Push vs. Pivot

Push vs. Pivot

5 Minute Read

As athletes, this is the question we face in every training cycle. Do we Push? Or Pivot?

Understanding when to push through challenges and when to pivot away from them is one of the most important decisions we as runners should get practice with.

Pushing through hard training blocks is the answer many times… but certainly not always. In order to make the best decisions at the right times, it’s important to both conceptually understand the balance of “push vs. pivot,” and then to get practice with it.

The Power of Pushing Through

Most of the time, the answer is to push.

Let’s get ahead of this right away - pushing through difficulties DOES NOT mean ignoring our need for recovery or going beyond what our training plan calls for. Not at all. Instead, it means staying committed, and understanding that the goal you’re pursuing was destined to feel hard. And you may have just discovered what hard feels like.

When we encounter difficulty, it's often just part of the process. Pushing through these moments builds mental strength, resilience, and ultimately leads to fulfillment. It’s important to remember that staying the course, even when it’s hard, is often where we find the most growth.

Examples of When to Push

Sticking to Training Plans: If we’re feeling tired or unmotivated, we must remind ourselves that these feelings are temporary. Adjust intensity if needed, but keep going.

Minor Setbacks: A missed run or a bad training day isn't a reason to change the entire plan. Acknowledge the setback, learn from it, and move forward.

Mental Blocks: Sometimes, the biggest obstacles are in our minds. We must be honest with ourselves - is the difficulty we’re feeling really just fear? If so, keep going.

Knowing When to Pivot

However, there are times when pivoting makes much more practical sense than pushing through. Pivoting doesn't mean giving up; it means adjusting our goals or changing our approach based on new information or circumstances.

Recognizing Overtraining

A clear example of when to pivot is overtraining. Overtraining is not just a bad day or a tough week; it’s a chronic state that occurs over weeks and months of inadequate recovery, combined with continued training stimulus.

Symptoms include persistent fatigue, lack of motivation, insomnia, and even physical illness. If we begin to experience these signs, it might be time to pivot. Consider deferring a race, finding a new event, or extending the training timeline (if possible) to allow for adequate recovery.

Other Times to Pivot

Injury: If we’re facing an obvious, full-scale injury, pushing through could lead to further damage. Here, we pivot focus to recovery and rehabilitation.

Life Changes: Major life events can require a shift in priorities. We adjust our training goals to fit new circumstances, which is the smart and necessary move.

Lack of Enjoyment: If running has become a source of dread rather than joy, consider changing the routine or finding new ways to engage with the sport.

Practice & Balance

If you think about it, we are deciding between push & pivot everyday. This is something we can get practice with every day, week, race, etc. Balancing push and pivot requires self-awareness and honesty. It’s crucial to listen to our body and minds, recognize the signs of overtraining or burnout, and be willing to adjust our plans when necessary. At the same time, understanding that difficulty is a natural part of growth can help us push through when it matters most.

Practical Tips for Decision-Making

Regular Check-ins: We can periodically assess our physical and mental state. Are we feeling constantly fatigued, or is this just a tough week?

Seek Feedback: Talk to coaches, training partners, or trusted friends. They can provide valuable perspective on whether we should push or pivot.e

Set Clear Criteria: Define what success looks like for both pushing through and pivoting. This will help guide our decision-making process.

Final Thoughts

Knowing when to push and when to pivot is a skill that develops with experience. If you’ve historically always pushed through, and bad things have happened, you know what to do. If you’ve historically pivoted, and feel like you haven’t gotten to where you want to be, you know what to do.

Knowing when to push and when to pivot will help us build a routine we love, and train consistently. With consistency, we build passion.

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