Resilience vs. Flexibility

When to change paths vs. stick with the one you are on

3 mountains
3 mountains

On Saturday, I was supposed to run a marathon. 4 months ago, I put a date on the calendar and said that was the day I was going to run my first marathon and I would do so in under 4 hours.

The training had been exhilarating for me. I love challenging myself to do difficult things and using discipline and consistency to move toward my goal. Every workout, I showed up and stayed grounded in the process of getting a little better every day.

As I spoke about in my last reflection on running, 2 months into my training I injured my foot, likely from overuse. I saw a doctor and tried taking a week off, but the pain didn’t go away. I realized that this injury was going to take some time to heal and if I wanted to stay in shape for my race, I’d have to figure out another way to build up my cardio.

A week removed from my last run, I grabbed my bike from my garage and went for an hour-long ride. If I couldn’t run, I would spend just as much time and effort biking so that when I was healthy again, my cardio would be just as good, if not better.

I tested out my foot at the end of the first week and the pain was still there. I guess I’d have to do another week of biking.

And so this loop went on for the next six weeks, my foot slowly getting better, but not enough. So I did what was in my control and kept biking and building my cardio so I could run the race that was only a few weeks away.

10 days out from the day I wanted to run my race, with permission from my doctor, I went for a longer test run and felt great. I was so excited to have a runner’s high again. I was rusty, but hey if I was healed, I’d be able to push through to run the race.

I made a plan to go on one more long run the Saturday before my marathon. But 3 miles into that run the pain was back. I tried to push through for a half-mile, but I finally gave in to the realization that this wasn’t going to happen.

On my walk home, I first dealt with my frustration. My mind immediately floated to negative thoughts: Am I stupid for trying to rush back into this? Was I going to have to push back my marathon?

I hated the idea of not being able to follow through on my promise to myself. Plus, I just found out that a snowstorm was coming that week that would likely cover the path I was planning to run on.

It took me a moment, but I realized what I had to do was adapt.

Being able to run on the day I wanted was out of the picture. So, now a week out from my race, I decided I wasn’t going to run a marathon and that instead, I was going to bike an Ironman-length bike distance (112 Miles) on my stationary bike at home.

And I did it. It was difficult, intense, and amazing. And nonetheless very different from what I had pictured I’d be doing 4 months ago. And as I look back on the journey, one thing has become clear:

Goals are best used as guiding forces to give your journey direction but don’t need to be taken too seriously in terms of outcomes.

My goal was the impetus for a lot of great progress I made in the second half of the year. By having a vision of running a marathon and designing my time and my systems to support that vision, I was able to maintain focus and reach new heights in terms of my physical fitness. But, when reasons outside of my control made my goal unreasonable, I pivoted.

The reason I had set out on the journey to running my first marathon was that I wanted to challenge myself and reach new athletic echelons. The target of completing a marathon did not hold any inherent meaning, so I moved my focus to an adjacent but achievable target.

The take-home point is that discipline and focus are absolutely required to make progress, but always remember that the target at the end of the day is usually fabricated to get you moving and can be revised. And this isn’t to say that pivoting should be used as a replacement for grit and resilience. Rather, it’s important to be objective about when using grit and resilience to get you up this hill is the most productive path or if it’s more productive to use that energy on another hill.

If you are interested in improving your ability to focus on the things that matter, feel free to check out My Course on digital minimalism for your iPhone.

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