Some people are planners, and some people are doers. And some people can mix the two, maybe 60/40 one way or the other. When I first began running, I tried to be 100/100. I wanted to not only have the perfect plan, but to execute it perfectly as well.
If something at work or with friends or family got in the way of my perfect plan, my nerves would be shot the entire day. The fitness I thought I was losing crushed me. If I couldn't run my 8 mile tempo workout, I didn't workout. My plan was 8 miles. It wasn't 6 miles, or whatever else I had time for.
Over the first two years, running was a way for me to get better, move beyond the problems I had created for myself in the preceding years. As time marched on, those problems became more distant. Life sprung up new again. Pretty soon, things felt different. I didn't need running as a crutch to feel good about myself anymore. I could simply feel good about myself because I knew I was making every effort in all of the other parts of my life.
By the obsession with perfection stuck with me. Eventually, I begain skippning workouts because I didn't have time. Then I began skipping workouts because I wasn't fit enough. Eventually, even though I was still very fit and in very good shape (my PR in the marathon was only two years ago), my inability to stick to my perfect plan caused me to simply stop and start over again. I had come a long way, but regressed so far that my entire mindset had to reset.
This blog began one year ago yesterday. So happy belated birthday! And one year later, I feel like I finally have that new mindset.
Life never gets any less easier. Time becomes the enemy. Free time is a matter of what you can give up. You can't cut out much. You can't cut out time with your kids (ok, you shouldn't - you know who you are), work, family occassions, etc. I moved on to a few other things. Like television. We cut the cable a few months ago and haven't missed it yet (except when my wife can't get reception to watch The Voice).
With that time, I've started doing some basic things. Like spending more time preparing for the next morning, a huge time saver, and maybe more importantly stress reliever. There is something about getting out of bed and not having to rush around.
And the little time I do have when I'm not taking care of an obligation I spend getting more fit and planning how I will get more fit. I'm still putting together the training plans - I need to have some direction - but the plan allows for a time crunch. And as my wife and I get more efficient in caring for our daughter, more time will open up in the morning, which will resolve most of the time constraints I deal with now and allow more time in the evening with my family.
It isn't perfect. I would rather get 45 minutes to an hour on the bike, but I only have time for 30 minutes if I do it over my lunch. I wish I could go out and crannk out 8 miles running, but my legs just aren't ready for it yet. Lifting weights is not my favorite activity, so if I am going to do it I want to go hard. But I haven't lifted in a while, and time needs to be invested in reestablishing a base.
On the flipside, there is a feeling of more accountability. Only working as hard as my body is able to go means that, if I don't put in the work, I can't work as hard. So although I have some restraint, there isn't that feeling of "oh well, I'll do it tomorrow".
So I'll focus on the one thing I do have control over - establishing the habit (Leo over at Zenhabits has a really great post about this same idea) of doing the activity I planned to do. I wanted to lift for 60 minutes last night, but only had time for 45. I want to run for an hour tonight, but need to limit it to 40 minutes so my legs have time to continue to rebuild.
So whatever I do now, I attack it from where I am currently at. Not where I had planned to be. I had planned on qualifying for Boston by now. But I'm not going to go out and run 7:15/mile just because I want to be there. My body is ready for 8:00/mile (I know, way off). So that is what I run. I had planned on being able ot run two 60 minute and one 90 minute run this week, but my body was not ready. So I dialed it back considerably. I won't even come close.
And when March rolls around and my base training phase is over, I'll attack spring racing from wherever I am then. Which I hope is a really good spot.
It remains to be seen if this new approach will work. And sticking to deadlines and making every effort to do the work if my body is ready for it is crucial. Cross your fingers.