This past week I began a forty-week training plan that will hopefully land me at the Chattanooga Ironman finish line in under twelve hours in just over nine months from now. Training for an event like his is something that I have become very familiar with. I have read about this kind of training, gotten formal education on this kind of training, been certified to coach this type training, and I have personally endured this kind of training.
The first thing you will learn about any kind of endurance training is that you must first establish a base. Base is a period of time in your training that you will exercise at an intensity that will many times seem easy, monotonous, and just a waste of time. So why do I say that it may seem to be a waste of time? Because as athletes we have an inner desire to always do better, to push ourselves to the limit, and as runners, to just get faster. Base work accomplishes none of this; at least that is what we athletes often think.
It has always been said that many runners never get faster because their hard days are not hard enough, and their slow days are not slow enough. Many times, you will fall into one category or the other, but rarely into both. Base work builds endurance and is the foundation for everything that your training is built on. Sure you can go out and do speed work every day of the week, you can even do 100 meter sprint until your heart is pounding out of your chest, but without a base level of fitness you’ll find it very hard to complete a 5K or 10K, much less a half or full marathon. I once read a study that talked about the fact that many NBA players will often run 4.5 to 6 miles in a game at high intensities with no problem, but ask those same players to run 6 miles straight and they’d find that to be a real challenge. Why? Because basketball players do not build a base level of fitness, nor do they need it. They train those fast twitch muscles to do exactly what they are designed to do, go fast, and neglect those slow twitch endurance muscles.
Speed work is great! It’s challenging, it pushes you outside your comfort zone, and it makes you a better runner. But without a good base period even the best speed work plan will not be sustainable. If you’re running an endurance race and all you’ve done is speed work in training, you WILL blow up, hit the wall, and crash and burn.
So let me get to the point that I set out to make. Today I was running one of those dreaded Six Mile Low Intensity Zone 3 training runs. For those of you who don’t understand what that is, just take your comfortable running pace and at about two minutes per mile to it. It’s a slow run; it’s almost embarrassingly slow and I was having a battle in my mind as to whether or not I should speed up. The runner in me wanted to pick up the pace to my “comfort zone” and not look like the turtle rolling down the side-walk, but the trainer in me was hammering home the point that base work is a must and without it this 140.6 mile race might end at 70.3 or sooner.
It was at this point that the Lord began speaking to me about my Spiritual Base. Don’t you just love it when God takes a point that you are trying to make to yourself and uses it to make His point for where you may be spiritually? He began to show me that just like I must have an athletic base when competing in endurance events; I must also have a spiritual base when competing in this earthly event called life.
Spiritual base is also very basic. It’s spending time in prayer and in Gods word. This is the base by which we should all build our spiritual lives. If you’re like me, I love to read books or hear sermons on how to be more spiritually fit. These are great resources and if Biblically grounded will definitely add to your spiritual toolbox and make you sharper. But these resources are like speed work, they will make you more knowledgeable and for a lack of better words, more spiritually fit, but without a strong base, they are useless. Hearing a great sermon or reading a great spiritual book and having a deep daily relationship with God is like sharpening the edge of an industrial size log splitter. That log splitter has a base big enough to get the job done even with a dull edge, but having it razor-sharp only makes it easier. Hearing that great sermon or reading that great book without a deep daily relationship with Christ is like sharpening the edge of a razor blade. Yes, it’s very sharp, but when put to the test against an oak log, it will fail!
So I challenge you today to join me in building a spiritual base that will stand up to even the biggest hurdle. Make prayer and spending time in Gods word the backbone of your spiritual life. Yes, it’s OK to sharpen the edge, but only after the base can back it up.
God Bless Everyone!
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1