Ah yes… good ole’ FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out)! As the founder of UESCA, long-time coach and athlete, I can confidently say that FOMO is one of the key factors for athletes not adhering to training programs, as well as having their progress derailed. Aside from hearing from coaches all of the time about this in respect to their athletes, I have been 100% guilty of this as well.
In my experience, there are five main FOMO scenarios:
This is likely the most common FOMO scenario. If you’ve ever tapered for a race, you might be all too familiar with the ‘taper tantrums.’ Taper tantrums are typically the result of weeks and weeks of training and then a drastic reduction in volume, and often erroneously intensity as well. Understandably, athletes often feel quite restless during this time period and can range from being a little bit irritable to totally losing their sh#t!
This is where FOMO comes in. As a way to deal with their taper tantrums, athletes will often ‘break’ their taper as a way to get normalize their emotions and feel better mentally and physically. The other, and perhaps more common FOMO reason in this instance is because an athlete feels that due to the reduction in training volume (and/or intensity), they are losing fitness and thus won’t be adequately prepared for their race. This of course leads to breaking the taper as well.
As a coach, there are several ways to combat this. First, a properly structured taper should reduce volume but keep intensity. Second, you should remind your athletes that they have trained very hard for their upcoming race and that they will not lose fitness during the taper – especially since intensity is still integrated into the taper. Third – you should explain (or in many cases, re-explain) the physiology behind a taper so that they understand from a science-based perspective why tapering is important. Lastly, you should remind your athletes that the taper tantrums are to some degree normal, and instead of focusing on a reduction of training volume, to use this time to prepare mentally and do other things that they might not have had time to do during their training cycles.
I get it, days upon days and weeks upon weeks of bad weather can do a number on one’s psyche. Because no matter how much one doesn’t mind running on a treadmill, seeing the sky and breathing fresh air is always a good thing. So picture this, your athlete has had two weeks straight of rain and then suddenly, a sunny day and on a Saturday nonetheless! But… it is also their easy day. While their training program calls for an easy 3 mile jog, they couldn’t resist the beautiful weather and instead ran 10 miles at tempo pace. In a properly constructed training program, each and every workout is assigned for a specific purpose and reason and moreover, each workout influences other workouts and therefore, the program as whole.
So while it may seem quite innocent to replace an short, easy run with a 10 mile tempo run for the primary reason of enjoying some much deserved sunshine, the result will likely be the reconfiguring of the training program.
In truth, while one day like the one noted here likely won’t harm an athlete too much, if an athlete perpetually replaces one type of workout for another based on the weather, it will reduce the program to near nothing in respect to its overall effectiveness.
Hands up if you like to workout with your friends! I totally get it and so long as your workouts with friends mesh with your training program – go for it! However, if your prescribed workout for a particular day is way off from that of your friend or friends, it is advised to do your own workout. This is not to say that you can’t meet up with your friend and do a warm up with them and then meet them after each of you do your respective workouts. However, if you skip your designated workouts a lot in favor of doing your friends workouts, it will lead to programming issues and likely will lead to you being underprepared for whatever you are training for.
One great way to integrate different workouts but still workout ‘together’ is to train on a short loop of a mile or two. This way, you’ll still see your friend during your workout and can likely start and end your workouts together. Additionally, choosing days that your training programs might sync up (ex: easy, recovery ride/run) to exercise together is always a great choice!
This one is quite similar to tapering, in that athletes often feel that they are losing fitness so they must get in workouts no matter what. In respect to sickness, the number one priority is getting better… period. When sick, one’s energy should go to getting better and not training. If you’re coaching an athlete, this cannot be stressed enough.
When an individual gets sick from a cold or flu, the body undergoes a physiological response to protect it and help it heal. Unfortunately, the mechanisms that help to heal the body also decrease its ability to perform at peak level. Below are several physiological responses that occur with illness:
- The body breaks down muscle (catabolism)
- Studies done on individuals with fevers showed microscopic damage to muscles.
- Muscle strength decreases, and it can take up to two weeks to regain strength (from a three-day illness associated with a fever).
- Fat metabolism is decreased
- Body is primarily utilizing muscle protein for fuel, not fat.
- Body is primarily utilizing muscle protein for fuel, not fat.
- Aerobic metabolism is diminished
- VO2 max and lactate threshold will decrease.
Injuries happen. It’s unfortunately a part of any sport… and life. If you look at all of the products out there to prevent and ‘treat’ injuries, the list is endless. Some of these are foam rollers, percussion therapy tools, body weight reducing treadmills, aqua jogging belts, etc..
So it’s clear that people don’t like to be injured and that if injured, they want to get back in the ‘game’ as soon as possible. This makes perfect sense and is all well and good. However, when an athlete skimps on rehab and simultaneously overloads on training, it’s a recipe for disaster. Like being sick (as noted above), an injury must be respected and the proper course of action and progression must occur in respect to getting back to training. In this case, one’s FOMO that results in starting back too soon and/or with too much volume/intensity will likely see the athlete delay their return to ‘real’ training due to a slower recovery process.
In all of the scenarios noted above and in respect to FOMO, it’s completely understandable. In fact, to some degree it would be abnormal to not have a fear of missing out in these scenarios. However, in each and every one of the scenarios listed above, it’s been proven time and time again that deviating substantially from one’s training program will only serve to set an athlete up for regression, and possibly failure in respect to their goals.
In summary, it’s key to respect the training process in totality. After all, training programs only have value if they are followed.
Rick Prince is the founder of United Endurance Sports Coaching Academy (UESCA), a science-based endurance sports education company. UESCA educates and certifies running, ultrarunning and triathlon coaches (cycling coming soon!) worldwide on a 100% online platform.
Click on the one of below links to learn more about our certifications and to get $50 OFF the purchase price!
Click here to download the UESCA Triathlon Course Overview/Syllabus
Click here to download the UESCA Running Course Overview/Syllabus
Click here to download the UESCA Ultrarunning Course Overview/Syllabus
Click here to sign up for information and launch alerts for the UESCA Cycling Certification