Jul 9, 2008

Hard Work, without Discipline, spells Disaster!

The other morning I was running on the beautiful Cal State Long Beach 400 meter composite oval track. It was so early that I had the track completely to myself in the final pre-dawn minutes.

I had ridden my fixed gear bike to the track in the dark and after a solid warm up, I was feeling pretty good.

This morning was set aside for 6-minute repeats where the workout called for me to build up to heart rate zone 3, but not slip into zone 4; that requires careful monitoring and pacing to be pulled off correctly.

But as I’m doing my first repeat, I am feeling so good and fresh (legs felt very light, strong and springy) that I made the decision on the fly to try and set a new record for a mile.

Granted, the workout called for 6-minute repeats and to build to HR zone 3, which in my case means to keep a 1 minute pace for every 200 meters (an 8 minute mile pace). I normally check my HR monitor every 200 meters to see that I am on pace and the HR is within range.

But not today.

After the first lap, I just decided to go for it and not look at the monitor, just max out at a full-on sprint and instead of running the typical 3 laps, go for the full mile at full tilt.


As I was running in the pre-dawn I am thinking of Peter Reid’s comment in that documentary on his triathlon training. He was so proud of riding his bike in the snow because he knew that “nobody else was working this hard, so I am gaining fitness over them!”

Sometimes we mistake hard work for effectiveness. Especially Triathletes.

Working hard without Discipline, is a recipe for disaster. Just pushing harder and harder, without the discipline of rest, diet, stretching, hydration, fueling/nutrition and staying within our abilities or our prescribed HR zones can lead to huge problems, including serious injuries, bonking on rides, a plateau in our improvements or even a trip to the hospital in the case of serious hydration deficiencies.

We must have the discipline to stay within our abilities and the discipline to tell ourselves “NO” especially when coming up with some hair-brained idea in the middle of the workout.

Examples? Sure, I have plenty!!

-Trying to set a new mile record on the track without being warmed up, pulling a calf muscle and having to end the entire next three days of workouts;

-Not picking up a water bottle or nutrition if it drops on the road and either bonking or suffering from dehydration;

-Deciding that it might be interesting to ride the 112 miles from Long Beach to Santa Barbara (on a whim) without the proper cycling base and in the middle of a horrible winter windstorm. Not turning around when it really got cold and extremely windy because that would be “admitting defeat.”

-While on a recovery day, getting into a heated race with a cyclist who passed me on Pacific Coast Highway and chasing him down to Laguna Canyon, only to find myself totally spent and barely able to make the return ride home;

-Trying to set a new record during my weight lifting session and pulling so hard, so quickly, that I threw out my back and had to be helped off of the machine by others in the gym!

-Trying to ride to the top of a mountain just to be able to point and say I conquered that peak, even when I was unprepared and woefully under-trained for the extreme grade;

-Thinking that it would really be great bragging rights to say that I ran from Carpinteria to Ventura (16 miles) when my longest run prior to that was only about 6 miles. (This idiotic move cost dearly: I lost 4 toenails and developed plantar fasciitis; setting me back at least a month!).

I could go on and on.

Point is that we need to be disciplined about our training; hard work alone, is not the answer

We must be disciplined to say “NO” to the fun and exciting diversions or “tests” if they are not part of our overall training plan and strategy. Sometimes, that is really hard to do because you will have a lot of extra energy and feel totally capable to do more, to ride further, to lift more weights, to run faster, etc. But any of these could lead to the unanticipated injury which could really set your training back by days or even weeks or months.

We all work hard. But champions, I believe, have that extra bit of discipline to hold back despite the strong desire to push even harder. Champions understand that training is a process, not a single event.

Champions are patient, disciplined and they work hard when that’s what their workout calls for. It’s my belief that you really need all three.
Hard work without the discipline to hold back can only lead to disappointment, and ultimately, injury.