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JP Amistoso: The Strategy and The Suck

With the LA Marathon fast approaching (almost taper time, runners!) a lot of people have been asking me questions about my approach to my own training. Rather than write some philosophical mumbo jumbo about all of the things that inform what I do (which could take hours to write and even longer to read), I figured the best thing to do would be to consolidate the questions and answers in one place. And so, here you have it: an informal interview with me.

Q: What goes through your head when you are training?

A: It depends on the day of the week, and the goal of the workout that I'm doing. In general, my thoughts tend to fall into two broad categories: The Strategy and The Suck.The Strategy is analytical. It happens when I'm being very mindful of how my body is responding to certain things. It's almost like I'm watching myself, taking in certain bits of information that I can analyze later. Pacing would be one example -- am I going out too quickly? How does it feel when I push just a little bit harder? I also spend a lot of time thinking about efficiency. What are the little things I can do to adjust myself so I'm not wasting energy? How are my feet falling? It sounds a little scattered, but it's actually pretty meditative. I'm not really judging how I'm doing, but just observing.

The Suck is more emotional. It can be a pretty dark place. The Suck happens when I make an active choice to test my limits and get into a space that is very uncomfortable -- painful, even. I don't want to spend all of my time in The Suck, obviously, but I do think it's vital to go there every once in a while. It makes you stronger, and it gives you a sense of which limits are real and which are imagined.

When I'm in The Suck, I'm not thinking about much beyond the fact that I'm in The Suck. What's really cool, though, is when I'm able to adopt the same mental frame in The Suck as I do in The Strategy - I sense of mindfulness and awareness that's detached from what's actually happening. In other words, I acknowledge that I'm uncomfortable, but I also allow myself to sit in that discomfort. I lean into it rather than trying to spring out of it. When that happens, I see my biggest gains.

 Q: What do you do when you hit the wall?

A: Hitting the wall comes hand in hand with The Suck - so, as I said earlier, you've gotta acknowledge it, and then try to become one with it. Not to get all zen about it, but the worst thing you can do is dread the wall. Once you dread it, it's won. So when it comes on, I notice it, and then decide I'm gonna sit in it for ten seconds, or five seconds, or whatever seems manageable. When those seconds are up, I do five or ten more. And so on. Once I stare it in the face, it isn't so scary. Avoiding it makes it seem worse than it actually is.

Q: Does your training hurt?

A: Yes. And so should yours. Pain is a part of training. It's one way you know that your body is adapting. If you avoid pain, you won't improve. It's like trying to learn to ride a bike and refusing to take off your training wheels because you don't want to fall. Falling is part of the process - you get up, get back on the bike, and try again, and then at some point everything clicks and you can't imagine ever not knowing how to do it. I remember what it felt like to not be able to run a mile, or when a marathon seemed insurmountable. It feels ridiculous now. I want my athletes to understand what that transition is like.

Q: Why does the runner in the Ganbatte logo look funny?

A: Because that’s a silhouette of me running and about to say an #awesome joke.

Q: Did you hear the joke about the butter?

A: Don’t worry you will only spread it.

-JP Amistoso Coach & Owner at Crossfit Ganbatte 

Ironman, Ultra Marathoner and Cyclist



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