At The Milestone Pursuit we focus on three character traits that make us good at running and that running makes us good at.
These are Patience, Discipline and Courage.
They are also our values
We build our training programmes around them
This is why;
Patience – Playing the long game
There are 5 headlines – as you read them, try think about they apply to your running but also to your life as a whole;
Physical adaptations take time.
Most scientific studies suggest that it takes between 6 weeks and 6 months for the body to adapt to new training loads. It takes time to get quicker and fitter.
Hard work is important, rest and recovery is essential
Hard work is incredibly important, you have to put high quality effort into speed sessions and long runs, BUT you must also give your body time to recover. Active recovery, like slow easy runs and rest allow your to adapt to the training load.
Going too hard, too soon, too often leads to burn-out
One of the biggest mistakes we come across from people new to running, or people training for their first marathon is that they try to hit every session hard, and to try and improve from one run to the next. This makes them extremely vulnerable to overuse injuries like patella tendinopathy (runners knee), Achilles tendinitis and shin splints. You can also become physically and mentally exhausted so that when you come to race you have nothing left to give. Build up slowly. A coach will help guide you…..
Rarely do you start a pursuit at your best
People often say that the first 10-20 minutes of their run feels terrible. This is because our body is playing catch-up to the effort required. Relax. You’re not unfit, you’re just not quite ready – the chances are you’ll feel better very soon so be patient, stick with it and don’t give up before your body has even warmed up.
Rushing to make up for lost time leads to relapse
Now, the biggest risk in being impatient is injury, which, ironically is when you need to be most patient. First, you need to take the appropriate action – rest, strengthening exercises and cross training are all pre-requisites of injury recovery. Come back too soon, or rushing when you do, will lead to further injury, Take your time.
Being patient is hard to practice, but it is extremely valuable, and if you get it right, you’ll, ironically, improve more quickly as an athlete, and indeed learn lessons that are valuable across the rest of your life too.
Discipline – being clear on what you’re prepared to compromise on and what you’re not
Discipline sounds obvious doesn’t it. It’s about giving up everything “bad”, doing everything that’s “good” and train every day etc, isn’t it?
Well, No. You can’t do everything, especially if you are working and /or have other pursuits in your life like caring for children
For us, discipline is actually all about being clear on what you’re prepared to compromise on and what you’re not.
Running is important to you, but is it the most important thing you do? Do you have to put the rest of your life on hold? Does it mean you have to give up on all the other things in life you enjoy, like, perhaps, going out (drinking) with friends, eating “unhealthy” foods, weekends away and so on. It all depends on your perspective. Ask yourself how important your goals are to you, why they are important to you and then figure out what you’re prepared to compromise on.
There are 5 headlines to Discipline too;
Setting realistic milestones in the first place requires discipline.
It is required in setting your milestones. It’s entirely reasonable to dream of running, say, a sub 3 hour marathon, but if your personal best is 4 hours and you run 30 miles a week and can’t really find time for any more training then it’s probably not reasonable to set yourself a target of 3 hours. Be realistic in setting milestones and in doing so pop your ego to one side and be reasonable to yourself about what is possible right now.
Follow a plan with consistency
Then once you’ve done that, follow your plan consistently. Of course, plans change as we react to life and the changing demands of your training, but consistency is the most important thing in making fitness gains through training programmes so once you’ve worked out your compromises, stick to the plan by working out what you can compromise on on the fly and talk to your coach about your requirements for flexibility.
Manage Injury and illness
Now you’re in the plan, you need to proactively manage injury and illness. Injury and illness are somewhat inevitable but you can mitigate the chances of suffering. Boost your immune system with vitamin C (your immune system takes a hit when you’re tired, and Vitamin C supports it in a variety of ways), take appropriate medicine, rest, stretch, get assistance from a physio, osteo or massage therapist. In this context discipline is about not just waiting (but still applying patience of course as you mend) it’s about being proactive with rehabilitation and self care. This mentality also helps you feel in control, which will hep you deal with the stress of not running (we’ve all been there) and, in turn, recover more quickly
Don’t get carried away when things go well
Now you’ve managed your way through injury and illness, things are going well. Discipline is now required to ensure we don’t get carried away. You’re only a tired stumble off a kerb away from turning an ankle and you’re only an over-confident, over-reach away from an over-use injury. When things are going well, stay calm and disciplined and in the plan, don’t get ahead of yourself.
Don’t get carried away when things don’t go so well
Equally, things don’t always go well. We are all capable of a bad race, bad session or a bad week, where it doesn’t quite click. Don’t give up. Learn from any mistakes you may have made, but put it behind you. Remember that training is about consistency over the long term, it will come together
So, discipline is absolutely required in training, but it is NOT about sticking rigidly to plans and cutting stuff out that you enjoy as often that is unsustainable – it’s about understanding what you’re prepared to compromise on and what you’re not AND sticking to it.
