Years ago, when I ran cross country, my coach would tell us that we needed to run 250 miles over the summer. We needed to accumulate a base mileage before the season started in the fall. At the time I thought it was just our coach being a little too obsessed about running, but now I know it’s more than that. It’s about preparing yourself to be able to find rhythm in the things you do in life.
Acquiring a base is nothing more than intentional preparation. It’s practicing enough that your craft becomes second nature, which prepares your mind and body to be able to consistently perform over an extended period of time. It’s similar to how a master practices until he can’t get it wrong, whereas an amateur practices until he gets it right. The master has prepared himself. He can rely on the base he has established. As a result, he can perform consistently, and he understands his own pace. He doesn’t need to think about it, he just has it.
Identifying what we need to do to build a base is simple with running because running itself is not a very complicated activity. Other aspects of our lives are more complicated, but the same principles apply: focus, priority, discipline, and follow-through.
For example, if being a runner is important to you, you must shift your focus to identifying what is going to help you accomplish that. For most of us it’s simply getting off the couch and actually running. Once we’ve identified our focus, we need to prioritize it in our lives. Once it’s prioritized, we need to be disciplined enough to actually do it. We maintain that discipline by following through, day after day, week after week.
Without a good base, it’s impossible to find rhythm. Your strides, breathes, and heartbeats are inconsistent with themselves and each other. Your mind gets distracted by things that shouldn’t matter. You perform inconsistently. You are prone to injury. You begin looking for reasons to explain the inconsistencies. But you can never find the answer. Rhythm has evaded you and you don’t know why.
However, having a good base makes rhythm possible. When your body is prepared, you find rhythm in each stride, breath, and heartbeat. Your mind is fortified against the elements. Rain or shine, up hill or down hill you stay focused and perform well. Outside circumstances are less likely to derail you. Natural rhythm prevents burnout and gives you a much better sense of your own capacity.
This idea of building a base is nothing new. It’s another way of thinking about deliberate practice. Without it, we’ll never find a natural rhythm in what we do, we’ll always be struggling to try to achieve it, and then when we get it by happenstance, we won’t be able to keep or repeat it.
So if you want to find some rhythm, add a little base.