Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Training Equation

Our bodies are pretty good at doing what we train them to do. A friend of mine needed to work the night shift for several months a while back and his body clock adjusted to his new "day". When he went back to days, his clock shifted back. Generally, I find that even without an alarm clock I wake up within five minutes of the same time every morning. If I need to make that time much earlier, then I need to set an alarm, but otherwise--just like clockwork. I am finding that if I go out for a run and do not watch my pace, I will run about 9:15 miles--no matter the distance. It is what I have trained my body to do.

Last Saturday I ran the Riverfest 5k here in town and finished with a personal best time that equated to an 8:24 per mile pace. In an absolute sense that is not very fast, but it is almost one minute per mile faster than what I am accustomed to. I have a strong interest in running faster than 9:15 miles on a regular basis, so I am adjusting my training.

Following the theory that my body will do what I train it to do, I am adding speed workouts to the mix, and last night was the first. Last night was 800m warmup, then four sets of 800m at an 8:00 per mile pace with a 400m recovery , followed by an 800m cool down. This is faster than I have run in decades for any kind of distance and this morning my body let me know that I had been asking it to do something unfamiliar. The plan is to do one of these speed workouts every week and then to see what that does for my "regular" pace. If the theory holds true in practice, then my intentional speed workouts should make my ordinary, unintentional pace a bit quicker.

For some reason, I think that the whole notion that we do what we train to do is not limited to physical activities. If I train my self to be patient in the face of friends who are always late for things, then I will become more naturally patient. If I train myself to be generous with my financial resources, then it will be easier to give generously when business turns around and there is some financial margin again. If I train myself to pray whenever I see an ambulance, that action will become a part of who I am. If I train myself to take time to read and meditate on the Bible, then it will feel awkward not to do so.

Yet training is not a one time event--and there is the sticking point. Training is concerted effort over time, exerted on a particular task, toward a desired outcome. Training is saying yes to one thing that may feel unnatural or unpleasant in the moment, in order to get a result in the future that is beneficial. Training will generally not be easy, but I believe that it is worth the effort.

Pressing on!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Expectations Matter

Much is being said (and felt) about these current uncertain times. I certainly feel it along with the rest of you. I am finding that in conversations I am often hearing about jobs being lost, hours being cut, pay being reduced; but rarely am I hearing about someone landing that plum new job--or any new job for that matter. On the downside, the news can seem rather grim. On the other hand, I have been hearing a lot of comparisons to the job market in 1982.

Maybe I wasn't paying attention, but I do not recall the job market being a huge, depressing issue back in 1982. (Those of you who were in the marketplace then may recall things differently. But I was just graduating from college and do not remember a widespread angst among my peers.) How much of what we are feeling as a country is being driven by what we have come to expect? Does the current economic situation feel so crisis-like because we started to expect that the trend line would always be up and to the right? Might we feel somewhat different if we expected that life will be difficult?

I think that it would make a difference. It might not change the underlying realities of job losses, declining compensation, and reduction in home and portfolio values, but it may change the way we think about these things. I find that if I expect something to be difficult--and it turns out that it is--I am not devastated by that reality. It is simply what I expected. It is when I expect something to be easy and it turns out to be difficult that causes the turmoil.

Some people have asked at various times whether I think that I will try another marathon. They learn that I ran one and are perhaps curious how that experience will influence my decision to try another. It really cuts both ways. Having completed one, I am confident that I could complete another. Knowing the reality of what it took to complete the one makes the decision to complete another more costly. Actually the cost will be the same--I just know what the cost is.

I believe that part of what is so daunting about our current economic situation is that we do not yet know how deep the hole/how high the mountain (insert your favorite metaphor) will be. If we simply knew what to expect, then that would make it easier to persevere through the tough times. But of course, if we knew what was coming next, would that leave room for faith?

Pressing On!