Adapt or fall behind.
Looking at my training logs over the past 4 years I’ve seen a clear shift in the direction of my training. Going back to 4 years ago, much of my time was spent cross training, and doing intense strength sessions in the gym. I trained a lot on the rings, with kettle bells, and with a lot of plyometric movements. My strength was high and fairly balanced, though I tended to focus my attention on what I was good at. 3 years ago I got into trail running. I had a major shift in the direction of my fitness training. Instead of hitting certain numbers in the gym, I focused on time, distance and elevation on the trail. Running, as well as biking, took me to amazing places. I covered vast distances and started to learn about endurance. Of course I took some of these adventures pretty far and developed some injuries. Taking time away from running and training was not easy to do, but during this time I realized the importance of those activities in my life. 2 years ago I took this racing thing head on and competed in many trail races, from 10k to 100 miles. I had some great results and along the way I learned to balance my training. The core/strength/gym work was essential to keeping me strong and balanced. I found that with two 45 minute sessions each week I could stay strong and fit, while spending the rest of my time focusing on developing endurance and training on the trail and the bike. A new path was forged and a new enthusiasm for fitness and training was fostered.
With gym training your only objective is showing up at the gym and working out hard and long enough to feel like you maximized your time. Thus, each session and each workout ends up having the same importance. Over time, training like this leads to burnout and huge peaks and valleys in our fitness. By having an event based focus I could prioritize my sessions, spending more emotional energy on the hard/taxing workouts, and much less on the day to day therapeutic/recovery sessions. I realized that if a certain week was busy/long/hard that it was part of the process of preparing to race a certain distance and terrain. Completing a workout brought me closer to my goal “event”.
This past year felt very similar to the previous one. I raced and trained much the same. Competing well in some races, even winning a few, but experiencing some low points as well. Poor performances, injuries and a general unsatisfied feeling. This posed some good questions for me leading into this winter. I took a break from running during the month of december. My body rested, I worked on short focused strength sessions using minimal gear (kettle bells, bands, bodyweight exercises, dumbbells). By breaking these exercises down I really learned the movements again. Focusing on stabilization, body tension, and breathing really helped maximize the effect of each exercise in every training session.
As I start to increase my running miles again and look ahead to races in 2014, I am drawn to the many motivating events each and every month around the US. This is a great problem to have, but it also takes discipline as an athlete to pick and choose the ones to focus on. My race schedule this year will be very minimal. Instead I will focus on exploring new areas on foot. Using running as my mode of travel through vast expanses. Building strength, recovering properly and gaining an intimate knowledge of the places I will race.
I have only three races on my schedule currently:
- 7/12/14: Eugene Curnow Marathon, Carlton, MN
- 7/26/14: Voyaguers, 50 mile, Carlton, MN
- 9/5/14: Superior Sawtooth 100 mile, Lutsen, MN
I hope you are contemplating your goals for 2014. Try to branch out in your thinking. Find an event or activity to train for. Image and mirror based goals are Ok, but they often lead to peaks and valleys, emotional ups and downs, and a general disappointment in your time in the gym. They also represent extreme diets and restrictive lifestyles, which as you all know are not fun to endure.
Our choices will either move us forward, or lead us to fall behind. The physical “you” can be your greatest source of happiness and discovery, or it can be the strongest trap and inhibitor in your life.
Gain control and forge your future. Use the past to help guide your actions and decisions, both today and every day forward.