I clearly remember my PE teacher taking me to one side when I was about 13, and telling me that I had to drop some of the activities that I was doing to focus on just a few sports. She told me that I was a bit of a ‘jack of all trades, master of none’, and that if I wanted to excel at hockey then I would have to sacrifice my other extra curriculas.
I really loved playing hockey; hitting the ball around with friends, training before school and at lunch, and competing in matches and tournaments against other schools. But I knew I was never going to go anywhere with hockey, I just wasn’t good enough.
So I ignored her advice.
I kept up with my tennis lessons (not that you’d believe it to see me play now), trampolining, gymnastics, athletics, rounders, Duke of Edinburgh and numerous other activities that my school offered. I went to boarding school, and sport was the best way I knew to fill the endless hours that would otherwise be spent watching TV, or studying!
I am continuing to ignore her advice.
I love trying new fitness classes, whether it’s a bootcamp circuit workout, a barre class, or reformer pilates. Running races are a regular fixture in my calendar; from 5K to half marathon, obstacle courses and fun runs. I also can’t say no to an adventure or challenge.
I’ll try my hand at hiking, rock climbing, cycling, kayaking, white water rafting. You name it, and I’ll give it a go. (Except potholing, that sounds like my worst nightmare). I have thrown myself out of planes, and jumped off ledges attached to an elastic rope, I’ve cycled down Death Road in Bolivia, and I signed up to run my first marathon with zero running experience or cardio fitness.
‘To become a better runner, you have to run more’. Friends and fellow runners have told me that I should cut back on my ‘crosstraining’ when I’m marathon training, that I need to focus on running. However, for me, that isn’t what it’s about. I will never win a marathon. Running is my hobby and it’s supposed to be fun. I love the fitness that running brings; it allows me to enjoy numerous active pursuits, performing better than I would without my current fitness levels. Plus it works both ways. Cross training can make me a faster, more efficient runner. This is my choice, although I know for some, they prefer high mileage marathon training plans. Not everyone is the same, and what works for one person, might not work for another.
When I was training for the New York City Marathon, (my most enjoyable marathon to date,) I said yes to every class and race that was thrown my way. I completed a 10 mile training run before attempting a Duathlon, I ran across London to take part in a 10K, I finished two-a-day workouts to fit in strength and speed. Although I was busy, I was stronger and fitter than ever before, and most importantly, I was having a lot of fun.
In the future I’d love to try my hand at long bike rides, gruelling treks and scary triathlons. I will never be the quickest, or the youngest/oldest participant, but I will have completed them, and that’s enough for me. Although a new PB every once in a while would be great too.
Training for the Berlin marathon starts on Monday, and although I do have time goals that I want to hit, it is more important that I feel fit and enjoy the journey to the start line. My summer weekends are filled with weddings, hiking, cycling, holidays and day trips. I’m not willing to miss out on all the fun of cycling with friends, taking on the Three Peaks Challenge or walking 20miles as part of my cousin’s crazy challenge from John O’Groats to Lands’ End. If anything, I believe these pastimes will strengthen my mental attitude to the marathon, as well as physical fitness.
Rather than saying no to many of these commitments and focusing solely on running training to earn a sub 4 in Berlin, it means I have to be sensible with my time and work my runs in to my schedule, and use the conditioning I will get from other activities to my advantage. And actually, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
What is your take on training? Are there a few sports you focus on or do you like trying a bit of everything?