I recently put out some feelers for desired article topics and while there were many great ideas, I really gravitated toward the question – what did you do to develop so well from high school to college? While many concepts are well known about what it takes to continually move towards one’s potential, there’s always room for another perspective, so here it goes.
1. Running never was nor will it be the focal point of my life. Sure it’s always been a priority in my daily routine, but what I mean is that you should have other interests or desires that you pursue with equal passion. It is absolutely a good thing to have distractions from running because we all know how consumed we can become with training and performance. Upon arriving at Syracuse University, I knew I wanted to take the pre-med classes and set myself up to be a doctor. So instead of majoring in “running,” I double majored in Biology and Spanish and that kept me busy such that I didn’t have time or mental energy to spare wallowing over bad races/workouts.
Takeaway: Balance is important and keeping your brain occupied is the most helpful strategy for countering the psychological effects/stressors of the sport.
2. Coach Fox at Syracuse loved describing kids as “coachable.” This meant you chose a college program and bought into it, no questions asked. How you did things in high school should be let go because, if not, they will lead to friction sooner or later. I loved the opportunity to show up to practice each day and let every training decision be made by someone else who I trusted would get me where I wanted to be. What did I need to let go of? Small things like switching from mileage to minutes (i.e. going for a 60 min run instead of 8-9 miles). Sure Coach, now I don’t need to care so much about how many miles I hit every week. To bigger things like the adjustment to getting my ass kicked in workouts. Man, I guess I should be thankful to train with guys better than me – they’ll make me better. My first couple months at Syracuse came with the most self-doubt about my talent and the sport as I’ve ever experienced. But, one could say I remained coachable, didn’t let that doubt change what I was doing, and I came out the other side one of the top freshman in the country on the track that year.
Takeaway: Don’t cling to old ideologies nor let other classic runner neurotic tendencies hinder you from being an exemplary student of your coach and his/her program.
3. Running needs to be fun. In high school, we were never the best team (thanks Warwick) but I learned immediately from the upperclassman about how fun the sport can be when you tried at it – hard work breeds self-pride and PRs. But to be honest, a majority of that fun came from outside of practice and racing – whether it was the weekly pasta parties we took turns hosting, to going to Hershey Park after the Carlisle Invitational every year, to the 24 hour relay fundraiser that always fizzled out around 18 hours. If that early appreciation for the sport, which I believe is akin to stoking the fire, wasn’t nurtured, I’m not sure I would have had the motivation to keep grinding through my college years when the training and expectations got more serious. Even though high school runners are ridiculously faster now than when I was repping the Washingtonville jersey, there’s no direct translation to faster college runners. High school coaches are cultivating powerhouses that suck the motivation out of kids once they get to college because they were raised in an environment where winning is the only source of fun. There’s so much more to the experience than just winning (believe me on this one, I haven’t won a race in YEARS).
Takeaway: Winning isn’t everything – enjoy being a productive, fast, fun human being that appreciates the little things. I for one relish the process of pancake creating/devouring after hard days and any other day I feel the urge.
4. This last point is dedicated to the reiteration of what you already know. In order to adapt to the new rigors of college (or professional) training – you need to sleep tons, fuel your body with nutritious food, do your core exercises and make good life choices. I want to go a step further and say that it needs to be more than a decision; it needs to be a preference. When we won the national XC title in 2015, I would argue that every member of our team CRAVED the daily grind. It was truly more fun to get to bed early and crush a long run in the morning than to stay up late and go out. When the ideal lifestyle is what you want and not forced, there’s no mentality of “giving up” things for running. The alternative is a negative mindset slowly chipping away at one’s drive and motivation.
Takeaway: There’s no need to get neurotic or seek perfection with the “little things”, but they’re tried and true, so the more you can turn them into a lifestyle, the less you have to actively work/think of doing them.
I’ll stop there since four is my favorite number and this is getting dangerously close to 1000 words. I’m planning on writing on a few other topics you all requested in the weeks to come – so keep the questions coming!
All the best,