The Process

Understanding the training process

We’ve been running our whole lives in some form or another but it takes some focused training to get better at running. But before that, we have to really understand the training process and set about making a plan based on that knowledge. My understanding of training is simple and I focus on building on small successes. 

I view training simply as a tool, a tool we use to be able to get faster in races. One method for improving one's training is to ask yourself: “Will this help me get faster or not?” Sounds over-simplistic but, believe me, if you don’t ask it you may spend years making mistakes before you get it right. I’d suggest you first make a list of things that won’t help you get your next PR and then go about not doing them. Examples of these would include not doing anything that will stop you from running such as getting injured. This list may include, but not be limited to, running without properly warming up and down, not getting enough sleep, enough to help you recover from your training, and not doing maintenance on weak areas like calves and the Achilles. The next step should be to look at the process as a whole and base it on a philosophy. I generally base my training philosophy on the Buddhist traditions. 

The process of self-development in Buddhism is a simple one and it can be followed by the aspiring athlete.  To be a "good" Buddhist a little practice every day is all that is needed. No need to complicate things as a complication at its worst will lead to non-compliance. An example of such in running training.  A thorough strength or core workout is, of course, beneficial but not so if it is done once or twice and given up in frustration a month later. We, humans, are creatures of habit but you won’t build a habit if you don’t do it on an extraordinarily frequent basis. Compliance is king when it comes to building habits and a little a lot is always going to be easier to do and continue to do than a lot a little of the time. These relatively small efforts will build. The process can be viewed like the title of one of my favorite Paul Kelly songs: "From Little Things, Big Things Grow."

The great British running coach Frank Horwill relates a story of an athlete who was told by his coach to do one push-up a day and add one every day after that. The coach promptly forgot and was reminded months later when his athlete asked: “How much longer do I have to do these push-ups?” The boy was on 133 a day at that stage. A 100 more than he could do when he started! How many of us would or could do a regimen of 133 push-ups a day even just once a week? Few if any, I’d say, and most of us would quit in frustration before building the strength necessary to benefit our running. On top of this, the more often an action is performed, the easier it becomes to perform it and the stronger becomes the tendency to do it again and again until it becomes a habit, an ingrained part of our daily life. 

Again Frank Horwill reminds us that it takes up to a decade of steady work in running before one reaches their peak. He states “There may be great moments on the way, but the statistics are there. Many athletes are impatient for instant success, a bit like instant coffee, easily made and easily gone.” Horwill notes something that we should never lose sight of in our practice of learning and teaching. That is, “from humble beginnings amazing things have been achieved.” Go and find a picture of yourself as a smiling baby and pin it to your mirror, it will be a constant reminder of this fact.

Frank Horwill