Let’s say I recently signed up for a race, so I get back into a weekly workout schedule. I’m running, going to the gym. Things are good.
And then a little voice speaks up.
Is this really what you want to be doing?
Why would you sign up for that race? You said last time, “No more races.”
Are you even having any fun?
Despite this voice, I keep going. And sometimes it’s good to ignore the voice. I swear it would try to talk me out of anything – except sitting on the couch and watching old TV shows on Hulu.
But at other times, I realize that I’m only going through the motions. I run and I train, but it’s because it’s what I’ve always done. And doing anything less feels like I’ve given up completely.
I’m no longer training because it’s something I want to do; it’s because it’s what I think I should be doing. I’m only invested because it’s what I’ve always done.
It feels like I’m following someone else’s training plan.
I keep doing what I’ve always done and train like the person I was five, ten, fifteen, twenty years ago. Even though I’m not that person anymore.
So then what happens?
Option #1: I get injured.
When I follow someone else’s training plan, I usually get injured. Little stuff. Hip pain that keeps me from running for about a week. Knee pain that is just bad enough to stick to flat roads instead of hilly trails. Probably most common is I end up so sore that I can’t even walk down the stairs without grabbing onto the railing. Not that I’ve done that recently. Like in the past week.
My level of fitness now is not the same as it was when I did an Ironman. Or when I was doing CrossFit five, sometimes six, days a week. Jumping into where I used to be in my training leads to getting hurt. I know what will happen, but I keep repeating the same pattern. It’s what I’ve always done. Why?
Option #2: I get burned out and lose motivation.
In the past, the only way I could get myself into a consistent workout habit was to sign up for a race. That date on the calendar was the only thing that would get me out of bed and into my running shoes.
Back then, I never considered that my motivation could come from somewhere else. Like, within.
When I train based on the date on the calendar, not only is it repeating a bad habit, but it’s also hard to stay motivated. And the result is chunks of time where I train and then don’t do anything. It’s like yo-yo exercise. I wait until my clothes start getting a little bit too tight, and then I repeat the whole process.
Option #3: I compare myself to others. And myself.
I know I get myself into trouble when I compare my level of fitness to other people. I know it doesn’t matter, and yet I still do it. Rather than focusing on my improvement, I check in with other people who I think I should be on the same level as. Thankfully I don’t use Strava.
It’s better to stick to self-comparison, but even that gets me into trouble. Rather than thinking about who I am now, I compare myself to who I was “in my prime.” But I don’t even know what that means. Comparing myself to some ideal that didn’t exist then and still doesn’t exist now means I’ll never be satisfied.
How do I follow my training plan?
I have to stop the madness. The first step was asking myself why. Why do I keep following a pattern that doesn’t make me happy and pretty much leads to pain every time?
So, new plan! The new plan, my plan, is figuring out how to train and be healthy without the pressure of signing up for a race. Unless I want to, not because I feel like I have to. To give myself room to change my mind and do something else. To be more flexible with how I choose to be active and to stop going for long periods without any training.
That is my training plan. You can borrow it, but make sure that you make it your own. Don’t follow someone else’s training plan.