Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Runner's New Year's Resolutions

As I said the other day,it seems as if it is becoming less fashionable to make New Year's resolutions. To those who choose to dismiss doing so, I would ask this,isn't there anything you would like to do or change about yourself in the coming year? I'm always amazed when I hear older people reflecting on the life they have lived and saying,"If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn't change a single thing." As an older guy, I can tell you that years ago at the age of 40 there would have been a few things I would have done differently if I were given the opportunity. But,again, I digress. What follows are one runner's resolutions,if you haven't done so already,give some thought on what you are doing and what you would like to do in 2012.Here goes: 1. I'll not wait so long before buying a new pair of shoes. That means I won't let aching knees remind me of something I should have known prior to that occurring.
2. Really try to simplify all aspects of my life as Percy Cerutty instructed in his teachings. This means not just getting rid of "stuff" that is basically unused and gathering dust,but also, not overcommitting to too many activities and appointments as well as being preoccupied with obtaining more "toys" and things.Herb Elliott was correct when he said: "The ideal life for an athlete is one of simplicity."
3. In keeping with the theme of selection #2 above, get rid of my cellphone,it has become overused,misused and ultimately a distraction.
4.Stop overeating! I'm thin but overeating is not good for anyone, no matter what size you are.I will eat to live,not live to eat.
5.I will not drink too much beer after races. Oh boy,I think I've found a resolution I'll have trouble keeping. Perhaps I'm saying this because that resolution has been on my last 5 New Year's resolution lists.
6.Stop being negative and pessimistic. Remind myself daily that life is a gift and that tomorrow is promised to no one.Every time I go out for a run I should be thankful. Knowing all that,why do I allow myself to be negative?
7.Follow the Lydiard schedule all the way through this year. Sure, I do as he instructed and customize it to fit who I am as a runner but I will actually complete all the phases.
8.Do a race of a different distance or type,something I haven't done before. Something like the JFK 50,a race that is challenging and has a long,rich history.
9. Stop "kicking it in" on my long runs. It's embarrassing at my age to admit I even do that.
10.Lose the "just hanging on" technique and mindset at the end of races.Instead of maintaining a somewhat reduced pace,how 'bout surging at the end? It's not like I'm ever totally spent when the race is over.
11.A couple of times a week, for starters, I'll do a short,easy morning run,say 15 minutes long. Then,later in the day,I'll do my regular workout. I never raced better then when I did a very light morning "jog" years ago.
As the year ends, I want to wish everyone a Happy New Years'. For those who didn't see my previous announcement,blog posts will now be on Wednesdays and Saturdays. And again,if you haven't taken the opportunity to read the previous posts you can access them all by going to the Archive section on the right side of this page. Thanks to all of you who stop by and take the time to read my ramblings.


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

With The New Year Approaching,Something To Consider From Ron Daws

Ron Daws was a treasure,a gift to the world of distance running who died way too young. You can see from prior posts that I have referenced Ron on several occasions. Among other things,he proved that you didn't have to be born with natural talent to achieve great success in distance running.He wanted other runners to know this fact and be encouraged by it. May the following be an inspiration to all of us to strive and challenge ourselves. Ron wrote: "Unless you go all out for something,you may conclude your life without actually having lived it. It doesn't have to be running,but it should be a quest for excellence,and it need be for only that period of your life that it takes to fully explore it. That's how you find out what you are made of. That's how you find out who you are. To live your life your way,to reach for the goals you have set for yourself,to be the you that you want to be,that is success." It has become fashionable in recent years to criticize the making of New Years resolutions. This is unfortunate because what better time to change or make a decision to accomplish something then at the start of a new year? Over the few days remaining before 2012,consider what you have just read by Ron and determine whether or not there is something you need to set about doing in the coming year. Perhaps this is the year you find out what you are made of.



