My girl Lex posted a training session on Instagram Stories a few weeks ago, and her comment was something to the effect of—today was a struggle bus; wasn’t feeling it but went to the gym anyway (not her words exactly, merely my recollection).

I fired off a text to her reminding her to remind ME to tell her about Dan John and park benches vs bus benches. Then I figured, why not tell you all as well? (I wanted to say “all of ya’ll” there but used the force to make myself stop! You are welcome.)

Here is the framework of Coach John’s philosophy on benches: when you’re waiting for a bus, there is a sense of urgency. More than likely you need to be somewhere at some specific time for some specific reason. You might even feel a little nervous waiting for the bus. “Is it here yet?” <looking at watch> “I wonder why it’s not here yet?” <making comment to person sitting on bench with you> “This stupid bus is so unreliable!” <and now you’re annoying everyone>

The bus finally arrives, and you feel a little bit of relief, but there is still that nagging sense of urgency. You worry about traffic and finding a place to grab a coffee before your meeting and remembering to grab your lunch bag and extra set of shoes you set down on the floor. You worry about whether someone will try to speak to you while you’re running through your sales presentation in your head. “When we wait for a bus, we’re filled with expectations.”

“When we wait for a bus, we’re filled with expectations.” Dan John

Let’s now contrast that to the park bench. The bench looks the same, but it’s usually used for an entirely different reason. You might be sitting on the park bench taking a break from a beautiful walk. Perhaps you stopped to watch the birds stomping in the puddles. You maybe even are reading a book while your children play on the swings. There isn’t that sense of urgency. You don’t have that tug to get off that bench as soon as possible. Dare I say that you’re RELAXING and enjoying the moment?

Dan John compares training to benches. Most of the year, your training should be more like the park bench scenario. You’re putting in your time, enjoying it and being mindfully present. You are doing solid work, but you aren’t overworking yourself and you certainly aren’t maxing out. You’re not even chasing a specific goal (at least not very hard). You are simply doing the foundation building work required to maintain what you’ve built.

For small portions of the year, you are probably working hard on a specific goal (improving your 5k time, challenging your skill set for an adventure race or perhaps attempting to change your aesthetic for an event). These training sessions are more like the bus bench. More urgent; they require laser focus and your goals are razor sharp. This can be compared to peaking for performance.

If you try to have every single training session be a peak performance training session, you will be sorely disappointed in yourself. You will also find that it is impossible to be in peak condition more than a few times per year. You may also find yourself sore, injured and unhappy an inordinate amount of time. {Have you ever felt like you’re forever chasing an injury? Your hip is barking at you for three months and that finally shuts up and then you pull a calf muscle followed by a shoulder strain? If so, you might be spending far too much time on the bus bench.}

My point? Take a lesson from Coach John. Pick your reason or your season to put in peak performance (bus bench) training. The balance of the year is simply putting in good solid effort day in and day out (park bench) training. You’re showing up and doing the work, but not breaking your neck in the process.

Questions? Comments? Something to share?

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