Why Train if You Don't Get a Finisher Medal?

"From enjoyment comes the will to win"

-Arthur Lydiard


Arthur Lydiard is one of the greatest running coaches of all time. He coached multiple Olympic Medalist runners, and he ushered in the age of the "recreational runner" that has led to the marathon boom and subsequent triathlon and Ironman booms. Lydiard is also known for training his runners to have an extraordinarily deep aerobic base, often sending them on 3-hour run/walk/hikes over the mountains.

As athletes, it's easy to get caught up in the weeds of doing the "right" kind of training. Certainly, there are better ways to train than others. But the most important thing is to be actually training! A lot of athletes are feeling somewhat lost during this time, since we have been forced to go a long time without racing. I think it's an excellent chance to really challenge the way we think about training and racing. So often we get caught up in a cycle: sign up for a race, train for 4 months, do the race, take 2-3 months off, pick another race. But what if there is no race?


No racing doesn't have to mean no training. It doesn't have to mean that you aren't improving. In fact, it could be that this year is the year you make a lot of progress in your fitness and your strength, establishing a solid foundation that will set you up for big success in future years.


I've seen the future payoffs with runners and cyclists I coach. The large block of training they do to prepare for a race helps them in that race, but often, I see that the large training block helps even MORE the following years. Sometimes it takes a while to reap the benefits of the work you do. A 4-month training block before a big marathon or Ironman is actually an incredibly small amount of time in the world of endurance sports. The success of one event isn't built on just that 4-month block, it's built on the YEARS of consistent training that was done before that.

I saw a tweet from Alan Couzens last week, an exercise physiologist. He was referencing the great Alexander Popov, an Olympic Gold Medalist swimmer, and something he learned from Popov's coach. It's the "rule of 7'"

  • 7 years preparing for...

  • 7 years of serious training for...

  • 7 years of top performance

His takeaway? "If you're going to be doing something day in, day out, for 20+ years, you're going to need to LOVE the process!"


And that's the key. You've got to love it. Love training and seeking performance for their own sake, not just because you get a finisher medal at the end. Because what if there aren't finisher medals anymore?


This brings us back to Lydiard. Fall in love with the process of training. Set micro-goals for yourself that have nothing to do with crossing a finish line. Explore your own limits, find a crazy adventure to do, push your pain threshold in a way you never thought possible. Become a better and more well-rounded ATHLETE. Being an athlete encompasses the full range of strength, speed, power, flexibility, and skill. It doesn't mean you have to train 15+ hours a week. Recovery is important. Utilizing structure and periodization is still important. But use this season to work on improving while you don't have a deadline in sight. If you fall in love with that process of improvement, you will race faster... one day.


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