Friday, December 23, 2011

One Runner's Christmas Wish List

For most of us, Christmas always brings back a flood of memories from years past. Hopefully, they are good ones for all of you out there and you are in the process of creating lasting memories this year. As kids, we at one time or another had our lists of what we wanted for Christmas. What follows is my grown up Christmas list. In no particular order:
1. I want running shoes that are the same year after year. Here's what I'm talking about and I'm sure many of you can relate to it: I've been buying Nike Pegasus for several years, I always get last year's model so I can get them cheaper. Each year they are changed in some way,the 27's I bought were,at least for me, negatively different than the 26's I bought the year before. The 25's were great and the 26th Pegasus' were OK. The same applies to the Asic Tigers' that go up in # each year,some are excellent one year and some are just plain bad the next. And now that I'm on the subject of shoes, what's with the, "shoe runs a half size small" warning? Right or wrong,I always get the feeling that this is a red flag as to the shoe's quality.
2.I want a truly great running novel to be published,one that incorporates the essence of long distance running. By essence I mean the sometimes hard to describe quality of distance running that causes some of us to have such a passion for it. Unfortunately, running novels are too often about someone going through various trials and then eventually competing in a national championship or the Olympics. You know,very formulaic stuff as some would say.
3. I want Yiannis Kouros' book to find an English language publisher. Let's see,the greatest ultra-runner of all-time,unquestionably,and he can't get an English language publisher? What is wrong with that picture? I will temporarily step out of my, "this is not a vanity blog" policy and say,in the 90's I attempted to find a publisher for his book,at his request, and was stunned by the lack of interest I encountered. It all basically came down to one problem, they didn't believe it would sell enough copies to warrant publication. For those who don't know the phenomenal personal records, and number of records Yiannis has set, do a search on the web and you'll be astonished. Begin with his record of 303km in 24 hours for starters.
4.I want a charismatic American born long distance runner to emerge who is able to compete with the best in the world. How 'bout another Pre,Shorter,Rodgers,Benoit,Slaney, or Salazar for starters? With this emergence would come a renewed interest in distance running in the U.S. Oh yeah,send along another charismatic coach like Arthur Lydiard,Bill Bowerman or Percy Cerutty while you're at it.
5. I want one more season of optimal running fitness and ability to race in peak form. That means no injuries and no interruptions in training.Come on, it's not as if I'm asking to be like the otherworldly and phenomenal Ed Whitlock.
6.I want new and challenging places to train.Preferably courses with trails and lots of hills that go on forever. If I must run on the roads may it be ones with minimal traffic and varying degrees of elevation.
7. I want a great running mag that I look forward to every issue that comes out.Remember when you used to anxiously await the arrival of a new issue of your favorite magazine? I do. You know what I'm talking about, a mag that has to do with distance running, not one that is filled with articles on cross-training,food,diet,dressing for bad weather,most beautiful marathon courses in the U.S., and 300 pounders that lost weight and have run marathons. Hey, I'll settle for an existing running magazine taking a small part of each issue and republishing their archived articles,interviews, and profiles from 30+ years ago.
8. I want more athletes like the one pictured in today's post,John Landy. Men who are not only great athletically, but men who possess intelligence,sportsmanship, integrity and dignity.Who hasn't read enough of the boorish,self-centered athletes from different sports that seem to predominate the athletic world these days?By the way,if you don't know much about John Landy,read the Wikipedia profile on him for starters.
Well,that's the list,I'm not asking for too much am I?
To everyone out there, have a great Christmas,may you get all you wish for,and,get your run in early tomorrow!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Advice From An Unexpected Source

Bruce Lee was much more than a martial arts film star who died young. He was an innovator in his sport,a ferocious trainer,a philosopher and an incredible athlete. He struggled against, and overcame, the many obstacles he encountered during his all too brief life. There were times he became discouraged but he persevered and found a way to achieve what he desired. An example of this was when he suffered a serious back injury that required he wear a brace for 6 months,Lee used this time to author the book that eventually became, Tao of Jeet Kune Do, a work that summarized his martial arts philosophy and viewpoints. Bruce Lee believed life was to be lived to its fullest and that an ideal life was one that offered challenges. What follows is another take on the subject of goals: "A goal is not always meant to be reached,it often serves simply as something to aim at." Although we may believe that we'll eventually reach the goal(s) we have set for ourselves,sometimes it doesn't happen. The good thing is that having a goal(s) gives you a purpose and life to your training that you will never experience if you just go "out there" day after day.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Just Payin' My Dues

The journey to athletic excellence often means having to deal with occasional roadblocks,obstacles and disappointments.Overcoming these hurdles are a part of the process that will make you a better and smarter athlete if you allow them to.Viewing these things in a strictly negative light will not lead to you becoming a better athlete. What follows is something you can say to yourself in response to those hurdles that are inevitably going to arise.I'm sure all of us have experienced some or all of the following at one time or another.
You are 10 or 15 minutes into your workout and some type of unpleasant weather situation like blowing snow or driving rain begins,at this point you say to yourself:"Just payin' my dues."
You're 50 minutes into a tough workout,something like a hard fartlek over a hilly hour long course,your legs are weak and feeling like rubber,you're very conscious of the fact that the other guys might be closing in on you and you're just hoping to hang on for another 10 minutes, At this point you say to yourself: "Just payin' my dues."
You have recently been injured and found out you'll have to lay off running for at least two weeks. You are beginning to do the alternative aerobic workouts that will enable you to maintain the highest degree of fitness possible. You find them to be incredibly boring and unsatisfying, At this point you say to yourself: "Just payin' my dues."
You come to the realization that you are over your ideal weight,you eat too much,you drink too much beer,too often. You start the necessary process of cutting back,in the beginning it is uncomfortable and unnatural but you know you must do it if you are to run smoother and faster, At this point you say to yourself: "Just payin' my dues."
You turn down a job or promotion because you know it would require you giving up your running aspirations. As you turn it down you take a slow deep breath and say to yourself: "Just payin' my dues."
You've just hooked up with a new and faster group of training partners and you're getting smoked,embarrasingly so, in every workout. You know you are going to get better but still....,At this point you say to yourself, "Just payin' my dues."
And finally,on a lighter note,
Your wife,husband,girlfriend,boyfriend or significant other is giving you grief over the fact that every time she(he) turns around you are buying another pair of $100 shoes as well as making periodic purchases of running gear,food and supplements.Also, they are not particularly happy about the fact that you are chronically late due to a workout that went, "a little longer than I thought it would." At this point you say to yourself,"Just payin' my dues."
The journey to the goal can be almost as satisfying as achieving it if you have that true love for distance running.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Encouragement From An Unlikely Source

