Getting in the Reps

An essay about the importance of repetition for success in both life and running.

By on March 12, 2021 | Comments

AJW's TaproomA few weeks ago, I listened to an episode of politician Andrew Yang’s podcast “Yang Speaks!” in which he interviewed Kevin O’Connor, a writer for the popular sports and pop-culture website “The Ringer.” In the interview, 30-year-old O’Connor told the story of his meteoric rise from a young, do-it-yourself NBA draft analyst to one of the most respected journalists in the sport.

For several years fresh out of college, O’Connor self-published his annual NBA Draft Guide. He quickly became known for his keen insights and uncanny predictions and he developed an almost cult following. In 2014, when he caught the eye of Bill Simmons, founder of “The Ringer,” he had already established himself as an authoritative voice in the sport and was an easy hire for the website. When Yang asked O’Connor how he did it he said simply, “I was able to get in the reps.”

Since listening to O’Connor’s interview, I’ve reflected on his journey and his journalistic repetitions in the context of both running and life. When it comes to the pursuit of excellence, “getting in the reps” has long been part of the vernacular of sports, but until hearing O’Connor’s story I had not thought about it as something important to other parts of life as well. As a runner, I have always been a firm believer in the importance of long-term consistency and often mind-numbing repetition. While getting in the reps is rarely sexy, it is often the key to success in long-distance running. In fact, I believe there are few sports where the correlation between reps and success is as strong as running.

In life, as in O’Connor’s case, finding and taking advantage of those opportunities to get in the reps can provide a foundation for greater opportunities in the future. This came up in a recent conversation with my 21-year-old son Logan. Logan, in addition to being an elite-level bicycle racer, is a burgeoning writer and a journalism major at the University of Richmond in Virginia. In his quest to find ways to get his writing published Logan has, not surprisingly, been frustrated at how difficult it is. When I shared with him the Kevin O’Connor story and asked him to reflect on it in the context of his cycling career he got it, “I guess you’re right, Dad,” he said, “I ride my bike 25 hours a week. That’s a lot of reps. Now I just need to find time to do that with my writing.”

Out of the mouths of babes!

The last year with the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly impacted many of us in our ability to get in the reps both in running and in life. Yet perhaps, looking at the examples of Kevin O’Connor and my son Logan, we can find some hope in the future. As we come out of this time, there will be opportunities for us to return to those days, both in training and in competition, when we can get in the reps. And, I dare say, that will be a good thing for us all!

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week

This week’s Beer of the Week comes from Fulton Beer in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Known for their seasonal varieties, Fulton makes a tasty American Pale Ale each summer called The Ringer. A simple treat of citrus and flowers, The Ringer has just a touch of bitterness and holds onto its body. A perfect summer beer, it’s also a classic all-rounder that I would put in the category of some of the great APAs from classic brewers like Sierra Nevada, Oskar Blues, and Deschutes.

Call for Comments 

  • Let’s talk about running and repetition. In what specific ways have you found repetition to improve your running? Alternately, has there been a time where too much repetition caused a problem?
  • And where in life outside of running have you found “getting in the reps” to also be foundational to sustaining or improving a skill or ability?
Andy Jones-Wilkins

Andy Jones-Wilkins is an educator by day and has been the author of AJW’s Taproom at iRunFar for over 11 years. A veteran of over 190 ultramarathons, including 38 100-mile races, Andy has run some of the most well-known ultras in the United States. Of particular note are his 10 finishes at the Western States 100, which included 7 times finishing in the top 10. Andy lives with his wife, Shelly, and Josey, the dog, and is the proud parent of three sons, Carson, Logan, and Tully.