I was reminded this past weekend about what happens when we are too rigid in our planning. Yes, Planning is important. Two weeks ago, I gave you six reasons why it is. Last week, I talked about my own planning and how it is allowing me to be ready for what comes next (even when I’m not 100% sure what that is). Plans, though, need to be flexible.
For the first part of Flexibility from May, click here.
This past Saturday was my running club’s one-mile time trial. This is a test to assess our current fitness level, to perhaps see how far we’ve come in our training, and/or serve as a benchmark for future training (planning!). My club conducts this time trail twice a year, once in the winter and again in the summer. This was the first time I participated since winter 2016, almost 18 months ago.
I sat out the last two time trials because I was trying to heal. The reason why it took me so long was essentially because I got too rigid in planning. The longer-range plan then was to run the New Jersey Marathon about 3 months later as a Boston Qualifier. The time trials were part of that plan. I would use the results to assess my training so far and make needed adjustments in the training to come.
The week before I strained my hamstring during strength training at the gym; but it felt fine after a day or two. During my warm-up on the morning of the time trial it felt really tight. When I communicated this to my coach later in the day, he asked me if I had thought about sitting out at that point. “No. Of course not!”
I toed the start line and set off for the mile. I barely got a quarter of the way around the track – roughly 100 meters – and I felt a shooting sharp pain in my hamstring. My coach later asked, “so you stopped?” “No. Not exactly.” What I did exactly was finish the mile. I stubbornly hobbled around the track to complete that lap and 3 more. In pain. Sometimes, I’m not as smart as I look.
My coach urged me to take a week off – which I did – and seek some medical attention – which I also did. I convinced the doctor to give me a shot of cortisone and I was on my way. I was back to training in a week. My coach had me easing back in slowly and was trying to convince me to reconsider the marathon in favor of the half. I didn’t want to run a HALF. My plan was to run a MARATHON and qualify for Boston. If he didn’t think I could reach my goal, then I certainly didn’t need to pay him to coach me! Have I mentioned that I’m a Taurus?
I ran the New Jersey Marathon last year (read about it here), having trained myself for the remaining 7 or 8 weeks. I didn’t do badly. It was my second fastest marathon ever, but I also didn’t achieve my goal, the last few miles were tough without a properly functioning left hamstring, and it’s taken all this time to heal, stretch and strengthen to the point where I can consider giving it another try. I should have listened to my coach.
The lesson here isn’t about coaching though; it’s about flexibility. I’ve heard people say they don’t like making plans because there’s no way to know what will happen. Why make plans when too often the unexpected happens and the plans unravel? Making plans is necessary. But so is being flexible. While we need to set goals and plan around them to keep our lives going where we want them to go, we also need to adjust our plans around the unavoidable and uncontrollable, the inevitable surprises – challenges and gifts! – that lie ahead. Sometimes you have to live to run another day. A flexible tree moves with the wind; it’s only the rigid – stubborn – one that breaks. That’s probably true for hamstrings too – yoga anyone?
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