Good morning! Christine and I got away to San Diego for a few days over the holiday weekend to visit some old friends so this week’s edition was prepared quite a bit earlier than usual. Let’s get right to it.
— What’s the future of endurance training? Alex Hutchinson speculates in his column for Outside based on this recent article in the International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance where an expert panel of 25 sports scientists attempt to predict why and how endurance athletes will continue to improve in the next 10-15 years. This sort of stuff is always fun to think about because we won’t know how it all shakes out for at least another decade but I’ll throw in my two cents: I think the authors are largely on the money in their predictions. Monitoring technology will continue to advance and purport to help athletes and coaches be even more precise in their approaches to training and competition. That said, I think we’ll get to a point—and may already be getting there—where we hit paralysis by analysis and largely shift the focus back to the handful of metrics that matter most. In running, and in order of importance, this is perceived effort (device needed: your brain), total time and time at different intensities (device needed: a basic watch), speed (device(s) needed: a basic watch and measured/marked route, or a reliable GPS watch), and heart rate (device(s) needed: your finger, a pulse, and a clock, and/or a HR monitor of some sort). Next, equipment technology will continue to evolve and could have a significant impact on not only performance, but also how (and how much) we train and think about recovery—look no further than the introduction of super shoes over the past 5-7 years. I think we’ll continue to understand how to better utilize footwear in these regards and I’m sure other advancements will come along too. Lastly, I think and hope coaches and athletes will place a greater emphasis on treating athletes as a whole person, not only at the top levels of sport but also down into the competitive amateur ranks where many of us can become too singularly focused and tie up a lot of our self-worth in performance. It’s long been said that a fast runner is a happy runner and I think emphasizing and embracing a more holistic approach to life will improve performance for athletes at all levels of endurance sport.
— In last week’s issue I linked to an old post from Paul Graham about maker’s schedules and manager’s schedules that was quite popular so today I’m going to share this recent essay he wrote about how to do great work that I think many of you will enjoy, find interesting, and/or learn something from that you can apply to your own situation. “The factors in doing great work are factors in the literal, mathematical sense, and they are: ability, interest, effort, and luck,” he writes. “Luck by definition you can't do anything about, so we can ignore that. And we can assume effort, if you do in fact want to do great work. So the problem boils down to ability and interest. Can you find a kind of work where your ability and interest will combine to yield an explosion of new ideas?”
— I often tell my athletes to “set it and forget it” in regard to the big and exciting end goals everyone likes to obsess over and focus instead on consistently checking off the less sexy process goals that will put them in the best possible position to achieve continued success. It’s all about committing to the long game. Along these lines, the writer James Clear outlines three reasons to focus on systems instead of goals that are worth digesting and putting into practice. “I’ve found that goals are good for planning your progress and systems are good for actually making progress,” he writes. “Goals can provide direction and even push you forward in the short-term, but eventually a well-designed system will always win.”
— Last week I sat down and recorded a podcast with Don Swartz, my wife’s Masters swimming coach who is widely regarded as the forefather of modern-day swim training, and I’m excited to share it far and wide a few weeks from now. In preparing for that conversation I found an old blog that Don used to write and it’s a treasure trove of posts about coaching, swim training, building team culture, and more. I loved this one in particular on the twin pillars of progress, which I think is applicable far beyond the swimming pool: “Both consistency and incremental improvements are completely in your hands,” he writes. “One of the very best qualities about our sport is that you don’t need someone to throw you the ball to score. Does it help to have a knowledgeable coach, supportive parents and encouraging teammates? You bet it does. But you know what? There are thousands of swimmers with all three of those who have no plan. And what we have to say about that isn’t new, but it is still true: failure to plan is planning to fail. This is actually on you. So take it to heart and do it.”
— Believing in yourself is overrated. This is better, says the writer (and runner), Ryan Holiday. “As crazy as it sounds, you don’t need to believe in yourself,” he writes. “That’s not what’s holding you back. Whether you think you can do something is so much less important than whether you actually can or can’t do that thing. You need to assemble a case that proves you can. You need to do the work that stands as evidence for what you’re capable of. So you can walk by sight, not by faith.”
— Gregory Alan Isakov has a new album out that I’ve yet to listen to, but this low-key, live cover he did of Iron and Wine’s Trapeze Swinger last December is just beautiful. I’ll leave it at that and encourage you to watch/listen to it.
— A big thank you to my partners at New Balance for supporting the newsletter this month (and my work throughout 2023). I’ve been running in the new FuelCell SuperComp Trainer v2 for about five weeks and right now I feel comfortable calling it my favorite new running shoe of 2023. The overall fit is much more accommodating than its predecessor with a partially detached tongue and lighter, more versatile (and more breathable) upper. The new version feels a little lighter than the v1 without sacrificing cushioning and responsiveness underfoot. It will accommodate a wide variety of foot types, rides really smoothly, and has proven to be a great go-to option for long runs and easy runs alike. (I’ve even ripped some intervals in it but generally prefer a shoe that’s a little lower to the ground for most of my faster workouts.) It’s available now in men’s and women’s sizes at your favorite run specialty retail store or on newbalance.com.
Training Tip: Crack a smile!
It sounds almost too good to be true but cracking a smile when you’re working hard, tensing up, and/or feeling your thoughts start to spiral can help you relax, shift your perception of effort, and maybe even run more efficiently. (And yes, there's research to prove it.) So, next time you’re hurting during a race or tough workout, rather than gritting your teeth and tensing up every last muscle in your body to power on, try relaxing your jaw, flipping that frown upside down, and putting on your best poker face while working through the pain. Don’t think it will make a difference? Tell that to Eliud Kipchoge! “When you smile and you’re happy, you can trigger the mind to not feel your legs,” says the GOAT.
Workout of the Week: The 5-n-Go Tempo
There’s a lot of confusion around the tempo run but stripped down to its core, this workout simply boils down to maintaining a steady (i.e. comfortably hard) effort for a prolonged period of time. And while the definitions of steady and prolonged can vary depending on a variety of factors, for the sake of simplicity and ease of creating a common understanding, let’s call the “classic” tempo run 5 miles at half-marathon pace. This is a pretty standard workout you’ll see utilized by a wide range of athletes and coaches to build aerobic strength, improve efficiency, and/or practice running race pace. The 5-n-Go Tempo adds a slight twist to the classic tempo run by squeezing down the pace for a mile or two at the end. Here are the details.
The bottom line.
“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”
—Albert Einstein in a letter to his son, February 5, 1930
That's it for Issue 408. If you enjoyed it and would like to support my work, please forward this email to a few friends, spam your social circles with the web link, and/or encourage a few folks to subscribe right here.
Thanks for reading,
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