The Elements of Success

I’ve been the coach of the Flying Feet Running Program for twelve years.

When I began the program, I already had nearly 30 years of personal experience. I had trained with, raced against, and learned from hundreds of successful runners. I had read many books on training theory and race preparation.

Now I have a dozen years of observation to add to all of that.

The technical details about what I’ve learned can be a bit overwhelming. I’ve structure the Flying Feet year into two distinct training cycles, each designed to develop foundational fitness and then refine that foundation to improve performance. Runs, workouts, and races are all planned with purpose, giving each runner an opportunity to reach personal goals.

The training cycle ends with a period of rest and recovery because renewal is critical in keeping both the mind and body fresh.

I don’t mean to imply that Flying Feet is some elite program, to the contrary. While there are many talented runners, the group is diverse in terms of age, running experience, and pace. But the same training principals can be applied universally by creating some flexibility for individual situations.

When it comes to the people in Flying Feet, I take all of this rather personally. I want each individual to be happy with the result because I know how running experiences change lives.

As I write this, our season is moving towards the days when goals will either be reached or not reached, and it seems like a good time to share what I’ve learned about the things that usually decide that outcome.

Desire comes first. In order to attain an experience or reach a goal, the individual must first have enough ambition to pursue it. To clarify the point, everyone wants good health, but not everyone is willing to create the hard personal habits that lead to good health.

So the desire has to be compelling because determination will only grow through passion.

Discipline comes next, creating the self-control that helps a runner follow a training plan. Distractions are commonplace for all of us, and discipline helps us focus and allows a person to do important activities first.

To reach a running goal, running must be a priority over other things. Some lazy indulgences and meaningless desires have to be surrendered.

And just as discipline compels you to do the right things, it also helps you avoid making bad choices. It helps you train hard when it’s required, run easy when recovering from harder work, and rest when rest is called for.

Discipline moves you to do the little things that you’d rather ignore. Few runners enjoy flexibility and strength routines, but longevity usually demands those habits.

Most people who join Flying Feet come with the desire to achieve something. Discipline can take time to develop, but the structure of the program helps while each individual crafts it in themselves.

Now, as the season moves towards our goal races, I know that individuals in Flying Feet will be prepared physically.

But there is a third element that will impact the ultimate results; to achieve anything great, a runner must be confident. So just before a recent workout, I encourage each person to answer this question for themselves – is your mind an asset or an obstacle?

We all know what it’s like to have a chorus of doubtful voices chatting at us. When we listen, we become uncertain, and when we become uncertain we begin to dwell on reasons why we won’t succeed.

This one is tricky. It involves a multitude of previous experiences and conversations. It’s tied to past and present relationships, and most importantly to the relationship with ourselves.

So, in the coming weeks as our important races approach, we will continue to refine that foundation of fitness we’ve built, but most of the conversations I have with my runners won’t be about that.

We’ll redefine failure, because passionate attempts are worthy no matter what the end result.

I’ll stoke the passion each runner feels for the goals that have been set. I’ll encourage visualization, because success is more likely once the mind embraces it.

And I’ll make sure each person knows that I believe in them, and hope that this will help them believe in themselves.

This season will come to an end just as all the seasons before it. Some runners will have reached extraordinary goals. Some runners will fall short. But to repeat my own quote from the days when I first started writing – the root of virtue lies not in the achievement, but in the pursuit thereof.

It is important to have goals that you can feel passionate about. Crafting the discipline to pursue those goals is life-changing. Self-acceptance is liberating.

You become your greatest self when all three come together.