Novelty Versus Permanence

AJW's TaproomWhile I am not necessarily predisposed to binary thinking, of late I have observed distance runners of many different stripes gravitating toward one of two camps. The first camp, which I’ll call the Novelty Group, are those runners who have been seeking out new and unique experiences in these COVID-19 times and mixing things up a little for the sake of fun and variety. The second camp, which I call the Permanence Group, have doubled down on consistency, regularity, and predictability in an attempt to have at least one normal thing in their lives.

The Novelty Group, not surprisingly, is composed primarily of younger runners, many of them new to the sport, who probably seek novelty in all aspects of their lives anyway. However, these extraordinary times have caused many more folks than normal to join the Novelty Group and new events, both virtual and in person, have been spawned by this group’s desire to just “do different stuff.” In fact, it appears that the dull monotony of the lockdowns and quarantines has had the effect of inspiring many folks, not just runners, to expand their horizons and seek new and different adventures.

The Permanence Group finds comfort in consistency and predictability. A place for more older runners, these folks believe that having a routine, focusing on what you can control, and sticking to a plan are the best ways to make it through trying times. You can tell a member of this group by simply looking at their training log. If you see weeks and weeks of daily runs, in more or less the same place at more or less the same pace, you have found a Permanence person. They may seek novelty some other times but in periods of uncertainty, like the one we’re in right now, it’s all about regularity.

While I understand the mindset behind those in the Novelty Group, I am firmly in the Permanence camp. In fact, long before COVID-19 and even long before I became an old, set-in-my-ways curmudgeon, I preferred consistency and predictability over the opposite. For these reasons, I have spent the last several months focusing on repetition, sometimes mind-numbing repetition. But in that process, I have found comfort and in that comfort I have become less stressed, more able to process chaos, and more willing to accept whatever life gives me.

So, I urge you all to find your place on the Novelty/Permanence spectrum and head toward it. As runners and as people, we all need to find those places of equilibrium, those places that bring contentment and satisfaction, and those places that allow us to become better versions of ourselves. Running is certainly one such place for me and I know it is for many of you too.

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week

This week’s Beer of the Week comes from renowned Boston, Massachusetts brewer Tree House Brewing Company. Known for their extraordinary selection of New England Style IPAs in recent years, Tree House has branched out to produce other outstanding varieties. Toward the top of that list for me is Permanence, a milk stout brewed with coffee, chocolate, and maple syrup. Tipping the scales at 10.4% ABV, Permanence certainly packs a punch but can warm even the coldest heart on a chilly New England evening.

Call for Comments

  • So, what group do you fall into?
  • Do you see yourself using that preference to navigate your running through the COVID-19 pandemic?

There are 6 comments

  1. Steve Pero

    Permanence, for sure! No less than an hour a day, on mostly the same trails. Wed is faster (or hill reps), Sat is longer, but other than that, all pretty much the same…and I like it that way!

  2. Graham

    Although from the outside much of my running appears about permanence, that’s an illusion. It’s about getting out to see what’s changed, what wildlife I can see today, where a tree has fallen across the trail or how high the river is after the rains. I see it as immersive learning about your environment, recognising it’s chronological dimensions as well as the spatial ones.

  3. Matt

    I read somewhere runners like Ed Whitlock and Yiannas Kouros thrived on permanency. The attraction of endless loops on familiar territory would be in achieving results like theirs.

  4. Dave

    Love the benefits of both. Permanence through the week and work schedule, then typically some novelty through the weekend. The permanence pays in fitness metrics whereas the novelty reminds me of why I trail run- for that sense of adventure and splendor around each turn. In the end, Graham is on point: Discovering that sense of wonder and keen sense of nature in the normal is what I’d call “enlightenment!”

  5. tom

    older-than-dirt guy. permanence. novelty is “risky.” usually novelty means something faster, which may be fine at the moment, but recovery is chancy. having a lark then spending 3 or 4 days feeling like a bucket of sludge usually isn’t worth it.

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