My wife gave me her standard smirk when I mentioned to the kids that today’s rainy 45 degrees was perfect running weather.
As runners, we all have family who insist we are a bit crazy for willfully subjecting ourselves to the pain of endurance training.
Unless you’re an athlete, it’s difficult to understand why one would push through years of physical discomfort for little more than a finisher medal or finish line banana and bagel.
But of course it’s the intangible rewards that keep us at it. The confidence gained from rising to a difficult challenge. A sense of accomplishment from completing a race. The feeling of incredible mental peace in a physically taxed body following a workout.
But maybe the most important result from endurance training is resilience.
The famous Stoic philosopher Seneca wrote:
“It is in times of security that the spirit should be preparing itself for difficult times; while fortune is bestowing favors on it is then is the time for it to be strengthened against her rebuffs.”
I like how Tim Ferriss put it a bit better though:
The more voluntary suffering you build into your life, the less involuntary suffering will affect your life.
Sometimes when we’re out on a training run it gets hard. Or at mile 18 in a marathon your legs lock up and you ask yourself, “why am I doing this”?
In those hard times, remember that it’s a privilege to be out here. You’re doing what you love. You paid to do this.
You owe it to yourself. But you also owe it to all the people who came before you who never had the chance.
Take this life by the balls. Live it like you mean it.
PS – Now go sign up for some crazy race that scares the hell out of you.
Remit Sethi writes the longest emails of any marketer I’ve ever read.
The name of his website is I Will Teach You To Be Rich, which is without a doubt the scammiest business name imaginable. But he’s the real deal and he’s helped a lot of people.
One of his favorite things to do is respond to people who attack him for having no credentials.
I could never do this. My business occasionally gets one star reviews online and it kills me every time.
I have half a book written on shoe fitting and eight podcasts ready to be released. They haven’t been worked on in months. Why? I’m afraid of what people will say.
I suppose if you’re in the public eye you will never get everyone to like you. But maybe it’s not such a bad thing to be disliked. At least you know you’re striking a chord with someone. And maybe having an impact.
Because if you’re not making an impact why are you even here?
Elie Wiesel, Nobel Prize winner and Holocaust survivor said it best: “The opposite of love isn’t hate. It’s indifference.”
So quit hiding. Go make something. Even if people hate it.
One day last spring I didn’t feel like running my scheduled easy 4 miler. I ran 14 miles two days before and 8 the day before.
It was the first hot day of the season. I debated going back to sleep after dropping my kids off at school.
I sometimes make excuses to avoid running when I’m not feeling perfect.
“Oops, not enough time today” or “I could do something more productive than run right now”.
But you know what? It’s the times when you are tired that you can really make some gains.
If you only run when you are well rested and feeling great, you won’t run very often!
In the seven weeks leading up to the Boston Marathon, top American finisher Neely Spence Gracey took zero days off. How many of those days did she likely feel fully rested?
Muhammad Ali said, “I don’t count my sit-ups. I only start counting when it starts hurting. That is when I start counting, because then it really counts. That’s what makes you a champion.”
Suck it up, buttercup.
It’s supposed to be hard.
I see people on a daily basis with running related injuries. I don’t pretend to be a doctor but the reality is most of them will not see a doctor until the pain becomes much worse.
When I ask what’s caused the pain, the answer is frequently, “nothing”!
So we spend a lot of time talking, digging around for clues as to why their IT band or foot might be hurting now.
It’s a shame science as a subject gets such a bad rap in school because the very basis of the subject – the scientific method – is always the best approach.
You remember the scientific method: ask a question –> make a hypothesis –> test it –> analyze data –> repeat.
Pain doesn’t come from nowhere. Bad races don’t ‘just happen’. There’s always a reason. [In fact, regarding injuries, high mileage is protective for running injuries! It’s big changes in mileage from week to week that is a big predictor for injury.]
The key is to think of your body like a science experiment.
When it’s time to test a hypothesis (such as “why does my stomach hurt on long runs”), it’s time to pull out a notebook and start setting up some experiments.
