A lot of the book as I read it and the way the author talks about running technique gets me a little nostalgic for the time I lived in the English Lake District and spent many a day out running the hills there. I’ve always been an advocate of endurance. I know it’s a little out of vogue right now, everyone’s on an interval sprint buzz, or going on at length about the benefits of prowler pushes and tabata’s over long slow cardio. And you know what, in a lot of ways the arguments are right, for general conditioning short, intense sessions are great. But training is a bigger picture than simply numbers on a log sheet.
There’s an X factor. One that has nothing to with a TV Karaoke competition.
This X factor is a mental attitude, it’s a mindset. And it’s often the very thing that’s missing in many peoples training and therefore, performance. It’s the ability to endure discomfort for extended periods of time. It’s about actually embracing this discomfort and relishing it. This quote from the book sums it up nicely:
“Strictly by accident, Scott stumbled upon the most advanced weapon in the ultrarunner’s arsenal: instead of cringing from fatigue, you embrace it. You refuse to let it go. You get to know it so well, you’re not afraid of it anymore. Lisa Smith-Batchen, the amazingly sunny and pixie-tailed runner from Idaho who trained through blizzards to win a 6 day race in the Sahara, talks about exhaustion as a playful pet. “I love the Beast,” she says. “I actually look forward to the Beast showing up, because every time he does, I handle him better. I get him more under control.” Once the Beast arrives, Lisa knows what she has to deal with and can get down to work. And isn’t that the reason she’s running through the desert in the first place – to put her training to work? To have a friendly tussle with the Beast and show it who’s boss? You can’t hate the Beast and expect to beat it; the only way to truly conquer something, as every great philosopher and geneticist will tell you, is to love it.”
Doing battle with the Beast is possibly the most game changing thing an athlete can do. Even if you don’t consider yourself an athlete, you should still face the Beast.
Dare you face him down?
The Beast is you. It’s your reflection. It’s everything about you that makes you want to stop, to quit, to go home, to hide, to be anything other than awesome.
I’ve often referred to the Beast as the demons in your head. Different name but same idea. Most people lose because the demons have already won before the event even starts. The demons win because their unfamiliar or they’re used to getting their own way all the time. Until you willing face up to them, until you turn on them and refuse to back down, just as you’d tell you child to handle the bully at school, until that point you’ll always be a victim to them.
There are many ways to bring the beast out, to summon the demons.
It doesn’t have to be long distance running. But it does have to be something that makes you want to stop. It must cause physical and psychological discomfort.
It could be several rounds of sparring against fresh opponents with no breaks or doing very high rep callisthenics or extended sets of a Kettlebell exercise. It could be running a certain aspect of your chosen sport over and over and over.
I’ve mentioned Tenacity a few times in the past. Usually after a training session with Mick Coup as he’s a huge proponent of it. Tenacity is the about wanting to stop, knowing you can stop but choosing not to.
That sums up what battling you demons is all about, deciding not to quit.
It’s about attitude.