The following is from someone you wouldn't expect to give inspiration and encouragement on going for it. The unlikely source is from none other than William Shakespeare. Yes,the William Shakespeare from Macbeth,Romeo and Juliet and so many other plays and sonnets fame. I think the last time I read anything by him was in high school. I may be revealing my lack of erudition but I never understood what all the fuss about him was,perhaps I was still too immature to appreciate his genius. I will say this though, he really nails it on this quote from Measure for Measure: "Our doubts are traitors
And make us lose the good we oft might win,
By fearing to attempt."
Ever notice that as we get older, we get less bolder,less willing to dream and think big? When we consider some thing we want to do or accomplish, almost immediately negative thoughts and doubts pop up that say things like: "are you nuts, have you forgotten how old you are?" Or this one, "like your wife(girlfriend,boyfriend,significant other,etc) would ever put up with that if you....," Another common thought, "What have you been smokin', thinking you even have what it takes?" I recall a friend who told me that he wanted to do the Ironman Triathlon,almost immediately after saying that he began telling me how it would be almost impossible for him to even qualify. I suggested he take a look at last year's entrants,their ages and finishing times and then tell me if he still believed it was impossible. I also asked him if he really wanted to do what he said he did? A year or so later he called and told me he had just completed a Tinman and was confident that he would make it to Hawaii in the not too distant future.You've read it here before,the key to personal success is perseverance. Obviously, if you are of limited talent,toeing the line at the U.S.Olympic Marathon Trials is unlikely,but, you can achieve much more than you think you can if you commit yourself and reject those doubts.Someday, I never want to hear myself say, "I just wish I would have given it a shot." What an empty,crappy feeling to have to live with.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Announcement

Live For the Run started in December 2010 and is now into it's 13th month. There have been about 200 posts since it began. I have tried to offer articles that are informative as well as inspiring. It is my intention to continue but for the time being I will be reducing the number of posts to two a week, the days will be Wednesday and Saturday.There is just so much you can write about running and still remain interesting and relevant. As I have said before, I don't want to get to the point where I am putting out excerpts from my daily training log and describing what I saw and how I felt along the way just to fill space. I still have more to offer and really enjoy doing it but it's time to step down on the quantity. In case you haven't checked out past entries, just look to the right side of this page,scroll down a little ways and you can access articles from the last 12 months. Many thanks to all for taking the time to visit this site!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Changing Times

