Should You Ever “Test Out” of a Workout?

I had an interesting experience on the water lately.  Mentally I was fried, and I was generally feeling slow.  I went out in my single with the intent of doing 4 x 1000m race rehearsal pieces at a solid base rating to groove in cadence and technique.  I was finding it hard to focus and was expecting lackluster results. 

On the first piece, I just used a conservative start sequence and targeted a base rating of 30.  At 500m to go on the first piece, I hit a beautiful patch of glass-flat water, was feeling pretty good, and so decided to kick it up to 34 and rehearse a sprint finish even though that was not my original plan.  I finished strong and when I glanced down at the SpeedCoach it said 3:49 ?!?!  I did a double-take.  That’s much better than expected, especially with how I was feeling.  In fact with that kind of piece I might expect to hit 3:49 in like August instead of early June.

I recapped the piece in my mind – slight tailwind in the first 500, but balanced with no racing start and a slight turn in the middle of the course.  Check.  About 120 strokes.  Check.  So all external factors seemed to balance out, meaning that in reality it was an unexpectedly fast result, and that my body was capable even though my mind was weak.

I cracked a smile and decided to call it a success and head for the dock instead of risking having a bad piece on a later attempt that would ruin the workout for me mentally.  I had achieved a better-than-expected result, and gave myself permission to “test out” of the rest of the workout.


Because I will now be able to snapshot that piece in my mind and mentally “groove it in,” which will pay many dividends in subsequent practices and races.  My fingers remember the subtle feel of the catches on that flat piece of water, my legs remember the quickness of the impulse, my wrists remember getting the blades out square without feathering too early, etc.  The net benefit of leaving the water feeling good, with the visual and muscle memory of a great piece, is greater than the physiological benefit of putting my body through three more training pieces on that day.  I can repeat that piece over and over again in visualization, and that is an important component of training that we often forget.

If your goal is rehearsal for a competition, and you nail a perfect rehearsal piece, give yourself permission to “test out” and then go home, feel good, call it “Miller Time,” and visualize that piece over and over again so your body can repeat it next time!

5 thoughts on “Should You Ever “Test Out” of a Workout?

  1. Nice post. That’s very much in-line with the “deep practice” described by Daniel Coyle in The Talent Code.

    Also in-line wih Critical MAS (the blog), which he calls the James Brown “Hit it and quit it” approach to training.

    Miller Time – but low-carb and grain-free beer – right? 😉

      1. You have to read the Talent Code immediately. It’s the best book I’ve ever read (and I have two masters degrees in psychology for what it’s worth.

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