Most of us are drawn to running not only for what it does for our physical well-being, but also for what it does for our mental, emotional and spiritual health. In Think Like A Monk: Train Your Mind for Peace and Purpose Every Day, author and former monk, Jay Shetty explains, "There are three routes to happiness, all of them centered on knowledge: learning, progressing, and achieving."
In sport journalism, much of the emphasis is on the outcome - the achieving. People usually contact us when they set a goal and want help achieving it. While we're all about helping athletes achieve their goals, we recognize that achievement requires progress through learning and the application of knowledge.
We strive to meet our athletes where they're at and help them learn and progress toward the achievement of their goals. For optimal results, athlete and coach alike play active roles in the learning, progressing, and achieving processes.
Learning is the process through which we acquire new knowledge and understanding. We learn as we consume and interact with new information. Reading, observing, and discussing concepts are traditional ways of learning.
We recognize that part of our role as coaches in the learning process is providing information for our athletes. We strive to create articles, videos, and podcast interviews to increase understanding about the various aspects of the sport. We often include these resources in the training plans that we design. For some athletes, a tailored training plan with links to associated resources is all that they are looking for. However, others want the ability to ask questions, share data and receive feedback from a coach.
We view all of this - the sharing of information, the training plan design and application, the reading, viewing, and listening, as well as the asking of questions and discussing training as part of the learning process. It is through this process that the coach and athlete are able to make and identify progress toward the goal.
When the athlete goes from the passive role of recipient of information (training plan and associated resources) to an active role of conscious and informed practitioner of the knowledge gained (doing the training, reviewing and reflecting on the data), deeper learning occurs. Through this process, the knowledge becomes more accessible and transferrable to other aspects of life. In the field of learning, the processes used to plan, monitor, and assess one’s understanding and performance are called metacognition.
Both athlete and coach are responsible for identifying progress. Progress is most easily identified when records are kept and reflections are written and shared between the athlete and coach. For example, if we have a sense of the volumes and paces and race performances that an athlete starts from, gains will be more easily identified through tracking, reviewing, and reflecting processes.
Without regular races or time trials as checkpoints, training data provides the best means of identifying progress. Fortunately, technological advancements have automated much of our activity tracking and sharing. However, much of the most important information - how the athlete is feeling and responding to the training - must be written and shared manually and deliberately. This may only take a few extra minutes each day, but in the long run it is worth the investment in time. It will provide much needed insight into how the athlete is responding to the training and will ultimately help the athlete and coach recognize when progress is being made or identify what adjustments need to be made in order to achieve the objectives of the training. It also provides context so that when things to right or wrong, the athlete and coach can review the log and identify what is working and what is not.
Sometimes the coach may be the first to notice when an athlete has progressed, but if the athlete is regularly reviewing and reflecting on the work performed, they will be the first to know and see when progress has been made. Maybe easy runs feel easier (or are getting a little faster). Maybe race pace feels a little more sustainable. Maybe the long runs feel a bit more under control or the strength routine is no longer as taxing. Maybe the number of intervals or reps continues to increase or the time of each interval is improving. Maybe the rest intervals are getting shorter. This information is important to record and share because the athlete may not realize it at first, but when they begin articulating it to the coach they they often recognize that progress has been made.
By regularly reviewing and reflecting on training and racing data, the athlete and coach can identify when progress has been made. This process increases confidence in the training and the path forward. It also provides opportunities to adapt and adjust and discuss the training and expectations if the desired growth is not occurring at the desired rate.
“Begin with the end in mind. ”
― Stephen R. Covey
Most athletes contact us with a goal in mind. It might be to begin running. It might be to avoid injury or recover from an injury. It might be to improve a 5K or marathon time or complete an ultramarathon or stage race. It may be to qualify for the Boston Marathon. Whatever the goal, learning and progressing are part of the process toward achievement.
While we pride ourselves in helping athletes achieve their goals, we take equally as much pride and satisfaction in helping athletes learn and grow as they work toward their goals. We view the three routes to happiness: learning, progressing, and achieving as interrelated. They build on themselves. And in many ways each route is an achievement in itself. Learning something new is always an achievement. Learning something new about ourselves through the application of knowledge is even more of an achievement. Gaining confidence and competence by applying new knowledge and reflecting upon it is an achievement. And each of these achievements can lead toward the ultimate goal of happiness.
Running has the potential to introduce us to and take us down the three paths to happiness: learning, progressing, and achievement. We have found so much joy and fulfillment through the process that we have dedicated our personal and professional lives to help others experience these same joys.
We've found that most medals, certificates, and finisher's shirts have a short shelf life, but the lessons learned about ourselves and others through training and racing and challenging ourselves in new ways are the lasting achievements. The friendships and memories we make and the confidence that we gain in ourselves and others are the real rewards.
We view running as a lifelong pursuit of learning, progressing, and achieving. Thank you for sharing the path with us!
* Jacob discussed these topics and more on the Endurance Mindset Podcast.