In one of those social waves that seem to wash over culture now and then, I’ve been hearing the term “grown-ass” thrown around quite a bit lately. Radio talk show hosts are using the term ‘grown-ass’ to describe all sorts of activities where people are either coming of age, or are expected to.
Some of this grown-ass talk is the product of the general frustration with modern life. Thus the term grown-ass seems to mean several things. A person is said to be ‘grown-ass’ in having gone through a few things in life–– and learned from them. It is also ‘grown-ass’ in some respects to be impatient with those who don’t understand what it actually means to become a grown-ass person and deal with some of the crap life throws at you.
Thus the term grown-ass can be used as either a compliment or an insult. It all depends on context.
This teaches us that the process of becoming a grown-ass athlete typically involves both compliments and insults. Once upon a time as a college distance runner, I’d taken to complaining during our winter base training because the pace was way too fast most days. Finally, my roommate turned to me one day in our dorm room and said, without apology, “You know what you need to do, Cud? You need to shut up and run.”
To some degree, he was right about that. My complaining wasn’t really doing much to help the situation improve. So I sucked it up that winter and that spring set all my PRs from 1500 meters to 5000 with the steeplechase in between. I’d gotten my grown-ass attitude in shape.
Yet the very next year my next roommate anticipated the likely madness of winter training. He pulled me aside and said, “We’re not gonna do that. We’ll do base training the way it should be done.” So we trained steady and slow most days, carefully and concertedly building up our base. That winter and spring we both set PRs at all those distances and more. That was some grown-ass decision-making on both our part. Because while I wasn’t grown-ass in the way I complained about the previous year’s egregiously fast training, it was ultimately a grown-ass decision to go it on our own and do it the right way the next time around.
That brand of self-confidence proves the value of building grown-ass behavior from mistakes. What you must (most) understand is that many people actually hate the voice and perspectives of people behaving in grown-ass ways. We all know how the subtle politics of group rides or runs can turn into childish one-upsmanship. Some of that is the nature of competition, and people are morbidly afraid of admitting they don’t want to compete every second of their lives. Thus it can take honest and open group discussion to fix what’s broken in terms of communications and the accepted objectives of a group. But if some jerk is one-wheeling or one-stepping the group every week, it pays to speak up. Don’t let one asshole ruin the benefits for everyone.
Instead, a grown-ass leader will find ways to initiate conversations about goals rather than blasting away without engaging the brain week after week. But remember this as well: getting dropped now and then is not necessarily a sign of weakness but of the courage to try. Riding, running and swimming with people better than you is the grown-ass way to improve. And you will eventually get dropped. Dial in and do your best the rest of the way home. Don’t go Dead Frog on yourself. There are still things to be gained while riding on your own.
To whit: Because athletes can lose perspective so easily, it’s the grown-ass job of every coach to monitor their athlete’s behavior as well as their training.
Everyone wants to be their best and getting there is a great reward and a genuine ego boost. But if ego gets in the way of those achievements, and if an athlete can’t accept the grown ass direction to avoid injury, getting sick or worse, blowing off training day after day and then bitching about why they aren’t improving, then the coach has to kick some grown-ass butt.
Words of wisdom: If indeed you do get injured, it is the grown-ass athlete who learns how to come back from that injury. This must be done under the guidance of good advice. Some of that advice will be medical and some of it must be practical. Trying to come back too fast can result in relapse or re-injury. That definitely is not a grown-ass way to go about things.
In fact, you’re probably not capable of becoming a grown-ass athlete UNTIL you’ve been injured, overtrained to the point of getting sick or failed in some big event. Those are some grown-ass experiences right there. Embrace them. Learn from them. It’s the grown-ass thing to do.
And to be clear, every athlete has the responsibility to respond to the directions of a coach in a grown-ass way. That’s not always easy when life gets in the way. But rather than hide a missed workout or two, hoping the coach doesn’t notice, it is a far more grown-ass approach to own life’s vagaries and admit, “I just couldn’t help it.” No sane coach will blame you for that. Instead, athlete and coach work together to find fitness that works.
Because frankly, most serious endurance athletes walk around this world a little overtrained and a bit overwrought anyway. Many’s the elite athlete that looks back at their early career and admits, “I could have used a little more rest.”
That’s a grown-ass admission that only comes about through experience. So now that you’ve got some grown-ass perspective you can go out there and do some grown-ass training and racing. You’re certainly wise enough to know the difference if you let motivation and common sense be your balance. You just have to listen to that grown-ass voice in your head more often. And get to it.