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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Monday Morning Check In: Stepback Weeks

My regular readers know that I am a runner. I am not the world's greatest or fastest runner. I run for the purpose of exercise and discipline (and to keep my weight under control). I also gain several benefits mentally and spiritually from the discipline of running, and I frequently include the insights I have gleaned from this discipline in my blog posts and my teaching subject matter.

One of the benefits of running regularly is what I learn from setting up and following a training program. I regularly set up a running goal, usually in the form of a particular race event. Then I figure out how far out I need to start the actual training program to prepare me for the running event. For example, if I sign up for the Austin marathon, I know that I need to allow for 18 weeks of training to be in the best possible position to survive the endurance event (which means that I have to begin my marathon training this week). For those who are interested in embarking on a similar journey, I like to follow the training programs offered by:

Part of Mr. Higdon's training program includes a push for two weeks and then a "stepback week." During this week, the training program allows us to reduce our mileage in order to gather strength for the next push forward. Since I like to relate everything that I do to . . .  everything that I do, I considered how to relate this "stepback" week to my work routine.

As I have repeatedly noted in previous blog posts, life gets in our way -- a lot of the time! We have our systems in place and our goals and plans all laid out, and then "life happens." I have found that the best way to handle these little life upsets is to strengthen a positive attitude. But, that just gets us through the day in general. What about something more useful?

As I contemplated the upcoming start of the marathon training program (yes, as I write this I am seriously considering an entry into the Austin Marathon on February 19, 2012), I comforted myself about the trials ahead by reminding myself about the stepback weeks. Every third week I would run less on my long runs -- not a bad thing at all! In fact, it would be something to look forward to! (See how this "positive attitude" thing works?).

So too in life.

Things bog down now and then. Our computers need to reboot and refresh. We need a Sabbath Day to recharge. And a stepback week might be in order as well. Let this be that week if you need the extra rest.

So this past week was my stepback week, and I encourage you to schedule your own stepback week. This was my first stepback week and the first of several more to come. In this next week, I urge you to cut your weekend (or week's work) in half where possible, and to take time to sit back, put your feet up, watch something on TV or Netflix, and just recharge your mental and physical batteries. I ran a tough "marathon" in the past few weeks with an opera, symphony subscription concert, and Artisan Quartet performances (3 in one weekend!). I needed to sit still for a few hours and do nothing on a grand scale. I did sit on my hands to keep myself at rest though.

Here is a little, historical P.S. about me:

I had always wanted to run a marathon. I do not understand this desire or goal, because I was not a runner to begin with. I dabbled with the sport of "jogging" in the 1970's when it first became fashionable as something folks did to lose weight. So, I do not know where this desire originated. However, the hope and determination showed up again when I read "Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner" by Dean Karnazes. Inspired by Karno's story, I took the challenge myself and ran my first marathon in February 2006 in Austin, and I have run several other marathons after that and two ultramarathons (50K). I learned quite a bit about myself, my mental thought processes, and my capacity for endurance and suffering. The lessons I learned from that initial experience were invaluable, and they have served me well in the intervening years (and, I enjoy telling folks that I run marathons when I so obviously do not look like a "runner"). This is why I continue to set running goals of half marathons, marathons, and even ultramarathons (50K is my longest distance) on a regular basis. I encourage everyone to contemplate embarking on this learning experience.

Oh yes, as I wrote this post, I inspired myself, and I have now officially registered for the 2012 Austin Marathon on February 19, 2012. Who wants to join me?

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