James Stewart

Be perspective


It is really easy to be dragged down when it comes to your running due to one bastard, evil, ne’er do well. That most heinous of characters. A thing so pervasive and so widespread that its existence cannot be wiped out, so our relationship with it must be managed.

Yeah. You got it. Bloody NUMBERS!

Anyone who knows me will be well aware that I am very close to my training numbers on a day to day basis. I am anything but a slave to them though. I love a graph but I love perspective ten times more!

The view on a performance can often come down to the number delivered at the end. And as an athlete if you don’t own the story between your effort and your number then you can be left with a gnawing sense of inadequacy if the number is not what you want or expect.

Here is what I mean.

You do the same session as last month but on this occasion you are slower. Markedly so. Does that mean you are going backwards? If only the numbers are used as evidence then the answer is obviously yes. It’s there in black and white. Case closed your honour.

The only person who knows what happened in and around those sessions is you. So, you own the perspective. Was the second session on undulating trails, into the wind and the day after a long run? If so, or even just any one of these three, then it could be argued to be a better relative performance.

Was the first session after a rest, in company or downhill? Or all three? Then it is that which is the outlier. Don’t get carried away.

I written before that progress isn’t linear. It tends to have a series of peaks and troughs. When you are in good consistent training the gap, what is often called the jaws of performance, is pretty narrow.

When you have been inconsistent, recovering from injury or have a other factors at play and are perhaps embarking on a sharp growth in fitness, the extremes can appear miles apart. Himalayan peaks and Mariana Trench troughs. A good Tuesday followed by a horrible Wednesday are pretty common at this stage.

Not reacting too emotionally to either can go a long way to maintaining equilibrium and retaining optimism. Perspective is super important. And you own it.

After every run I jot down a few words in my training log (via Training Peaks) and often it is just how I felt and I try to accentuate the positive as that is what I will take in my next run, and when I look back. You should try it too.

Here’s a good example. In March I had some calf and hamstring issues so was having to dial back the intensity, but I was managing to keep some volume up. Here’s a diary session for the intervals I ran during this dialling back period: “Calf test passed. Didn’t hammer it. Still a 19 min 5k and a sub 40 min 10k suggests a good pace in the intervals. I am still a bit wary on hills so may swap out Thursday for a flat interval type session. But happy nonetheless.

Without context that was the slowest I had ever done that session. It was way off the pace my cardiovascular fitness should have delivered. But in the end, it was the right end of effort versus risk to get the best available to me from my body on that day. And instead of being unhappy at the numbers, I was delighted at the feeling.

I would encourage, nay, implore you to love and get close to your numbers. It’s knowing that truly helps, but it’s owning them and knowing why they are what they are that makes all the difference.

Oh, and is it just me who sings the classic Faith No More chant when I see that headline!

I hope that you find this useful. I’d love to hear from you if you have been able to change your perspective and run better as a result. I can be reached at jamesstewart13@aol.com or via social on Twitter @james_stewart13 or on Insta @jamesstewart13

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