I was recently checking out race results from "The Turkey Trot" held on Thanksgiving day in my former hometown of Buffalo,N.Y. This race,which is believed by many to be the longest continuously held footrace in the U.S., has grown in entrants over the last several years and now has a limit of 11,000 runners.The race was always a real community affair. People coming back to Buffalo for the holiday as well as all the area runners made it a point to run this 8k race that went straight down Delaware Avenue. Serious runners made sure they were ready to race on this day. College runners coming home for Thanksgiving also helped to make it a very competitive run. Another nice thing about the Turkey Trot, people who never ran a road race all year would train and do this one. Ah,the good old days,but I digress. When going over the results for this year I immediately noticed that the overall winning time and number of fast performances were noticeably slower then I recalled. A quick check into the record archives confirmed this. In 1981 a total of 137 runners finished under 30 minutes, in 2011, 76 runners. Keep in mind that there were several thousand more runners racing this year as compared to 1981. I was frankly stunned by the drop-off,I figured there would be fewer fast times,but not as few as there were. I then looked at some of the other races that have been held for 25+ years and saw that times had gotten slower in them too. I mentioned this to a couple of friends who live in other states and they said that the same situation existed there also. Naturally,I was curious as to the reason for this drop-off. Could the reason for it be,as a friend said,that Americans live a more sedentary life now then they did back then? I didn't give this subject much more thought until I recently looked through a copy of Runner's World from 1979.I should say here that Runner's World was,and still is,the biggest selling mag of it's kind out there.It was at one time the go to source for all running info and news,remember,there was no internet back then.Getting back to the old issue of RW, I was immediately struck by the underlying theme that ran throughout the whole magazine,it all centered around optimal performance. Whether it was in profiling various top American runners, or info and results about races, or advice from coaches,doctors and experts, you were provided with the best advice on how to run more and faster. Some of the monthly contributers back then were, Derek Clayton,Richard Benyo,Bob Wischnia,Amby Burfoot,Joe Henderson,Cliff Temple,Brooks Johnson,Arthur Lydiard and Dr.George Sheehan. Some of you readers may be a little young to recall all these guys but it was an incredible group of people who knew what was needed to run better. Oh yeah,another thing,they all ran. It only takes a casual glance through the latest RW today to see how much things have changed with that magazine. The slant is now towards running as a healthy lifestyle as opposed to racing better and faster.It's heavy on articles pertaining to food and diet,feel-good stories on runners who have overcome various obstacles,exotic locales you might choose for your next marathon and features on running gear. As I have written in the past, it is extremely difficult for a magazine to stay viable in this day and age,so to survive you have to have as many subscribers as possible.Who can fault Runner's World for trying to reach the biggest market possible? The truth is,is that they encourage and provide a needed source of information for those who run and want to be healthier because of it. Unfortunately though, there no longer exists a running magazine out there that will provide the articles and encouragement to help not only the serious runners,but also the newbies,to become as good as they can be in this,the purest of all sports,distance running. And that folks, is a real shame.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

When You Don't Feel Like Running

I had one of those days the other day,you know,you get home from work and you really don't want to go out and do your scheduled workout. I'm sure we all get that feeling every now and then. For those who are casual about their running and have no specific goals, it's not a big deal to take the day off. It is of course a different matter for runners who have plans and aspirations. The following are some suggestions for dealing with those days when you don't feel like running. #1. Assess yourself, are you burned out or overtrained? If you are, then you need to rest. If you're not, consider the following. #2. Tell yourself that you are going out for only 15 minutes instead of the scheduled 45,50 or 60 minutes. You may very well end up doing only the 15 but at least you'll be getting in the shortest amount of time you can run to reap the aerobic benefits. However,here is what will more than likely happen,10 minutes into the run you'll be glad you got out there and do the workout as you originally planned.Either way you go, at least you got out the door. #2. Change the original workout to an easy run,the longer the better. It's not like it's a common occurrence where you don't feel like running, so making a last minute change to save a run is not necessarily a bad thing. #3. W.W.P.D.--translation,what would Steve Prefontaine do? Well,the Prefontaine I read about would suck it up and do the run. You can replace Pre with the name of any of your running heroes. For those of us who live for the run,the running greats and legends from the past are an unending source of encouragement and inspiration. #4. Tell yourself that not going out for the run is exactly what 3/4's of the people at your targeted road race would do if they didn't feel like running. Skip the run and the other 1/4 gain a day on you. #5.Remind yourself that today's run is part of The Plan you have to achieve your running goal(s). Think of the guilt you'll feel later in the evening as you think about the run you blew off. #6. When all us fails,shame yourself. Ask yourself if you are a real runner or a wimp.
Happy Trails to You!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

When You Think You're Not Getting Anywhere With Your Running, Remember This

I think at one time or another we've been discouraged with our training,maybe we weren't making the gains that we think we should have or perhaps we've had a bad race or two. Bill Rodgers offers us some things to keep in mind during these difficult times. He says the following: "You have to hang on and look at the future. This is a very significant point. Running is never a waste. Everything you are doing now is all part of the grand plan. What's going to happen nine years down the road? The more you train, the more consistent you become." We tend to forget about the cumulative benefits of training year after year. It's not especially common to hear local road runners talking about where they think their running will be in five years. That's unfortunate because if they continue to train smartly and consistently, they will become stronger and more efficient runners.On a related note, I knew one athlete who raced frequently at the 5k and 10k distances and became discouraged one season with his times. He then reassessed his training and decided to make some changes.He stopped racing for a year and concentrated solely on increasing his mileage by running easily over varying terrains. Sixteen months later he ran his first marathon in the low 2:40's.This runner later told me that not running well was the best thing that happened to his running because it caused him to think and change what he was doing. He said: "My goal was always to race well and that's what ended up happening,the surprise was that it was at a distance I wasn't expecting to race at when I started." A thinking,determined and consistent runner can accomplish much.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Radical Thoughts on Food,Diet and the Serious Runner

