By Kristen Schulte

When I promised my sister that I would run her third marathon with her, I had only one caveat for participation:

“Send me the training plan,”

I told her, “I need to know in advance what to run every single day.”  Though I had recently given up my competitive running career, I was still used to someone telling me how much and how often to run, and I certainly did not feel like winging it for my first 26.2.  She obliged.

Two days after my request, I was scanning her impeccable spreadsheet.  Start training 18 weeks out. Good.  Maximum weekly mileage to be44.  Yes.  Longest run to be 20 miles.  Excellent. 

Then I noticed a gaping hole; not a single Friday had a run assigned to it. 

In fact, she even had even gone out of her way to write “off” under each one.  Not “cross train” or “easy 3 miles” but “off”.  The audacity!  I called her immediately.

“Don’t you know,” I started, “that training for distance races means seven days a week?” 

In addition to reminding me that she had done this training (quite successfully) twice before, she informed me that the “off” day was indeed part of the plan, which meant that I was effectively training seven days a week because one of those days was set aside for “mental training” (i.e. relaxation that did not involve running whatsoever).

“You’re going to have to embrace it,” were her final sage words.  “You asked for a training plan, so you had better follow it, including taking every Friday off.”

Fine.  The first Friday was a challenge, as was the second and third.  I would get home from work and sit on the couch, staring at the sidewalk just itching to be out there.  Not that I needed to be out there; my legs were plenty tired from running throughout the week.  I just felt lazy, and no amount of hard work that I had put in before or would put in after could change the fact that I was not exercising today. 

Physically, it may have been an off day, but mentally, it was more taxing than a Sunday long run.

On the fourth Friday I sat down on the couch again, prepared to sulk.  This time, however, I began to think more about my sister’s advice.  What would it mean to embrace it?  After all, the scheduled off day was not meant to be a punishment but rather a reward for pushing it hard the other six days, so why should I make something that was meant to be enjoyed out to be otherwise? 

I decided then to change my perspective.   

When faced with a day when I would not work out, I could either celebrate or shun it.  Choosing the latter would mean sweeping it under the rug as a blemish in my streak of days spent working out, a day when I was lazy, but celebrating it would mean that I could thank myself for my dedication to exercising in the days leading up to it and embrace a hard-earned day of pure relaxation.

Now years removed from that stint of marathon training and even farther removed from my competitive running career, I can have more than one off day a week.  Some days just do not allow for getting out there, and that is okay.  Actually, it is okay only because I make it okay.  

Each day, I get to choose whether I will work out or not, but more importantly, I get to choose my attitude toward that decision. 

For me, celebrating and accepting will always be less stressful than shunning or validating. So today, be it a day for exercising or an off day, whether it is the first or maybe even the fourth off day this week, let’s embrace it.



Kristen Schulte believes that any day on a lake is a good day, in baking pumpkin muffins as the key to friendship, in Settlers of Catan for quality family time, that God often speaks during long runs, and in enjoying the journey. Having earned her Bachelor of Liberal Arts degree at Xavier University, she continued onto the University of Dayton where she is currently pursuing her Doctor of Physical Therapy degree.

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