Adapting When Workouts and Life Don’t Go As Planned

You are setting out for a hard workout. It’s a key workout for the buildup to a goal race. Everything has been going well up until this point. Mileage has been steadily increasing over the weeks. You have been eating well and resting properly, and you’ve been nervously looking forward to this weekend’s workout. It’s a long run with the last 8 miles at goal marathon pace. The morning of the workout, you wake up early, text your teammates to check in on the plan and head out to meet up. You start the run, and you feel good the first ten easy miles. You all chat about the week. You tick away the miles, running a little faster than you thought for the first part, but it’s okay because you still feel comfortable. You are about to start the GMP section and you take a gel and a sip of water and set off. You start wth a strong rhythm and two miles into GMP you realize you are going way faster than planned– 30 seconds per mile. Slowly you notice your legs are starting to stick to the ground a little longer at each stride. Your pace has slowed to slower than goal pace. But you try not to panic. You keep moving forward. Another couple minutes in, and you scan your body and everything hurts. Your breathing is labored, your hip flexers ache. You tell yourself this is it, and you can’t go further. You immediately decide to throw in the towel, and you start walking, frustrated with yourself, and you wallow in the pain.

Does this sound familiar? 

I have felt this pain countless times the last 7 months, but not during workouts, instead while coping with the challenges of 2020. Most recently, as my kids have begun distance learning, and I walk past them on their computers staring at their class, I get pangs of sadness thinking of everything they are missing. I then go into a spiral of everything in my mental and physical surroundings and feel a sense of anxious helplessness. This is where I wallow and start the negative loop and get stuck in the “this isn’t how it’s supposed to be” mindset. This is where I throw in the towel and start walking. This is when I give up. I am just coping.

As I realize this strategy doesn’t feel productive or sustainable, I’m making a hard mental shift this Fall, and I invite you to join me if you have similar feelings. Instead of throwing in the towel, I am committing to adapting. Adapting does not mean I am going to accept that life will be this way forever, and it doesn’t mean I am ignoring the hardships within and around me; it’s putting life back in my control and giving me proactive engagement in any given situation to accept that it is as it is. For me this means I am going to take a positive orientation (whenever humanly possible) to the challenges in front of me and adapting to that situation rather than giving up. With distance learning as an example, instead of wallowing in a situation outside my control, I’m going to start self talk: reminding myself this is extra time with my kids who grow up so fast and that they now have more flexibility in their schedule to go on afternoon adventures. I am going to actively see opportunities in the weeds every single day. It’s going to be exhausting, but mostly because it’s a shift from what I’ve been doing.

Back to the workout that didn’t go as planned. Let’s pause in that moment of giving up. Instead, how can you adapt? When you realize you lost control of the workout, pause. What can you do? Scan your body. Assess what’s going on. What is in your control. Okay, let’s slow down for a few strides. Do you feel better? Okay, maybe not. Let’s jog for 2 minutes and assess again. Can you make any other physical or mental adjustments? Can you relax your shoulders? Can you pull out your mantras? Maybe that is all you need. Or maybe you need to completely modify your workout. There is no rule that says you can’t do this. You decide you’re going to make a game day decision and shift. You are going to walk for 2 minutes and then instead of doing a tempo run, you are going to do a fartlek. You are going to focus on pace shifts and remember how important this is in racing as well. Your mental disposition is changed, and you feel like the workout is back in your control. You are back in the game.

We all have this ability—in workouts and life. We can choose to survive and cope or, with training, we can choose to thrive and adapt. I don’t like experiencing bad workouts and I especially don’t like so much of what 2020 has dealt us. However, I’m going to focus on my mental disposition and adapting to situations as they arise, so that no matter how bat shit crazy things get, I will find joy in daily life.

*Join us as we charge into 2021. Check back on our blog, social media, and guest speakers as we learn strategies to help us adapt and move into a new year with joy.

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