Don’t Try To Hit A Home Run With Every Workout
It’s ingrained in our DNA to always want to hit a home run with every workout. Ideally, we want tempo runs to feel effortless and speed sessions to make us feel like Usain Bolt. We’re not satisfied unless we crush every workout.
Likewise, a home run in baseball is the ESPN Sportscenter highlight every batter strives for. Each player takes to the batter’s box with the hopes of driving the ball over the fence with the fans cheering.
However, the batter who steps up to the plate with only a home run swing on his mind often finds himself sitting on the bench after whiffing at the third strike. Not only is striking out demoralizing, but it doesn’t give your team a good chance at driving in runs and building up the score.
In the same respect, if a runner approaches each workout with the idea that his run must feel effortless or that he are going to blow the doors off his best times, he sets himself up for a greater chance of failure and relinquishes the opportunity to develop steady gains in fitness.
I see this home run mentality often with ambitious new runners. They start each workout wanting to beat all their assigned goal times and prove to themselves, and their watch, that they are in shape.
When they approach workouts with this mentality, they either start the workout too fast and fade at the end, or they get frustrated when they don’t feel as effortless or strong as they had hoped.
Consequently, they typically aren’t able to finish the workout strong and within the physiological parameters the workout was designed to target (i.e. they turn their tempo runs into a race and a struggle just to finish). Moreover, they become demoralized both during the run and after the workout. This typically results in questioning their fitness and training for the next days and weeks, derailing their confidence and ability to run well in subsequent workouts.
Similarly, in baseball, consistent singles and doubles are easier to come by than home runs — and they still drive in runs. The best hitters in baseball are the ones that take what pitchers give them. They drive singles to gaps in the defense and hit the occasional home run when everything comes together. More importantly for both the batter and the team, the singles and base hits add up. A team that is hitting consistently for average is putting up 5-6 runs per game whereas a team that relies on the home run has the occasional great game, but often has a losing record.
Likewise, the runner who approaches each workout even-keeled and who focuses on simply taking what they can from the workout that day will often string together weeks and months of consistent quality training. On the other spectrum, the runner who tries to hit a home run every workout is the one who is constantly injured, overtrained, and suffers from inconsistent performances.