Distance and Discipline

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Let’s get this party started:

“The word discipline isn’t very popular these days, and that’s because most people who teach disciplines – do not teach them very well. They teach them with a sort of violence. I would prefer to use the word skill.” –Alan Watts

I would prefer the word: Consistency.

To do anything consistently builds discipline.

A while ago I was living with two high performance guys. It was refreshing to live with people who were highly motivated, and not content with doing only enough to avoid being hassled. These guys stood out and everybody knew it.

Now, even though I’ve been training a long time, I wasn’t as good as them.

At a heavier body-weight, they were stronger, but what I didn’t expect is they were faster… in running both long and short distances. So much for the myth of being big and slow.

So, instead of resenting them for being better, and writing them off as “douche-bags”, I actively asked them for advice.

The conversations went like this:

A: I don’t get it. I train hard, I don’t eat crap, and I am still not performing at a high level.

B: It’s consistency. Sure I’ll have a week or two when I’m in a funk every now and again, but other than that, I’ve been training consistently for my results for over 8 years.

J: It won’t happen overnight either. It takes time. It takes a long time.

So I decided to apply that advice. I became very uncompromising in my schedule. I would work with the barbell, eat, and sleep, like clockwork. I would decline invitations to go out if they were too late (past my sleep time) I refused to compromise my sleep. I would refuse to drink alcohol when I did go out. No Compromise.

Consistency: Discipline is Consistency. A crappy training routine done consistently for a year beats a perfect routine done off and on. Do the basics well, consistently.

Listen: It’s 2016. The internet is here. Everyone can get on google and look up everything. Everybody knows everything about everything (or can pretend to).

No amount of knowledge will get the commitment out of you. You have to do it. Day in day out.

Choose something and stick with it for a year.

Next time I ran into one of them, months later, I had another question:

A: I am seeing results, but how do I take my stamina to the next level?

B: Intervals. Intervals on the track and in the pool. Time them. Run a lap(1600m) as fast as possible. Rest for 2 minutes, go again. Repeat 4 to 6 times. It’s definitely mind over matter. Stay focused on the run.

Don’t drift off into la la land and begin daydreaming. Zoning out has worked for me to make time fly by, for a long commute, or while waiting in line.

It does NOT work for racing. You can brainstorm while running and it works great, however, it works against you when you are trying to perform. Keep your mind on the task at hand.

Tip: When you start fading, reduce speed by 5% and pump your arms more. Your shoulders are likely less tired than your legs. Use them.

Staying with it and not letting my thoughts wander has worked best for me. For this reason I do not listen to music when I run. Music isn’t even allowed in most races. The officials cite safety reasons.

I don’t listen to music while running because:

It’s distracting.

You cannot hear your footsteps and you cannot hear your breathing.

Why would I want to hear those?
To take stock. To analyze. The key to being mentally present during a race is analyzing every little thing, constant checks on:

The state of the cardiovascular system – strain on the lungs. The muscular system – how tired you feel. Your metal state – How much do you want to quit? How is your gait?

Tip: Tie your house or car key to your laces. You won’t lose them this way and they won’t get in the way.

Endurance Athletics directly test your discipline, because you lose the conditioning quickly. You have to be consistent in your training, or you will not perform. Distance trains Discipline.

Long Distance Running:

The Race – Abundant Extrinsic Motivation

I’m always mentally stronger during a race.
During a race, there are spectators, you likely paid an entry fee, and the peer pressure to perform is high. I would go as far as to say: Most people would finish a 10k no problem, some even a half marathon.

How? The right factors, the right peer pressure. For example: people in their group view them as a good athlete, and they don’t want to disappoint. Maybe they talked themselves up in front of their buddies, and now have to prove themselves. Maybe someone ridiculed them for being slow or a quitter.

The microphone explodes, shatterin’ the molds – Either droppin’ hits like De La O or get the fuck off the commode” -Zack de la Rocha

Race volunteers will cheer you on, and so will other runners (most of the time). The extrinsic motivation level during a race is high. However your body will only take you as far as it was acclimated to go. How fast it was built up to be able to handle.

People who run a huge distance event without enough training beforehand are called kamikaze runners.

They drop out with injuries, as they have not let their tendons, ligaments, and muscles get used to the strain, with training, over time. That is a physical breakdown, not mentally quitting. Few people mentally quit during a race, usually their training fails them…

The Training – Harnessing Intrinsic Motivation

Now imagine a different scenario…

It’s cold outside.

It’s early, and you’re tired.

You’re sore from the run you did yesterday.

No one will blame you for not training (you’re in great shape already!).

No one will even know, if you were to stay in bed for an extra hour.

This is a mental battle, where you have to drag yourself out of bed, out the door, and no one can do it for you, but you.

This is where discipline and consistency come in.

Here’s a truth a lot of motivational personalities don’t want to tell you…

They want to hype you up, to get you pumped, and give you a temporary high called motivation. If you feel really motivated, you can call it passion.

What they don’t advertise in all those motivational posters and success stories is: Your passion and motivation will go away.

“Come on. Let’s get serious.” -Arnold

Your personality, and success in the activity, will determine how quickly that initial glow of doing it will fade. But fade it will.

Without exception, this will happen.

Happens to every professional athlete. It happens with everything. To be truly consistent and achieve a high level, you have to stick with something after it loses its appeal. Most people just move on to the next thing. The next best high that gives them that passion.

And a few months later on to the next one.

And the next one.

And it all ends with a bunch of abandoned hobbies and a bunch of junk in the garage or shed

Tip: Running slow makes you slow! I did LSD for a long time, and while endurance increased, speed and flexibility decreased.

Sounds pretty crappy, however, there’s part two.

If you stay with something, the original passion eventually comes back. And you begin to enjoy the activity again. It all comes full circle.

At this point the successful pros write a book.

A book about how they’ve always loved their chosen activity, and knew it was what they were meant to do from birth, and that it was their destiny.

It’s not true.

There were times that the strongman couldn’t stand the sight of a weight. Days where a runner didn’t want to lace up his shoes. Days a chef was sick of looking at food. It happens with everything.

The people who persevered – succeeded.

Another thing…

The best performance doesn’t happen on race day: most runners have done better in training. Sure, everyone tries to “peak” for competition.

Very rarely have I outperformed a PR set on a training day.

You usually perform well, around 95% or your ability. Rodger Bannister knew he could run the mile under 4 minutes, before he ever did it, from training laps, and estimating mile times.

A personal record usually comes on a training run, when the conditions are perfect. Factors such as temperature, altitude, humidity, minor illness, hydration, carbs, VO2 max, Lactate threshold, Heart-rate, all come together for an unusually good performance.

Tip: Use your shadow for watch your form. You can get a different look at your stride, and make sure you’re not bouncing, torso is upright, etc.

Whether you feel good during the PR or not seems to be irrelevant. You may feel like crap and run an amazing time. You may feel great and run poorly.

One of my recent runs, I felt like was going to puke, felt constantly short of breath, legs burned from the beginning. I felt like shit the entire time. I was ready to see a dismal time on the watch after crossing my marker… and it turned out to be a PR.

Tip: #1 Mistake of newer runners: Going out too fast, because you’re exited to pass people and you feel great… Until you hit the lactate threshold (the wall). Dial in your pacing for a negative split, run at an even pace with a strong kick in the end.

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 Have a Good Day Everyone.

All the Best.

-A

P.S. Read Distance and Discipline: Part Two(here) and Part Three(here)

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