Once you’ve made your decisions, forgive yourself for not making more compromises and do your best. You can always make more, or less, compromises later if it’s not working. There is no value in getting anxious about what you’re not doing. Accept it and get the most out of the time you HAVE afforded yourself, rather than frustrated at the time you don’t have.
Courage – Let your heart rule your head (up to a point)
Now, the word itself is interesting as it stems from the Latin word for Heart (Cor) and in that simple piece of language history lies a valuable insight. That we can’t think ourselves to brave, it’s not rational, it can be the opposite of rational, being courageous doesn’t come from the head, it comes from the HEART – it comes from your emotions.
In running, to be truly brave, to push on in training and in a race when your brain is telling (screaming at) you to stop (as it has evolved to do), you need to understand what is driving you on at a deep, underlying emotional level. If you rely on rational thought, you will pull back the pace. To get this the bottom of this ask yourself (or get your coach to ask you) WHY, why is your goal important to you?
For example, it might be that you want to be a good role model for your children, to show your parents you are worthy of their multiple years of investment in you, to prove your nay-saying friends or colleagues wrong, to push yourself outside of your comfort zone or to build your self-esteem. Whatever it is, the real purpose of your running is usually emotional, and sometimes even ego-driven. And that’s okay. It’s okay for you to want to show how capable you are, if it leads to better performance AND if it makes you happy. It’s less okay to narcistically peg your self-worth entirely to your time based performance as we have written about before and its less okay to lord your physical superiority over others, but it is okay for you to be driven by your ego purely if it helps you get more out of your body.
Delivering your milestones requires courage, and requires you to be switched on to your emotions. But bravery is also required elsewhere in your training.
Firstly setting realistic milestones requires honesty – you may have dreams about what you’d like to achieve, and it just as brave to recognise what you’re not capable of right now, and act accordingly as it is to set yourself demanding (unachievable) challenges. Unachievable challenges can be reflected upon, and rationalised away as ‘it was always going to be difficult so it’s okay I didn’t make it’, whereas an achievable goal is a commitment you dare not break, especially if you’re ego-driven.
Reaching new milestones also requires stepping outside of comfort zone – you’re going to be doing something new – faster or further, it doesn’t matter, either way you’ve never done it before. In fact, even if you have run many marathons before, you’ve NEVER run them at the age you’re at now, or in the exact conditions you are running in now . There are always unknowns, and as such you are often outside of your comfort zone. The same is true in training, to get fitter, faster and stronger, we have to stretch ourselves. Being out of your comfort zone for any length of time, by definition requires courage.
You will be challenging what you thought possible – there are times when you can’t quite believe what you are achieving, or what you are trying to achieve.
It gets hard -There are times in training when it is REALLY hard. You’re tired, you don’t want to run, you don’t want to run hard, you don’t want to do that final track rep, or last 10 minutes in a tempo, or 20 miles will surely do even though your bloody coach has set 22 in the plan. At these moments, when you question what you’re doing, it’s important to go back to why you’re doing it in the first place. The challenge at this stage is that your brain is convincing you that it’s not important, that your goal is not important, and encourages you to back off. It’s tempting, in the face of pain to believe it, but you have already determined how important it is and why, so remind yourself of that, tune in to your motions, switch your brain off and push on.
You have to believe in yourself. Running is the ultimate sport for getting out what you put in. It’s all about you. There’s no opponent, no referee and no team-mates that can influence your performance (either way!) and while you may have a coach on your team, he or she can’t do your running for you. Once the gun goes it’s all about you and you HAVE to believe in yourself. You can’t rely on anyone else. It’s all you. And that vulnerability, and pressure, can be daunting for many of us. Self esteem, low confidence even a bit of normal modesty and bashfulness can inhibit you and to back yourself requires some deep breaths and of course gluttons of courage! Suspend disbelief, be brave, back yourself as in many cases very few other people will, even some of our family and friends, so don’t rely on them!
Now, all this sounds like if you understand your emotions you can achieve anything, but as we’ve said it doesn’t quite work like that – you have to do the work as well,.
You also need to avoid recklessness. Your brain is there to protect you. In evolutionary terms it has developed to enable you to survive. It is trained to conserve energy so that you can run again to escape danger later in your day. The brain sees no sense in making yourself unnecessarily vulnerable. And while we may not have to outrun Sabre-toothed tigers any more we might not want to run ourselves into a hospital bed either, as has been known among the reckless. Use your emotions to push yourself on to new territories, but know when to hold back.
Let your heart rule your head (up to a point).