Let me climb into your memories for a minute and see if this rings a bell. You have a good day. You know, an especially good run, faster, further. You have a good ride, easier, exhilarating. You swim 4 lengths freestyle and you don’t feel like your heart’s going to explode. And in your head, you start planning. If I can run a mile in 12 minutes today and it wasn’t so bad, next week, I’ll run it in 11:45, and then 11:30, and by May I’ll be an 8 minute miler. Or I rode 6 miles this week, then 8 next week, then 10, then finally a hundred… or eventually a mile of freestyle or whatever you dream up in your head on a good day. You get the picture.
And my response to your plans is, yeah… kind of. I really, REALLY wish training was perfectly linear. I want you to be able to plan every workout exactly and predict your progress completely. I wish it were true. But it’s not. A lifetime of competitive sports tells me it’s not. You see every day, every workout is a combination of dozens of interacting factors. What you ate, how you slept, how sore you are, your mood, your stress level, the music you chose, your training partners, the temperature, the surface you run on, the air in your tires, sunlight or clouds, new shoes, old shoes, comfortable clothes, everything you can control absolutely matters when you train. And the hard part is, even when you absolutely control everything perfectly, when everything is exactly right, sometimes the workout is still wrong.
So maybe your plan works for a while, you improve on schedule for a week, or two, or more, but them it stops and you think, what am I doing wrong? It’s a sunny 72 degree day. I have great shoes and my favorite shorts, awesome music, I ate well, I slept well, work is fine, my family is fine, I am fine. But this run is NOT fine… And you think, what did I do wrong? Sometimes the answer is going to be, NOTHING. You’ve done nothing wrong.
You see training is not linear. You will not continuously improve. You will have setbacks. Some are of your own making. You eat wrong, drink too much, fail to sleep. Sometimes life sets you back. Stress with friends, family, work. It all gets in your head. And sometimes a good workout just doesn’t happen.
If you’re lucky, it’s just one workout. But sometimes it seems to go on and on. You don’t feel like you’re making any progress. You don’t get faster, you don’t go further. So you start tweaking. You eat differently, change the time of day you workout or the routine, you try something different. You straighten up and fly straight and get back to doing everything right. And maybe it works. YAY! And sometimes it doesn’t and you want to quit.
That’s when I want you just keep going. No matter what, no matter how bad, how slow, how it seems like you are getting worse, I’m asking you to keep going. Every athlete I have ever known has these times where it’s just a grind and they can’t see any light. It seems to go on and on and they wonder if it’s all just pointless. And then suddenly it happens. On a random day, when they’ve practically given up hope, that’s when it happens. There’s some kind of breakthrough and suddenly they have this amazing run, this awesome ride, this powerful swim. And they start thinking… and you start thinking, start dreaming, start planning again… If I can run a 10 minute mile this week, next week it will be….
When the road ahead seems too long, look back to see how far you’ve come. For, even if the hill before you is steep, the view gives you hope to finish the journey. ~Daniella Kessler
Train safely, stretch, eat well, hydrate, sleep, DREAM.
Safe journey. Wind at your back.