The hardest and most valuable lesson I learned in my running career was how to not give 100 percent all the time.
It’s an enduring cliche in the sports world to always give 100 percent. Actually, 100 percent is the bare minimum. You better be giving 110 percent all of the time.
The reality is that you’d be dead if you did that, physiologically speaking. Trying to give 100 percent all the time is one of the worst things you can do to your body.
It pays to be selectively lazy.
I learned this lesson the hard way after a successful high school cross country season. I felt like all I had to do to make it to the next level was work twice as hard during the off-season. It would be painful, but it was a price I was willing to pay for results.
It didn’t work out as planned.
I found myself getting more and more fatigued with every run, and I couldn’t figure out why. I got down on myself for being out of shape, and tried to work that much harder. The more miles I put in, the worse it got. It was a vicious cycle.
By the time the next season rolled around, I was mentally and physicall burned out. I felt sluggish all the time and couldn’t stay alert in class. I felt awful, and my practice performance and race times showed that.
Finally, in the middle of the season, my coach commanded me to take an entire week off. No practice, no race, not even gym class.
The next week my energy skyrocketed, my times rebounded and my self-confidence finally started to return. I didn’t gain it all back in a week, but I was well on my way again. Just because I learned to relax for awhile. It was an A-HA! moment.
This lesson could be applied to training and life. Just as you physically can’t sprint a marathon, you can’t give 100 percent all the time.
I’m not saying you should never give 100 percent. You just can’t realistically expect yourself to perform at that level all the time. Sorry, motivational speakers.
Your body was made to do two things: conserve and expend energy. Problems start arising when you spend too long doing one thing to the exclusion of the other. In simple terms: You need to get off your ass, and you need downtime.
I hope it’s rather obvious by now how beer running fits in. It’s important to be lazy after a killer workout. And there are few training tools more effective than beer when it comes to relaxation.