One of my oldest friends is running her first marathon this weekend. It’s one hell of an achievement. She put her foot on the path some time ago, when she was a much larger woman, used to a life of leisure. At some point, for reasons of her own, she started to change how she ate. And she started to run. Not a lot at first. Just a little. I’m sure the first run was the kind of thing most people would scoff at and deride. Not a “real” workout…

It’s so easy to do a thing, and suck at it just a little, and quit. It’s also easy to do a thing and not suck at it that much, and quit. It’s easy to make just tiny little incremental changes, get frustrated and quit. It’s easy to think that things have stalled and you aren’t improving or making any changes, and quit. It’s not so easy to just get up, and keep going. It’s not easy to get up and run in the rain, in the cold, when you are sick, when real life makes other demands on your time. But there are no results without sucking up all of that.

It’s not the heroic effort that counts, it’s the accumulation of daily habits. One marathon is a paltry amount of energy compared to her efforts of the past few years. It probably doesn’t even rate as much of a blip compared to the kilometers she’s put behind her in the last few weeks. It’s not going to be easy by any stretch, but she’s fought against easy every single day. Deciding to eat a salad is harder, in some ways, than saying no to the donut. Getting off of the couch after being tired from a day of sitting is even harder.

Marathon was a battle, originally. An important one. It was a battle where the things that people took for granted changed. It was a place where the Greeks learned that the Persians were not invincible. A place where the Greeks learned the strength of their own military training, where they saw the value in what they had been doing all along. The Greeks learned that they could overcome opinion, the pressure of expectations, and become truly great.

Martial arts training needs to be marathon training. Which is not to say training for aerobic endurance sports, but daily habit training. You don’t run a marathon by training to show off, or by doing just the cool things. You don’t train hard for a few months, have some success, and then take a few months of easy. You train every day.

You don’t start by running marathon’s, either. A lot of people try that. They go for the hard workout, and keep up a hard pace to start. If they don’t burn out and drop off, they climb on the injury train. There are no shortcuts to the marathon. You have to train smart. A couple of days a week, light and easy. Add in another day, or make one day just a little tougher. Don’t rush, don’t get frustrated, just do the work. You might not see results or feel different for weeks, or even months. If you train right, though, those changes are happening.

You can’t see a year ahead when you are frustrated, and thinking your program isn’t working hard enough. You can’t see a year ahead when you take the first step, or finish your first run. You can’t see a year ahead when you wake up the morning of your second run, and realize you have things to do and maybe, just maybe…you should skip the run today. You can’t see a year ahead when you’ve skipped a few runs, or a few weeks, and think it’s pointless to start again.

You have to trust in the day to keep you going forward. Yesterday’s successes can’t push you forward today, and yesterday’s failures are dust in the past, you don’t have to pick them up and carry them. It’s just today, embrace it. Today is good enough and doesn’t need the future or the past mucking it up. Today, taken by itself, has lots of opportunities to put a sword in your hand.

If you want to train your martial arts like a marathon, you put the small work in every single day.