Running and Life -Part 1:Trust the Plan

Running and Life -Part 1:Trust the Plan October 27, 2011

So, this is sort of a post about running, but also a post about life. Now that I am running a lot, you all may have to be listening to a lot of drawn out analogies on how running is teaching me about life. I run really slowly, so in the course of 10 miles I have way too much time to think!

I am training for half marathon, which is coming up in just a few weeks. Last Saturday morning I ran 10 miles. This is, frankly, an amazing number of miles. I did not like to run when I started training, and that was just about six weeks ago, but now I love it.

When I started, I could run an easy three miles, but I did not like it and I did not do it often. I decided to do this race, and my husband printed out a training plan from the internet. In the past, I have been pessimistic about these sorts of things, thinking that there was no way that I could get up to that sort of mileage, but this time around I just decided, and it was a decision, not a feeling, to trust the plan. I do what the plan says, without thinking about it, and as long as I do so I trust that come Saturday I will be able to do whatever crazy long run is scheduled for me. The first long run was 4 miles, which seemed difficult at the time, but I have been able to add a mile or two each weekend. I am confident that if I continue to trust the plan I will be able to complete the 13.1 on November 20.

One of the reasons that it is often hard for me to trust a plan is that I think that my circumstances are unique, so the plan doesn’t really apply to me. This is just an excuse to try to take control and create my own plan, which is sometimes better but not always. In this case, I don’t know much about running, and I don’t have time to do a ton of research about the best plan. There may be better plans out there, but this is the plan that I am using.

Trusting the plan, and being optimistic about success, has completely changed my relationship with running. I am like an automaton, I just go out and run what I am supposed to run. I get to enjoy the scenery, and the run, because I am not the one doing the planning, and I am not thinking hard about any run beyond the one that I am doing right then. I am not thinking “this three mile run is stupid, because how is running three miles today going to get me ready to run 11 this weekend?” I don’t know, I don’t really need to know, I just do it, and so far I have been able to make all of my long runs pretty well. Then, when I set out on my long run, I just say “I know that this will be hard at the beginning and the end, but I also know that I can do it.”

I can apply this to many other areas of my life, areas where I would do better to trust a simple plan. With big things, I need to trust that God has a plan and just do what I have to do each day. With little things, that can seem insurmountable, it helps to have a plan. A meal plan on a white board, for example, means that I don’t have to think too hard about what is for dinner and frees up some mental space. A plan for laundry is crucial to my mental health — all of the laundry is never done in our house, but if I can go to bed knowing that I did what I was supposed to do today, now, whether it is one load or sheets or whatever, I can have peace. I don’t do laundry on the weekends, and every Monday I am stressed about a pile of laundry that will never get under control. But I do two or three loads a day, and every thursday I am caught up. Every Friday I try to make sure that the kids have put away all the clean laundry that is hanging around the laundry room. Lather, rinse, repeat. Laundry does not have to be a crisis, I just have to remind myself to trust the plan. We homeschool a little bit everyday, most days, and by June my kids have always done a full year of school. Every time, I don’t know why, I freak out along the way and then I am surprised that the plan actually worked!

It is worth reflection. Are there areas in your life where you could use more trust, or where you need a plan? Who can help you create that plan? Without totally giving up your freedom or your wisdom, can you accept a plan that someone else made?


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  • Kat

    This is amazing on so many levels, MA…First, on a very simple level, that you have been able to build up to 10 mile runs in the course of only 6 weeks – this seems impossible to me! Second, I love the analogy to so many areas of managing a household. And third, the spiritual analogy is very real to me – when we follow a spiritual plan, God will honor our faithfulness and our life will just work better. Thanks for putting this reflection together this morning!

  • Kathy

    Interesting thoughts. Good luuck with your half marathon preparation.nA lesson to us all that if you stick with it you can accomplish anything.

