• Scott Herring

Blogging Is Like Distance Running

It's been almost 30 years since I ran my first marathon. In high school, I ran a bit, in college, I ran a few times with friends, but in 1991, a friend asked if I had interest in running New York City Marathon. It was February in South Florida, with warm weather all day and night. My buddy asked me to run with him after work - a short one mile course. A couple of days later, we ran again, same time and same course. Over the period of a month, we worked our way up to four miles. One day, he asked if I wanted to run a race, a five miler at Miami Beach. Although I started the race with my friend, we eventually lost each other. I ended up finishing ahead of him, which pissed him off so much that he stopped running with me. If I was still going to run that marathon, I had to fend for myself. I read magazine articles, joined a running group, bought some decent running shoes, signed up for a coach, and ran almost every day. Why am I telling you all this? Because the lessons I learned from training for my first marathon actually translate to writing. Yes, blogging is like distance running in many ways. Let me explain.


Be Consistent


If you're trying to run a marathon, you'd be foolish to try doing it without training. Yes, I've met folks who ran one without any training, but it's extremely rare. Marathon runners are nothing if not consistent. Writers must be too. If you blog, blog on a schedule. Find your motivation, secure your best place to write, keep a list of ideas, and write. I try to write something every day. Michael absolutely does. You may not use every word you write, but your writing muscles will thrive if you're striking the keys with regularity. You'll get stronger, better, faster. Just like running.


Plan Ahead


At some point in 1991, I found a runner's magazine article that laid out the ideal blueprint for marathon training. I've used it a few times, and I've shared it with others because it worked. Month 1: 100 miles, with the longest run being 6 miles. Month 2: 150 miles, with the longest run being 16 miles. Month 3: 200 miles, with 1-2 long runs of 20 miles each. Then, a taper of 21 days, reducing the running to almost zero to refresh the body. Applied to writing, it's helpful to have a 'training' regimen. Writing on certain days. Writing a minimum amount each day or week. Publishing a certain number of blog posts in a month. What can you do? How can you schedule it? What is your plan to make your digital mark? Plan ahead.


Build Up


As the marathon plan shows, you escalate the difficulty of your runs over time. 2 miles, 3 miles, 4 miles, 5 miles, 7 miles, 10 miles. Same idea applies with writing. 100 words, 200 words, 300 words, some long form articles of 800-1000 words. Your mind will thank you for taking baby steps in your writing journey. Taking too big of a bite at the apple may burn you out, or worse yet, keep you from publishing anything. Do the possible. Avoid overdoing it early on.


Buddy Up


Most folks benefit from having an accountability partner. In running, it's fun to have a friend to hit the road with. It's an individual sport, but it's cool to chat and run at the same time. And that buddy creates peer pressure to not skip workouts. Writing benefits in the same way. Michael and I committed to writing a post every week. I FEEL SO GUILTY IF I MISS. I'm letting down my good friend if I skip. He may not even notice (he confessed he does...), but I feel it. I'm not saying you need a writing partner necessarily, but maybe have a regular reader who looks every week. "Dude, nothing?" It'll keep you writing longer and more consistently.


Mix Things Up


Working with a running coach changed everything for me. He instructed our group about different mental and physical routines to improve running. He made us stronger, faster, and sharper. We didn't run the same way. We ran hills. We had track workouts. He taught us about visualization. We (gasp) did situps. The running routine took on a new shape, with variety. Guess what...your best work will come from mixing things up too. Innovation & creativity are driven by taking ideas from somewhere else and merging them. Renegades use routines the right way - for consistency - but embrace variety to keep the writing fire burning bright.


Rest Up


If your body tells you it's tired, you should listen. Running too much leads to injury. Writing uses mental muscles -- if you hit a block, take a small break. Don't STOP, but do PAUSE.


Tune Up


In running, your body and the stopwatch are your feedback. I learned early on that I had to listen to my body. If I felt tired, I needed rest. If I felt strong, I could do more. If I was injured (e.g., shin splints from hill workouts), I needed to treat the issue. The variety of workouts mentioned previously led to improvements in power, speed, and endurance. In blogging, you should review your feedback mechanisms too. Page views, comments, and shares tell a story. If you find your posts about dessert on your food blog do better than appetizers, look into why. Is it that your audience has a sweet tooth, or are you writing in a different way when you cover desserts? Are there seasonal patterns? Are there timing factors? Your metrics let you tune your blog to get more readers, engage your audience, and maximize your time investment. If no one reads about Brussels sprouts, stop writing about them. Or go full renegade and tell the audience "ten reasons you're an idiot for not liking Brussels sprouts". Tuning via experiments will help your blog.


Blogging IS Like Distance Running


I probably sounded crazy when you read the headline, didn't I? But now it seems less nuts. Blogging is like distance running in that you can apply the same disciplinary methods. I love "Atomic Habits" by James Clear. His guiding philosophy is that the little actions you take add up over time. Writing a few hundred words every couple of days becomes voluminous over the course of a year. Running a few minutes each day adds up to more power and endurance over time as well. Find a framework for your own writing discipline. You'll be a 'distance' writer in a matter of weeks...


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