I need a training plan, and not just for running. I need a training plan to help me become the person I want to be. If I want to learn a new skill, get better at guitar, or improve my writing, I would be more successful if I approached these things like an ultramarathon. That means taking the time to create a training plan. Why? Because I need the accountability, and a way to minimize the decisions I have to make on a day to day basis.
Last week I wrote about commitment. Having a training plan is a way to turn commitment into action. I love to run, but I am also lazy and can easily talk myself out of lacing my shoes up and heading out the door. But as I stated in last week’s post, when I am following a training plan “there is no question when I wake up in the morning about whether or not I will go for a run or how long that run will be”. With a training plan in place, I don’t have to think about how I will follow through on my commitment to being physically fit. The steps to follow have been made ahead of time, alleviating the unnecessary mental gymnastics of trying to decide how to spend my time and ending the tug of war between my desire to lay in bed with a cup of coffee reading about self-improvement and actually doing the work necessary to make improvement happen.
It’s obvious to see where a training plan fits into the goal of running an ultramarathon. The necessity of slowly and systematically getting my body ready to undertake such an intense physical endeavor is clear. But change in all aspects of life is a gradual process that is dictated by the actions I take each and every moment. A training plan clearly lays these actions out. Without some direction, my actions too often leave me pursuing a life of distraction instead of purpose.
The idea of having a training plan has been on my mind lately in regards to language learning. I have been in Spain for two months now (and spent two months here last year), and I still feel I am no closer to being able to have a simple conversation on the street than I was before. It’s not like I haven’t been trying. I’ve been using iPhone apps like Duolingo and MosaLingua, looking up words I don’t understand, and listening to language learning podcasts. Last year I even started out with a one-week intensive language course when I arrived here. Still, it feels like I’ve been throwing shit at a wall and hoping some of it will stick. Very little of it has.
I think one reason why is that what I have been doing is lacking focus, something a “training plan” would provide. Learning a random collection of whatever phrases Duolingo throws at me (example: “el elefante bebe leche” – the elephant drinks milk) somehow isn’t getting me any closer to having a meaningful conversation with anyone. If I had a training plan for learning Spanish, there would be a focus on learning language that would be useful in everyday situations, not just when I need to let someone know what to feed their oversized pet.
Regularity is a characteristic of a training plan. My attempts at learning Spanish have been sporadic over the past few years, with streaks of many days in a row of practice punctuated with times of virtually no activity. Regular repetition is a proven way to learn and without this, I find myself constantly relearning words I should already know. A training plan would ensure that I am working towards learning consistently and for an optimum amount of time each day.
With less than a week to go in Spain, I don’t think I’ll be mastering the Spanish language this trip, but perhaps I’ve gained some insight into how to proceed from here. Next time I want to learn something new, or turn a commitment into action, hopefully I will remember to first take the time to identify where it is I want to go, and then develop a training plan to get me there.
So what are you “training” for?
Do you have a plan yet?