Derrick and I were snowshoe running on some new trails last night. There is something about how the pre-dusk February sun reflects on the pine trees and snow-covered land that gives it a magical quality. It is hard to describe, but the pale colours of the sky and snow meet the richness of the green in between and I am left in awe of the radiant beauty of nature around me. The base of snow is well over knee-deep now, but the trails are packed down by our snowshoes and I found myself feeling grateful for the ten-thousandth time for them allowing us access into the silent woods of winter.
Then, part way through the run my thoughts shifted to feeling the need to train more. I started to feel stress in my body, with the impulse to write up an ambitious plan and muster up the will to follow it as a top priority. To harness every one of my allotted type A brain cells because I'll need every one of them to keep me on track. In the past I have been able to motivate myself to train hard to try to meet particular goals, mostly out of insistence on following a plan like this. When I've succeeded it has been extremely satisfying and I've found out important things about myself in the process that will always be a part of me.
I call it the Math Test approach. It's a logical plan fueled in part by fear. I would be super motivated to work hard because I wanted to "pass", and was starting a long way from where I needed to be. Add to it a powerful underlying need to prove worthiness to myself and it's a recipe that has a serious punch of power if you buy into it. But now that I have learned from this approach (most importantly how untrue the worthiness thing is), I don't feel it is going to work again.
When I started feeling that stress yesterday I already knew that well was dry, so I shut it down right there. I reminded myself that for coming off of a long downtime I'm in a good place and there's nothing to stress about. (Really, why would I stress about my stress-reliever??) I re-focused on the beauty of the snowy woods around me, and felt the stress melt away. I definitely still have goals, but the process of reaching them needs to be a larger part of the enjoyment. Not just satisfying mentally, but day-in/day-out enjoyable physically, emotionally and spiritually.
The metaphor I'll use this time is that of a Painting - I have an idea of what I'm after, but I'm going to be open to letting the final picture evolve in a way that is a lot messier, organic, and fun. Like I did yesterday, I'm going to aim to stay in the moment and let it flow.
I would never say one approach is better or worse, it's just about finding what feels right and being able to adapt. When and if I try a 100 miler, it may very well feel like cramming for a math test again, or maybe I'll find some kind of good balance between the two approaches. There really is good in both of them, and it's not like I haven't enjoyed training before, that's obviously not true at all. It's just that I want a larger proportion of my runs to be from a place of truly loving being out there, not just being a slave to my training plan.