Should you have flexibility in your training plan ?
The first step to having successful goals is to set SMART goals.
Make sure the goals you are working towards are SMART. Then realize that perfection is a myth.
As someone who coaches for a living, and has been doing it their entire adult life, I’ve learned to see patterns in people that are the most successful. People who are flexible with their training, adapt when hurdles ultimately come up, and aim for their best instead of perfection are happier, healthier, and over time usually more likely to reach their goals.
“Perfectionism is the enemy of progress”, Winston Churchill
So why do so many of us expect perfectionism in our training? Social conditioning, how we were raised, the illusion that harder work creates stronger athletes? There are so many things that culturally go into why we tend to expect too much of ourselves, but the key takeaway is remain flexible. Most athletes tend to be very motivated, driven people, and not learning to listen to their bodies is often their biggest downfall.
So when should you stray from your training plan?
Less than 7 hours of sleep ? Feel too tired to train. It's ok to skip, shorten, or sub out an intended workout with an easier one. There is a load of interesting sleep science but the average person does need at least 7 - 9 hours. If you don't hit that or if you are feeling fatigue, be flexible with that plan, pushing thru to be “perfect” is a fast track to injury, burn out, mental fatigue, and has even been linked to depression.
Not in the mood, again? If you have no major other stresses going on and you just aren’t in the mood, it's potentially a little mental burnout. Taking a short break just a day or two off is a quick way to see if your training is the source of your lackluster mood.
Fighting an injury? Then there is a good chance your body needs a break. The most common “runner injuries' ', shin splints, plantar fasciitis, and “runners knee”, are generally usually overuse injuries. Mix up your training, add in softer surfaces, trails, strength training, cross training, or just plain and simple take a break! If you keep pushing through warning signs it's a fast road to something even more serious.
You keep falling short. Week after week you’re missing speed or mileage goals? Then its time to reevaluate the plan. It’s ok, and even good to sometimes try and come up short. But when it's become a weekly or monthly habit, then it's a good sign that your plan needs reevaluation to make sure it's matching up appropriately with your lifestyle, goals, and fitness level. Trying to reach something that isn't suited for you at this moment, is a quick way to get run down, over trained, or just simply bummed out. Knowing when to step back, involves removing the ego, but is the best choice for your health and happiness.
Your menstrual cycle is absent. If you’re skipping periods, or missing them entirely, and not expecting to with pregnancy or menopause, then it's likely your body is overtaxed. When you add in training on top of this stress, you are risking bone health, fertility, and it is time to beeline it to your doctor to get a full check up.
Be gentle with yourself. Embrace flexibility. Focus on consistency. And know that these habits will lead to progress and successfully hitting your SMART goals.