You would think that runners who are serious about their racing would be serious about what they put into their bodies. However,it appears that the general public,despite figures which show that 60% of them are overweight, are not so particular as to what they consume. We live in an enviroment overloaded with fast food restaurants and stores that are stocked with an incredible array of what are benignly called, "snack foods." It is not my intention in this post to write about the obvious and go over familiar territory as it relates to food and diet. What I want to address is how the serious athlete should view food as well as what and how he eats. In prior articles I have dismissed the folly of eating as much and whatever you want because you train hard and long. I mean,does that assertion make any sense at all when you think about it? What this statement is,is a rationalization giving the person a clear conscience to eat and drink as they please.
Decades ago,the American public was given information that connected smoking with all types of medical problems,not the least of which is lung cancer. Since then,thousands have heeded the warnings and stopped smoking,while others have not and paid dearly for not doing so. Similarly,in recent years, this same public has been informed of the dangers of not only eating too much food, but eating too many fatty foods. Also,we've been advised to eat more fruits, vegetables and natural foods, these are foods that are less processed. It is clear, that unlike smoking warnings, the public has not followed the advice of the experts. Again,proof of this can be seen in the percentage of Americans who are overweight. Sadly, our children have never been fatter and more unfit then they are now.We have become a nation that "lives to eat" instead of one that "eats to live". This now brings me to some recommendations regarding food and diet as it pertains to the serious athlete,it can also be for anyone else who is serious about their health. What I'm about to suggest may seem radical to some but is the route to go if you want a healthy,active life.It is also the way to go if you want to be a lean,running machine who minimizes stress to your heart and musculoskeletal system.I begin by asking, do you eat to live or do you live to eat? I told a friend recently, running can cover a multitude of lifestyle "sins" such as drinking too much alcohol
and eating too much crappy food. You can be an extremely fit athlete while still being someone who lives to eat. People need to adopt an eat to live mentality. As you will soon see, it is not restrictive or something which requires denial and hardship. It simply requires a change in your thinking as it relates to food and a recognition that this way can help you to feel better each and every day.The key phrase here is, a change in your thinking as it relates to food. I will add that I believe eating is one of a handful of pleasures that exist in this life,but, all pleasures can be abused and consequently impact negatively on your life.
What follows are what I believe are the keys to living a long healthy life. First,it is essential to avoid overeating.Too many of us eat way more than we should at meals.You should leave the table feeling as if you could eat more. What you will find is that a little while after doing so you will feel decidedly more satiated than you did when you first left the table. This all has to do with the appestat and the brain getting the message to your body that you've had enough to eat. The specifics of what to eat go like this: for breakfast,the athlete eats a quality cereal or a yogurt or eggs with toast and fruit. Pick one as it relates to the eggs,cereal and yogurt. Of course, if someone is having issues with being too thin then they should add another selection from this group. Between breakfast and lunch eat a snack of fruit. At lunch, a soup or sandwich with a salad. Assuming that your workout is in the afternoon or in the early evening,a mid-afternoon snack of fruit and some type of quality energy bar is the way to go. Needless to say, the drink of choice during the day is water. Coffee and tea consumption should be limited to one or two cups. Soda shouldn't ever be a consideration as a beverage. For dinner,this is a time to indulge but in a controlled way. Ideally,dinner should have some kind of salad or vegetable,a small portion of meat or fish or meat substitute along with rice or a potato. A nutritionist one said something that made a lot of sense and that is that the size of the portion of meat you eat should be no bigger than what you can fit into the palm of your hand. If you desire a dessert then go for it. There are plenty of good ones out there that are well made and are not junk food. The key is always to not overeat.Junk foods have no place in the diet of serious athletes or for anyone that cares about their health. It's garbage that we all have been conditioned to think is OK to consume on occasion. On weekends, when most of us are off from work and many do a long run or extra training,have a time when you eat a pizza or something that is off the usual weekly diet and drink some beers or wine if you like. You will notice that in following the type of regimen above you will enjoy the foods you eat more,much more so than the person who picks up something to eat every time they feel like it.Billions are made on books pertaining to diet,food and eating. The irony of it all is,is that like training properly,the key to correct eating and diet can be found in using common sense,discipline and simplicity.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Few Thoughts on Training Methods

