Training when your plan fails

Photo by  Alexandra Gorn  on  Unsplash

As we all know, the best laid intentions for Advent can go off the rails as soon as the first Monday comes around. Between feast days, Christmas shopping, Christmas parties, traveling home for the holidays, and hosting out-of-town guests, sticking to any plan can be nearly impossible during this time of the year. But should you just give up your race training when your plan fails?

Of course not!

Would you give up on prayer if you failed to stick with it? Well, I don't actually know your answer to that question. But for me, it's no. I would pick prayer back up and try to stick with it. And maybe I'll get off track again. But maybe I'll stick with it just a liiiitle bit longer this time. Which is still spiritual progress.

So you shouldn't give up on race training when your plan fails, either. Every runner is going to experience setbacks at some point. Just like every Catholic struggles with their faith in a season of life. In both cases, the trick is not to give into despair and discouragement.

Oddly enough, the five steps of the Examen prayer (which we reflected on this week and last week during the Advent 2017 #CatholicWomenRun challenge) also apply to our physical training. Here are the 5 steps to take before you jump right back into training when your plans fail.

Pray for God's help

The guilt we feel from failing can be a good thing if it drives us to dependence on Jesus for our every need. EVERY need. I wouldn't think twice about asking Jesus to help me stick to with a dedicated prayer time. In the same way, you should invite Jesus to grant me graces to stick with my running. And eating healthy. And reading. And staying focused at get the point. We are dependent on God for everything.

Give thanks

God is constantly giving good gifts, showering us with so many positive things—and we hardly ever notice. So the best antidote to pessimism is praise. Maybe you didn't run all three days this week. Even if you ran once, that's more than you would have done, right? And if you didn't run at all, did you take a walk with a family member? Or did you rush around town for that last minute gift? Celebrate that! Any movement is better than nothing. If you are feeling that all is wrong in your training plan, take inventory of the many things that are right.

Pray over significant feelings

There are many voices—internal and external—competing for our attention. Our passions are constantly pushing the envelope and distracting us from listening to the Holy Spirit. So we need to be aware of them to hear and discern God’s voice in our hearts. If our wills are not firmly grounded in the moral law, our feelings will control us, which the Catechism mentions as an "enslavement to one’s passions". Not that your training plan is the moral law or anything. But for me, running helped me distinguish between feelings and Truth. Did you skip that run because you truly didn't have the time? Then did guilt keep you from returning to those shoes the second time around?

Rejoice and seek forgiveness

The hardest part - and yet the best! At least I think so. Like St. Peter sinking in the waves, we have to remember that our hope is in a merciful Savior. This makes me think of confession. Isn't it so difficult to get to confession after you've failed in your spiritual life? But don't you feel so much better once the priest has said the words of absolution?! Trust me. Once you've laced up your running shoes and squeezed another run in, you'll forget about giving up on running!

Look to tomorrow

Now that your resolve is back, think about what you can do to get back on track. If you've kept up with the plan in general but missing just a couple days, you should be okay. Even if all you can fit in are the runs (rather than the yoga, extra cardio, and strength), keep it up! If you've missed five days to a week, start with an easy day. You'll be able to return to where you left off pretty quickly. If you've missed 10 to 14 days, you'll need about a week to return to normal. Just make sure you're not trying to make up for those missed training days with too much effort - that could lead to injuries!

And you're back! If you need tips on staying motivated, review our 5 tips and tricks to stick with running.

One final thought. Saint Maximilian Kolbe had this to say about failure, "...never let the devil deceive you by allowing him to discourage you. Whenever you feel guilty, offer all your guilt to the Immaculate, without analyzing it or examining it, as something that belongs to her…"

We are weak. Only God can make us strong. Let us know how the challenge has revealed this to you in the comments, or on Facebook and Instagram! Use the hashtag #CatholicWomenRun. (P.S. We're giving away one Examen Journal by Creating to Love. You just have to use the hashtag on Instagram between now and December 31st. The more you use the hashtag, the better your chance of winning!)

RunningJohnna Wilford