It was pointed out to me that in my previous posts (Part 1 and Part 2) on Attitude, Effort and Training Methods I did not include much in the way of practical recommendations. That is absolutely correct, so here are some recommendations for ways you can improve your training based on the ideas in the above posts. If you have any other useful tips, please post them in the comments below!
Tips for Improving Attitude
- If you don't like what you're doing, stop doing it. You'll never put in optimal effort if you hate what you're doing. Stop punishing yourself. Find something you can be passionate about and try to be the best at that.
- Run for yourself. This is related to above, but it's even bigger. Don't get caught up in the need to win at all costs. Don't be pressured to do the wrong thing "for the team". Winning and excellence are different. Define excellence for yourself, and pursue achieving it honorably.
- Write your goals down and post them where you can see them. Remind yourself of your purpose. Constantly. Motivation must be maintained.
- Talk about your goals. This not only internalizes them, but it commits you to them. Just be sure you're not ONLY talking about your goals. That gets boring.
- Make some of your goals easily achievable. Sure, these are just benchmarks to your ultimate goal, but success breeds motivation.
- Relive past successes. Remind yourself of how it felt. Re-experience the feeling of accomplishment. Then think about what it will take for you to experience the same in your next endeavor.
- Do just a bit more of something (non-running) every day. Maybe it's an extra set of push-ups. Maybe it's more stretching. Maybe it's getting more sleep. Maybe it's saying no to that second helping of ice cream. That one extra push-up can make you feel like a champion.
- Find someone to beat. You don't even have to tell them. When I was in high school I trained with a guy named Ross Wood in mind. Why? 'Cause he beat me at a road race when I was a sophomore. Did he ever know he was my imaginary nemesis? No. But the idea of "beating Ross" helped me through some tough workouts.
- Emulate those better than you. Don't try to copy workouts or training programs. Rather, focus on approaching the sport the way they do. Choose someone who isn't super-talented. Choose someone who's really had to earn it.
- Attribute success to effort. When you talk about success (yours or others), tell the story in terms of effort. It is a story that can ALWAYS be told.
Tips for Improving Effort
- Focus on the process, not the outcome. You have to trust that by doing things the right way, you'll get the results you want.
- Eliminate distractions. Don't get caught up in how good or bad other people's workouts are. Get your other work done before practice starts, so it's not on your mind. Focus on getting done what you have to get done. (And I would add, a healthy relationship does not require all of your time and energy.)
- Ask questions. The workout fits into a long-term plan. Find out why and how. Then execute the workout based on what you most want to achieve from it.
- Focus on the easy stuff. It's natural to focus when running fast, but difficult to focus when running slow. In between reps, during warm-ups/cool-downs, and on recovery days, take a moment to determine whether you're running as fast/slow as you should be.
- Don't rush. This applies to both workouts and training programs. If you are working hard, time is on your side. Rushing increases the likelihood of injury. The short-term benefits are usually much smaller than the drawbacks.
- Eat well. Your output is only as good as your inputs. And if your inputs suck, well...
- Drink a lot of water. The harder your workouts get, the more necessary this is. Aim for going to the bathroom about 12 times per day. I'm serious.
- Have a contingency plan. We all want every workout and race to go perfectly, but that doesn't always happen. Before you start, decide what you'll do if it isn't going as planned. You need something to focus on that can keep you from wallowing in negativity when all seems lost.
Tips for Improving Training Methods
- Read. A lot. Buy some books or go to the library. Borrow them from your coaches. Get on the Internet. (Read a blog!) Get as many opinions as you can about what makes for effective training.
- If you really like something, do it. Consult with your coach before you change workouts, but if you love 400 meter repeats or 5-mile tempo runs (my fav), build those into your training. The flip side to this is also true. There is no one workout that you absolutely MUST DO to be successful. So you hate mile repeats? Be creative and figure out a way to get the benefits without the mental anguish.
- Listen to your body. Pain is telling you something. Postponing a hard workout for a day is much better than pushing through and losing weeks to injury.
- Talk to your coach. Your coach's job is to optimize your training methods. He can't do that if you don't tell him how you feel. You are responsible for this aspect of the athlete-coach relationship.
- Mix it up. If you always run with a team, go for a run by yourself occasionally. If you always do road runs, go on the track one day. If you never run hills, find one and do some repeats. If you always eat Italian before a race, try Thai. On second thought, be careful with Thai. In all other cases, however, complacency is to be feared. Don't get complacent.
- Don't always wear a watch. Maybe this belongs one up, but if you're supposed to be doing a recovery run or even a road run at a "solid" pace, go by how you feel and not what your watch tells you you should feel.
- Keep a training log. It's not enough to just write down what you did, though. You have to be specific, and you have to actually look at it again. You can't learn what does or doesn't work for you unless you put some time and energy into it.
Those are the big, universal ones that I can think of off the top of my head. I'm sure I'll come up with some more as soon as I publish this, but I'd love to hear what you all think. How do you go about improving your Attitude, Effort, or Training Methods?