Thursday, December 6, 2012

Running is like Jenga

Say what?
Those who know me well know that I love extended analogies.  Hear me out on this one.
Running and training, as I have learned over the past few years, is not a house of cards.  When you build a card house, you have to use total concentration and perfectly align the cards at the precise angles.  Otherwise, one false move, and boom, the whole things falls apart.  I used to think this way about training.  I wanted to make sure every single run that was scheduled, happened, and that I hit every single time split and expectation.  This is not healthy, nor is it the correct approach.  It ultimately makes an inflexible runner, unwilling to bend or adjust to anything.  It made me neurotic, obsessive, and probably not that much to be around.
I've learned more and more (particularly this season), that running is more like the game Jenga.  You have a huge stack of wooden blocks, and the challenge is to delicately pull out the blocks, one at a time, and make a higher structure than you ultimately started with.  There is a lot of creativity with this game, and a lot of strategy. If you pull out too many blocks in one area, it will topple over.  However, you can really stack the tower very high if you play it smart.  And this is the kind of approach you need to have with running.  A fixed, rigid approach and mentality will not pay off.  In Jenga, if you pull out the middle block every time, you've built a sturdy structure, yes, but you won't be able to get that high.  But if you manipulate smart, you can accomplish a lot in the game.
I have had seasons where I never missed a run, nailed or exceeded every workout.  This fall, particularly during a challenging end of August/early September, I had training weeks of missed runs, shortened runs, and workouts that did not meet expectations.  Now granted, I settled into a good rhythm and then had 2 months of very consistent training, plus cumulative years of training to boot.  But it culminated in some big PRs - in part probably because I didn't freak out and try and run (or run hard) on the days when my body was less than willing to do so.
I am halfway through my highest mileage week ever.
Monday: 8 miles in the AM, 6 in the PM = 14
Tuesday: 4 miles in the AM, 6 in the PM = 10
Wednesday: 8 miles
Thursday: 10 miles
Working my way to 70 miles!
Yesterday's run was proof that running helps me think and makes me a better student.  I had a big dissertation meeting with my advisor, and my run beforehand cleared my head.  I planned out my major talking points during the 8 mile run, and then sat down and wrote out a mini agenda/outline.  When we met, she said I had made good strides this semester (I found the term "strides" to be quite fitting) and that had developed a clear project.  Progress!  Encouragement!  Just what I needed to hear - that this cumulative work had been paying off.
Maybe getting a PhD is like Jenga too...

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