I was never patient until I had to be. I always got away with pushing barriers out of my way. Or I climbed over them. I bent what resisted me with sheer force of will. Sometimes I turned it to advantage. It was easy. I was alone, with no one to count on and no one counting on me. When all I knew was intensity I “made” it work for me. And then one day - or one year - it didn’t work anymore. I had to take a different path.
Training hard produces results when you have never done it before. And of course, it strokes the ego to gut through something you never believed possible, a task you suspect your friends couldn’t finish. It’s a great feeling that fades just as quickly as you can make it happen. What then? The prescription is, “Again, faster.” Or whatever. Just keep repeating yourself harder and, over time, get comfortable with the incremental results, and the setbacks, and the eventual stagnation. Intensity repeated loses its shine. And intensity. What you once did doesn’t get you high anymore - doesn’t get you more fit, and often, fails to maintain.
I found my solution in the long days. What my intensity-enslaved friends called “easy” days. I took on the regularly-mocked “long slow distance” days, which paid off better in the long term. The physical and psychological characteristics trained by consistent sub-maximal - dare I say “aerobic” - effort can be developed infinitely. These characteristics support high intensity effort, speed recovery and can be considered regenerative while at the same time allowing one to push the top end higher. It doesn’t seem so in the moment of doing it though.
In fact, it’s damn hard to force oneself to look ahead patiently when the instant payoff of high-intensity effort feels good NOW. I love getting high as much as anyone but I am far more interested in a productive, sustained and sustainable trip - something that produces long term, stable benefits.
I don’t care about now. I’ve had what can be had right now and it does not last—I assure you. If you want it to be good, or better yet great, a year from now, well … getting high every day with minimal downtime won’t take you all the way there. Or it might and that would be the worst thing that could happen: to achieve your one-year goal and start believing you can repeat that over and over until it is over—until you are over and done.
So look ahead. Further than three months. Beyond one year. What do you want and where do you wish to be in two years? Or three? Or even five. And does that goal or vision affect what you are doing right now? It should.
Because you can’t have anything good right now unless you have been working towards it for several years. No, it is harder than that. And you have to be harder too.
We all get stuck on the outcome to the extent that we ignore the process. We confuse the desire to become this or that with the ability to do so—on the timeline we choose. But how much of your life, your schedule, your wishes and circumstances can you control? Certainly not all of it. So be cool. Be flexible. And above all be patient. If you could have it tomorrow it wouldn’t have any value. If it did you couldn’t afford it. If the shortcut took you where you wanted to go you would arrive to find it isn’t what you thought you wanted after all.
What we value requires investment. It demands constant self-interrogation and reassessment. The first goal is NEVER the final one because there is a great difference between who you are when you leave, and who you are when you get where you were going: both you and your goal have changed. If you do not change your understanding and your means the circle you walk will shrink ever-smaller, until you can see every point of its compass from every step on your path.
Patience takes greatness … I don’t mean grand or famous, I mean weight. I mean breadth and depth of character. If you have it you already know. You have seen the horizon and the shallow trajectory leading to it. If you don’t have it then hard, patient work will earn it.
But if you have seen something else, a shiny artificial fish bait glinting in the sun, if you believe in the quick fix, well, I hope you get what you want because when you do you will have gotten out of everyone else’s Way.