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How Running Is Like Baseball

Learn how to incorporate America's pastime into your running life.

Learn how to incorporate America’s pastime into your running life.

One way to help beginner runners and stubborn veterans grasp important training theories is to use analogies or relate running to other sports they better understand or played as kids.

An aspect of training that many runners find difficult to comprehend is how the training plan fits together as a puzzle and how each workout slowly progresses you towards an ultimate goal. Most runners approach a workout as an isolated session and don’t realize, or often forget, that it’s also influenced by previous runs and impacts upcoming runs.

This training concept runs counter to what we’re taught in most other sports, where giving 100 percent effort in every training session is idolized. As such, to help you better understand how the pieces of a training plan come together and why trying to crush every workout isn’t ideal, I am going to relate running with baseball — a game where consistency and patience are also critical to success.

Don’t Try To Hit A Home Run With Every Workout

It’s ingrained in our DNA to always want to hit a home run with every workout. Ideally, we want tempo runs to feel effortless and speed sessions to make us feel like Usain Bolt. We’re not satisfied unless we crush every workout.

Likewise, a home run in baseball is the ESPN Sportscenter highlight every batter strives for. Each player takes to the batter’s box with the hopes of driving the ball over the fence with the fans cheering.

However, the batter who steps up to the plate with only a home run swing on his mind often finds himself sitting on the bench after whiffing at the third strike. Not only is striking out demoralizing, but it doesn’t give your team a good chance at driving in runs and building up the score.

In the same respect, if a runner approaches each workout with the idea that his run must feel effortless or that he are going to blow the doors off his best times, he sets himself up for a greater chance of failure and relinquishes the opportunity to develop steady gains in fitness.

I see this home run mentality often with ambitious new runners. They start each workout wanting to beat all their assigned goal times and prove to themselves, and their watch, that they are in shape.

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When they approach workouts with this mentality, they either start the workout too fast and fade at the end, or they get frustrated when they don’t feel as effortless or strong as they had hoped.

Consequently, they typically aren’t able to finish the workout strong and within the physiological parameters the workout was designed to target (i.e. they turn their tempo runs into a race and a struggle just to finish). Moreover, they become demoralized both during the run and after the workout. This typically results in questioning their fitness and training for the next days and weeks, derailing their confidence and ability to run well in subsequent workouts.

Similarly, in baseball, consistent singles and doubles are easier to come by than home runs — and they still drive in runs. The best hitters in baseball are the ones that take what pitchers give them. They drive singles to gaps in the defense and hit the occasional home run when everything comes together. More importantly for both the batter and the team, the singles and base hits add up. A team that is hitting consistently for average is putting up 5-6 runs per game whereas a team that relies on the home run has the occasional great game, but often has a losing record.

Likewise, the runner who approaches each workout even-keeled and who focuses on simply taking what they can from the workout that day will often string together weeks and months of consistent quality training. On the other spectrum, the runner who tries to hit a home run every workout is the one who is constantly injured, overtrained, and suffers from inconsistent performances.

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One Workout Does Not Make Or Break A Training Segment

Consistency is the key to training.

Without a doubt, the more successful runner is going to be the one who has two months of consistent quality workouts over the runner who had five killer workouts, but bailed on three others and had up and down training throughout the segment. I can virtually guarantee this. I’ve seen it happen countless times and it is one of the secrets to success in running.

So the next time you head out to do a workout or your contemplating your training plan, remember that not every workout has to be spectacular. Aim for the single and double, be consistent, and let the home runs come naturally.

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