  • JMB

    Lately I’ve been trying to get our food budget under control.u00a0 With two, almost three teenagers in the house, and making a concerted effort not to eat out as often, I’ve had to come to conclusion that I spend approximately $350 on food & personal care products each week.u00a0 That includes lunches every day for the children and pizza on Friday nights. nSo I watched a few episodes of “Extreme Couponing” on TLC and I was both horrified and intrigued by the subjects.u00a0 It was informational in the sense that I never thought that buying a smaller package of cream cheese was a better deal if you had a $1 off coupon.u00a0 That is counterintuitive.u00a0 For some reason, I’ve always thought that bigger was cheaper.u00a0 But I’m horrified at the amount of non-food items that seem important to people, like sports drinks and individual candy bars.u00a0 nSo I’ve tried to incorporate some couponing and I’ve wasted a lot of time downloading coupons on my Stop & Shop and A&P cards and then forgetting what I’ve downloaded and I’m not really sure if this is a good program or not.u00a0 Plus, I’m becoming obsessed with prices.u00a0 I actually went to CVS, bought a bunch of Scott tissue to get a free $10 gift card.u00a0 Then I realized what a bum move that was because once my 16 year old ds sees all that toilet paper you know what will happen to my stash on Goosey night.u00a0 nAnyway, I happen to reading a book right now called “The Kitchen Counter Cooking School” by Kathleen Flinn.u00a0 She basically teaches a bunch of people how to cook, simple food from scratch.u00a0 In it, she has a French chef come in and teach a class on leftovers.u00a0 Basically he says that you should be able to hang a picture in the back of your fridge and see it every day.u00a0 The biggest area of waste in a budget is throwing out produce, meat and dairy gone bad.u00a0 Stop buying at Warehouse clubs (who needs a flat of strawberries?) and just shop more often and buy less stuff.u00a0 Use up what you have in your fridge before you replace it.u00a0 Buy one green pepper instead of four, etc.nGuess what?u00a0 That’s what I used to do.u00a0 So I think I need to go back to my old program.nSorry about my ramble.u00a0 Maybe I should start a blog:)

  • Alice

    We used to waste a lot of food that way, too, so I think that buying less is a good plan.u00a0 With the menu planning, you can buy precisely what you will need and use for each meal.u00a0

  • JMB

    That what I used to do, albeit it was inefficient because I shopped at a few grocery stores a few times a week, usually after I dropped off a child at an activity.u00a0 I ran in and out and got what I needed for the night’s dinner and maybe breakfast/lunch the next day.u00a0 I’m thinking maybe I should go back to the old way because the new way is just way too much work and stress inducing and honestly, I don’t think I’ve saved any money!

  • Jurismater

    This rocks, MaryAlice, thank you. In addition to having and sticking to plans to free up mental space and time (so well said!), I have been very blessed by a decision to simplify. My lovely and holy mother in law (mom of 9 extraordinary souls) told me that basically every time she set out to do something she thought was “essential”, she put it quickly before Our Lord. More often than not, in big and small things, it wasn’t that essential, so her mental space and time were given back to her. Our mental space and serenity MUST be guarded so we can devote ourselves to our vocation of love. The trappings matter very little and are often a hindrance.nnThis post also reminds me of nuns, ora et labora, going through the motions of the same menial work day after day, obediently, so their minds and spirits are freed for prayer and contemplation.

  • Jurismater

    Super-couponing makes me insane and obsessed and inclined toward dishonesty. It does save money. But I’m not sure it’s good overall.u00a0

  • Heather – Doodle Acres

    What an awesome post!u00a0 Very timely for me!!!

  • B-mama

    When my parents were here last, my mom did extraordinary work on the laundry throughout the weekend. u00a0This left me without my usual M-Th laundry task… which then left me without a plan. u00a0The result? u00a0The laundry got more out-of-hand than it had in a long time. u00a0I was directionless and without a game plan. u00a0My system was thrown. u00a0I needed to get around to Monday again so that I could start anew and tackle the problem with purposeful action.nnPlans are so important–whether they are for meals or miles… u00a0but they HAVE to be followed to be effective. u00a0Bravo for having a plan and sticking to it, MA! u00a0When you’re at mile 10 and not feeling the last 3 of your race, you can cling to the knowledge that you were faithful to the plan. u00a0It will give you the confidence to mentally climb the wall to the finish line! u00a0Good luck!!

