Something is Better than Nothing

Something is better than nothing

Hi, everyone! How is your week going so far?

Today I’m guest posting over at Lisa’s awesome blog Running Out of Wine, so be sure to check out my post there on whether runners should take ice baths! 

There’s not much to recap for life lately, since I barely took any photos during our time in Madison, WI. Sometimes, you just have to leave your phone at the table and dance the night away with college friends to celebrate a close friend’s marriage. Definitely one of those weekends, as tiring as it was, that reminded Ryan and I just how great all of our Valpo friends are! 

I hinted at this when I shared my weekly workouts with you on Monday, but it was one of those weeks where life came before training. Even though Madison has some beautiful running trails, we were so busy on the trip (Ryan was in the wedding party) and Ryan and I were so excited to have a vacation that I decided the 30-45 minutes that would have been spent driving from the hotel to the trail, finding parking, and driving back was time better spent with my husband and friends. Since the Radisson where we stayed had a nice gym with new Precor treadmills, I spent each day running on the treadmill instead to save time.

Is it ideal to do a majority of my week’s runs on a treadmill? No, but it’s not like I do this every week (at least, anymore—I was a serious treadmill addict when I lived in Dayton, OH). One week of treadmill running isn’t going to derail my training, and treadmill running is certainly preferable to not running at all.

Something is better than nothing

Part of the reason I enjoy running on vacation is not just because I want to check off all the workouts on my training schedule. Running makes me feel better, especially when travel can mess up my stomach. It energizes me for a long day on my feet and it revs my appetite to enjoy local treats. But I don’t enjoy stressing over getting in all my miles, so this past week, I just aimed to get in the runs that I could, but not push myself or avoid time with friends in order to squeeze in the miles I missed earlier in the week or another strength workout.

The Hansons Marathon Method offers this advice when it comes to adjusting training to your life, and it bears repeating here: something is always better than nothing.

Training for a race does not take place inside of a vacuum. Everyone has different life circumstances in which they train. Elite runners, of course, are able to dedicate themselves entirely to their training, but that’s because their livelihood depends on it. Even then, they are not exempt from the long days of travel, sickness, or busy schedules.

For the majority of us who are non-elites, there are many more things with which our training schedule can interfere. Work, kids, travel, and so many of the things that add richness to life can sometimes require us to adjust the normal balance of our schedules.

Studies actually show that a less obsessive approach to running will lead to a lifelong enjoyment of the sport. This doesn’t mean that you aren’t passionate about running or committed to your goals; it means that you are able to achieve a healthy balance between all the important aspects of life, including health and fitness. As this recent article in Runner’s World notes, runners who do not obsess about their training have a more harmonious and happier relationship with their running and are more aware of their intrinsic motivation for why they run. Additionally, these runners tend to have a more positive outlook during training and perform better on race day.

Something is better than nothing. This doesn’t mean skimping completely out on your training, unless an injury requires you to do so. Rather, it means rolling with the punches. Maybe you don’t have time to run a full 6 mile tempo run plus warm up and cool down, so instead your do a 4 mile tempo with warm up and cool down. If you’re not feeling your best, an easy run is better than completely skipping your workout just because you had speed work scheduled.

Practicing this during training will keep you from injuring yourself or mentally burning out. Say, for example, you were supposed to run 50 miles one week, but you missed a day due to travel or an important life event. Rather than tacking the miles from that missed run on to other runs, just follow your schedule as is. Yes, you won’t reach your weekly mileage goal, but it’s better than getting injured or stressing yourself out even further.

I’m not saying that you should use these things to make excuses to skip running; there are plenty of people who show that it is possible to balance a full-time job, family, life, and training, including the impressive elite marathoner Annie Bersagel. What I am saying, though, is that sometimes, when life gets busy, it’s better to do the best you can for that day, rather than stress and obsess about getting in every last minute of each workout.

While I definitely have room for improvement, this is a mentality I’ve been trying to adopt during training. Before my hard workouts, I tell myself that something is better than nothing, and if I don’t hit my prescribed paces, it’s still better to try and do my best. And you know what I’ve found? This flexibility has removed stress from my training. I don’t psych myself out about my tempo runs or long runs and my paces are better than what I’ve anticipated.

The mentality that something is better than nothing also makes handling challenging workouts much easier when we feel stressed or our bodies feel off. After several days of less sleep, more drinking, and the usual stomach troubles I endure during travel, I was not sure how well my workout on Monday would go. Rather than stress about it, I told myself just to run by effort, and if my paces were slow than prescribed, well, something is better than nothing. When I ran those 6 x 1 mile at half marathon pace, I completely surpassed my expectations with not only fast splits in the 7:25-7:30 range, but each split was faster than the last. 

