The Elements of Training
Pick a race and set a goal
Pick a race that you want to do; choose something you’d enjoy. Set a goal for the race. If you have days or weeks to train, make it a humble goal. If you have months or years to train, make it an ambitious goal. Stack a series of humble goals to achieve ambitious goals.
Run every day, except for the days you need to rest. Run at the same time; make it a habit, like brushing your teeth. Prioritize consistency over volume– six days of two miles is better than two days of six miles, and one mile is better than zero miles.
Run with people. Run at a conversational pace and have conversations. Notice the spectrum of sunrises, the pitter patter of footsteps, the smell of blooming trees. Remember that training is a choice, a privilege, and do your best to find joy in the inevitable discomfort. Excellence is born of love– the athlete that loves their sport will continue despite discomfort and setbacks and can achieve anything.
Live like an athlete
Sleep voraciously– as much as you can. Eat healthy food, mostly plants, until you’re full. Avoid junk. Avoid alcohol. Drink water when you wake up and before you go to bed. Surround yourself with other athletes. Pick up another sport and practice it once a week; have fun. Don’t seek the life of a spartan, a monk, or a stoic, but live– as best you can– in service to your goal.
Practice your race the same way you’d practice a song or a dance: break it up into smaller parts and repeat them until each piece is easier, run it all the way through at a slower tempo without worrying about mistakes, or use other races as rehearsals. Race as often as is enjoyable and beneficial– use short races to practice speed and long races to practice strength.
Run as much as you can; run as fast as you can. This does not mean running every single day until your legs are mincemeat, but running as much as you can each day while keeping tomorrow in mind. It doesn’t mean increasing your speed until your lungs fill with iron, but increasing continuously over the course of the entire run, the entire season.
Scorn the superfluous
Run for joy, but practice with a purpose. Treat each day as a component of your race, and ensure that every ounce of discomfort serves your goal. An undertrained athlete might have a poor race; an overtrained athlete will have no race. When in doubt, do less.
Energy, courage, and love are finite resources. Spend them carefully throughout each day, each week, each season. Begin everything with humility and save ambition for the final stretch. Craft humble practices and finish them ready for another. Plan a humble season and execute it, then do it again. Set a humble goal and hit it, then do it again.