Monday, May 28, 2012

Fun: an essential ingredient to passionate and productive training

At the end of the day, for me, it all comes down to fun.  Fun is where it all started, and fun is what keeps me going.  But let me take a moment here to put “fun” in quotations.  The concept of fun can be a very relative term, and something  that is different for everybody.  When I first started running, the fun was in the challenge.  It was fun to lace up my shoes, grab my yellow Sony Walkman and head out the door, just to see where my feet would take me.   Acquiring and testing new gear was (and still is) fantastically fun, especially when it came my discovery of dri-fit materials.  Going a little farther than the week before, signing up for my first race, the pride I felt in my achievements kept me going early on.  Over the years I learned to embrace the exquisite pain of running, and the euphoria it all brings as my kind of fun.  I once had a long stretch training for a marathon where all I did was run long, listening to a playlist of about 12 songs total.  Looking back, this was in NO way a proper training method, but I was having a blast and somehow managed my first (albeit very painful) BQ .  Eventually I hooked up with some other runners, and the fun became having training partners, and lengthy conversations about training methods.  It was great fun when I got my first Garmin. Experimenting with new routes and paces, comparing notes with other runners and playing “dueling  Garmins” as we ran.  Of course, there were times when I felt flat, or unmotivated, but the promise of one of those exquisitely magical runs was always on my mind.  The kind of run where time seems to stretch or bend and there is joy in letting go and running free.  Currently, my fun is in the satisfaction of nailing a workout, knowing I am becoming better and better prepared for upcoming races.  And its not just the physical part.  As a physical anthropology major, I studied evolutionary reasons for every adaptation.  When “Born to Run” came out, I read it four times.  Finally someone was writing about why we do what we do.  (Side note:  if you are interested in this topic, check out the research of Daniel E. Lieberman, Professor of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University).  I had often wondered what is it about human beings that draws us to running long distances.  My anthro brain was constantly thinking of ideas as to what exactly was it about our evolution that made this trait desirable.  After all, running is an energy expenditure.  There must have been a pay off.  I had so much fun thinking about running in this way.   Training can stir up moments of inspiration that draw from both past and new experiences,  translating over to daily life. 

As we train, and race, and train again, our goals will change.  It is satisfying to achieve goals!  I read once that the level of fun an athlete has in training corresponds to higher performance in racing.  Looking back on races I have done, the more fun I had in training= the more fun I had racing = my best performances.  Keeping training “fun” is an important element, and will show on race day.  Yes, you will need to work hard, and yes, there will be days when you don’t feel anywhere near your best.   The training journey can be an amazing process.  Ask yourself where your “fun” lies.   Racing?  Competition?  The satisfaction of hard effort?  The wind in your hair?  Write it down in your log, keep a journal, talk to other athletes.  At the end of the day, fun is what keeps us going, and fun is my motivation lifelong running and triathlon training.

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