Out There: Airplanes, Like Workouts, Never Fly Straight

Small corrections are always necesary to keep airplanes — and our training schedule — on the right path. Photo: www.shutterstock.com

When you deviate from your training, you’re not as far off course as you think.

Last week, I wrote about how I had missed many days of training while traveling for work, a pattern that extended into the days after I returned. With each passing day of denial, I felt more scared to return to my training plan, knowing the first day I ran again would be a rude wake-up call.

Needing a pep talk, I lamented to a teammate how lazy I was, how bloated and sluggish I felt after 10 days of eating ice cream snacks and letting my running shoes collect dust.

“I’m so pathetic, I don’t even know where to start again,” I whined. “How the hell am I going to race next month?”

“Planes don’t fly in a straight line,” he said, as if that sentence contained all the wisdom in the world.

“Um, what?” I waved my hand in front of his face. “Planes? Are you even paying attention?”

“Planes don’t fly in a straight line,” he repeated. “Instead, there’s a general trajectory. Bad weather or air traffic may cause the plane to deviate from a straight course, right?”

No comprende, dude.”

He sighed loudly. “Instead of just letting the plane fly to who knows where, the pilots make small corrections — a degree to the left, a tiny bit to the right — to get back on track. In the end, the actual flight path ends up looking more like a zig-zag instead of a smooth line.”

I still wasn’t getting it. Frankly, I was beginning to wonder if he was on drugs.

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“These hiccups don’t matter,” he said, forming his hands into a plane weaving through the air. “They just need a few small adjustments. In the end, we get to where we need to be.”

The hand-plane landed on the table with a graceful slide.

“So … you’re saying I’m like the airplane?”

“I’m saying you should quit whining and get that jumbo-jet butt of yours out the door for a run.”

That evening, I ran. It wasn’t pretty, but it was a workout — a tiny course correction. The next morning, I faked fitness on the bike by finding the biggest guy in our riding group and sucking his wheel like a straw at the bottom of a Slurpee. On Sunday, I got up early, put on my running shorts, and watched the sun rise for eight miles. I finished with a smile on my face.

Soon (much sooner than I anticipated), I didn’t feel like such a lost cause.

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Planes don’t fly in a straight line. Training, too, can deviate — loops and turns, starts and stops, bumps and scrapes (sometimes literally) — but no matter how doomed we think we are, we’re really only one degree from being on the right trajectory again:

One forkful of healthy food.

One early-morning alarm.

One mile.

One race registration.

One conscious decision.

In the end, we get to where we need to be.


About The Author:

Susan Lacke does 5Ks, Ironman Triathlons, and everything in between to justify her love for cupcakes (yes, she eats that many). In addition to writing for Competitor, she serves as Resident Triathlete for No Meat Athlete, a website dedicated to vegetarian endurance athletes. Susan lives and trains in Phoenix, Arizona with three animals: A labrador, a cattle dog, and a freakishly tall triathlete boyfriend. She claims to be of sound mind, though this has yet to be substantiated by a medical expert. Follow her on Twitter: @SusanLacke

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