Training. It’s a journey, not a race. - Linda Connelly

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Training. It’s a journey, not a race.

I heard an Olympic swimmer once comment that the hours and hours that he spent in the pool were so that the minutes of the race were easy. That’s what training is about right? Putting in the hard effort time and time again, lacing up the shoes, running the hill repeats, running the speed sessions.  All on the quest to improve, and to find that event easy. But there are a few aspects of training that I have been pondering about recently as I set my sights on an upcoming ultra.

What works for some certainly does not work for all.  There are some fundamentals of training that of course are important to meet, but do not lose sight of the fact that no one is the same and no one is living your life.  Find a balance that works for you.

Recovery is just as important as the efforts themselves.  Not just the recovery from the training itself but from life. One of the lines in a book I read recently that really resonated with me, was that now the world operates at a different speed, the “speed of want”. We want it all and we want it yesterday. We are an impatient society.  This can make life hectic, busy and full of stress.  What highlighted this for me the most was how I felt on a running holiday last year.  Normally my body grumbles when I run too many days in a row.  I mix it up with some cross-training but otherwise spread out my runs in the week as that is what I have found works for me and avoids injury.  So when I signed up for a week or so of running I was a little unsure how I would go.  But I was fine.  It turns out that when all I was doing was running, eating, laughing and sleeping my body did not really have much to grumble about at all when I repeated it day in and day out.  

Impatience can also sometimes creep into training. The cramming in several runs too quickly, not allowing injuries time to heal properly, all because of the perceived necessity to keep moving and perhaps, the fear of pausing. The result is that this sort of training is by and large ineffective.  Injuries are more prevalent and you end up exhausted and grumpy.

This is a journey not a race.  Train hard so race day is easy, but if you treat all of your training like a race then potentially you will miss out on some of the best moments. For the majority, this is a hobby.  Yes we take it seriously, but that should not exclude the ability to obtain joy. No doubt you are carving off a chunk of your time – sometimes quite a bit - to go and train.  What you spend your precious spare time doing should bring you happiness, shouldn’t it? 

As I prepare myself for this ultra I have been mentally checking in with myself before I train – “is this the run I really want to do”.  The answer isn’t always “yes!” as I pull myself out the door, but if there are too many ho hums I know it is time to switch it up.  Find a friend, go exploring somewhere, even just throw in some cross training to change the challenge. 

Enjoy the journey of where training takes you, literally and figuratively.  Appreciate how amazing your body is, and what it can achieve.  Take time to breathe the air, look at the world around you, take the photos, talk to your fellow runners and laugh along the way.  It is so important because sometimes race day never comes. Life events can get in the way, natural disasters can prevent events from occurring, or injury can see you sidelined.  Sometimes too, the event does not go as planned. If that is what you have pinned all your joy on, rather than the journey, then all you are possibly preparing yourself for is disappointment.

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