Go to any running forum and you will see that one of the most common topics discussed deals with training systems. Questions about them, as well as debates as to which one is best, are usually the focus of the discussions. The following is by an unknown author and brings up some points to consider as it relates to the training system you choose.The author begins by cautioning runners not to assume that the training methods that give the quickest or best results for other runners will be the best for you. "Only the good results of a method become public and often a runner succeeds, in spite of, rather than because of the way he trains. Failures of a system and comparisons with other systems aren't easy to see. It appears too that the methods which work best on a short-term basis aren't always the best over the long haul. Tom Osler wrote: 'It is ironic that those techniques which produce the quickest improvement over a period of a few months do not result in the greatest possible improvement when continued for several years. This is because their effects are short-lived and do not necessarily result in significant gain in conditioning of the body'." Osler knows conditioning like few others do. It only takes a read of his Serious Runner's Handbook or The Conditioning of Long Distance Runners to realize this. You need time to build and strengthen a distance runner's body. I believe Lydiard once wrote that it takes seven years of continuous training to reap the optimal benefits of his system. However,the process of getting there is a labor of love for those who live for the run.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Before Committing,Consider This

I spoke with a runner who was very disappointed by his time at a recent marathon,he had expected to race much better than he did that day.The weather was ideal,he ran the first 13 miles as planned but as he said,"things just sort of slowly came apart." This runner at one time had,had hopes of qualifying for the Olympic marathon trials." I felt bad for him when he said, "I don't know what's going on with my running." Hearing this I couldn't help but think of something Cerutty had written that applies to runners like him and others who express a desire for success in this great sport. Cerutty wrote: "It therefore behooves every would-be successful person to sit down quietly and examine,not only themselves as to ability,but as to their ambition,whether it is a new enthusiasm,an idea entertained as an escape from studies,work or some duty,and, the reasonable probability of success. In a word,do they really want it!" I wonder how many runners who say they want to put in the time and effort to race well ever consider the things Cerutty writes above? This also goes for my friend and runners like him,there comes a moment when some should re-examine whether they still really want what they say, or are they just going through the motions?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Ron Daws On Improving Your Training

Ron Daws was a remarkable runner,writer and person. For those who haven't read my entry from this past January 9th, I would encourage you to do so. Ron knew training, and as I said before, his times prior to running the Olympic trials gave no indication that he would eventually race in the 1968 Olympic marathon. His book,The Self-Made Olympian, is a must have for any distance runner who aspires to run well.It is vastly superior to any other bio/training book written in the last 30 years.Ron had this to say about those who desired to race well: "When runners understand what kinds of physiological and psychological changes they should be trying to induce, they will be able to organize and balance their methods. This will enable each runner to get the most of their efforts according to his goals and talents." You may recognize that the above is similar to statements made previously by Arthur Lydiard and Percy Cerutty. The beauty of his book, The Self-Made Olympian, was that you read how Ron took total control and responsibility for every aspect of his training and race preparation,from customizing his shoes to preparing for potentially different types of weather.This took time and effort but for Ron it was a labour of love combined with a focused determination.
Ron offers the following as Five Ways To Improve Training"
"1. Use wasted time for training. Thirty minutes regained a day for training is 30 miles a week...It can make the difference between finishing in the middle of the pack or front." When I read this it makes me think of the benefits of fitting in an easy morning jog several days a week,even if it's only 20 minutes.
"2. Innovate to sidestep setbacks." Ron then gives an example that if you can't get to the hills for resistance work then improvise by doing stairs,running into the wind or in sand,water or snow.
"3.Persist through setbacks and mistakes." Try not to make the same mistake twice, be aware and attuned to what you are doing.Persistence is the key.Most people give up,don't be one of those people.
"4.Stick to your schedule. After you have blocked out your training,stay with it unless something is wrong." Daws also advises us not to go prematurely into another phase of training. Things I've noted relating to what he says are guys who race when they are still in the training phase,or my favorite, at the 16 mile mark of your weekly easy 20 miler, Joe Stud decides to run the last 4 miles at 5:30 and then actually brags about doing so when he meets up with you later, apparently not realizing that he's sabotaged the whole purpose of the run.
"5.Don't be intimidated by the odds. To hell with the odds. Caution never did big things. Go for the big ones at some point in your life."
Distance running really needs a guy like Ron Daws around today.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thoughts On Competition By Percy Cerutty

Percy offers some unusual yet helpful insights into competition. He had the following to say in regards to racing and the racing season: "The athlete should be aroused simply by the idea of competition,this should be enough to make him emotionally ready,and draw on what has been developed through practice. This arousal can be hampered by worry about the race or the competition,lack of interest or staleness. These are the enemies of good racing. An athlete can put in months of grueling,exacting workouts and then be defeated by them in a race situation. Elliott was immune to them, but most runners have a harder time of it. When the serious racing season is underway,races take priority. Training should be limited as much as possible,usually to no more than a little sharpening work on grass. The runner has to save his best efforts for the race. Many waste them in time trials and workouts. If the runner has trained properly and is 'mentally tough,' the race should be run as fast as possible. Since the runners physical condition doesn't change very significantly in the space of a week or two, if the runner is doing his best, his racing times should not fluctuate much from race to race. They should be progressively faster." I think of two things when I read the above,first is his saying, "The runner has to save his best efforts for the race. Many waste them in time trials and workouts." As some say,many runners leave their race on the practice field by continuing to hammer in workouts during racing season. As I wrote previously,the reason runners do this is either because of ignorance as to proper training or anxiety as it relates to the upcoming race(s). Secondly,if you have planned your training correctly, you should become progressively faster during racing season. As a running sage once told me,you use your head as well as your legs in training.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Gauging Your Love For Running

