Back when my knees worked, I was a competitive triathlete. My best event was swimming. The open water freaked many people out, especially newbies. The mass start of an open water swim is like UFC meets Survivor as everyone jockeys for a good position. You get elbows in your face, water in your nose, kicked, swam over, and pushed underwater, until everyone spreads out, the course opens up, and you stop thrashing and settle into a smooth relaxed freestyle.
Maybe it’s because I grew up across the street from the public pool and lived there every day during summer, but I feel very comfortable in the water. That, combined with overly developed lats, helped me to frequently exit the swim towards the front of the pack. And I would have stayed towards the front of the pack if only I could run fast.
I was a decent enough cyclist to pretty much hold my position out in front. I’d get passed by a couple of the land speed rockstars, try to stay on their wheel, and watch them gradually pull away. But I’d manage to enter the transition area off the bike in one of the top positions, quickly put on my special lightweight racing flats (because I needed every gram of help I could get) and proceed to get passed by handfuls of other runners like I was standing still.
I didn’t ditch High School very often, but when I did, it was on the day of the one mile run test. I was an excellent sprinter, and could even beat all the boys at the 50-yard dash in grade school, but somewhere along the way, I started to buy in to the story that I was a slow distance runner.
I knew I could be one of the top triathletes in the state if I could learn how to run fast for longer than 45 seconds. So I hired a coach, and here’s what he told me:
“If you want to run fast, you have to run fast.”
To this day, his advice is some of the best I’ve ever received. Knowing that I needed to run fast helped me to believe that I could run fast. And I maintained that mentality and mindset (“I am a fast runner”) while training my body to follow suit.
I quickly broke through an enormous wall. It was a cool summer evening in Minnesota, and I had a 30-minute run on my training plan. I thought WHAT IF I simply ran at an 8-minute mile pace instead of a 9-minute mile pace. I mean, what’s the worse that could happen? I might feel like dying, but I won’t actually die. And guess what? I did it! I ran for 30 minutes at a ridiculously faster pace than I had ever held before, and I didn’t die. It was a new level of uncomfortable, but I didn’t die.
I continued to shave time off my running, and began to podium at triathlons. I was a runner.
If you want to run fast, run fast.
If you want to lose weight, eat less.
If you want to get strong, lift weights.
There is usually a simple solution for something you wish to change in your life. We like to look for more complicated (i.e. easier, faster, sexier) options, when the best one is right there, obvious, and ready for the taking.