Make some hypotheses. Control the variables. Change one thing each week. Observe the results. Repeat.
PS – this also applies to the rest of your life.
Most people don’t know that Arnold Schwarzenegger was a millionaire before his film career ever took off.
He was dirt poor as a child though. Growing up in Austria in a home with no running water, he left for America after school with no money.
He loved body building but there was no money in it at that time. As a result, he teamed up with fellow body builder Franco Columbo doing masonry jobs in southern California following an earthquake. Starting from scratch, they marketed themselves as European masonry experts.
Over the course of several years, he saved enough money through masonry to invest in real estate. And this is where he made his money.
Then the body building and acting career took off.
Without his masonry career, it’s unlikely Arnold would have lasted long enough financially to make it into movies.
Why was Arnold successful? Credit goes to his father for the best advice he ever received: Be Useful.
For Arnold, at that time in his life, it was repairing homes. He recognized a need (or maybe a “want” for European masonry) and solved it.
The next time you’re feeling directionless or questioning your purpose in life, ask yourself, “Am I useful?”
Those who are useful are rarely without comfort, safety or friendship.
A poor child receives a single gift on Christmas and is elated. A rich child receives twenty and is devastated there weren’t twenty more.
Whether you’re happy about the election or not, the result is the same. You cannot change it.
So, as in a fast marathon when a blister develops at mile 20, you have a choice: focus on the variables you can change – and fix the blister at the next aid station – or fume about the manufacturer of your running sock and loss of a sure PR.
Our level of happiness isn’t based upon our environment.
It’s based upon our perception of that environment.
A family friend once told me that she thought it was irresponsible to not know what was going on in the world.
I didn’t have the guts to tell her she was absolutely wrong.
The news isn’t meant to inform us. It’s a profit center meant to entertain us. And it’s entirely too pervasive. Between television, radio, and the internet, we have to actively work to get away from it.
I think it’s irresponsible to pay attention to the news.
We’ve become a society of consumers. But not just physical goods. We’re consumers of information.
I am so much happier when I am consistent with writing this blog. But it’s hard work to sit down, think deeply, and type on a blank screen. And also a bit frightening putting my thoughts out to the world. No wonder I often decide to surf Facebook or Twitter instead.
The thing is, the world needs yours (and my) unique voice, talents and gifts.
Consume less. Create more.
As Seth Godin says, “go make a ruckus.”
If you’re curious about the key to happiness, just ask any member of AA.
It’s a phrase you’ve undoubtedly heard many times. The serenity prayer.
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the thing I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Think about the last time you became irked. A jerk co-worker. Heavy traffic. Political posts on Facebook.
There’s nothing you can do to change any of these circumstances. Why fight those battles? What we need to do is focus on what we can control.
The next time you’re in a race, acknowledge the conditions and the competition. Just remember you can’t do anything about them. What you can do is adjust your effort, strategy, and mental state.
The source of the serenity prayer comes from a philosopher who lived over 2,000 years ago, Epictetus. He was one of the most popular of the Stoic philosophers.
The human race has accumulated an incredible sum of knowledge in the last two millennia. It’s kid of funny how much we can learn from people who lived without any of it.
The 1972 marathon gold medal came pretty easily for Frank Shorter.
From the time he woke up the morning of the race, he knew it was going to be a good day. Long time athletes can sense it. He was “on” that day.
But 1976 was a different story. He woke up feeling out of sync. Something was off. Thirty minutes before the race his prototype racing flat from Nike tore apart. Only a heroic effort from a friend was able to result in his backup pair arriving on site within five minutes of the race start.
Many athletes would have panicked, but not Frank.
He later wrote, “It was a crisis, yet I felt strangely calm. I didn’t know how it would happen, but I knew I was going to make it.”
All morning he thought back to the many training days the previous four years when he felt bad but pushed through anyway. Those training sessions had established his confidence.
Anyone can put in the work when circumstances are easy. Those who stand apart from the rest of us come back day in and day out, whether they feel like it or not.
Suck it up. Do the work.