I once trained with an athlete who was transitioning from being a swimmer to a triathlete.  One day, she said in a frustrated, impatient voice that she just wanted to be as fast as me.  I looked at her and said that is she sticks with it for the next 20 years, she would be.  That wasn’t what she wanted to hear. 

She wanted to be fast now. 

I realistically started the path to the athlete that I am now over 40 years ago. In that time, there were very few blocks of time where I wasn’t active with running, biking or swimming.  There were certainly big blocks of time where I wasn’t doing a lot of those activities, but I was doing them here and there.  I came across my training log from when I was in my early 20s and I had been doing triathlons for a few years at that point.  I was embarrassed how much free time I had and how little I trained in total volume, but I did something most days of the week.  A 500 yard swim here and a 3 mile run there and a 10 mile bike the day after.  It wasn’t a lot, but it was consistent.

The other thing that I have noticed about much of my training over the years is how many workouts are very relaxed in intensity.  Sometimes I would have a target intensity in mind and run or bike specifically to that, but many times I would fall into someone else pace.  I would ride slowly to be with my girlfriend in college or run slowly with the middle school cross country team I was coaching.  Of course there were plenty of days over the years where I would be able to get out with people faster than me and go hard, but those faster kinds of days were far fewer that the slower days.  But, I would give myself permission to not worry about the intensity and just get out the door and do something most days. 

Being active most days will yield the best results over time.

There are many studies and countless coaches in both the endurance and strength training worlds that tout the benefits of consistent work over time to be the path true, authentic development.  The challenge is that it is hard to not see and feel the super quick growth through lots of high intensity challenging workouts. I have seen it play out time and time again.  People get into a sport and their bodies initially respond to any kind of training that they do and that training is usually the “no pain-no gain” version.  With that initial succuss, they will keep at the approach of leaving it all out until either their bodies break down or their enthusiasm diminishes as they become fatigued.  Or both.  Once that happens, they fall off the proverbial wagon and start all over sometime in the future. 

That cycle is broken when an athlete takes the long range approach to building fitness and performance and develop what I call authentic fitness.  When you have developed your fitness over time, not any one workout makes you the athlete that you are, but it is the holistic body of work that has been done over months and years that shapes you.  You have a type of fitness that doesn’t disappear over weeks or even months of very little training.  You move into a space where you don’t build fitness.  You just are fit.  At that point, through focused campaigns, you build performance on top of your ever continuing state of being fit. 

How do you create a space to develop authentic fitness?  I break it down into four simple steps.

  1. Don’t do anything in one workout that prevents you from doing the next workout.
  2. Being active isn’t something that you do, it becomes who you are.  If around the office, your sport of choice becomes your last name, Joe the Triathlete, you are on your way.
  3. Give yourself grace to get out the door and do something, even if it wasn’t what you initially planned.
  4. Finally, also give yourself grace to NOT get out the door and let your body recover if that is what you need. Rest and recovery is where the body builds back up.  No one fixes the damage of the hurricane in the middle of the storm, but they do after it is finished.

You can’t rush fitness. 

It just takes time and when you truly accept this mindset, there is a peacefulness that seems to come.  The panic of missing a workout or reshuffling of training sessions floats away like the fog in the morning sun. You have to pear through the mist for a moment and then it is gone revealing a bright sunny day. 

See you out on the road.