Who wants to be able to keep up with the elite runners?

Of course you do, but there is a significant difference between them and the rest of us. Yes, they train harder than the rest of us, they may be more genetically gifted than the rest of us and they have most likely been doing it longer than many of us. But one thing I can guarantee that they have over most of us, is balance.

Balance you ask? What, they can stand on one leg longer than the rest of us?

No not that kind of balance. I’m talking about life balance and inner balance. They balance their life, their training and their health better than the average person. Because if you try and train like an elite athlete without balance, you may do well for a while, but all will eventually come crumbling down if you’re not careful.

If you take someone who has looked after their health for many years, their hormones are all in optimal balance, their nutritional intake is all spot on, they handle stress well and sleep consistently every night, you will generally find that once they start training, they will improve really well and quite consistently. If you take someone on the opposite side of the equation, you will find that they struggle to recover, they get all sorts of niggles/injuries, they will suffer fatigue and not be able to get up for those early training runs. Quite simply, they are far more likely to burn out and not reach their goals.

I think we’ve all been there at one point or another. Getting up early for a run before work, dashing out the door to tackle the traffic to get to a work environment that’s full of stress only to come home not in the mood to cook so you just eat some take away and stay up late because there’s a great movie on tv. Then expect you are able to do the same thing tomorrow! It can only last so long before you crash.

We all have choices in our life to make. From the choice to run or rest/recover, to the choice of having McDonalds and a jumbo coke or a healthy meal and a glass of water for lunch. Some choices have no long-term impact on your life, with some, the impact is instant. The foods you choose to eat may not cause diabetes or heart disease today, but they may severely impact the next training run and your recovery rate.

So each time you have a choice, ask the question –

Will this choice hinder me as an athlete or will it help me?

The thing to remember going forward with this is to monitor your stress levels and adjust things to suit. If you’ve had a hard few days at work and your stress levels are definitely up, then plan to have your training accordingly. More easy runs than high intensity, make sure your meals are on the healthier side and make sure you get enough sleep. This way, the high stress side of your life doesn’t compound with other areas of stress.

In saying that though, with balance, there is the 90% rule. Physical health is great to have but if it’s at the price of psychological health because you are far too committed to the goal, it may not be the best idea. It basically means that sometimes, you just have to eat the cake just so you’re not the grumpy person in the corner at a party who refuses to eat it while secretly upset that you’re missing out!

I know. Been there, done that.

Run Well

Chris O’Driscoll

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