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What to Do When Your Training Plan Needs to Change

Alison Feller

When I first started running, I ran whenever and however far I wanted each day. If I woke up and was feeling a five-mile run along the West Side Highway, I went for it. If I wanted to spend a few hours circling Central Park, I made my way there. And if I was exhausted and knew my mind and body would benefit from a day off, I had no problem taking that day of rest. I was flying by the seat of my short shorts.

Once I started seriously training for races, though, I began following training plans. There was no more “whenever and however far.” There was only The Plan.

And for years, as I’ve sought out these plans from various coaches and online programs, I have followed them precisely and, dare I say, perfectly. It’s worked well for me too. Not only did I get faster and fitter, but I didn’t have to spend precious time in the morning debating where I would run, how far I’d go, or at what paces I’d cruise along. I’d just wake up, check the plan, and run accordingly. (Learn these 4 Unexpected Ways to Train for a Marathon.)

I never strayed from my plans. Ever.

If I were traveling during “training season,” I found ways to get my runs done, even if it meant waking up while my fellow bridesmaids were still asleep (or just getting in from the night) to squeeze in a 10-miler during a Las Vegas bachelorette party (done it), running quarter-mile laps around a resort in the Bahamas (yup), or borrowing the company rental car to hustle into Santa Monica for an 18-mile long run as the sun came up over the Pacific Ocean (that one was surprisingly awesome).

I never made excuses, and I never skipped a day “just because.”

It was easier that way, and it made me feel confident and prepared as I got close to race day. Knowing I followed my plan “perfectly” gave me a sense of ease, and took a good bit of worry away from the usual pre-race nerves.

So imagine my surprise when, during my first week of Brooklyn Half Marathon training (and sharing that training with the public, no less!), I found myself making a change to The Almighty Plan. (I'm following the New York Road Runners' 10-Week Half Marathon Training Schedule, by the way.)

I’m currently taking part in a 40-day yoga challenge at my favorite studio in NYC. That’s 40 days of intense yoga practice six days a week, for up to 90 minutes per session. In my mind, I thought balancing the yoga and half-marathon training would be no problem. I’m Super Woman, right? I can do it all! My body is unbreakable! Except that I can’t do it all, and for the first time in a long time, I am more than willing to accept that. So this morning, instead of waking up and tackling a 7-mile “fartlek” speed workout, I turned off my alarm and gave myself an extra three hours (you read that right) in bed.

I used to be so afraid of deviating from my training plan. You could say I’m a bit of a control freak, and I surely identify as having a Type-A personality, as I think many runners do. But this time around, I’m focusing less on training so rigidly and more on how my body feels. I’ve run around the block enough times by now—literally—to know that no spreadsheet, no plan, no coach, can tell me exactly how my body will feel on any given day. I’ll get back on track when my body feels rested and recovered enough to get back out there—and I won’t beat myself up over a few missed miles. And you know what? I bet my next run will feel pretty darn good. (There is such a thing as overdoing your workouts. Learn the 5 Telltale Signs You're Exercising Too Much.)

Alison Feller is a writer and editor in New York City. She has completed five marathons, 11 half-marathons, and many shorter distance races. When she’s not writing or on the run, Alison can be found in the yoga studio, on a spin bike, or (on very rare occasions) cycling outdoors with her fiancé. Keep up with Alison on her blog, Ali On The Run, or on Instagram and Twitter @AliOnTheRun1.

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