If reaching your potential excites you, then the concept of alignment will help you realize everything you’re capable of achieving.
Alignment is when your goals, actions, and mindset are in harmony and move you toward your potential.
In other words, you’re not being your own worst enemy.
If you have a goal, you believe in your ability to achieve it and your actions demonstrate commitment.
You don’t psychologically waver from pursuing the goal. And you certainly don’t stop acting on achieving that goal.
I’ve started learning more about this idea in recent weeks. And once you can recognize it, you see it everywhere.
But it’s not limited to athletes. Most successful people are in alignment; they’ve created a life that uniquely positions them to achieve their biggest goals.
So even if you’ve achieved running alignment, you can apply this principle to nearly any area in your life.
Examples of Alignment
World marathon record holder Eliud Kipchoge – the man who famously ran 2:00:25 in Nike’s Breaking 2 project – is a great example of a runner in complete alignment.
Consider all that Eliud does:
- Shares an 8×10′ room with communal bathrooms at training camp (also cleans toilets at camp)
- Possesses an unwavering believe in himself and his abilities
- Doesn’t get distracted by fame, partying, or money
- Teammates describe him as organized, disciplined, and punctual
Eliud is in alignment around the goal of being the best runner he can be. He’s not too important to share a room or clean the bathroom. In every interview, he exudes confidence.
His life is focused on getting faster.
But alignment exists elsewhere, too.
Fred Rogers (of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood) is another person in complete alignment. Those who knew him describe Mr. Rogers as the same on screen as he was off screen.
His entire life was dedicated to educating children on empathy, compassion, and tolerance. He didn’t shy away from hard feelings – he embraced them.
A poignant example was how he broadcasted love and compassion during the famous pool scene:
Case in point was one of the show’s integral characters, Officer Clemons, a black police officer who lived nearby. With racism and segregation still plaguing our country in the late 60s, the friendship between Rogers and Clemons was genuine and equal both onscreen, and off.
Though Clemons was gay — and sadly closeted for a long time — he was embraced by Rogers as a true friend for life.
Mr. Rogers taught a generation about acceptance. And he was so successful because it came from a place of truth – he wasn’t faking it.
He practiced what he preached.
Running Alignment is Harder Than it Sounds
It’s difficult to align a large segment of your life toward one single goal. And though alignment doesn’t take a Herculean effort, it does take a strategic approach and a certain level of honesty.
For example, I speak to a lot of runners with a “BQ or bust” mentality. But when I dig deeper, they’re making so many training mistakes that it’s clear their actions don’t meet up with their goal:
- Taking the entire winter off from running because running in the cold isn’t fun
- Only training for marathons, leaving speed and additional physical development on the table
- Deliberately keeping their mileage relatively low
These runners are not in alignment. Their actions don’t map to their goals.
But a challenging but realistic goal with a great plan and execution may fail if your mindset is not in the right place. Lack of consistency, mental strength, or discipline make success improbable.
My freshman year in college is another textbook example of someone not in alignment. Despite a strong goal of getting faster, I fell short in so many areas:
- I succumbed to the freshman folly of too much partying, not enough sleep, and a very poor diet
- Morning runs and strength workouts were often skipped – to my own detriment
- Injuries were not aggressively treated (the “wait and see” approach rarely works!)
Runners in alignment don’t make these mistakes. They’re methodical, strategic, consistent, and always prioritize their running.
If you need some ideas to boost your running alignment, here are 5 of my favorites:
Use these ideas to break through a performance plateau that might be caused by not being in alignment.
Get Aligned and Thrive
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Have big goals but don’t lift weights? A great example of your actions not being aligned with your goals!
How can we establish running alignment – and therefore, our potential?
Make sure each area is optimized as best as possible:
First, set a realistic goal time in whatever race you’re preparing to run. If it’s too easy, you won’t be motivated to train. But if it’s too difficult, you might give up at the first sign of struggle.
Also be sure to vary your goals. If you desperately crave that Boston Qualifying marathon time, be sure to take a season away from the marathon to develop your speed over shorter distances like 5k or 10k.
Fitness is fitness, after all.
This might be the hardest area to improve because it requires actually doing things. Like challenging workouts, long runs, and consistent running (yes, even when it’s cold or really hot).
If you have an aggressive goal – whatever it might be – you deserve to see it through. Commit to the process of training rather than making excuses or living a life incompatible with running.
You’ll get more out of the sport, out of yourself, and build a lifetime of incredible memories.
Your personal psychology might be your great asset – or biggest liability.
It’s critical to be able to focus (on the short-, mid-, and long-term):
Over the last 10 years of coaching, I’ve seen runners on the verge of breakthrough only to throw it all away by doubting their ability, overthinking every mediocre workout, and believing that big jumps in performance only happen to other runners.
I’ve seen quite a few examples:
- 8:45 pace is doable for an easy 3 miles but they can’t mentally grapple with 8:30 pace for 5k
- Time goals are put on pedestals, revered, and made to be impossible
- A poor week of training – in a heat wave – signals the impending collapse of a training cycle
Your mindset can give you confidence, calm your pre-race nerves, and pull you to your greatest races.
Or it can wreak havoc on your ability to stay the course, push yourself, and run fast.
Avoid these psychology traps and master your mindset. You’ll give yourself unstoppable drive to achieve your wildest running goals.
What areas in your running life are out of alignment? How can you increase your running alignment to improve your chances of success?
Leave your comment below and let’s see how we can get aligned – and thrive.