I wrote a piece a couple of days ago called “Why do the Tough Get Going?” in which I was giving some advice to one of my athletes who had struggled in a series of recent workouts. I related to her in an e-mail later the story that I will tell you later and her reaction was a little surprising to me: “even people at your level have tough workouts? I thought only beginners struggled.” That’s what I want to look at today.
In that earlier piece, I talked about the fact that the most beneficial parts of our training workouts are the hard parts — the last few miles in which we really suffer. This is true, because it is the response to that challenge that drives the body and mind to prepare for new and tougher challenges that will come later. What I want to make clear today is that this applies at every level, from the newest runner to the most experienced professional athlete. It may happen in different ways, but the tough parts are always there, no matter what the experience level of the athlete.
The way that we bring on the suffering — the tough parts — scale with the level of experience. Someone just starting out might have a tough time running for two minutes, four times in a workout. For that person, this might represent a really difficult thing to do and will drive the body into a need for recovery and adaptation.
A first time marathon runner might struggle in the last two miles of their 12, 14, 16 and 18 mile runs, each one after the other. And each time they may think “why isn’t this getting any easier?” In truth, it is getting easier as they likely wouldn’t have finished that 18 mile run at all had they not done their 12, 14 and 16 mile runs first. Each run just feels “hard”, because as they “get out to the end of their distance” as I like to say, the difficult part kicks in. The “end of their distance” keeps moving out as the season progresses, but as we near it each week we get hit with new waves of struggle and hard effort.
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