Accepting Changes to the Plan

A few times a year I train for an organized race. For one thing, I need the motivation, and for another, I love the swag.

The one thing that’s certain is that at some point in my training, I’m going to have to accept some changes to my plan. A work project takes longer than I think, a kid gets sick, a friend needs me, it snows, or I’ve just booked too much into our family schedule and need to rest.

What I’ve found most important in dealing with this situation, which can feel very disappointing in the moment, is to remember why I’m running in the first place. I don’t train for a race so I can tick off every box on my schedule and prove I did it. I run to care for the gifts of my body and mind. There’s more than one way to do this!

Missing a run here or there or moving my long run out a day isn’t going to hurt my overall performance. Read any training schedule and you’ll see: this flexibility is part of the game. For me this means communicating clearly with my husband about what I want to accomplish and when. It also means discerning which runs are most important and which could be skipped. Finally, it means making sure my training isn’t just about running: I need to stretch, strength-train, and regularly care for my mental wellbeing with a creative activity or good reading material as well.

It’s as important to listen to your body—probably more so—than to stick to the plan. When I honor what my body’s telling me, I honor the unique creation it is. I uphold the dignity I was created with. Pushing too hard or on too little sleep can cause injury, which could mean I don’t get to run the race this time around. A lack of humility can cause a great deal of damage.

A few years ago, I couldn’t finish a race. I was a few months postpartum and while it was a 5K I’d been training for, my knee started to ache a mile in, to the point that I could barely take another step. It had hurt some in the weeks leading up to the race, but it was my sister-in-law’s first race and I wanted to run it with her. I thought if I took it easy, I’d be okay. The pizza at the finish line was also a motivating factor.

Pizza or no, I couldn’t run another two miles. She went on to finish the race and I made my way, limping, to the end via a shortcut. I wondered what this meant for my running going forward. It was a little scary. I’d never experienced pain like this before.

In retrospect, it was a mistake to only run and not cross train. I started kickboxing a month or so later, and was able to build my muscles back up. Two years later, I signed up for the same race with another friend (also her first 5K) and we finished. The pizza was all the more delicious! Whereas I donated the shirt from the unfinished race, I love wearing the one I got from round two. It’s fluorescent yellow and reminds me that there’s more than one way to care for my body.  

God’s plans are greater than our plans, even when it comes to running. He can make all things new. He can be glorified in any situation. If you’re facing some unexpected changes to your plan, how can you see an opportunity to honor your body and honor God in dealing with them?

Lindsay Schlegel wrote her college entrance essay about her lack of athletic ability. In the decade since, God's proven her wrong--and taught her a great deal about Himself in the process. Now a wife and mother, Lindsay has completed a half marathon, a full marathon (while pregnant), and a Spartan Sprint. She's the author of Don't Forget to Say Thank You: And Other Parenting Lessons That Brought Me Closer to God. You can find out more about her at LindsaySchlegel.com.