Coach Jeff

Written by Coach Jeff


How Running is like Baseball

Learn how to be more consistent with your training: How you can use your knowledge of baseball to improve your consistency.In your time as a runner, you have probably noticed that others struggle to understand our sport. If you are not a runner, it can be difficult to see why it is necessary to run so much, and why we cannot simply just run a 5k every day as fast as we can to “practice” for race day.

One way to help non runners or beginner runners grasp important training theories is to use analogies or relate concepts to other sports they can understand or played as kids.

One aspect of training that I find to be particularly difficult for new runners to comprehend is how the training plan fits together as a whole and how each workout slowly progresses you towards the ultimate goal. So, to make it easier, and to have a little fun, I am going to relate running to baseball.

We all want to hit every workout out of the park

In running, we all want to hit the home run workout every time we take to the roads. We want the tempo run to be effortless and the speed work to make us feel like Usain Bolt.

Likewise, in baseball, a home run is the SportsCenter highlight. Every batter takes to the batter’s box with the hopes of driving the ball over the fence with the fans cheering.

However, the batters who step up to the plate with only a home run swing on their mind often find themselves sitting on the bench after whiffing at the 3rd strike. Not only is striking out demoralizing, but it doesn’t give your team a good chance at driving in runs and building up the score.

Likewise, if a runner approaches each workout with the idea that their run will feel effortless or they’re going to blow the doors off their best times, they set themselves up for a greater chance of failure and relinquish the opportunity to develop steady gains in fitness.

Being consistent is more important in the long-term

I see this home run mentality often with ambitious runners. They start each workout wanting to beat all their assigned goal times and prove to themselves, and the watch, that they are in shape. Too often, they either start the workout (or race) too fast and fade at the end or they don’t feel as effortless or strong as they had hoped.

Consequently, their fortitude withers as the pace gets more difficult and they suffer through the workout. They go for the home run and miss, depriving themselves of a chance to maximize the benefits of a great run.

In baseball, consistent singles and doubles are easier to come by, and still drive in runs. More importantly, the runs add-up, and soon a team that is hitting consistently for average is putting up 8-10 runs per game.

The runner who approaches each workout even-keeled and who focuses on simply getting everything they can out of the workout on that day will often string together weeks and months of consistent, quality training.

Without a doubt, I would bet on the runner who had 2 months of consistent quality workouts over the runner who hit five home runs, but who also had six strikeouts. I’ve seen it happen countless times and is one of the secrets to success.

The secret to training is consistency over time

This “secret to training” actually reminds me of a quote from one of the greatest books on distance running ever written, John L. Parker’s Once a Runner (affiliate link):

“What was the secret, they wanted to know; in a thousand different ways they wanted to know The Secret. And not one of them was prepared, truly prepared to believe that it had not so much to do with chemicals and zippy mental tricks as with that most unprofound and sometimes heart-rending process of removing, molecule by molecule, the very tough rubber that comprised the bottoms of his training shoes. The Trial of Miles, Miles of Trials. How could they be expected to understand that?”

So, the next time you head out to do a workout or your contemplating your training plan, remember that not every workout has to be spectacular.

Aim for the single and double, be consistent, and let the home runs come naturally.

Have you ever struggled with trying to hit a home run every workout? If you have not, you are in the minority! We would love to hear your story.

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5 Responses on “How Running is like Baseball

  1. I know I did! I had that mentality ingrained when I was a child. I always wanted to be 1st. First in practice, first done with a test, first one to start a new project. I am learning from Nate and Jeff to be patient and breath, and I have read every article I receive from Jeff including yesterdays that talked about this same point. Thanks for the articles!!

    ““You’ve got to have the confidence in yourself where you believe that you can take those days off and you can recover and you can run great. A lot of what we see in athletes that just train all the time and never give themselves adequate recovery is often portrayed as toughness. What I’ve realized over the years is it really is a weakness. It’s an insecurity that you’re not good enough to recover like other athletes: I’m not good enough to do that; I need to keep training; I can’t take time off; I can’t take easy days.” -Alberto Salazar

    • I am glad you’re enjoying the articles, Matt. I think we’ve got some even better ones in store over the next few weeks and a new video/podcast series coming up you’ll really get a lot from. Keep training hard and SMART!

  2. I truly love that…
    ‘process of removing, molecule by molecule, the very tough rubber that comprised the bottoms of his training shoes.’
    I get as much, sometimes more, out of just getting up and getting out as I do of running a perfect negative split 8 mile….

  3. I don’t know who said it first or where it came from but in my running club we have a saying we all use…”If you race every workout don’t expect every race to work out.”

  4. What a great article! So true, in the world of distance running, consistency is KING! I loved the Once a Runner quote, too! Keep up the great work here!

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