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Ask yourself, ‘What’s the next right step?’ That’s it, that’s all

"So, the next time life steps into your training block, take a moment to ask yourself, ‘what’s the next right step?’ That’s it – that’s all – then proceed"

Speed River Inferno
Speed River Inferno
Photo: Tim Huebsch.

Sometimes all a runner can do is take the next right step. When we put a goal race on our calendar it’s easy to fall into the mentality of wanting a perfect training block, but more often than not this is unrealistic.

Life happens; we all face different stressors, whether it’s children, pets, work, or any other of the countless variables that can throw stress into our lives. Then we have to consider that over the course of a 12-to-14-week training block there’s a decent chance of a cold or flu hitting, and muscles, joints, or tendons, needing a little extra rest through the higher-mileage, more intense training. When any one of these potential factors gets thrown onto our training path it can be overwhelming. Suddenly our minds start racing into a downward spiral as we over analyze the reality of the situation. We tell ourselves lies such as: ‘I need every day of speed work in my schedule in order to meet my goal pace come race day.’ Or, ‘If I don’t get my long run in on week five I’m not going to have the strength I need.’ This list of mental trickery could go on and on; the point is, it’s easy to let the flood of emotion come rushing down, rather than stepping back and evaluating the situation, realistically.

Last week I had a cold, which forced me to back off a bit. My instinct, like many runners, was to push through it, but that’s often more detrimental than helpful. It’s during these times I ask myself, “what’s the next right step?” This helps me break down my thought process, get past the emotion, and focus on the present, rather than get concerned about the weeks ahead. From there, I’m able to make a thoughtful, responsible decision about what that particular day of training is going to look like. So, I took a couple of extra days off. The sky didn’t fall in on me and my training block hasn’t been compromised. In fact, I would argue I’m back stronger than I was before I took those couple of extra days to let my body get over the cold.

It’s remarkable how taking the time to understand the reality of a situation, rather than getting sucked into the emotion of it, relieves the self-induced pressure and allows us to make clear, well-thought-out decisions about how we treat our body’s over the course of weeks and weeks of tough training; ultimately preparing us to be ready to race. So, the next time life steps into your training block, take a moment to ask yourself, ‘what’s the next right step?’ That’s it – that’s all – then proceed.