“Kaizen” is the Japanese word for continuous improvement. It also should be the main goal of any distance runner, to continue to improve and set new personal best times. Yet how many runners do you see actually improve season by season and year by year? Not very many. Why is that the case?
One of the athletes I coached asked me a question the other day. He asked,
“How do you settle your thoughts about the future, while still trying to focus on today? You had Hawaii, Chicago and of course the Olympic Trials all on your mind… how do you focus on single events, without losing focus on the big picture?”
This goes back to what I told my Centaurus Warriors at the beginning of the season. “You have to have the vision of the athlete you want to be in yours mind’s eye at all times.” I explained that you need to always think of the athlete you want to be in one month, one year, one decade. Each day you need to remember where you see yourself in the future. Running is all about patience and delayed gratification. There’s no need to rush to become an Olympian overnight!
I want to be an Olympian. I see myself competing at the Olympic Games in Rio in 2016. That’s 1736 days away!! What do I have to do to get there? Patience, persistence, and dedication. It’s a lot easier getting out the door for a second run when very tired from training when I know each mile I do now will help me for Rio. Going back to his question, how do I manage all those races? It’s in the context of the long term progression. Each race I plan out to help me learn to compete, gain experience, and improve my fitness. Is there any pressure on me to run well at the Philadelphia Half-Marathon on November 20th? Is there any pressure on me to run well at the Olympic Trials January 14th? Of course there is! Do I want to compete to the best of my abilities on November 20th and January 14th? Of course I do! HOWEVER, the goal is “Kaizen” and that gradually improvement. I’m training 100% to do my best at the Olympic Trials in January 2012. I’m also training 100% now to do my best at the Olympic Trials for 2016. The best part about running is that you can build your aerobic engine continuously, unlike the ability of a sprinter to improve their speed. Each training block builds on each other, each race experience builds on the previous one.
The message is simple: keep kaizen goal A, make your next race goal B, and always keep the vision of the athlete you want to become in your minds eye!