Last Thursday the speed work went well, Yet the next few days delivered a set of barely sentient slogs. That’s the yin and yang of endurance sports. One day you’re flying high and the next it feels as if you’re crawling through dirt to make any progress.
It was never my style to literally “dog it” through a workout. I simply did not understand those who did. Some of that seeming dedication came more from a thorough lack of self-esteem. My desire to prove myself in some way, somehow was always far stronger than my desire to avoid the effort.
That’s both a blessing and a character flaw. Our college cross country team at times trained way too fast and too intensely. That was not the fault of the coach. That was our competitive nature. Great coaches like Bill Bowerman at Oregon knew this tendency in distance runners and reigned them back in. Workouts were individualized for that reason. A Kenny Moore typically did not do the same workouts as a Steve Prefontaine.
I’ve shared that a roommate of mine and college track teammate finally broke that cycle of training intensity. We built a slow running base going into our senior year of track and both set PRs at all distances. The same thing transpired with those runners in Philadelphia with whom I trained. They ran their long slow distance really slow. And the benefits were really fast times.
It is likely true that all endurance athletes have learning experiences such as these. The summer I rode 4000+ miles on my bike was fun. I dropped weight all the way down to 163 lbs from a typical 175. I might like to go somewhere near that again to rid my waist of this excess weight. But there are no guarantees about that. I see plenty of long distance cyclists with bellies on them. The real culprit is diet. Too much sugar, for example. In many respects, some of us “dog it” behind the scenes. We do the workouts but secretly undermine our efforts by eating the wrong way, or neglecting our stretching or strength work.
It takes discipline not to dog it in some way. For that reason, most of us could benefit from sitting down with a pen and paper going into the New Year. Write down all the areas in which you want to improve. Don’t leave anything out. Be honest with yourself. Don’t dog it when it comes to your desire to improve. You’ll have a better year as a result.
Tomorrow: A different kind of dogging it. Lessons learned about brain power and the dog moving out of the house this past weekend.