Have Faith In Yourself
Perhaps the hardest lesson I had to learn as a runner was that being tough didn’t mean beating myself up on every run or pushing my body through fatigue. That mentality was ingrained since childhood, which it is for many athletes, but it couldn’t be further from the attitude needed to be a good distance runner. As legendary coach Alberto Salazar says,
“You’ve got to have the confidence in yourself where you believe that you can take those days off and you can recover and you can run great. A lot of what we see in athletes that just train all the time and never give themselves adequate recovery is often portrayed as toughness. What I’ve realized over the years is it really is a weakness. It’s an insecurity that you’re not good enough to recover like other athletes: I’m not good enough to do that; I need to keep training; I can’t take time off; I can’t take easy days.”
In the spring of 2008 I was training for a spot at the Olympic Trials in the 10K. I knew I had to push the limits. Unfortunately, I caught a bad cold that wiped me out for almost a week. I should have had the confidence in myself to rest for a few days and put in a week of rest and easy 4-6 mile runs and let my body recover. I wouldn’t have lost any fitness, but I would have been able to train harder when it counted and put in the specific work I needed to succeed.
However, because I lacked confidence in myself, I stubbornly tried to push through and get in all my miles and workouts. My stubbornness only lead to a season of up and down workouts, unspectacular race results and ultimately ended with a torn plantar fascia. Looking back at my training I’ve never once said, “Boy, I wish I had trained harder” — but I have looked back and wished I would have trained smarter.
Learn from my mistakes and the words of Alberto Salazar and trust yourself to listen to your body when it’s tired or injured. Have the confidence to take a few rest days when needed and let yourself recover when you’re in doubt. With the technology available these days, we have unlimited opportunities to track and record almost every facet of our training. Don’t be a slave to your GPS or your training log and tick off workout after workout just because your schedule says you should. Be flexible, listen to your body, and train smarter.
Whether it’s a golfer confiding in his caddy to choose the right club or having faith in your coach to lay out the perfect training plan, trust is one of the most critical elements that the most successful athletes possess.