Do I practice discipline in my training? Yes. I’m a naturally disciplined person, as anyone who went to college or grad school with me will tell you. (Although they will also tell you that I’m an example of how to be disciplined without being a total Type-A perfectionist.) There’s a significant difference between being disciplined and being obsessive, and that difference is the ability to adapt and adjust in the continual balance of life and training. 

Since this post is rather contemplative in nature, I’ll be linking up with Running with Spoons for Thinking Out Loud Thursday. 


[Tweet “Something is better than nothing via @thisrunrecipes #marathon #runchat #fitfluential”]

Questions of the Day:
How do you balance training when you travel or have a stressful week at school, home, or work?
Do you stress over hard workouts?
Any VU readers out there? Show some love for our alma mater in the comments! 

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15 Responses

  1. Something is always better than nothing. We can’t be perfect, regardless, but putting in the work is a huge marker of how we will continue to attack whatever it is. It shows our dedication! And in my mind, rest days and vacations and such don’t have to be qualified as nothing if you do make the decision to do just that–they are decisions that you have made.
    But as they say, every little bit counts!

  2. This is definitely the sort of attitude I am working on; I can be very type A when it comes to training (but not when it comes to cleaning my home, as my dirty kitchen floor at the moment can attest to).

    I do enjoy exploring new places on foot, though. That’s part of the fun of travel!

    And when I am stressed, running makes me feel so much better.

  3. So true! Something is better than nothing. This is really the attitude I try and adopt when it comes to stressful weeks or busy schedules. I try to plan in advance and give myself a break if needed and not be so pressured. This helps me stay excited about running and thus, consistent!

    1. Planning in advance helps so much! That way, if there is an extra day off, you know you’ll get to run the next day or so. And I definitely agree, it keeps me excited about running as well!

  4. Well, I’ll be transparent here for a minute. I’m an obsessive person and while I really can get neurotic about mileage, running allows me to get my obsessive tendencies out so that I’m not feeling like I have to obsess about other things in my life that I can’t control. That being said, if my running “obsession” ever trumped life (affected relationships, sleep, eating, work, etc) then I’d know to go see the doctor and find a different way to help me manage those obsessive tendencies. So far, this is what works for me and I’m thankful for the gift of running!

    1. You’re definitely balance running and life so well! And running is definitely a gift – I feel like I would be so much more obsessive over things as well if not for it!

  5. I usually work out while on vacation- but I don’t stress over it. I run or do what I want, only if I want to do it, not sticking to a schedule. We mostly do cruises so I go to the gym and run on their treadmill. We also take the stairs everywhere. If we go on a trip where we walk a lot, like to DC last year, I don’t work out because I figure I’m getting in enough steps walking.

    For me, working out while on a cruise is just my way of keeping the routine in life. Even when I’m busy at work, I try to get something in to keep that routine. I’m a better worker because I run before work each morning. I overslept today and didn’t get to run as much as I wanted, but anything beats nothing.

    1. Routine is definitely something that helps on vacation. Also, it’s amazing how many miles can be covered when walking everywhere – I remember walking 8-9 miles one day when in Rome!

  6. This is something I really needs to read today. I have not had as great of a running week as I normally like to have, and I was trying not to beat myself up over it. I know that anything IS better than nothing, and I have to keep telling myself that! Life does get in the way some weeks, and that’s okay.

    1. I’m glad the post was something you could relate to! I get the same way, and sometimes we just have to tell ourselves that even the smallest bit is better than nothing and ignore the voice that wants us to beat ourselves up. Hope you can reconnect with your running, no matter how it is, soon! 🙂

  7. I’m a recovering perfectionist! There was a time when I thought if I can’t run at least 5 miles there’s not point in lacing up my running shoes. How crazy is that? Happily recovered perfectionist 🙂

    Have an awesome weekend Laura!

    1. I can totally relate – I used to get upset when I didn’t hit an 8min/mile for every run! It’s crazy in retrospect, but at least we can both say we’re recovered perfectionists :). Hope you have a fantastic weekend, Jill!

  8. We can’t be perfect, regardless, but putting in the work is a huge marker of how we will continue to attack whatever it is. You’re definitely balance running and life so well! And running is definitely a gift – I feel like I would be so much more obsessive over things as well if not for it! Something is always better than nothing.

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