Are you flexible? I don’t mean in the bendy, Cirque de Soleil sort of way. I refer to flexible with your training. As an age group swimmer, my coach was about as flexible as titanium. If any of us had to miss a workout, to take the SAT, for example, his face would turn red and the vein in his forehead would get all big and scary. His rigidity stayed with me decades after I left his tutelage and rendered me a slave to whatever workout I had on my schedule.
Being beholden to a schedule can be a difficult proposition. On the one hand, having a plan makes training more effective. On the other hand, life frequently gets in the way of training and a lack of flexibility makes dealing with unalterable situations even more frustrating. Shuffling around workouts is often necessary and a missed workout is commonly unavoidable. A younger me would fret endlessly about missed or altered workouts. I would go into a guilt spiral, certain that my goals would vanish into thin air. Yes, my tyrannical swim coach instilled a phenomenal work ethic, but with that came some serious baggage.
Then, the other day, I had a realization. One of the benefits of being a “mature” (ok, old) athlete is that I have learned how to be more flexible with my training. Don’t laugh. It’s true. I had three instances in the past week that forced me to make changes to my pre-set workout plan on the fly to prove my point.
The first situation occurred last Friday. A hill run was foiled by snow so we decided to run a tempo session on a flatter section of road we thought would be clear. During our warm-up, we realized that there was too much ice so we decided to delay the workout until the next day. Normally I am not a fan of doing a hard run on Saturday as it deadens my legs for my Sunday long run (which in this case was a 20 miler). But, ultimately I decided to do the hill run on Saturday and suck it up for the long run. Luckily, it all turned out ok.
Then, a few days later, when I was driving to the gym for my normal Tuesday morning run session the weather intervened again. The snow came earlier than foretasted and I could see that the ground was starting to ice up. I had to make a decision. Outside or treadmill? I am no fan of the treadmill, but I made the switch and moved my workout indoors. Safety first. As I started my session, I realized that the workout I intended to do was not treadmill friendly so I altered the plan and changed it to something that was more tolerable. Whoa. I made two flexible decisions in one hour. I think that absolves me of being flexible for at least the rest of the week.
Flexibility in training takes on many forms. It may be a matter of deciding that a 20 minute run is better than nothing at all; picking just one of the two proscribed workouts on a busy day. Sometimes it is realizing that if you cut the warm up and warm down short you will have just enough time to get in the intervals. Some days it may mean missing training altogether.
Learning to be flexible does not equate to weakness. On the contrary, a flexible athlete will be happier and better adjusted.