  • Anonymous

    While it was perhaps not your intention, I think this illustrates a good point.u00a0 Couponing was not a good plan for you and your family.u00a0 Following the coupon route, even if you followed it well, would not have been a good solution.nnWhile discipline in following a plan is really important, the plan must first be a good plan for the efforts to be successful.u00a0 We don’t need a perfect plan, just a good one.u00a0 I think the trouble comes in when we feel we don’t have a good plan, or our usual plan is no longer working.u00a0 It can then be hard to get things back on track, and the process can be very frustrating, time-consuming, and we can feel lost.u00a0 nnThe good thing about running is that there are MANY good plans out there that, if followed, will lead you to a successful race.u00a0 In fact, I’ve never seen a running plan that made me cringe or that I thought was a “bad” plan.u00a0 How I wish the same could be said of other challenges and intimidating tasks in life!

  • MaryAlice

    I think that it helps a lot if the plan is simple, at least at our stage of life. When it comes to running plans, I knew that a plan that involved heart rate monitors, timing intervals, etc, just would be impractical for me at this stage. My husband, who is more free when he runs and further along in his running, and also more of a numbers guy, is doing a plan that involves intervals this time around.

    With the couponing, it is very clear from the TV show that the extreme couponing that goes on there is not practical for most families — they spend like 20 hours a week on couponing and shopping! A reasonable plan for grocery budgeting might be:
    1. make a menu plan
    2. make a list and buy only what is on your list
    3. try hard to use whatever is fresh on hand rather than frozen/canned before it spoils. Plan more perishable vegetables earlier in the rotation (lettuce goes fast, as do cold-cuts, broccoli is good for later in the week)
    4. only buy things on sale which you know your family will really eat (I made this mistake and bought 6 boxes of crackers that we found out no one liked!!)
    5. limit prepared food including snacks, use air popped popcorn for a cheap snack

    Generally speaking, I think that JM’s advice to see what you can eliminate is key to a good simple plan. When I make a to-do list, I often know that all of the things cannot be done, so I go down the list and prioritize. You can set your own priorities — some are truly musts, but some days “bake with the kids” can be a priority over “clean the toilet” because you know that your family needs cozy time more than a clean toilet right then. When someone has just thrown up, though, clean up the toilet has to move to number one.

  • If it was someone else’s plan, I guess I would be willing to try it on for a fit. u00a0It may be my solution or it may not work for our family at all. u00a0I think it is important to periodically reevaluate your plan too. Things change over time. u00a0Now I coupon and stock up on good deals, with in sane reason 🙂 and without waste or committing coupon fraud. u00a0Perhaps when my kids are teenagers, they just might eat more if we have more. u00a0At their age now, no one wants to go down to the basement on their own, even for food! u00a0I have to be open to changing my plan.nnLately I have been using couch to 5k, and it is very motivating to have a plan and to check it off as done. u00a0Plans are better when they are reasonable and have small increments of change. u00a0nnAlso, I think it is very important to bare in mind that people are very different and have very different circumstances. u00a0I am not sure if one plan is better than the other as far as laundry, running, meal planning, etc. u00a0My friend has an extremely clean house, and I keep thinking, I need to get her cleaning routine so I can have a super clean house too. u00a0But I have to remind myself, she has one child and an extremely neat husband, while I have 3 and a very nice, but untidy husband 🙂 u00a0Some people think she is too neat, but I respect her cleaning plan because I know she does it with a good heart. u00a0Her husband really needs a neat house for it to feel like a sanctuary, but others don’t know that and judge her without knowing her heart. u00a0

  • Lucy

    MA – I love this post. There’s a lot of good stuff to reflect on here. nnOn a practical level, I’m without a laundry plan and eager to see if your plan might work for me. I remember that you mentioned it in a post a while ago but I never saw the post where you actually described what it is. Is there such a post? If not, would you mind sharing the steps of your plan here? I bet there are several of us who might benefit from your good plan.