The great Georgetown and Philadelphia 76ers basketball player, Allen Iverson, was once known for always coming up a great play under tough circumstances. This earned him the nickname - The Answer. As it is with all things in life, if you want something that is both permanent and rewarding, you need to have an answer for when the going gets tough. Nothing holds more truth in that then running. It’s common for many 'non-runners' to fail at making the jump to having running become part of their lifestyle, and it's just as common for serious runners to fail at taking it to next level, not because of being physically incapable, but rather because of simply not being mentally prepared for the many pitfalls that eventually arise. It’s always about having the answer to the call of 'why' and having the strength to see it through. The funny part is that this always remains a constant; one’s success or ability to run fast doesn’t make you exempt from always being on the hook for coming up with the answer, one more time. Here’s the cheat sheet for getting an A+ when the time arises to answer the call when the going gets tough.
All excuses NOT to stick with a running regimen can be boiled down to these four elements:
1. Purpose – Everyone needs to have a goal to motivate his or her training. This is such an essential fact that, without premeditating and even writing it down, I am 100% certain that they will fail to make it through. Lots of people use different things (goals) to motivate them. They are also changeable. What used to motivate me, no longer does. Currently, my motivation and goal is simply to see if I can realize the potential that I believe I have. This is what just got me through my last tough workout. I have to rely on it constantly, otherwise I’d quit, shame spiral, and give up running all together. This is the number #1 roadblock I see in adults who try and fail to make running a habit. Have an answer waiting for the inevitable time when you start questioning ‘why’.
2. Fear of Failure – This is number #1 roadblock I see in youth who fail to commit to a running regimen, but it’s not exclusive to the young. It also affects those making the jump to a higher caliber of runner. I experienced this potential ‘derailer’ during my last workout on my last interval. Having done eleven 400m repeats, I was feeling exhausted. The workout called for twelve, but on the last recovery break I started feeling like I wasn’t able to finish the workout, that my heart might explode or my legs might give out. Through the haze of my oxygen deprived brain I recognized that if I had to, I could just slow the pace down and that it was possible to run another 400m. I could do it. My body wouldn’t fail or stop. And if it did, so what, at least I tried. I wasn’t going to let the fear of failure stop me from finishing the workout, that’s the last thing a runner needs. Always have the answer waiting for when the fear grips you, because at some point, it always does.
3. Patience – Once a runner comes to terms with their goal, and the accompanying motivation, achieving it is an act of delayed gratification. Trying to rush the magic of hard earned fitness is a recipe for failure. The body takes it’s own time making the physical adaptions to the training stimulus. This doesn’t mean you won’t achieve your goals; it’s just a process that cannot be rushed. There are no short cuts. Remembering this when the inevitable questioning or frustration arises will give you the answer to continue on.
4. Trust - Having mastered purpose, fear of failure, and patience; the last potential roadblock is trust, or lack there of. Trust and patience go hand in hand. Having trust in the process and knowing that you need to be patient with your growth as a runner, whether just beginning or a seasoned professional, can answer the nagging question that your purpose (goal) isn’t for nothing. This will arise at some point in time for every runner. After my last workout of 12x 400m I was disturbed that my last 400m repeat was much slower then when I completed this workout 9 months earlier, and in fact, was the slowest I’d ever run for that style of workout. But instead of my initial reaction of getting down on myself and questioning if I’ll ever be able to make the gains I expect of myself, I remembered to have trust in my belief that the training I’m doing is right and that in time I am capable of improving to where I believe I can be. I needed to have that answer waiting for me or the whole foundation of ‘why bother to train,’ comes tumbling down.