Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Pursuit of Perfection

As you all know by now, I have been struggling with a nagging injury that forced me to actually (le gasp) take time off from running. Only once before have I taken significant time off (one week when I had ITBS while training for my first half). While I've been filling that void with cross-training, I'm still trying to come to terms with not following my training plan "perfectly."

Perfectionism is something I experience in other aspects of my life, but for some reason it's the worst when it comes to running. Perhaps it's because training plans are so defined that it's very easy to conceptualize what that perfection would look like ahead time - ie hitting every workout at the prescribed pace.

Now, I realize that if the RLRF authors were transported to my living room, they would not tell me to run through my injury and to take the necessary time to rest. That's pretty much what any sane person would say, too. The point of marathon training is to get to the start line healthy and rested, not battered and bruised.

While this makes perfect sense (pun intended), I'm still battling some mental demons that I've failed for not following the training plan to the T, even if my reasons are completely justifiable. I really admire those of you who are able to easily adapt your training plans or even take a rest day if needed without feeling guilty or bad.

I do want to take a moment to interject here that while this sounds like I'm straight on the road to being an obsessive exerciser, that honestly isn't the case - I have no desire to do one step more than what's on my training plan, and I get grumpy when training time eats into my kitty cuddling time. I have no interest in "over-achieving" at training.

I thought I was doing a pretty good job handling the lay-off. I did indulge in some self-pity and even a little bit of anger, but I still dragged my butt to the pool and the bike when I needed to. (Though even commercials showing people running are making me pretty angry at this point, so I think I'm approaching my limit.)

That is, I thought I was doing a good job until I started thinking of all the other training plans I could start now or in the future. It started innocently enough, with looking at Pftizinger's book I bought awhile ago and think I will be using later in the year. I do love to plan, so I assumed I was just reading about running to compensate for the lack of actual running.

Then other things started creeping in. I dug out my NROLFW book and had serious thoughts about restarting it, despite the fact I'm perfectly content with the circuit I'm doing twice a week at lunch and am happy with my strength. NROLFW would mean a lot more time in the gym and the danger of burning out.

I managed to put those thoughts aside, until I found myself checking to see if a tri book I've used in the past was checked into the library. I really like its swim plans, to be fair, but RLRF's swims are fine and, just like the lifting sessions, can easily be fit in at lunch and are making me happy.

My only conclusion was that I was looking to fill the void left by "failing" at RLRF. I was looking for some other regime I could start now and do perfectly. Obviously this is near impossible and just plain unnecessary. If I had to take serious time off running, either of these would be fine pursuits, but hopefully as you're reading this, I'm finishing up my first run back. I did a test lap at the track last week pain-free, so I have no reason to suspect I can't jump back in.

I'm honestly not very sure what to do about this problem, other than not give into the urges. I guess it's pretty obvious I'm very process-goal motivated, rather than result-goal motivated. I'd be disappointed if I didn't run a 4:30 at Myrtle Beach after training for it, but I wouldn't feel bad about it, assuming of course I tried my best. On the flip side, I could run the race of the millennium at Myrtle Beach and BQ, and I would still feel sad about the missed training runs - even though the result would be better.

Maybe this was the big lesson life wanted me to learn in 2014. At the very least, I think I learned a lot about what types of training my body can handle. Apparently I am at most risk of injury when dialing up the intensity too fast, but can run more miles than I think, as long as the pace is comfortable. I'm sure once I figure out all the details, I'll be able to follow a training plan more "perfectly," since it will start out tailored to my needs. I guess for now I will need to keep experimenting and learning, as frightening as that is for me!

How do you cope with adapting your training plan?
How did you figure out what type of training works best for you?


  1. I always find it helps to remember that it's better to get to the starting line a little under trained, then to not get there at all due to injury. I'm taking a mini break myself right now. Over the years I've slowly figured out what type or training and how many days a week work best for me.

    1. I've been undertrained for marathons before (and survived!), I was just so hoping to get through a whole cycle injury free. I have to just remember to be patient while I figure out what works for me.