyond the realms of a blog post, however... Start with the neck check: symptoms below the neck (chills, body aches, temperature, hacking cough, positive COVID tests) I wouldn't train through this. Nothing I ever won was worth the risks of training with these symptoms, and there's nothing in the world should I be given a magic pass to win (by magic elves of the forest) that would make me risk training with these symptoms!
A head cold: you can actually train and a lot of people do and they find the body works a little bit better than on a normal day, once they get over how awful their runny nose and stuffy head feels. The body picks up a little in times of crisis and can perform very well with a minor illness. If in doubt though: don't train.
A very good rule of thumb, once you have recovered from illness and are safe to return to training, is to do one easy day for every 1-2 days you were off with illness. 1-2 days, that's quite a range... Use some common sense here and apply it to your scenario. You had a head cold, it gave you a bit of a cough, your work schedule was heavy, so you skipped 4 days and went to bed early = take 2 days training easy. On the other hand, you had flu, couldn't get out of bed, didn't know who you were for a few days, and had a hacking cough and could barely breathe for 7 days = take 10-14 days really easy and build back up to rejoin the plan.
You can probably (PROBABLY) miss 2 weeks ill, and then train easy for 2 weeks, and then get back onto the plan wherever it now is. That's a juggle, and slightly problematic if you've chosen an event thats a MASSIVE ask for you already, so use this advice with caution. You might be better restarting from where you were and getting to the race having not completed the whole plan. being a little short on top end tuning is way better than being short on key endurance abilities.
If you've missed 6-8 weeks then you are probably off-plan. You'd really need a new plan, something custom most likely.