Building a House: A Philosophy on Training for Endurance Events
By: Gerard Martinez and Lisa Smith-Batchen
Training is like building a house. You start with a solid foundation, and you grow from there, one brick at a time. The foundation of the house is your heart and spirit, and each brick is a layer of both mental and physical fortitude – the physical manifestations of your deep desire to succeed. Once the walls are of your house are built, you can withstand the rough winds that will inevitably come your way.
A lot of people focus on just the physical aspects of training. Certainly, that is an important component of any program. But, most people aren’t aware of the spiritual and emotional aspects of their workout regimen. The joyful act of physical movement does something for the soul. It nourishes our hearts and minds in an indefinable way. So, even though many runners don’t focus on this aspect of training, I would venture to say that almost every runner has felt the effects of a spiritually fulfilling workout. Just ask any novice or master how they felt during their best run, and they will inevitably describe the same fundamental experience: a euphoric high, a feeling of being at one with nature, and of being grounded and completely present in the moment. Time seems to melt away. All awareness of the troubles of the day seem to fade. Some people call this the runner’s high, a wholly personal and transformative experience. Medical science describes this event as an influx of endorphins that comes about through exercise. Call it what you may, it is what keeps us going and committed to this amazing sport.
The foundation of any training program is rooted in this elation. You have to enjoy running. Why do it otherwise? You have to crave it and relish it. It should be fun and exciting! Of course, not every moment is a joy. Running presents tough challenges. Sometimes it is downright miserable. But, to get through the pain of the moment, you have to keep the larger picture in mind. That is, you have to know in your heart why it is you are running in the first place. Only if you are coming from a place of love and joy can you find the inner courage to clear through the thicket and emerge on the other side renewed.
Every rough patch – every tough training session – is another brick in the house, and what we are doing now is building walls. Ideally, we should have a structure, or a blueprint, in mind before we begin building the house. If we are training for a specific event and we know what kinds of rough weather might come our way during this event, then our plan should reflect this. Each workout is an added layer of strength. We work on our weaknesses and we capitalize on our strengths. It should be a very thorough and disciplined process – as structured as possible without sacrificing the joy and spontaneity of the sport. It is far better to train smart than to train hard.
Within this blueprint for the walls and roof of our house is nutrition. Physical conditioning is only a fraction of the plan. We need to eat well. Now, this can mean many different things to different people. Some people swear by a vegetarian diet. Some people embrace a Paleo diet. There are many different philosophies and approaches when it comes to sports nutrition, and it is not in my place to tell you how you should eat. The best advice I can give you is to develop a relationship with food that is rooted in a place of love. As trite as that may sound, it is actually quite practical advice. Try this: the next time you are about to eat, ask yourself if you are eating because it is something that is good for you and your body and mind. Are you eating something that will nourish you? Are you treating your body with the dignity and grace that it deserves? It all comes back to having a solid foundation to your house. It all comes back to love.
Health and fitness are two different things. It is possible to be fit without being healthy. This is important to remember in constructing the final features of our house. I would encourage everyone to strive for optimal health and to always keep that in focus throughout any training regimen. It’s not all about the physical. You have to your keep emotional and spiritual health at the center of your regime. So often, people get so obsessed with a certain aspect of training, that they neglect other aspects of their lives that are equally important: family and friends. This is why the final parts of our house are doorways and windows – the openings that allow room for others. Any good training regimen will take into account time for rest and recreation. Running should feed your soul for everyday life. You should be a better person at home, at work, and with friends because of your running. You should be a happier and healthier person.
What is so incredible about the sport of running is that it is not only analogous to life itself, but it can actually directly impact our lives in profound and powerful ways. Running is like building a house, and through our training, we become sturdy, strong, indestructible.
To learn more about Lisa’s run, visit www.runthenation.org.