Do you want to run a new personal best? To race faster than you ever have before – with just one weird old trick?
Sorry, there is no trick. There’s no #weightlosshack, #diethack or #fitnesshack. There are no shortcuts. Magic workouts or secrets to success don’t exist.
There’s just hard work – and a lot of it.
But that’s ok. Running is a journey and while the fast race times are fun, there’s pure joy in the daily grind of training. The “Trials of Miles, Miles of Trails.”
Like Rich Roll, author of Finding Ultra, tweeted:
Maybe stop trying so hard to find shortcuts to “hack” your life. The best things are hard. Invest in the journey. Just sayin’.
— richroll (@richroll) December 23, 2013
Just last week I was writing a training plan for a runner who was preparing for a half marathon in 20 weeks. As I was reading his Runner Questionnaire, he noted that his goal was to improve his half marathon from 1:59 to 1:40.
A 19-minute improvement in 20 weeks? An average mile-pace of 9:05 to… 7:38? I had a coach who would have laughed me out of their office if I had this goal. And his next comment could summarize this entire article:
“Let’s get you training consistently for a few years first.”
But an improvement that huge – over such a short time period – is not only wildly unrealistic, there’s a problem with a results-only approach: we tend to gravitate toward shortcuts when the only thing on our minds are the results we’re chasing.
The Difference Between Process and Results
Having run in college and high school, I have a lot of friends who are distance runners. Some of them are quite fast (like collegiate All-American fast…).
And the difference between our goals and many other recreational runners’ goals is stark. If you ask us what our goals are, we’ll have a variety of responses:
“This summer I’m putting in some big-boy miles, then we’ll see what happens in the fall.”
“I’m not sure what I’m training for yet, but after a few months of solid workouts I’ll make a decision on what type of races I’ll run in the spring.”
“I might do a few short races next month but I need to see where I’m at first.”
Only after a lot of prodding will we finally explain our race goals. But training goals come first.
Compare these with the goals I hear from hundreds of other runners:
“In 20 weeks I’d like to run a half marathon in 1:40 (my current PR is 1:59). I hope these are realistic.”
“My marathon PR is 4:11 but I feel like I can run a 3:35 marathon.”
“I’ve been running my 5k races around 23:00 – 24:00 but would love to break 20:00 this summer. Can you help me do that??”
Guys, I love stretch goals. I really do – I’ve even encouraged you to set goals that scare you shitless. But every stretch goal needs to be accompanied by training goals. Or else you don’t have a shot in hell at accomplishing what you’d like to accomplish.
Just the other day on Twitter I shared this:
I tell my coaching clients that “race PR’s lead to more race PR’s,” but don’t forget that you usually need *training* PR’s first! — Jason Fitzgerald (@JasonFitz1) May 26, 2014
Training PR’s should be your focus at all times so that your fitness is constantly moving forward. Without them, you’ll never get in better shape and your race times will flat-line. This is a classic example of the Principle of Progression.
But what do I mean by “training PR’s?” Here are three of my favorite examples, in order of more important to less important:
- Run an annual mileage record
- Run a monthly mileage record
- Run a weekly mileage record
Remind you of this graphic I used in a previous post about happy running?
Runners who see consistent success are the ones that are focused on the process of training. They focus on putting in the work first and let the results happen as a natural result of their hard work. Of course you should set goals – like big-ass, scary goals – but your daily focus needs to be the hard work.
Fundamentals Win, Every Time
In an article titled The Not-So-Secret Secrets to Succeeding at Anything that I loved so much, I emailed him to tell him so, Matt Frazier urges us to focus on the fundamentals.
He says that,
“When a hack works — and not just for a day or a week, but for good — it’s usually because it comes on top of a foundation of fundamentals that you’ve practiced for years.
It’s those fundamentals that the internet hackarazzi ignores.
Because the fundamentals aren’t exciting. But they’re real, and nonnegotiable.”
The fundamentals are what result in success. For runners, it’s a focus on consistency, high mileage, reasonable workouts appropriate for your fitness level, and injury prevention. And like Matt so eloquently says, they’re nonnegotiable.
Instead of hacks or shortcuts, be ruthlessly obsessed with the process of success.
Want to run faster than you ever have? You have to train more than you ever have… for years.
Want to build a popular blog? You have to write consistently… for years.
Want to prevent injuries and run healthy? You have to train smart… for as long as you’re a runner.
Want to have a happy marriage? You have to WORK at it… until the day you die (OMG how unsexy!).
And we have to do all this even when we don’t want to – when we’re tired, busy, sore, cranky, unhappy, and have other obligations. Success is difficult, huh?
When we forget the hacks, shortcuts, and “weird old tricks” we can get back to basics. And when we do, we’ll reap the rewards of diligently building a foundation of fundamentals that allow us to become successful runners.
If you’re currently not on my email list, you can sign up here to get my free series on the fundamentals that help runners become better runners.
No tricks, no secrets. Just a well-rounded collection of training advice that will show you what to focus on in your running.
Here’s to focusing our efforts on the building blocks of training, so we can forget about shorcuts and enjoy the journey of hard work.