The Fear in Flexibility
Why runners need to become more adaptable
By nature, us distance runners tend to be creatures of habit. We are some of the most pattern oriented people that exist. It is how we have developed consistency and even great success. We have developed these non-negotiable routines that make us who we are, and we are praised for our “dedication.” Our strength is that we have worked long and hard to develop these healthy habits which make us prepared, fit and prepped for race day. These are all positive attributes to being creatures of strict routine, until it becomes one of our greatest weaknesses.
Picture this, you are ready to board your flight to your goal/peak race of the year and it is delayed. You will now have to pick up your packet on race morning and you are going to miss your dinner reservations at the restaurant you carefully scoped out to find your typical/ideal pre-race meal. Your race is point to point and you chose a hotel that was near the finish line, but now you have to get to the start line extra early to get your packet. Are you frazzled yet?
Your mileage plan says you have a long run today, but your Achilles has been pretty sore the last few days. You know you probably should have rested it, but you hate the idea of missing mileage and you ran on it anyway. You decide to start the long run but end up having to limp back to the car. You now have to miss your next two races.
You are on the starting line and ready to go, fit as ever, and eager for that PR in the 10k. Half a mile in another runner clips your heel and pulls off your shoe. You get angry, say some choice words to the other runner and proceed to pout the next few miles because they “ruined” your chance at a new PR.
Your alarm clock doesn’t go off and you have to push your run to after work. The afternoon rolls around and there are severe thunderstorms. You decide to do your run on the treadmill, but they have just announced they are closing the fitness center early. You now are forced to take the day off. Feeling anxious, now?
If you are like many runners, reading all of these scenarios may stress you out to the umpteenth degree. Chances are you have probably faced situations similar to these too. As runners, we have a tendency to become very fixated on controlling our little world so that we are able to follow routine, do things the right way and have the success we imagined. Sometimes our non-negotiable habits or routines dig us into holes. We suddenly begin to envision our success solely shaped around a result of following said plan.
Let us take a step back and have a little reality check. What can we learn from these scenarios?
The only thing we always have control of is our attitude. This is perhaps one of the best life lessons running can teach. We have the ability to show up and give our best on any given day. Even if we are not at our best, we have the opportunity to practice bringing our best attitude forward.
We must learn to be intuitive with our bodies and not live or die by a schedule or even a watch. Missed races and injuries are almost an inevitable part of the sport. The more we learn to listen to what our body needs, the less likely we are to become injured or burnt out.
We are NEVER going to have a perfect training or racing scenario. Things rarely go as we have imagined. We might as well prepare for those unexpected moments in training and view it as a learning opportunity.
Work on your attitude, be more intuitive with your body and embrace learning how to be more flexible with your schedule.