“Before Breakthrough Training, Chop Wood, Carry Water. After Breakthrough Training, Chop Wood, Carry Water”
by Mike Corona
I borrowed today’s title from the Zen saying, “Before enlightenment, chop wood carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.”
What is breakthrough training? For me, it is about viewing it the right way: it is a continual quest with no end date and no real peak. When the goal is to qualify, it is not fair to the coach or the athlete to pick a specific race or year.
I am going to qualify. I do not care when, or how old I am. The race isn’t going anywhere. It could be this year; it could be in five years. What I do know is that for now I’m going to chop wood and carry water, and when I qualify, I imagine I’m going to do much of the same.
There is no breakout year when a switch is flipped and the athlete says, “Okay, this is the year I get serious!” Unless you were born on third with Hank Aaron at the plate, it simply doesn’t work that way. Set the end goal and get on your way.
That was the first step for me. After that it is all about backing it up every day, week, month and year.
“Anyone can go out and do a 40k TT, but can you back it up on the spot and do it again?”
I’ll never forget the feedback above. Marilyn McDonald had sent me on one of my many Saturday quests for the long ride, and this one said, “include 2x40k at goal race pace, a bit of easy between each.” The first one was solid; the second one... not so much!
On another occasion, I recall running off the bike, including an hour’s worth of threshold, and completely falling apart four weeks out from Lake Placid. I mean, literally falling apart, not being able to hold 10 min miles. "It was hot, not enough water...”
I would often hear “back it up,” but never truly understood until that ride and that run, as I did anything but back it up. Perhaps it wasn’t the heat or lack of water, but a delusional sense of what my threshold was. A lack of understanding in what it means to “back it up” and therefore, not breaking through.
The success of today is contingent upon our ability to back it up tomorrow. There is no such thing as a good workout followed by an unscheduled day off. That is breaking through: understanding the point of what we are doing -- the slow, steady, always-move-forward approach -- and always leaving room to do it again.
The world is full of people who appear to break through, but in reality are only at 50%. There are also folks who appear to have this giant leg up, when in truth they work hard every single day.
When I see a champion, I don’t see someone with a genetic edge, I see someone with greater commitment than me. Thus, I choose the reality of why others are better than me. The beauty in this is that what I achieve is my choice.
If I never race in the lava fields, I will die knowing I simply ran out of time and my path was meant to be a bit longer than others. The gift in that is, I will learn much more along the way, meet some people who can share their knowledge, and be able to pass that knowledge on to those I can help.
To break through, understand why you are doing what you are doing and love every minute of it. When you get there, continue to do the things that allowed that to happen.
Go get it.
Michael Corona lives in Syracuse, NY, with his wife and three boys. He strives for balance between sport, family and life, while working full time as a Certified Financial Planner, and as a multi-sport coach. Learn more by visiting NWTCoaching.com.