With Thanksgiving almost upon us here in the States the following came to mind during the last few runs. It is by no means the definitive indicator for everyone as to whether or not they love running. However, I believe there is a lot of truth in what you are about to read and if you go along with what it says, then it wouldn't be an exaggeration to assume you have a real love for the purest of all sports,distance running.In no particular order.....
1.This is strictly a hypothetical consideration: Although you would love the acclaim and success,you would not take a 10 year career of national championships that concluded with no further running of any kind OVER a lifelong ability to run. You like to compete but the prime motivation to run is your consuming love of the sport and the feeling you get while taking part in it.
2.You don't need to be with others to enjoy running. Sure, you enjoy the social aspects of running with friends on those easy Sunday 20 milers,but,you can enjoy it just as much running alone. I have known lots of runners over the years who've had a difficult time getting out there for any kind of running without having someone along with them.
3.You run without using an Ipod and earphones, you don't need them, in fact,you look forward to the quiet of a run. The reality of #'s 2 and 3 is that,to you, running is never boring.
4. You don't need to examine your shoes to know when it about time to get a new pair. Maybe this one means you've just been running for a long time but I thought I'd put it in anyway.Perhaps this exemplifies your preoccupation with running.
5.When you wake in the morning you already know where, when and what kind of run you'll be doing that day. With a holiday or special occasion coming up you make it a point to schedule a run ahead of time to fit in with the festivities.
6.As you get older you continue to run(and race) despite diminishing speed and performance. I know runners who have quit after reaching a certain age and their per mile average slowed. I agree with the great Jack Foster when he said, and I'm paraphrasing here, "I don't feel as if I'm running any slower as long as I don't look at my watch." If you love to run,what's the difference between running 6 minutes or 9 minutes per mile?
7.You continue to run despite others telling you,you should quit. You've just had your third meniscus surgery and the Doctor,your wife and friends tell you it's time to hang it up. This is not even a consideration because you know that it was a simple reparative surgery, it wasn't like you had a knee replacement or anything.The bottom line, a life without running is something you don't even like to think about.
8.This is kind of related to #7, you've tried other forms of physical exercise but none give you the feeling or enjoyment like the one you get while running.
Forget the turkey,be thankful you're running and have a great run tomorrow!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

