What are you doing every day to improve yourself in your chosen discipline?
That’s the ever-pressing question, the one that fills me with anxiety many times throughout the year. The truth is, I don’t always know where I am going with my training.
Have you ever felt that you are merely showing up, without actually focusing on what you’re doing? That you are just floating by your sessions, not really thinking about what you’re doing?
Chances are you’re like me and you have felt like this before. The good news is that we can become better at practicing with more intent and purpose. Sure, showing up every day and doing the work is incredibly important, but you can accelerate your learning and mastery of your passion by being purposeful with what you are doing every day.
So what can we do?
I’m going to outline three different things we can do in order to make sure we stay on track with developing our passion and making sure that we aren’t on “autopilot mode”. To ensure I’m being mindful of how I’m practicing, I make sure to always give my sessions some sort of goal, I try to write my long term goals out, and I make sure to throw in some variety into my training.
Giving your session a goal
The last time I remember going on a run just for fun and no other reason was, well, never. That may sound slightly depressing, but really it has been a key guide to keeping me on track with my running and ensuring that I don’t just idle through training. Instead, I always try to have some sort of purpose to the training runs I go out and do.
I’m not trying to advocate that if you run seven times a week, you should run seven hard workouts. That would be simply silly. Instead, I try to give myself a brief idea of what my goal for a run is. It could be as simple as saying that I’m going for an easy effort of an hour, or more detailed such as specific distances and times to run for intervals. Either way, I know what I’m doing before I go out for the run. The key here is the word “before”. I try to avoid making up an idea of what I’m going to do as I run, since I know that will usually result in randomness that I don’t really need. Sure, I may spontaneously switch up which route I’m running, but I do my best to stick to my goal beforehand. Doing this gives you that much needed purpose in order to achieve your goals.
Writing out your goals
I must admit that this is the one I fail to do the most, yet I know it is important. Writing out our goals makes them concrete in our minds. Plus, the fact that you can actually see them every day gives you that extra bit of motivation that you may need to get out the door and train.
As always with goals, make sure you follow the guidelines: have them be precise, measurable, and with some kind of time limit. By doing this, you can give yourself some kind of mark to compare yourself against each day you push towards your goal.
I’ll say it right off: routine kills your will to challenge yourself. This is probably the trickiest of balances to strike, for you don’t want to make training so hard on yourself that you lose interest in continuing to train. At the same time, the more routine you introduce into your training, the easier it becomes to jump onto autopilot. Your sessions are always familiar, never challenging yourself.
Here’s an example: imagine you want to break 35:00 for the 10K. However, at this point in time you are only capable of running 36:00. Your 10K pace is 3:36/km, while you want to run 3:30/km.
Since you can’t actually run that 3:30/km, you simply do a thirty minute “faster than tempo” run at 3:36/km, and you repeat this workout every week. You don’t do any kind of other workout, and just get this one in.
After a while, you get really good at running that thirty-minute workout. However, instead of increasing the pace as you get better, you simply keep on running the same workout at the same pace, with no variation. Your confidence gets increased because the pace feels so routine after a while. There’s almost no challenge, and you eagerly await race day.
The race comes, and you’re shocked when you see that you’ve only run 36:08, which was even worse than your previous time. What in the world could have happened?
Simply put: there was no variation in your training, no progress. Instead, the same workout was run over and over with nothing more challenging added to it. Really, it’s not surprising that you ran near the 36:00 mark for the 10K. After all, that’s exactly the pace you prepared yourself to run.
This important lesson does not only apply to workouts and paces. In order to keep training fun for you and not simply “another thing to do in the day”, it’s vital to introduce as much variety as you can. Running different routes can do wonders to the mind. What was once the same scenery that only changed with the time of year now becomes a vibrant array of different routes to run. Just making this small change can have a huge impact on your training. Sure, it’s easy to do that loop around the block because you know exactly how long it will take you, but for your sake, try some other routes. Running the same routes day in, day out, can become boring very fast.
Those are just a few things you can do in order to help make the practice of your craft more fun, more efficient, and better suited towards your goals. By trying to incorporate more variety and mindfulness into the practice of your craft, you can be much better suited towards making a breakthrough in your goals.