One of my favorite quotes about the process and the grind of running and training comes from the great Track & Field Olympian Alexi Pappas. “Training is like building a sandcastle. Every grain of stand is important, even if you can’t see them all.”
This is the quote I have fallen back on many times over the past year when I have been unsure of my running purpose and what it all means. This quote reminds me that what I truly love about running and training is not the race itself. Yes, of course, I love race day, and I miss race day so very much, but what I love is always the process. Learning, growing, building, adapting, and learning some more. All the small pieces we are doing, every grain of sand, are important to build to success and create sandcastle. We do not get to success just by meeting the bare minimum of the race training program. We do all the things to lead up to being prepared for a training cycle, the external and internal work, the choices we make to fuel our body and mind, to be able to withstand and thrive during the training cycle.
I am currently working through a speed build program before leading into 14 weeks of marathon-specific training. I want to share some of the big and small things I am making sure to do during this off-season leading into a big training cycle.
- Identify areas for growth. Think back to your last training cycle; what a challenge for you was? I know the list could go on and on sometimes. Think of a habit that you know is necessary for a successful training season, but it always seems hard to do for some reason. We must establish the habit of these routines every day – they are not just going to appear when training season begins magically. For me- it is a proper warm-up and cool-down. Every time, no exceptions.
- Build Speed. If you are like me, you may always be wanting to make some growth on your speed. Take the time to build your base with easy, effortless miles while also focusing on speed work. Speedwork much shorter and faster (aka. Sprinting) than the typical half marathon or marathon training program.
- Focus on your form. Running form is always a work in progress. There is always something new to learn and something to come back to remembering and perfecting. When we are efficient runners, we have more energy for speed and endurance and decrease injuries. Take some time to learn about proper running form and ask a friend to video your running form to identify growth areas and focus on these pieces during your easy runs.
- Mental Performance. Take some time to reflect and build your toolbox of strategies to support your mental health and performance for the training grind. Write out different mantras on sticky notes and place them where you can see them. Training season gets busy; one mantra may not always do the trick- when we have an arsenal of why’s, we can tap into whatever we need for that moment or day. Reflect on your mental performance habits during a race or a long run, or a hard workout. Do you approach the opportunity with optimism and excitement, or do you approach it with worry and apprehension? Work through these emotions and reframe your thinking. These are the tools that you will need to carry you through a successful training season.
These are just a few ideas of potential grains of sand to acknowledge as important and necessary as we get on our way to building our sandcastles.
I have spent a lot of time lately thinking about the difference between success and mastery. Success, for me, is defined as meeting a goal for an event or moment. Success can be fleeting. I am after the pursuit of mastery. This is what I love about running. There is always something to learn, a workout to humble you, a workout to make you feel powerful, an area for growth, a new goal to achieve. Be in it for the process, for the pursuit of mastery, to become a better version of yourself each day through our ability to lace up the running shoes and get out there. Let us use this time to build some sandcastles by focusing on and recognizing each grain of sand’s value.
Stay warm and happy running.