Training for me has always been a journey, if too focused on the end goal of my expectations and the season I would lose track of the importance and joy in each day...
The joy spent with teammates pounding endless miles on the pavement while bonding and creating an unbreakable bond is priceless. Through my years in high school, our team always created a phrase for each season, such as my freshmen year being "the power of one" and many other years having "a passionate pursuit" "own it today" and many others alike. These phrases offered a team dynamic that was driven by the goals that the group set out to achieve come November. But along the way we made note of what we had to do as teammates for each other to be successful, each day leading up to then.
In my time running for the University of Wisconsin-Madison, many of the team techniques that my team in high school exercised are likewise used there. But, like any other switch, the difference between programs, teammates, and responsibilities of high school and college vary. In this article, I will seek to explain my experience with high school and collegiate training while giving you advice if you may be planning on competing in college. I could write this about the workouts that I do or the miles I do each week or any of that, but I want to find something deeper that you may not have heard of before.
First and foremost, my switch from high school to college required a change in responsibility for my time and training. Any person for that matter who goes to college understands what I am saying. Within high school, a lot of your day was organized around class time and from there you would have homework at night but a good portion of your day was somewhat organized.
During college, there are fewer classes to attend and more responsibility for you to decide how you are going to spend your days and weeks with a lot less time "physically" in class. During the day, I would have to create a calendar and allow enough time to spare for studying, eating meals at the right time, and making sure above all else that I get to sleep for training the next day.
Training in college first struck me as different when I truly realized the lack of disparity in training and racing between athletes competing at the Division 1 level. Many athletes around me and around the country follow somewhat of the same plan of increasing mileage, different workouts and [recovery]. Also, most cross country races have about 10-20 seconds between 1st and 100th place. In essence, what truly separates training in high school to college to me was consistency. Now it may seem like a no-brainer but the more I can run over a period of time the better runner I was going to be. That is consistency in its purest form. But, consistency stretches much deeper than running each day. College training for consistency is a daily commitment within a practice and outside of practice.
"Whatever it is that you do be the best then you can be in that moment. If you're a garbage man it doesn't matter... be the best one out there."
In high school, I treated my body well outside of practice to strive to take every advantage that I could. From recovery smoothies after practice each day to making sure I got to bed at 9 pm every night. As I entered college the desire for commitment to success in training takes on a greater meaning as the responsibility becomes yours. Many students around me would stay up until 1 and 2 am or maybe skip meals here or there but, I had to make a decision about the work I wanted to put in. Within a new environment of college, it was very much a personal responsibility to drive me to "be different" and make new decisions to be great. At the end of the day, it is the motivation to wake up each morning and seek to become the best person, student, and runner you can be by the decisions you make that day. Now along the way don't get me wrong I had plenty of people in my corner such as my coaches, teammates, academic advisors, and nutritionist.
Let's dive deeper into what makes athletes different at this level is not the miles they run or the workouts they do, because those are just times. Instead, it's the daily desire to be a champion in all aspects of your life and put those desires into action. Now, this isn't easy... I will be the first to say that I've failed many times pushing myself to be consistent in my time in college. Whether from injuries, other responsibilities, or just sometimes being tired, I have messed up. But, I've made a decision to get up every day no matter what the circumstances and strive for the best version of myself in all fronts of my life that day and let the chips fall where they may. I hope this provided you with some insight into what my true turning point was from my high school training to collegiate training.