A coach I follow and greatly respect says there’s a big difference between a coach with 20 years of experience and a coach with 1 year of experience repeated 20 times.

I believe this also applies to runners.

But what does it mean and why does it matter?

Do you know a runner who does the same thing every year? Same workouts, same volume, maybe even the same races? Is that runner really learning how to become a better runner? Is that runner really getting better year after year?

More likely, that runner is simply repeating similar races with similar performances every year. The runner isn’t learning about what works and what doesn’t. The runner isn’t exploring and discovering how to become a better, faster, healthier, more resilient runner.

When you explore and look for better ways, it can be scary. How do you know it’s going to work?

You don’t. There’s a chance you will try something that won’t work as well as what you’ve been doing. But then you learned something. You can ask yourself why it didn’t work. Was it that the method just doesn’t work for you? Maybe you didn’t execute it quite as planned? Maybe you need more time to make it work? Once you think about these things, you can decide to discard that idea or alter it to make it more likely to work next time.

On the other hand, if it does work, great! Now, what do you do? You think about why it worked. You think about how you might be able to make it work even better. Then you look for the next way to improve.

I’m not suggesting that you add a new thing every time you read a new post on your favorite running blog. You need to train with consistency. However, on a regular basis, review your training and the results. Think about what you were missing at your most important race or how your goals are changing for your next big goal race. Then think about how you can do even better than you did last time. Review your history, think about what others you know are doing, maybe review some of the history of the blog that had some interesting training ideas. Then pick one or two things to add.

At the same time, we can’t just add. Think about what you did that didn’t produce the results you were hoping for. Maybe something you’ve been doing for years that you once needed but you no longer need or something you tried that didn’t produce the results you were hoping for. Remove that to make room for the new ideas and concepts.

If you find something that works, it’s tempting to just keep repeating that and never explore beyond that method that works.

If you want to keep improving, though, you can’t keep doing the same thing. You need to be in constant search for a better way.

Photo credit:Training by ellewyc, on Flickr

8 Replies to “Evolve”

    1. Thanks Chris. It’s a common issue. If you look around, you’ll see it everywhere. If a person is happy with that, great, but most people are trying to get better by continually doing the same thing.

  1. You fit the bill of one year repeated twenty times. Same races every year. Same goal every year. Run longer races. Test yourself. EXPERIMENT!!

    1. It’s possible to have very different years while still racing the same or similar distances every year. The race distances I choose fit my life and my current interests. I’ll race other distances when my life and/or interests change the equation. I will never race different distances just to say I did, I will always go where my motivation takes me.

      Meanwhile, I’m always changing what I do and looking for a better way. Every year, the training looks different as I look for improvements.

  2. Not sure I buy that. Your times seem to stay about the same and now drifting slower as you age. Changing it up would possibly help it improve or if not the right change you might slow due to it. Nothing wrong with what you are doing. Nothing wrong with doing the same routine.

    1. Race results aren’t the only things that determine whether one year is different from the others. You obviously don’t see the ways my training evolves every year. That’s what I’m talking about in the blog post.

      My race times are drifting slower. I’m also now in my 40s and have been running competitively for 28 years. I also have a 10 year old daughter who will never take a back seat to my running so I’m not running 100 mile weeks and two a days like I used to. I don’t know many people in their 40s who have been running competitively for nearly 3/4 of their lives and have reduced their training load who are still getting faster. That’s a fact of life that I’ve accepted. My days of PRs are over and now I’m just working to minimize the slowing. That doesn’t mean, though, that I’m not constantly evaluating my training and looking for ideas to try to make more of the time and energy I do have available.

      If you really do want to see me run different race distances, why longer? Two years ago, I ran a race shorter than 5K for the first time in over 15 years. Does that not count? Personally, to an extent, I’d rather continue to go shorter than go longer. It fits my life at this point in time better.

      However, again, evolving isn’t just about race distance. Bob Kennedy focused on the 5K most of his competitive running life but his running evolved constantly.

  3. I will no longer post here. I see what I see and please do not compare yourself to Bob Kennedy. Did not mean to offend. Leave it at that.

    1. If you think I was attempting to compare myself to Kennedy, you’re sorely mistaken. I was just offering a well known example of what I’m trying to explain.

      You’re more than welcome to continue commenting here but, if you use a combative tone with me, don’t be surprised if I respond in kind.

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