RUNNING & EGGS
There are a number of phrases, terms, idioms, and analogies in our everyday language that use eggs to describe and teach essential life lessons and values. Many of these life lessons apply to running.
DON’T PUT ALL YOUR EGGS IN ONE BASKET
Certainly, goals should push and stretch us, but they should not crush us or create so much pressure to perform that we don’t enjoy the process or allow ourselves to reach our true potential. Avoid the tendency to put all your eggs in one basket by planning regular check-points or benchmarks (workouts or build-up races) along the way to measure progress and evaluate if you are on course to reach your goal.
If you have a couple of these predictor workouts and dress rehearsal races as part of your seasonal build up toward a goal race you’ll be able to determine what is going well and what you’ll need to do differently to reach your goal within the timeframe you have set. If you aren’t on track to reach the goal within the given timeframe, it doesn’t mean you have to double down. Sometimes it simply means you have to adjust the timeframe.
Read "Race Strategically" for more on how to set up an effective race schedule.
Similarly, goals should not consume us and make it impossible to work with or be around us. If you find that your goals are not actually helping you to become better (not just as a runner, but as a person – friend, colleague, partner, parent, neighbor), it is time to reevaluate your goals.
While I fully endorse and encourage setting ambitious goals and working toward them, I am an even stronger proponent of balancing ambitions with reality (life). As ambitious people, if we are not careful, we can get so fixated on a goal that we put all of our thoughts, energy, and resources into chasing that goal – a particular weight, a personal best, a Boston Qualifier, winning one’s age group, or standing atop the podium – and neglect other, more important elements of our lives: relationships with family, friends, colleagues, and community. At the end of the day, if your training and racing don’t improve your life and your ability to be a contributing member of a family or community, is it even worth it?
DON’T KILL THE GOOSE THAT LAYS THE GOLDEN EGGS
Our bodies are incredible. Pushing our bodies to the limit and finding that we are more capable than we even imagined is exhilarating and addicting. However, despite the extraordinary capacity of our bodies, it is important to understand that our bodies can and will break if pushed too much or too often.
In the legend of the man who killed the goose that laid the golden eggs in hopes that he might acquire all the wealth at once, he learned that the value the goose provided was in the reliable, consistent contribution from the goose that could be enjoyed by patiently waiting each day for the gift it would bring.
Similarly, we will find more cumulative value over time by being grateful for the simple gift of consistent, sustainable training than we will by racing every weekend or accumulating unsustainable weeks of training. Be grateful for the places you are able to access on foot, for the people you meet, for the lessons you learn, for the qualities running builds within you, and the things it teaches you about yourself and others. Remember, long-term sustainable goals will bring more fulfillment over time than short term goals with fleeting and fickle outcomes. Read "The Steady Dedication of a Lifetime" for more on consistency.
Don’t kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.
TRAINING IN A GROUP HAS BEEN COMPARED TO THROWING A CARTON FULL OF EGGS AGAINST A WALL
There is value in training with others. The momentum, the collective energy, community and accountability are all important ingredients when it comes to training. However, there are also risks involved for athletes and coaches when training in a group environment, least of which is that each person in that environment is different and needs different stimuli – duration, intensity, and frequency – to best meet their needs and help them maximize their potential.
When different people train in a group or follow the exact same training plan or schedule it can be described as throwing a carton of individual eggs against a wall. Those who survive will be strong and resilient and those who break are simply discarded, deemed weak and should find another activity. While this may sound harsh, this is unfortunately the norm in many high school and college programs around the world.
This is not to say that great results do not come from group settings. Many of the best athletes in the world choose to train on a team so that they have others to train with, but the best programs have a coach who individually tailors the training to each athlete. They don’t all train at the same frequencies, durations, or intensities every single day. They simply join each other for occasional runs or workouts (which are still often closely monitored and tailored to the individual).
For example, the group may all warm up and do strides and drills together. Then part of the group may do a continuous tempo run while another segment of the group may do tempo intervals depending on the strengths, weaknesses, experience level, and goals of each athlete. They may all regroup toward the end of the workout to cool down. They may even do a core or strength training routine, but they wouldn’t all be expected to lift the same weight or even do the same number of repetitions.