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Like An Investment, Training Gains Build Over Time

Growth takes time and patience, but the payoff in the end is worth it.

Growth takes time and patience, but the payoff in the end is worth it.

I’m always on the lookout for good analogies to explain how training works, especially for less scientifically based training concepts. Recently, a trip to the financial planner led me to open my first retirement account (yup, I’m that young—or that far behind, depending on how you look at it). After a few months of enthusiastically checking my accounts and learning the basics of financial planning, I was struck by the parallels between investing and training and how the basic principles were remarkably similar.

This helped me better understand my own investment strategies, and since the principles of investing are widely known, I think comparing the two will help you better comprehend the big picture of your training.

Don’t Pay Attention To Daily Fluctuations

Perhaps the most notable parallel between investing and training is the need to avoid assessing progress on a day-to-day scale. My biggest mistake early in the investment process was checking my account daily, hoping to see consistent gains. To my dismay, my initial investment stayed stagnant for a few days before dropping suddenly. The motivation to invest, which had been quite high when I started, waned quickly and I started to think maybe I had made a mistake.

I see this same fluctuation in emotion happen when runners are constantly trying to measure and compare their fitness on a day-to-day basis. Like investing, training doesn’t always occur on a linear curve. Some days you make big jumps in progress, most days the fitness gains are minuscule, and a few days actually feel like they go backward. This begets a roller coaster training experience, which is hard to sustain long-term.

Your takeaway: Don’t be tempted to fixate on daily, or even weekly, changes in your fitness. Instead, look at your progression on a monthly, quarterly, or even yearly scale. It’s not easy to see the big picture, but it will ultimately lead to more consistent progression.

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Growth Takes Time

I enjoy watching the Suze Orman show when I happen to catch it on TV. When I see her analyze the financial health of the viewers who call in, I am always amazed at how much money the callers have saved. It seems impossible that I could ever save that much money, let alone earn it—these people must be making hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. In reality, they’re average middle income Americans, but I’m forgetting to factor in the slow, step-by-step process that brought them toward that number.

This same situation happens to runners, especially when they look at the training of elite athletes or are running their first marathon. Runners see the impressive mileage totals of elites or the best runners in their running group and think, “Wow, I can never get there.” The same thinking occurs when runners train for their first marathon. Getting from week 1 to 26.2 miles on race day seems impossibly hard, so many runners either lose confidence or try to do too much, too soon.

Your takeaway: Your goals and the ability to train at a high level take time to achieve. Just like you wouldn’t expect your modest savings contribution to instantly turn into a million dollars, you have to be patient with your training. Trying to reach too far in one training segment or letting the fear of a difficult goal deter you is a recipe for disaster. Remember that gaining fitness takes time and rushing the process is detrimental to your goals.

RELATED: 8 Ways To Become A Better Runner

Compounding Gains Are Your Friend

The remarkable growth of investment portfolios is largely attributed to compounding interest. The principles behind compounding interest are widely known for investments, but it’s also the same concept that allows you to train harder and faster each year and ultimately improve your performance.

Each successful training segment builds upon itself. You train to achieve a new level of fitness and once you’re able to reach this goal, you can build off that previous training and continue to reach higher in future workouts. This is especially important to remember if you didn’t run well at your goal race. Many runners think their hard work and training were wasted when things don’t come together on the course for one reason or another. The good news is that if you trained correctly, you elevated your ability to handle training and you can build off that segment, even if the initial end result wasn’t a PR.

Your takeaway: Remember that no training segment is ever wasted. Each month you can train is like putting money in the bank. It may seem like the training had no benefit when a race doesn’t go well. However, that hard-earned fitness will stay with you and allow you to build an even bigger base of training for the next race.

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Listen to any investment specialist and they will tell you that diversification is the key to success. Putting all your money in one market or investment vehicle is a surefire way to come up short of your investment goals.

The same principle applies to running. Putting all the focus on your long run during marathon training or concentrating on only speed work when you’re training for the 5K is a guaranteed way to fail. Likewise, always training for the same race distance is an easy way to ensure that your progress stagnates. Like diversification in investing, it seems so obvious, yet it’s one of the most common reasons runners struggle.

Your takeaway: Approach your training like your retirement account. Diversify your workouts and vary the types of races you train for each year. Doing so will make you a well-rounded runner and help you achieve your goals.

None of the above should be construed as investment advice. However, you should consider it great training advice and apply the principles to your training. Do you have questions or your own investment parallels? Let’s hear them in the comments section below.