These days, we are always looking for the quick fix or the easy answer. We don't have the time to invest in the long process to see things through to our goals, or do we? What if you couldn't afford to short cut the process?
It is in the process of chasing after our goals that we learn the tools, change the habits, and become the person that we need to be in order to succeed. There are no short cuts. There is no magic pill. We can't fast forward.
What are some of the actions we can take to get to that next level?
As Malcolm Gladwell wrote in his book, "Outliers" it takes about 10,000 hours of practice (or about 10 years) to become an expert. While this may not be ablsolute truth, I think that we can all agree that there is wisdom in this research. Whatever your goal is, one of the biggest difference makers is your commitment level. If you know that you are in it for the long haul and you are willing to dedicate a small pocket of time each day to practice your skill or passion you will achieve your goals.
One of the best multipliers and predictors of your success also noted in that book is a great mentor. The key to selecting this mentor is to select someone that is not only a content expert but also someone that is personally invested in your success. Spend time networking, asking questions, and looking for your next mentor or coach.
Training in the same frame of mind or conditions as the event provides a powerful edge for competition just as training in the discomfort zone produces mental strength and grit. Make sure that your training plan, or the tasks on your checklist are challenging. Try to mimic the settings, paces, or other details to match your ideal outcome so that your brain recognizes the event as a familiar practice.
Finally, one of the best tools in your arsenal should be a reflection practice. I think that this quote from David Epstein summarizes this principle best. Constant reflection and adjustment is the best way to ensure that you will achieve your goals. Be flexible with your methods and be willing to adapt the plan if you find better tools.
When they do something, whether it's good or bad, they take time for reflection. the asked themselves "Was it difficult enough? Was it too easy? Did it make me better? Did it Not?" It sounds simple and it sounds facile, but I think that we don't do it. We naturally gravitate toward increasing comfort in everything that we do. We become more efficient and we fall prey to that efficiency. That's a disaster. When all your efforts are things that you can do easily and without thinking about them, you're not going to improve."
Success in running is no different. When we first start to run, we see really big gains for a small investment of time and energy. It is really exciting to get faster and run longer with changes that you can notice in a matter of days. Eventually this will plateau as your body becomes fit and well trained. Then we will have to work harder over longer periods of time to see smaller gains. This is a predictable pattern observed both in running and strength which is referred to as training response.
What tools can you use to accelerate your training to the next level?
Set your important habits - Someone that is new to running might not realize what goes in to competition training. It's not just your workouts but also you strength training, stretching, nutrition, hydration, and sleep patterns that affect how quickly you are able to progress. All of these habits are important but you'll need to decide how they factor in to your goals and your other commitments.
Use a training plan that matches your goals - It will be important to use a training plan that provides enough challenge but also provides time for recovery. A mixture of workouts will help your body to best adapt to the demands of race day.
Create short and long term goals - Start with the end in mind. As you are thinking about your goals set a big, scary, future goal with a set of small goals. Your small goals should be stepping stones that will help you achieve your big goal. I always recommend writing your goals down and reviewing them on a routine basis.
Reflect and track your progress - Set aside time at least once a week to review and rate your workouts. Ask yourself if they were challenging enough? Did you have enough time to recover? Are you able to meet your target paces? Does your training fit in your daily schedule? What can you change to make it better?
Find your tribe! - It's always best when you have a confidant or two or ten to share the realities of training with. Look in to your local running clubs, ask a friend to join you in your training, find a coach that can connect you to a community.
My Final Takeaway
Even if you get off track or hit a rough patch with motivation, your goals will still be there waiting for you. In running it is sometimes hard to separate process goals from outcome goals. When you commit to the process you will always reach your outcome goal eventually. Outcomes can be affected by our mood and motivation fluctuations, weather, and nutrition. If you notice that you have wandered off the path, make the decision to reset. The only way that you lose in training is by giving up. I know that you will win!
How do you ensure that your training is maximized?