Modified article first published on the eurunner.eu blog on 11 April 2019.
I missed my scheduled workout yesterday. I got up this morning and didn’t feel like it. Even Garmin indicated that I should rest a few more hours, so I was happy to oblige. I’ve been hanging around from nothing to nothing all day. I repeatedly postponed my workout until I finally realized it was evening. And I just skipped training for the first time in two months. I didn’t feel like it again when I got up this morning. But unlike yesterday, I didn’t give myself time to think about it and just went. I ran well. This situation reminded me of something the whole time, but I didn’t figure it out, only until I approached home.
Weakness: what to do with it?
Years ago, as a psychologist, I worked with addictions. In withdrawal, whatever the addictive substance, I observed a similar behavioral pattern each time. An alcoholic, for example, vows to stop drinking. He held out for a few days, but then there was a moment of weakness. He got into a situation where he couldn’t resist the temptation and drank. The problem was not that he drank but what followed. When he woke up the next morning, he began to tell himself how weak he was, that he could not resist, and that he wouldn’t make it anyway. And then it was just a step to starting over drinking.
After a while, I warned my patients. I explained to them that moments of weakness would come but that it was essential to carry on the following day as if nothing had happened. To accept themselves even if they occasionally succumb to temptation. Just because they fail once doesn’t mean they can’t do it. It is enough to remember that they usually managed to abstain for several days before it went wrong. And when patients accepted their weakness, they learned to deal with it. They began to avoid situations with a greater chance they might return to drinking again. And they made it.
Weakness in runners
I see a similar pattern of behavior in beginner runners. They resolved to run three times a week. But then they come home tired from work and don’t feel like it anymore. They skip once, skip a second time, and don’t go a third time simply because they convince themselves it’s not worth it. And the whole resolution collapses like a house of cards. That’s why it’s crucial to be able to start over and over. It won’t work once, but that doesn’t mean it won’t work the next time. Even the most successful athletes struggle with setbacks, but their willingness to try repeatedly sets them apart.
I sometimes observe the opposite trend in more experienced runners. Even they sometimes skip training. But when that happens, unlike beginners, they tend to double the load the next day. But in my experience, this is not the best solution too. When I don’t feel like it, it may be related to some bodily process that’s going on inside me. I can be exhausted. My body fights an infection, and I don’t know it yet. And if I double up the load tomorrow, I’m asking for trouble.
So even though I skipped training yesterday, I continued today as planned, as if nothing had happened. Every day is a new beginning.
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