I have a twelve-year-old friend, David, who just joined his school’s track team. Last week, he was talking about practice and his decision to do long distance. His mother had prepared him for the fact that, at least to start with, he’d probably be the slowest person on the team. Most of the other kids his age were on the team last year, so they’ve got some training behind them already, whereas David is starting from scratch.
We talked a little bit about running, and I mentioned that I’ve got a 5K coming up at the end of April. He said that maybe someday, he and I could run a 5K together. Then he suggested that I could coach him.
Now, I’ve never been a coach. (Well, I coached the Spell-Bowl team when I was teaching high school, but that doesn’t really translate, I think.) In fact, I’ve never been on a running team. I don’t know what it means to be coached in running.
So I said, “There are three rules. Breathe, focus, and suck it up.”
And when I thought about it later, I thought maybe that wasn’t such bad advice.
Breathe. Being aware of your breathing while you’re running can help you keep from overtiring. It’s good to get into a breathing rhythm to make sure you have an adequate amount of oxygen. And obviously, not breathing at all would be a severe detriment to running. When the whole thing gets overwhelming and you’re exhausted or sore, going back to your breathing can be a good way to get yourself back in the game.
Focus. When you’re training, it’s important not to let yourself get distracted. Distractions can range from the crazy-falling-down house you just passed to the fight you had with your mom to the big project you’ve got due at the end of the week. If you’re just running for fun, it’s okay to let these things meander through your mind while you’re pounding the pavement. But when you’re training for something specific, you need to focus on the task, on how your body feels, what your form is like, and how you are meeting your goals.
Suck it up. Running can be uncomfortable. Your muscles burn and you get tired. It might be cold outside. Or hot outside. Or raining. Also, people might make fun of you (more likely in middle school than as an adult, but it’s always possible.) And it takes time — time when you might rather read a book or take a nap or hang out with friends or lie on the couch eating Doritos or do anything but run. Well, you just need to suck it up. Remember why you made your goal and just deal with the stuff that isn’t fun. It will all be worth it when you reach the goal.
And as I was thinking and being really philisophical (though all my philosophy might have been based in the fact that I was hungry), I thought, “You know, these three rules kind of a apply to life, too.” And I started thinking about all the ways that my three-point coaching plan applied to getting out of debt or looking for a new job or starting a new business or learning a new skill.
In each case, you’ve got to Breathe. Focus. Suck it up.
I might have that put on a tee-shirt.
What are your rules for running? Or for life?