Failure is Normal (Self-Love is Key)

Failure is Normal (Self-Love is Key)

Lisa Jhung
Writer and Author of Running That Doesn't Suck: How To Love Running (Even If You Think You Hate It)
February 13, 2024

Anytime we set a goal of any sort—eat healthier, sleep more, complete a 12-week running plan—we’re bound to beat ourselves up if we “fall off the wagon,” so to speak.

Not sticking to something as we originally planned can leave us feeling like we failed. But failure is not only normal, it is a necessary part of life.

Any parent can tell you that it’s good to let a child fall down once in a while or lose at a board game. And scientists will tell you that failure is a normal, and critical, part of the scientific process—hypotheses are tested, and sometimes they fail. It’s the reaction to failure of any sort that makes all the difference in the world.

In fact, doing everything perfectly—not failing—doesn’t teach the important skills of resilience and resolve. You could argue that failure teaches us more about ourselves and life in general than success.

But what is “failure,” anyway?

Is it not sticking perfectly to a plan?

Skipping a day of a running workout?

Skipping a week?

Maybe we reframe the word “fail” to something less harsh. Maybe it’s just…reassess. Maybe failure, instead, is opportunity.

Not achieving what you set out to do is an opportunity to look at yourself, your situation, and assess:

1) why you skipped a workout/a week/a month/or didn’t achieve any set goal;

2) how you can change whatever factors led to that reason;

3) how you can start back up without beating yourself up.

It’s like testing your own hypothesis and changing it for the next experiment to see if that works better.

And the not-beating-yourself-up part is important. Nothing good ever comes from getting mad at ourselves. It’s just wasted energy. Instead, practicing a little self-love and getting back on track will give you energy you need to stay there.

With all that said, here’s a simplified guide to how to get back on track if you miss a workout, a week, two, or more. 

If you miss a workout…

The beauty of the None to Run training plan is that all three workouts per week are identical. If you miss a workout during the week, just pick up where you left off on the program. Don’t feel like you need to make it up. It’s important to honor the days off during the week as much as it is to honor the days on. Don’t cram in an extra workout if you’re either forced to miss one, or “fail” to complete it. It’s okay!

If you miss a week…

If you miss an entire week’s worth of workouts, both the runs and the mobility/strength training, it’s a good idea to re-start at the beginning of that week instead of proceeding as if you didn’t miss the week. If taking a week off dramatically affects how you feel when you start up again—either your heartrate feels elevated more than it did before the break or your body aches more than maybe it should—slow your pace to ease back into things. (For a guide on perceived effort, read here.)

If you miss 1-2 weeks…

If you miss more than a week, it will be even more important to listen to your body and adjust your pace. You may need to back up a week or even two in your training plan to let your body readjust safely, and enjoyably. Remember, the goal of this plan is to learn to enjoy running and integrate it into your lifestyle, not complete one 5K and swear off running forever. 

If you miss 3-4 weeks…

Once you’re approaching an entire month off from running and strength training, you should likely consider starting the plan over, no matter where you are in your progression. If you were in the eighth week or further along, you may have banked fitness enough that the first week or restarting feels too easy. That’s okay. Just take the opportunity to enjoy the slow build-up. If you’re really feeling good once restarting the plan, consider skipping back ahead to week three or four.

If you miss more than a month…

If you’ve missed more than a month of the plan, start back at the beginning. The important thing is to be gentle with yourself—both physically and emotionally. We all get sidetracked for one reason or another. Instead of dwelling on having fallen off the plan, look at it as an opportunity to restart. Also, do a little self-reflection on what factors contributed to you stopping, and see if you can adjust any of those. If there are new ways to approach the plan that you didn’t integrate before, maybe you need to mix things up in some way, either in your running or in your lifestyle. Trying something different can help.

But again, if you skipped a workout, a week, a month, or more, IT’S OKAY.

Do not self-loathe. Instead, give yourself a break and look at it as an opportunity to reset. The process is there for you to enjoy. And like a scientific experiment, if your hypothesis about how to approach the running plan isn’t working for you in some way, test a new hypothesis.

Run in the morning instead of the evening. Run with friends instead of alone. Run without (or with) headphones. Adjust your work schedule, your meal schedule, or something else in your daily life to help make sticking to the plan easier on you. Just know that no one does everything perfectly.

It’s how we react to setbacks that matter.

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