Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Daily Run

For me it's always really easy to be excited for the bigger, planned out, "destination" runs that I do. These are the runs that you talk about for days (or weeks), you plan around your schedule and your friend's schedules, and you run a route or in a location that is somewhere that you have a specific interest in exploring. For me these kinds of runs are really easy to get excited about and to look forward to.

In stark contrast to these runs though, are the day in and day out runs that fill in the gaps between these larger, planned out runs. Often when I set out the door on "the daily run" I have no idea where or for how long I am going to go. Every now and then I do an entire one of these runs and never really come to a place of feeling like I want to be running at that time. More often than not though, I get a few minutes into one of these runs and things start to fade away. I stop thinking about the story I read while I was drinking my coffee in the morning. I stop thinking about the emails I sent just before heading out the door. I stop thinking about what I'm going to cook for dinner. Eventually my mind comes really present and I begin to really feel my body, and really notice the things going on in the mountains around me. Sometimes this only takes a few minutes, and other times it takes hours, but almost without fail, no matter how much I think that I didn't want to go out for a run on any particular day, I end up coming back home at the end of the run feeling nourished by the fact that I stepped out the door, onto the trail, and went off into the mountains.

I've always known that these daily runs were an important part of moving somewhere close to our potential as runners, but more and more lately I'm beginning to feel that these are actually just as important as the larger, more planned out runs. This might sound contradictory to a post I wrote awhile back talking about the importance of consistency over the long haul as compared to shorter term, day in and day out consistency. In actuality though, I think the two go hand in hand. I'm not saying that it's necessary (or even beneficial) to get out on a run every day, but rather that the shorter, less focused, less planned runs which fill in the gaps between the longer, more planned, destination runs seem to be the key to really being in the kind of shape we need to be in to push toward our physical potential as runners. You can have a lot of fun just doing the destination runs with friends, but if this is all you do you will slowly become less and less fit. I speak from experience here because this is essentially what I have done for the past 2 months. About two weeks ago I returned to the habit of filling in the gaps with shorter, less planned, even somewhat boring at times, daily runs. There is certainly nothing glamorous about these runs, but without them we quickly fall from being capable of performing at anywhere near our optimal level. In this regard these "mundane" runs might be as important as any runs we do. Physically I think we can get by without the big destination runs, and continue to become more and more fit, and more and more capable as runners. I don't think the same can be said for the daily runs that fill in the gaps.

I guess the obvious question then is, what about mentally? Can we continue to grow emotionally and mentally as runners if we are only doing the daily runs, and not the destination runs? That's an interesting question, and one that I think varies from person to person. For me I think the answer is no, and thus the need for both of these types of runs is created, neither one necessarily more important than the other. Both equally important parts of a sometimes difficult to solve puzzle. The one is certainly a lot more glamorous than the other, but glamour of course isn't inherently synonymous with significance, a reality that is sometimes easy to forget, especially in those first few minutes of a daily run when we feel like the last thing we want to be doing at that time is going for a run. Thankfully that feeling rarely seems to last for too long.

10 comments:

Footfeathers said...

Nice thoughts. For me, the daily run fine tunes the "process" of syncing the physical and mental aspects of running. It's one of the reasons I enjoy familiar routes because I can let the mental and physical aspects of running gel without forcing it. The planned, big runs stretch that perception and then the whole "syncing" process has to recalibrate during the mundane runs. So, yeah, I agree that we need both to grow.

Do you use any sort of structure? Like, do you plan to get in at least a couple days per week of specific work on runs or just let those days happen naturally?

eric said...

as a 9-5er, the daily run is more invaluable than the weekend long run. no comparison whatsoever.

it's like when we were kids, thinking about those shopping sprees they used to give away at toy stores... 30 minutes, you can keep everything you make out of the store with before time expires... i feel like that kid in my daily runs... the whole world is my prize, the sheer act stops the clock from ticking, breaks the glass house or normalcy and turns me into a super-hero...

or something.

Heath and Deanna said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Heath said...

"chop wood, carry water"

Jared Friesen said...

I think the daily runs are just as important as the longer runs. But just as important means they are on equal playing fields. I have run everyday (literally) since January 1st and have seen the most gains I ever have, although it gets tiring. I have also seen just how much of a foundation your body has from just daily runs.

Death of a Salesman said...

The daily runs are the ones that keep the engine ticking over. They are the ones that clear the mind of all the guff and gubbins that gets collected from daily life. They give you the mental clarity and calm. If they are painful, then its only for the first half, once you are over the half way point in terms of time or distance, then the feelings of joy and satisfaction always arrive. The longer planned runs are the adventure, and adventure is always a good thing. They are the ones that feed the soul.

Jason Schlarb said...

Your style is awesome Geoff.
Trail ultra training certainy varies. From strictly structured to your style. I certainly don't always want to run, furthermore, I am vaery happy to get some of my runs done and over with. But in the end I love training my body to be high performance and LOVE how it can explore mountain wildernss at length. Those are two great reason for me to get the "daily runs" in.

Wyatt Hornsby said...

Geoff: Very nice to meet you on Saturday at the Basic!

This is yet another great post! Since I'm a working stiff who has the 8:30-5 gig and the commute too, I'm often up M-F at 4:45 AM and back from my run (usually 9-10 miles) at 6:30 AM. For me, my runs M-F seem kind of ho-hum, unless I mix in some tempo and interval efforts. Due to real-world circumstances during the workd week, the opportunity to take it long if I'm feeling good just isn't there (work, family, etc.). It's not until the weekend that I really get great fulfillment out of my runs. If I could go to places like Boulder M-F, I think I'd get great fulfillment even out of a 1-hour run. But for me the reality is that weekends are when I really experience all that I love about running. M-F is often a grind, due to work, extreme limited time, etc. I need to learn to make the most of every run, even on my routine daily 9-miler through Parker--because we never know what the next day will bring.

Wyatt

Michael Owen said...

I think "daily runs" go hand in hand with consistency. But I also feel there needs to be a lot of variety in consistency. If people run every day, that is consistent... but like you said, it gets a little mundane running the same type of run day in day out. There needs to be a mix up of distances, speeds, location, surface, etc. to make running on consistent possible, mentally.

Scotty K. said...

My experience lately is that the destination runs are mandatory. After missing the first 7 months of the year completely due to injury, I was happy for about 2 months with just being out running again every day. I thought that happiness would last a lot longer after that kind of forced layoff, but now that the fitness has returned, it's becoming harder and harder to just go out and run every day (usually twice) in the same area - especially since working in a college athletic department doesn't me give me weekends off either. I find myself thinking about those destination runs and races as much as anything while running, and even at the desk.

Fortunately, I'm able to get out for two days with my girlfriend whose heading to a teachers' conference in Albuquerque this Thursday and Friday and will get to spend a couple days exploring trails in Albuquerque and Santa Fe.