Friday, May 3, 2013

Schedules Are Made to Be Broken, Too

Some runners love their routines. They get up at or near the same time every day, they do their long runs at the same time every week, they fuel and refuel the same way for each run, they don the same outfit for each major race and so on. Other runners, not so much. 

I’ve been in the “not so much” category for most of my adult life, following high school and my early days at Emerson when we actually had enough men to register a team. 

When you’re not training for something, this works well, as you run whenever you damn well please, thank you very much. When you are training, though, it’s often your undoing, as the lack of structure can easily cause everything to fall apart. I speak for experience here, as most of my marathon training “programs,” devised neatly in my head, collapsed thanks to a packed schedule, fickle New England weather or nagging doubts zooming through the back of my mind so prevalently that I convinced myself it was worth staying in bed and doing my long run Tuesday morning instead. (Note: This is never a good idea.) 

I’m trying to take a different approach these days. While I’ve not yet officially begun my fall marathon training -- that will start in about a month -- I’m nonetheless trying to get into the habit of planning a running routine.

Roughly, this is what I have:
  • Sunday: Long run or tempo
  • Tuesday: Easy day or short speed
  • Wednesday: Long run or tempo
  • Friday: Easy day or short speed 

(Cross training, in the form of unloading an 18-wheeler full of heavy boxes of products for The Container Store for the better part of three hours, happens every Thursday night and the occasional Tuesday night. As that Planet Fitness ad puts it, I pick things up and put them down -- only I get paid to do it.) 

This schedule is far from advanced. But that’s OK. It’s meant to be flexible because, well, life intervenes. This week, I scheduled my “long” run -- 10.4 miles -- for Wednesday evening. I had time and the weather was nice, so why the hell not? I ran quite well, too -- faster than I did in my recent 10K race, if I am to believe my watch. And this worked out nicely, because I felt like crap this morning -- as some wise men from Seattle would say, I was “feeling Minnesota.” (And looking it, too.) 

There are a couple Aesopian morals here, I think. One is that there’s nothing wrong with playing things by ear, provided you know you can pull off a run without hurting yourself. (I’d covered the same distance two and a half weeks ago.) The other is that this type of flexibility makes it easier to deal with little setbacks. Today’s fartlek workout ain’t gonna happen, since my neck can barely hold up my head, but knowing that I squeezed in a good workout on Wednesday, and that I might be able to do one on Sunday if I take care of myself, helps me overcome the minor disappointment.

No running schedule ever goes according to plan. Life gets crazy -- friends or family visit from out of town, the weather sucks, work gets insanely busy or any one of 345 other roadblocks are thrown at us. That’s why training is as much a mental exercise as it is a physical one. It’s taking advantage of the days when you’re looking and feeling California so you don’t lament the ones when you’re feeling Minnesota.