Seeing Training Success with a Wide View Lens
Are you guilty of using the narrow lens when thinking about your training? It is easy to do in a sport that is very much (and maybe too much) data driven. Many runners view the success of their weeks by seeing if they completed the mileage, or the success of the workout by if they hit the splits or the success of the race, by if they ran their goal time. What if you were challenged to take a step back, think about splits, a single workout, mileage, etc. with a wider view? Chances are you would see your training in an entirely new way.
First off we often make the mistake of confining our success into the 7 day training cycle. How do we do this? We look at A-did we hit the mileage, B-did we hit our workout, C-did we hit the long run? Often athletes can have one stellar week or one consistent week in a month and think the training cycle is going great, or vice-versa. The week was rough and now we feel like we lost fitness. When a coach goes back and evaluates a goal race or a certain performance, we typically don’t just look at a single week, and neither should you. Let’s continue to globalize our perspective of success beyond the parameters of a random set of days on a calendar.
In the same way we don’t evaluate with a narrow lens, we also do not predict with one. It is common for an athlete to ask after a single workout, what do you think I can run in ____ event distance. Let’s say an athlete has a 4x1 mile workout at 5k goal pace with 3 minute recovery. Just because the athlete hits said goal pace for this workout does not give a perfect indication of them being able to run said time for their next 5k race. This is where we step back and take a look with a wider view. Let’s say leading up to the workout, the athlete actually missed their last quality session and cut a few miles off of their runs in the days leading up to this workout. They are going into the workout far more rested than usual. This paints a different picture in how the coach and the athlete evaluates the performance. Now, let’s say the athlete hits above and beyond their predicted paces. Does that mean they are ready to run faster than expected? Not necessarily. Again, let’s look forward and see what the next few days looks like for the runner. After the workout the runner is wiped. This workout was more than a mile rep workout, this was a “going to the well” workout, and they went to the well and now it’s taking them a while to come out. Say normally the athlete feels fully recovered 2-3 days following a workout, but after this one it is more like 6-7. Can we really use the splits as an indication of a great workout or a performance predictor? The simple answer is, nope. Let your body of work be the indication of your current fitness, not a singular performance.
Now, viewing success with a wide view lens goes beyond workout splits and mileage numbers. In workouts are you handling the unknowns better? What is self-talk looking like when things get rough? Do we get anxious at the thought of something hard or are we good at taking training one step at a time? Are we getting better at on task thinking rather than focusing on external factors? Did we toy with the idea of stopping but then finish better than we expected? The list could go on and on. Widening our lens doesn’t just mean cracking down on seeing data in a new light, it means widening our view of success in general beyond what the numbers say. Often, the most important factors of success we cannot assign pace to. We cannot preach “mental toughness” if we don’t acknowledge that we are practicing it in workouts. Psychological victories are as valuable as physical ones. We encourage you to include the mental side of things in part of your definition for training success.