"Be Water, My Friend."

The main coaching points I’ve been giving my athletes this summer have been reminding all of them to continually adapt and adjust to the weather conditions.  Rather than fighting against Mother Nature’s undefeated streak, adapt and adjust to what the conditions allow you to do that day.  This requires much self-awareness in terms of being in-tune with your body (in the moment), as well as the phrase we’ve been using recently, “managing expectations,” which sometimes means, “managing your personality." 

The more weeks, months, and years you train, the quicker you should be able to identify the conditions around you and know how to adjust accordingly.  Bruce Lee left an enduring message that is very much akin to this idea of adaptation to your immediate environment (see short video link below).  Water works with the shape and contours its given and always finds its natural balance, and so must you work with the heat, humidity, wind, hills, etc., and find the appropriate balance for that day’s workout.  I’m aware of how overly commonsensical this Tip sounds, so (collectively) let’s prove it! 

Rise up to the level of Master during your workouts so that you can report success, optimism, and confidence in your recaps, rather than letting summer weather conditions kick you around.  Kick back Bruce Lee style by adapting and finding a natural balance on that day.  Just as the drop in temperatures did this past weekend, the fall weather will reveal your fitness, so keep your mental fortitude.  Overall, the athletes I train are doing well as a group in this regard, so I want them to view this as healthy reinforcement, not as negative feedback.  We’re on the same team.

A final note on this topic would be to also see the occasional OPEN days in your program as a “let the water find its own natural balance day.”  What this means is that your OPEN days allow you to do whatever you need to do to reset/balance your mind or training for that day or week.  It’s a catch-up, get-ahead, or OFF day.  Listen to your inner Lee and use sound judgment.

Spoken by the legend Himself, “Be water, my friend.”



The Sound of Two Hands Clapping

Does anyone else ever finish a run with a handclap or mini fist pump in the air?  I do that quite often and it puts a fabulous exclamation point on any run, and makes the lasting impression of the run as one of confidence.  Cognitive psychology can teach us many tactics and tricks about how to put a positive touch on any situation, so the handclap is an example you can try, and it might be especially meaningful in the face of summer heat/humidity that could otherwise sabotage your feelings of progress.  More importantly, what makes the handclap work is that I believe it to be true. 

As I shared in the final chapter of my book on run training, virtually every run I’ve ever done has had a positive element to it, and that’s far from lying to myself.  It’s the truth.  I don’t have negative experiences when I run.  When you finish a run in 90-degree temps with high humidity and every square inch of you is drenched in sweat, you better believe a run like that gets a “WOOHOO!” <CLAP> at the end of it.  SUCCESS!

Moreover, make sure you are proactively adjusting your workouts to account for the summer weatherProactively adjusting means “sit down before you fall down” and prevents negative self-talk from entering the picture and then having to pick yourself up mentally post-workout.  Some runners don’t adjust by their own volition; rather, they run slower and slower as the workout goes on because their body is slowly shutting down.  One of my favorite coaching expressions is: "Foresight is a more powerful tool than hindsight."

With more heat and humidity coming our way, be sure you are still fine-tuning your mental skills to stay optimistic and confident.  Here is what one of my runners wrote to me regarding his recent weekend long run: "Long run went great.  Went out with the [running store] weekend group and did the first half with a few folks, second half on my own with headphones.  You would have been very proud of my pacing decisions if you saw me and others at the end of the run.  Despite the heat, I finished with a big smile on my face, only to meet up with a bunch of others in the parking lot complaining about how their runs were terrible.  I found myself repeating your advice, that it's all about perceived exertion and managed expectations in the heat!

Anyone can fool him/herself at the beginning of a workout in hot/humid conditions, but the cumulative effects don’t take very long to reveal themselves and spike your heart rate too high, too soon.  Remember that summer running is about perceived exertion/ intensity, and not pace.  For instance, the average runner doing a tempo workout on the track might have to adjust the pace by as much as 30-40 seconds per mile!  If you’re a data-driven runner, then that workout has the ability to “suck” in your mind because the numbers are your focal point.  We don’t want that.  We want a superb feeling of accomplishment when we’re done.  Perhaps solidified by a handclap as you cross the finish line on that final rep (or arriving back at your front doorstep).

Yes, I know, it feels weird for your legs to move at a pace much slower than you’re used to, but “train smarter, not harder” is one of our mantras.  Remind yourself that you hit other process goals that day, and again, you’ll be likely to honestly believe the positivity that you throw at yourself.

Run Happy!