ARTICLE: Athlete or Runner?

I’ve seen a few articles on the internet in the recent week on the topic ‘what’s the difference between being an athlete or ‘just’ a runner, lifter, exercise etc.”.

The definition is fairly consistent: an athlete is someone who organises his life around his training. A runner (or insert name w of your sport) is someone who organises his training around his life. So its a matter of what has priority.

When choosing what training is right for you or, if you are a coach, what training is right for each athlete, figuring out this distinction is critical. I see a lot of advice on training that really only works for people who can take up the athlete assumption and ‘organise everything around their training’. This is obviously not ‘most people’ – so training advice and training plans that have this a prerequisite, or requirement, are not really very useful – except for a small minority.

First things first

Do you get the best results by living as an athlete? You bet. I know I did .Some people hope to run fast so they can become professionals but truth is they have to live like professionals to run as fast they need. The lifestyle must be adopted before the results will come.

But for most people that is not a luxury they have – so they need to adopt training methods that will work when things are not perfect and when life cannot be organised Implementing a little bit of good movement all the time, for instance, which is one of our recommendations is a more feasible technique than dedicating big blocks of time before and after each workout to pre-hab and whatnot.

“Only girlfriend?”

I learned the full truth of this not so many years ago: when I first started running, I gave up everything else. As the Japanese marathoner said ‘the marathon is my only girlfriend, I gave her everything I had’. I caught a lucky break in terms of work-life balance early in 2012 and had my best spell of results. I worked, ran, ate and slept and that was it.

When you take up another mantle – like coaching – you’ll find that your own running success is no longer first priority – and not even 2nd. Where does it rank for me? Well, work comes first (that’s the bread winner), then my athletes and at some stage down that list comes my own personal success. I am not complaining – this is a choice I made. The message I’d like you to take away is to be honest about yourself on the list of priorities that you will and can give because that should inform the type of training methods you use.

Bottom line

If you have many other priorities you need a system that allows for some mistakes before everything crashes and burns. A few people can get away with doing everything right all the time – most of us need to get into a habit of getting a few crucial things right most of the time.