So, How Many Hats Do You Wear?

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Pensacola, Florida, United States
Husband. *Dog Dad.* Instructional Systems Specialist. Runner. (Swim-challenged) Triathlete (on hiatus). USATF LDR Surveyor. USAT (Elite Rules) CRO/2, NTO/1. RRCA Rep., FL (North). Observer Of The Human Condition.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Why, Why, Why, Why, Why?

Last week, I saw a Facebook status for my friend Jean Knaack. She serves as executive director for the national running organization I represent. On top of this, she has a husband & two young children & has done several Ironman triathlons. Jean & her husband recently returned from Ironman France in Nice. She posted her race report on Facebook & said something along the lines of ‘hardest race I’ve ever done...not certain whether I’ll do another…’ I responded by congratulating her, & added, ‘I bet you register for another IM in a few weeks.’
When I saw Jean's 'registered for another IM event' status on Facebook I could not help but let out a solid guffaw. There's no way she could duck the challenge of another cycle of training and travel which makes directing a non-profit, or being a wife & mother, any less simple. But, when you see someone’s eyes light up about the journey to the starting line, like Jean's did when Suzanne & I talked with her last spring, you know they are the type of person who continually needs a challenging, yet attainable goal before them. Probably that little extra oomph to get them out of bed in the morning.I know; sometimes even a big event or two on the horizon might not be able to get you out of bed (like me this morning). But...we set goals to guide what we should be/do (daily or twice-daily workouts, rest, recovery, massage, etc.), & sometimes even to remind us what we need to avoid (junk food, stressful situations, etc.) so the vision becomes our reality. Like intermediate points on a long journey, our big, audacious end-state goal should have short-term points (short races, key workouts) so we know we’re on the right path...and if we're not, they should be early enough in the training cycle that we can adjust accordingly and still benefit from the change.
Jordan Metzl, MD, recently wrote in Triathlete magazine about a benefit of goal-setting: ‘What I tell my patients is to set a goal and work toward it. I generally find that it doesn’t matter what the sport or level of athlete is; from triathlon to ballroom dancing, everyone needs a goal. Athletes who exercise just to exercise, without a specific goal in mind, are much less productive than those who set goals.’
Not only are we more productive, we’re less likely to overtrain or over-race. If our focus is on a long-distance triathlon, we work on our endurance by engaging in steady state runs & bike rides; swim longer intervals & do what it takes to toughen ourselves mentally in order to go anywhere from 4-to-17 hours...depending on the event. Marathoners will run up to 150 minutes on those long run days, just to get time on the feet. Some pros do what is known as a metric marathon (26.2 kilometers, or 16.2 miles) late in the training phase. All they want to do is simulate the event by doing 60 percent of the distance. And we can probably say without a doubt recovering from an effort of a particular distance is easier than the distance plus 25-to-50 percent.

If you want to know what the real reason for something is, or a real root cause for a failure, take the time to ask why five times, at the very least. For example:

Runner: I want to train for a marathon, but I want to do 20-milers as part of the training plan.

Coach: Why do you want to do 20-milers as part of marathon training, when most of the good programs I've studied & coaches I've consulted consider 16-mile long runs long enough?

Runner: I don't think the 16-milers I did training for my last marathon were sufficient.

Coach: Why do you say the performance in your second marathon ever was insufficient?

Runner: I didn't run the marathon as well as I wanted to. (Never mind the warm/humid weather conditions on race day & other factors out of his control.)

Coach: Why do you want to improve your marathon performance?

Runner: I want to finish in a time which will qualify me to run the Boston Marathon.

Coach: Why do you want to run Boston?

Runner: I don't want to run Boston. I just want to run a time that will qualify me for Boston.

When you look at the underlying reason the runner wants to train in a particular manner, is the goal relevant? Did the runner set the bar too high?

When the coach asks the fifth why, about the goal event, then walks backward 20-to-24 weeks, he finds the athlete has three one-week holiday trips during which the coach knows no trainng whatsoever will occur. And that's just a best-case scenario. At that point, the athlete either needs to think about another goal event, adjusting his training cycle further out to make up for the lost training opportunity, or lowering his expectations.

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