Personal Records: the Holy Grail of athletics! Oh, do we love them!
We chase PRs, we plan for them, we bleed for them, we cry over them. The almighty and often elusive PRs keep us moving and grinding and pushing. They hold secrets and truths and show us things about ourselves that we didn’t even know until that moment we really tried, thinking we would die but thriving instead. The mythical, beautiful, sometimes real, sometimes imaginary, and all so often dreamed about PR. We talk about all kinds of PRs: ours, yours, theirs, professional, amateur, Olympic, semi-pro, neighborhood, gym, etc. We can’t get enough. Here are 9 truths about those amazing, beautiful PRs:
1.) PRs Feel Fabulous, Like Amazing Sex
Okay, maybe not exactly like amazing sex, but you know what I’m talking about here. There’s a sweetness to the achievement of any PR, whether you worked hard and long for it and (almost) expected to get it, or whether it surprised you like a sudden rain storm on a hot August day. You got it and you are refreshed, also exhausted but somehow new at the same time. You can go on. You will go on.
2.) You’ll Get Hooked on PRs (They’re More Addictive Than Crack)
Like a dog with a favorite bone buried somewhere in the backyard, you’ll keep digging hole after hole, until your paws are bruised, saliva is hanging from your mouth, and your family is calling you to come home. Sometimes you’ll have a big goofy grin on your face no matter how many times you fail. You know that failure is part of the deal, part of the progress, part of the ride. You’re going to keep trying.
3.) You Can Never Have Enough PRs
Never. There’s always a new lift to chase, a new race to run, a new trail to try. You are an addict, always seeking a new high.
4.) But PRs Won’t Come Every Day
You know this. You learned it the hard way.
PRs will break your heart more often than a sexy significant other. Just when you think they’re going to come and sit on your lap, you find yourself broken on the floor, wondering what hit you. But you get up, and you learn to be more patient, more attentive, more loving to what you’re chasing—the beautiful, hot PR that will turn your way one day. You know it. You just know it. But you’re prepared to wait and do the work you need to. Like a spurned lover, you’ve learned and you’re smarter now. You might even hit the dreaded PR Drought, when they don’t happen for weeks, months, years … but you never lose hope. You’re dedicated.
5.) PRs Require More Than Effort: They Require Rest, Too
Sure, you have to train properly (and hard!) to achieve PRs, but rest is key. In fact, strategic rest often holds the key to PR production. To bastardize that old Kenny Rogers song “The Gambler” in terms of athletic pursuit: You got to know when to hold ’em, you got to know when to fold ’em, and you got to know when to take a Rest Day. Remember: your muscles actually grow during rest periods not during the workout. Give your body a chance to do what it does best! (Read “Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself.”) Train, and rest.
6.) The Newer You Are to Training, the More PRs You Will Get
An odd but true statement. When you don’t have many baseline numbers, everything is a PR. But, more than that, the body unaccustomed to prolonged training will make bigger adaptations to a stimulus than the body accustomed to training. (For more on this, read Mark Rippetoe’s “Who Wants to Be a Novice? You Do.”)
So, if you’re a newbie, PRs might come flying at you. Enjoy them! But don’t be surprised when the PR Train slows. That’s part of the ride. Nobody runs at top speed all the time. Keep working, and learn to appreciate the PRs when they come, even if it’s not as often as in the beginning of your training years.
7.) Coveting Your Neighbor’s PR Might Drive You, But It Can Doom You
PR Envy is a real thing, and it can work for you and against you. You might watch other athletes get PRs and use that impetus to drive yourself to work even harder to achieve your own. This is fantastic!
But, be careful when you feel PR Envy tap you on the shoulder and whisper, “Hey, look at her. She got a PR! You could have one. You should have one!”
See, PR Envy sits next to Sister Shame in your head. You know, the voice that tells you that you’re not good enough as you are, that you should be more, that you’re not worthy. Kill that voice. Put Sister Shame in her corner and make her stay there. She’s a PR killer, not a PR enabler. Kill that voice, and then kill your workout. (Read “Kill That Voice.”) Because you are worthy, and you’re ready to be worthy of even more.
8.) Other People’s PRs Can Feel Better Than Your Own (Believe It or Not!)
It seems counter-intuitive, but it’s true: you can actually feel more excited about the achievements of others, even for folks not related to you.
Sometimes, the sweetest PRs belong to your friends and training partners. The high is somehow higher and the glow lasts longer, like your love for them adds to the PR. What a crazy and wonderful aspect to being human! This high is part of the reason some people become coaches—because you get this huge hit of joy repeatedly, daily, sometimes hourly, if you’re a good coach. (Your heart also gets trampled when your members don’t get PRs, but you learn to live with that sadness too.)
9.) You Will Spend Your Life Chasing PRs (And That’s Okay!)
It’s not just okay, it’s great. A lifetime spent chasing PRs: how amazing does that sound? It means you go hard and you’re not afraid to risk, to be vulnerable, to lay your heart on the line, to say “Hey World, this is the best I got today!”
Congrats! You’re an athlete, even if you never set another PR in your life. But you will, I have faith, if you do the work. Get out there and make it happen!
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