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Kilian Jornet tells GQ how writing helps his training

Instead of giving tips on fashion, the Spanish ultrarunning sensation spoke about training, self-coaching and more

Spanish ultrarunning champion Kilian Jornet was recently interviewed by GQ, and although he didn’t talk about his favourite fashion trends, he did give a lot of great lessons for runners. He’s releasing a book, Above the Clouds, which will be available on August 25, and he talked about how writing helps him in training. He touches on his self-coaching and when it’s best to back off in training rather than pushing through pain or discomfort, and he notes that there are no quick and easy fixes when it comes to performance. While Jornet’s lessons may not transform you into an ultrarunning star like him, they may help you improve as a runner.

Writing helps

Odds are you aren’t writing a book about your life in the sport like Jornet, but you can still write about your experiences in training and racing. “Writing is a good opportunity to look at what you’re doing and try to rationalize it,” Jornet says. It can be easy to go through the motions in training, but if you keep a training diary, you give yourself the chance to break down each workout and you can see what’s working and what isn’t.  

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Keeping a firm (but flexible) plan 

“I have been self-coaching for 12 or 13 years now,” Jornet says. “I make a plan depending on what the goals are … And then I stick to that plan throughout the week.” It’s important to have a solid training plan that you know works well for you. Jornet does note that there should be room for changes, saying he’ll switch his schedule up, depending on weather or other factors. Stick to your plan as much as possible, but don’t force it. After all, life gets in the way sometimes and adjustments become necessary. 

When to push harder

Jornet says elite athletes are very bad about ignoring pain and trudging forward in training. “If you become a top athlete, it’s because you accept a lot of pain,” he says. “The problem is when uncomfortable becomes comfortable for a long time, and then you misread the signs.” As an endurance athlete, you’re training yourself to accept discomfort and pain, but it’s not always a good idea to continue to train if you don’t feel well. Jornet says one way to tell if it’s time to reel yourself in is if you’re unmotivated. “If you are not motivated for five days, it means the body is telling you something. Same if there is pain in your muscles. That is when you should look back at the training plan and maybe take it easy. But we often push too far.” 

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No quick fixes 

“Progression is not always a straight line. It’s up and down,” he says. “Sometimes, you are training very hard, and you are not progressing, which is frustrating … That is when you start to think about shortcuts, which is the wrong mindset.” There are no quick fixes to improve your performance. It may take a while to see improvements, but that doesn’t mean your plan isn’t effective. Trust in your training and don’t look for any shortcuts.