The Importance of Being Flexible

Posted by Annie Reed, SnF Racing Team Member on

By Annie Reed, SNF Racing Team Member

I’m one of those people that likes routine and structure in everything I do. As a runner, it can be a huge benefit. It keeps my training intensity and mileage consistent, it keeps my nutrition and sleep habits optimal, and it’s easy to continue with a lifestyle that I’m used to. Unfortunately, if I’m not careful, it can also be my biggest downfall. There have been too many times in the past that my body hasn’t felt great but I drag myself through a long run or a workout because I have it “scheduled” for that day. I have all too often gone out for a run when I have a nagging injury that could easily be cured with a day or two of rest. Countless times I have tried to run through an illness rather than take time off and ended up taking twice as long to get healthy again. My point is this—having schedules and routines are a wonderful thing. They can help you in so many ways. But you also need to learn how to be flexible, how to improvise, and how to accept it when everything doesn’t go exactly according to plan.

I have two “normal” training weeks. One for when I run 5 days a week and one for when I run 6 days a week:

 

Sunday

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Week 1

Long Run and Weights

Cross-train

Workout and Weights

Recovery Run and Strides

Workout

Cross-train

Recovery Run and Strides

Week 2

Long Run and Weights

Cross-train

Workout and Weights

Recovery Run and Strides

Recovery Run and Strides

Workout

Shakeout and Strides

During race weeks or the week after race weeks I revise the schedule. Sometimes I long run on Saturday and swap workout days, shorten workouts, or change workouts to recovery days—depending on when the race is and how intense it is. When I first started racing again I only wanted to race on days that I typically did workouts and I only wanted to do half-marathons on Sundays when I normally did long runs. My training weeks were controlling my life rather than letting me control my training weeks. It was unsustainable. Eventually I was miserable, exhausted, and injured. I made myself do workouts when my body was begging for rest and I made myself keep cranking the mileage because I felt like I had to hit certain numbers. Even on recovery runs I would push myself to run a specific pace.

Learning to be flexible is still a work in progress for mebut I can see that I am improving. For example, when I first started to come back from bronchitis I set a goal for how long or how far I wanted to run and I took long runs and workouts completely out of the schedule. Eventually I was able to increase my mileage and some intensity, but I was still extremely cautious and made sure to keep the workload in check. Pre-illness I was used to doing a 4-mile tempo and 6 hill repeats on a workout day (totaling 8 or 8.5 miles with warm up and cool down). My first workout back I did a 2-mile tempo and 6 hills (the hill was not as steep as the one I was used to), totaling around 6.5 miles. My long run used to be between 14 or 14.5 miles, but my first long run back I slowed the pace and went 11 miles. You get the idea. Pre-illness I had grown accustomed to a schedule of Tuesday and Thursday workouts, but my first week of doing workouts again I played it by ear. I did a workout on Tuesday and waited to decide on if/when I would do a second workout that week. On Thursday I woke up and knew that I needed an extra recovery day so I did a modified Friday workout instead of a “scheduled” workout on Thursday.

With experience in training comes growth and knowledge. As a runner, you are constantly learning more about your body and how it reacts to volume and intensity in training. You learn when to recover and when to go hard. You learn how much mileage you can handle. You learn your optimal pace for recovery runs. Sometimes it’s difficult to get the balance right – but once you are no longer afraid to improvise or be flexible in your routine you will get better at it.

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