Learning to Be Flexible (In my Thinking)

by Jodi

Carissa's post about her fitness goals for 2014 got me thinking about my lack of goals for 2014.  I pulled out my list from 2013 and immediately laughed.  On my list of nine goals I accomplished exactly (embarrassed pause)... three.  Here's why.

I was on track to run a fast marathon, but fractured my foot ten weeks into training.  Instead of racing a marathon, I spent weeks learning to rest.  Believe me - it felt like I was training.  I don't naturally rest well,  but through this season I learned to listen to my body.  Now I know to rest when I'm tired instead of plowing recklessly ahead.
how I spent the spring: watching my family do cool stuff like play water polo
I registered to run a half marathon with Curt exactly one day before I fractured my foot. Instead of running with him I served as his Primary Cheerleader and Water Sherpa. I rode my bike beside him on his long training runs and set up cheering sections for him on the race course.  On race day a small crowd of family and friends took my place running with Curt, tagging out every couple of miles.  He only ran alone for the first three miles and I got to jog into the finish with him.  Not what we planned but with a little flexible thinking, it ended up being better than what we originally planned.

Curt and his cheering crew after his race
My daughter Katie changed her mind about running a 10k.  She and her sister Alli chose instead to run a 5k in the spring. The original plan was for me to run with them, but this race also took place right after I fractured my foot.  (Do you sense a theme here?)  I found myself on my bike - camera around my neck - trying to take pictures without crashing.  I got a beautiful photo of Katie in full stride approaching the finish.  I hooped and hollered as both of them came racing into the finish, tears of pride in my eyes.  The girls placed first and second in their age division - a bonus of running a small town race.  Our family now has beautiful photos of the girls finishing their race, a gift we cherish.
Katie sprinting into the finish

My family did not want to run a 5k together.  So we scrapped that plan.  Instead, we dragged our kids on hikes all over Oregon and Washington.  The kids are old enough now to tolerate longer, more scenic hikes and this has become a fun family outing that we all enjoy.  We settle into the peaceful quiet of exercising together in the rugged beauty that encompasses the Pacific Northwest.
Silver Star Mountain via Ed's Trail - our favorite hike this summer
I've been consistently inconsistent with strength training, yoga, and my three attempts to start another round of Insanity.  Every time I actually practice yoga I think, "I should do that more often." And then I don't.  I had to learn to fit these extra workouts in when they matched the pace of my life.  There were days when my body was stiff because my thinking was flexible, but that felt just as good.

The three goals I did finish were running a half marathon, taking pictures while I exercise, and completing a triathlon.   The half marathon was an odd experience for me.   My mind and body both felt tired and out of synch on race day.  It showed in the fact that I faded slowly the last three miles of the race even though it was all downhill.  Placing third in my division was a fun treat, but overall I felt aggravated about my weak finish, especially when it became apparent that this would be the only long running race for me in 2013.  It took a lot of flexible thinking to process the ups and downs of this race.
We got a good post-race picture out of the deal
The biggest fitness accomplishment for me this year was finishing an Olympic distance triathlon with Carissa this fall. It was my first post-injury race.  I spent eight weeks building up my running mileage and re-learning how to swim and cycle.  The swim continues to terrify me and race day was no exception.  I made it out of the water rattled, but alive.  It felt like a giant accomplishment to swim a mile in open water, in spite of my slow time.  I soaked up the experience of being healthy enough to compete and took time to high five my kids and husband who stood in the pouring rain cheering me on at every transition point.  This was a completely different thought process for me in approaching a race, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I ramped up the picture taking over the course of this year, carrying my phone with me on every run.  These outings yielded some beautiful photographs and a fresh  awareness of my surroundings.  This fall my passion for photography translated into Jodi Stilp Photography LLC - a dream birthed out of taking time to capture the beauty around me.  I did NOT see that coming for 2013.

Not much about this year - fitness or life related - played out how I thought it would.  Our family walked through some dark valleys, some of the most intense times during the season when my foot was healing.  Looking back  I see God's hand of protection and guidance during this time.  I was forced to rest when my family needed me the most.  It freed me up emotionally and mentally to give to the people around me who needed ME more than I needed to be training for a marathon.

It's countercultural for me to be okay with not finishing what I set out to accomplish, but I actually wouldn't change how this year played out.  In 2013 I learned how to be flexible in my thinking.  I had to let go of goals and dreams that I thought were important and focus on helping those I love succeed.  I got lots and lots and lots of practice choosing thankfulness when I really wanted to whine or complain.  I learned to appreciate life's pleasant surprises and little victories.  And I got better at adjusting my training schedule to accommodate life's curve balls.

I want to take these skills into 2014.  Instead of planning out goals for an entire year, I'm going to pick one.  Train for it.  Then re-evaluate after that event what my next goal should be.  I'm excited to apply flexible thinking to my goal setting this year.  First up: a half marathon in Scio (the town I lived in through junior high and high school) on February 1st.  It should be fun!

What about you Sole Sisters?  Have you considered setting some fitness goals for 2014?  We'd love to cheer you on.  How have you learned to practice flexible thinking?  Do you have any tips for us?


  1. Life threw some curveballs and you hit them out of the park :) I love it!
    Your photography passion is a surprise to you, but not to me. It is a talent that was just waiting to be tapped. I love the tree leaves photo! God gave you a gift there.
    You have learned a lot this year. I am glad to have a fresh start too and can't wait to see what's in store!

    1. Thank you Raina. You have such a gift of encouragement. It's odd how a theme among us (you, me, Carissa, and other runners I've talked to) is a shift in priorities. Winning races, finishing with fast times, sticking to a schedule come hell or high water, etc. all faded away in importance as God brought things that were more important into focus. For me it was my family and specific ways they needed me. It was a challenging year, but so rich. I can't wait to see what's in store for 2014. Glad we're all running again!