As a coach, I don’t ask for a lot. I’m not worried about the genetic makeup of my athletes, as I think that everyone has the potential to become a better, faster runner with a smart approach. Sure, it would be fun to coach someone to run a 2:20 marathon (or run one myself?), but it’s just as fun to coach someone to run a sub-30 5k for the first time…or even run 3 miles for the first time.
This post isn’t tips for workouts, or tricks for fueling, or anything related to the mechanics of running. It’s a pep talk for everyone (including myself). Listen up!
So as a coach, what do I wish all my athletes had? Two things: A short memory and a long outlook. Our natural tendency is to be just the opposite, focusing a lot on what we’ve done in the past and on what we want to do right away. But becoming a better runner is all about small improvements over a long period of time. Here’s that last statement again (it’s important): It’s all about small improvements over a long period of time. You can’t will yourself to be a different runner overnight. It takes physiological changes to run faster. So here’s how I want everyone to put themselves into a better position to keep improving every day.
Have a short memory. Did you have a bad run? Happens to us all. Get it out in your workout post, then move on. Or do you have to take an unexpected rest day? You can beat yourself up about it and probably either push too hard next run or lose confidence…or you can let yourself rest and then move on. Did you really kick some ass in your workout? I promise I’m impressed. But at the same time it’s a single workout and there is a lot of work still to be done. So give yourself a high five, be proud of the workout, but then it’s time to move on. Bottom line: Where you are today is where you are and there’s no changing that. The real difference will be made based on what you do in the future, no what happened to get you to today.
Have a long outlook. Get yourself on the right track by choosing a reasonable goal (not impossible, but also not phoned in). Then be focused on that goal first and foremost. That means committing to the small improvements through smart training, not getting caught up in short-term stuff. You might have some weeks where you need to take it easy and you can’t compete for leaderboard honors. You might need to treat some races as workouts instead of all-out efforts. You might need to run slow on some days when you feel like you should run fast. You might need to (gasp!) take rest days and cross training days, and even shut it down when an injury flares up. The long-term goal is what matters.
Do yourself a favor, and work on having a short memory and a long outlook. Write this on a note card and stick it in a frame on your desk: “Yesterday is done. What I do today is for [insert long-term goal].“ Look at the card before and after every run.