Thursday, April 16, 2009

You get what you give

It's no secret that I have put alot more me into my training this year. I could tell you that I completely changed my training. The fact is that I completely changed my mental game.

I know "mental toughness" has almost become a cliche. I hear people throw it around when dealing with paper cuts.

The fact is that MT is the single most important part of training for ANY distance.

Over the past couple of months, I looked back over my entire racing history. I wasn't happy with what I saw. So, I sat down and took a mental skills assessment.

The assessment results didn't surprise me. What surprised me is how I wanted so badly to become a better athlete; yet, I never put anytime into training my mind. Would you like me to share the results?

1.) I would lose Focus during training sessions during races.
2.) I never clearly define realistic goals.

For four months, I have been working on improving those two aspects.

#2 sounds easy, right? Setting goals is easy; sticking with a plan that gets you to your goal is harder. My goal was to improve my speed for the half marathon and half iron. I've been tempted to sway from those goals, but I've stayed the path. I'm very happy with that. For the first time in my life, and I've been running for 26 years, I feel like I am making progress toward my goals. And, I'm not just jumping randomly from race to race. Each race, each day of training has its purpose toward my goal.

You'd be surprised at how that changed my outlook, that I train.

I am improving all around. I'm months away from my first PR attempt, but I know I will do it. That I owe to my first goal:

Improving focus seemed overwhelming at first. Focus on each little piece of training; focus during a race; focus on nutrition; focus on time management. FOCUS FOCUS FOCUS.

I opted to choose to teach myself to focus during be 100% training when it's time to train. Do not allow outside distractions; focus on training.

Something amazing happened: It worked.

I have found that I can push myself harder than I have in the past. I do recovery workouts as recovery workouts because I'm no longer worried about having to make up for a poor speed day. I used to be afraid of going hard because the workouts always seem to be impossible. I would always fall short. But, when I'm not distracted and focus only on the workout, those harder workouts are no longer impossible. Challenging but not impossible. I found the same to be true for my recovery days. Recovery days are for recovering. Because I go easy and stay focused on going easy, I see improvements in my harder days. I used to get roped into paces, or times, or all kinds of things that were taking my mind off the task at hand.

Afterall, this is about ME and my improvements.


In the past, I've given y'all a whole lotta lip service when it comes to how I approach training, but it wasn't intentional.

I guess I didn't realize how lost I was. I know it might not seem like it. I mean, really, how did I manage to run for 26 years without focus? There's a difference between just running and truly wanting to get better and being honest about your own weaknesses. That's where I was. I wanted to get better; I wanted you all to think I was training hard, but really I was just training....just going through the motions.

There's another piece that I had to learn: being happy with what I've accomplished and how I've gotten better.

I guess this is a long winded way to say...not a whole lot.

But I feel successful. I know I have gained alot in perspective. I get downright giddy when I know I'm doing things that I haven't done before.

Probably the best part of learning how to focus is that it's made me a better person at home too. Because when I'm training, I'm training. When I'm home hanging out and talking to Mike and the boys, I'm home doing just that. I'm not thinking about my training that day. I'm not stressing about the workout the next day.

Eliminating distractions.