THE SMALL DIFFERENCE THAT CAN MAKE ALL THE DIFFERENCE
One of my personal favorite success stories within my coaching career came a few years ago. A local marathon runner had hired me to help him Boston Qualify at an upcoming race. Now this wasn’t his first rodeo. He was a seasoned athlete having 17 years of running under his belt. He had completed over 20 marathons and had come so close to Boston Qualifying but had never quite been able to hit the mark. While having so many years of experience with training for these races, he had always either followed an online training plan or just done whatever he could fit in between being a father and working a full time job. Hiring me as a coach was a big step for him and something I didn’t take lightly. To be honest, I was a little nervous. This was within my early years of coaching and he had twice as many years of “experience” with running than I did. Understanding the sacrifice of time, physical demand, and now monetary investment that he was putting into this goal, I became fully immersed in ensuring that every detail of his plan was meticulously crafted, analyzed then adapted as he progressed closer to this race.
One of the first things I had picked up on when doing a review of his previous training up to this point was a lack of really dialed in effort sessions or paces. He had told me that he had done some “speedwork” in the past but when looking into what that looked like, I could tell that there was no structure, no specific pace he stuck to or even a progressive nature to what he was doing. Essentially he would go out and run loops around a park a little faster than what he would run his long weekend runs at.
This really isn’t uncommon. A lot of us lace up our shoes and head out the door for a run without a lot of thought about how this one should differ than the one before or the one tomorrow. If the goal is to get faster, go further or become stronger then the goal needs to be to train our bodies to adapt. Adaptation is the whole purpose of exercise training. Specific stresses create unique adaptations and every body, every athlete is going to respond to those stresses differently. Obviously the stresses that this athlete had been putting on his body had stopped yielding results and his assessment was that he needed to keep adding more and more weekly miles so that he could get faster. When I told him that we were going to start by cutting down on his weekly mileage but start dialing in what paces he should be running those miles at, he was really skeptical. It seemed counterintuitive that he would get faster by running less. But nonetheless he placed his faith in the process and my coaching.
In just 3 short months, he crossed the finish line of his 24th marathon with a Boston Qualifying time and a PR (personal record). This was a testament to the process of getting specific with what he needed in his training. Getting the text of his success after the race was very emotional for me as I knew how much trust it took for him to hire a coach and make a change. This goal meant a lot for him as it was years of striving for. This is why I love what I do and why personalized programming can be the small difference that makes all the difference in your training.