Today I want to tell a story and talk about a situation/mindset that is so easy for us to get stuck in when it comes to training and trying to make performance gains.
So, it starts one cold fall day when I was heading to the track for a light workout. When I got there I was greeted by a high school athlete and their parent. They were finishing up a workout and starting their cooldown. As I was doing some drills and the high school athlete was cooling down I started having a conversation with the parent. We discussed how the cross country season had been, how the family was doing, and what their plans were for Thanksgiving. I was then asked, “How can my child get better faster?”. I was a little taken aback by this question and my first thought was, “You can’t”. We started talking about how you have to put in the work and over time the athlete will adapt to the workload and should see some improvement. I told the parent that it’s a process and you just have to keep staying the course and used my favorite hashtag #trusttheprocess.
I think back to this interaction frequently and how I now have so many more words for them. I think this mindset of wanting to get better faster comes from a results oriented mindset. In running we generally get judged by the times we run. It’s so easy to compare yourself to someone else or compare year to year, especially on the track. The distances and tracks are all standardized, so it creates a perfect ground for comparison. All we want to do is lower our times so that we can, comparatively, be better than those around us. This puts a significant amount of pressure on the athlete because the only way they can be successful and demonstrate growth is through running a faster time at a given standardized distance. This doesn’t take anything into consideration such as weather, competition, home life, stress levels, school work, travel distance, sickness, training, and all the other countless variables that can change the desired outcome.
At the time I didn’t have the “right” answer for the family because I was also stuck in this results oriented mindset. Looking back I now know that the answer is, “Yes, there is a way to get better faster”. The way to do it through changing your perspective on what “better is”. The first step is to forget about the times and distances. Those things don’t define you. The desired times are a result of your commitment to the process of getting better. Our goal should be to become a better athlete, father, son, husband, wife, daughter, brother, sister, friend, advocate for ourselves and others, supporter of our community, and an overall better person. True betterment and excellence is being a better version of yourself everyday. To get better faster from an athletic perspective comes from continually doing what you need to do in order to be better than yesterday. This is done through consistent training and mindful recovery. Having a purpose for each and every day. Knowing the difference between a hard day and an easy day. Being purposeful about getting to bed early and what nutrition you use to recover. I’ve worked with countless individuals that think to get “better” you need to just work hard, and work hard everyday. These individuals miss a key component of the equation, stress + rest = growth and adaptation. If you never allow your body to rest and recover from the stressors you impose on it, whether those stressors be a hard workout, a difficult situation with a loved one, a tough schedule at school, or difficulty at work, you’ll never be able to see your growth. So stay committed to the process and getting 1% better each day.
Until next time,