From the Archives,pt.6, Big Race Preparation:Quieting the Beast Within

An all too common occurrence among runners is when weeks or months of preparation for a "big" race end in a poor performance on race day. Too often this is the result of letting our fears and anxieties take control. Quite frequently, runners attempt to deal with these feelings by training hard practically up to the day of the race and not using their heads once the race starts.
Studies have shown that if a reasonably fit runner does not run for a week he'll lose only 5% of his overall fitness.However,this percentage increases dramatically if he goes into a second and third week of not training. So I ask, what can you do in terms of training in that final week to improve your performance? I say not much. What can you do in this same final week to ruin your race? A whole lot! I at one time had naively believed that not backing off before a big race was something that only novice runners did, I've come to find that this is also quite common among experienced runners who you think would know better.
You may be thinking,"OK I need to rest before a big race." Yes that's true, but, there's more to it than just easing up or resting, it's about having our mind in control of every aspect of our being.It's about putting our body into subjection. As Cerutty said: "Total subjection of the body by the mind is a necessity for the athlete who wants to reach his potential."
How well I recall days past as a coach of going on 6 hour van trips the day before a cross-country meet. Arriving tired and stiff,many of the runners had an almost frantic compulsion to get to the motel,change and go out for an easy half-hour run.Those who opted to take the head coach's suggestion of going to an area mall and walking around for awhile were looked upon as wimps.Thinking back on it,was anything really gained from that half-hour run? Outside of temporarily subduing an anxious mind,nothing was accomplished. It would have been better for them to relax and walk around with their teammates, getting the muscles stretched out while enjoying themselves. There would be plenty of time the next morning to focus on the race.I have found one thing about the fears and anxieties that may be a part of our racing life, and that is if you don't get control of them, they will always reappear.
Some other examples of fear and anxiety run amuck: how 'bout the pre-race warm-up? How often have you heard runners say, "I feel terrible." You've probably said it yourself at some time. Then,after starting the race, when you're a quarter mile or so into it, you're thinking something like,"Boy do I feel crappy." From this point on you become open for any sign that will reinforce these negative thoughts. The good news is that you can overcome the fears and anxieties connected with racing but it takes time and is an ongoing process. To accomplish this I strongly recommend having a list that you bring out a week before each race.What follows are some physical and psychological guides that comprise this list. By the way, I'm referring to races from 1,500 to 10,000 meters here. A 30k,marathon or longer distance requires a specific physical tapering schedule. Obviously, the "mental" aspects of this list are applicable to any distance.Ladies and Gentlemen,The List:
1. Tell yourself,I've done the work,I've put in months of hard training,now it's time to rest and allow my body to be totally prepared to race. As an aside,this may come as a surprise to some but our bodies are not machines that can be worked hard day in and day out. Rest is a necessity,it is one of the three vital components to race preparation along with training and nutrition.Neglect one of the three and it will negatively affect performance. A sample race week tapering schedule might look something like this:
Monday: a moderately hard workout,some type of fartlek comes to mind.
Tuesday: an easy jog.
Wednesday: an optional day off or light fartlek run,emphasis on light here.
Thursday: a short jog
Friday: an optional day off or easy jog in the morning.
Note: Distances,intensity,and duration of even your easy runs are lessened race week.
2. Expect to get antsy race week. You're not doing as much this week as you have in past weeks and months,so it's only natural that you are going to get restless. Expect it and deal with it,but don't do so by training "as usual."
3. It's a race. Keep things in proper perspective. For most,this won't be the Olympic trials,your legacy as a runner does not hinge on this race. You'll be running many,many more. It's better to be blase about a race than to arrive at the start in a panicked state. Remind yourself that most everyone in the race is feeling nervous and anxious,but,unlike you,they don't have these feelings under control.
4.At the start,Stay Calm! As the race begins remind yourself to run your race.Ninety percent of most road races are made up of runners who start out like "frightened hares"(rabbits) as Percy used to say.For most, that first mile is run way too fast,don't get suckered into going out with them.In the beginning you must control the adrenaline and excitement. Remember,your mind is controlling things,not your body. If you do find that you are suffering a little as a result of going out too fast too soon,drop your pace down,concentrate on staying relaxed,breathe deeply and tell yourself you'll recover. The well-conditioned athlete will recover and be able to resume his pace.
Let these four points be the start of your list. Add other things you may need to remember. Don't be like so many others who,race after race,year after year,make the same mistakes and wonder why they don't get the results that correspond to the training and effort put forth. Serious runners deserve better.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

George Young on Speedwork

OK,here we go again,who out there remembers George Young? For those who don't recall this great runner I'll give you a little background. He competed in 4 Olympics from 1960 to 1972 where he participated in a total of 3 different events. In the 1968 Games he won a bronze medal in the 3,000 meter steeplechase and placed 16th in the marathon. George at age 34 became the oldest man,at that time,to run a sub 4 minute mile. Blunt and outspoken,I'll have more from him in the not too distant future. The following is for the runners I call seasoned,or experienced, ones who are seeking ways of doing speedwork without getting on a track. The advice given below is not,in my opinion,intended for a runner who isn't fit.It's for the runners who've been around for awhile and always seem to be just a little ways away from achieving what I call optimal fitness. George had this to say: "There's no better way to get in speedwork than by running a race. You talk of speedwork in terms of repeat quarter miles and all those other things,but you don't get the speedwork there that you gain in a race. You just never really reach the pain barrier,or whatever you call it,in any other way than running the race and hurting that way." Young really makes a good point when he speaks about the pain barrier in a practice as compared to a race setting.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Something To Keep in Mind As You Plan Your Training

As we plan our training it is important to keep a few things in mind. The great Bill Bowerman articulates so well what we need to do as we formulate the plan and set our running goals. He says: "I think a person can make the most of his running experience if he is enjoying it,if he has a plan,if his objectives are realistic and if he carries on over an extended period of time. If he becomes tired of running,he should lay off for awhile. If he's still tired of it after that,maybe he ought to look for another activity."
It's a sad thing when an athlete follows a training schedule that takes all the joy out of running. I'm sure most of us at one time or another have experienced this. Hopefully,with time, we come to realize that we can have it both ways, achieve optimal fitness without losing our enjoyment of the sport.Also,too many people sabotage their running by not making changes to their training despite being repeatedly injured.Be realistic in your planning, by doing so can break the cycle of setting goals that you either give up on or don't come close to achieving.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Dr. George Sheehan On Training,In Case You've Forgotten

Dr.George Sheehan,runner,writer,physician and philosopher, is one of those people who has become a part of what some call the fabric or framework of modern distance running. Besides providing practical advice as a physician and runner,his reflections and insights on running are thought provoking. What he has to say below may be familiar to most of you but the question to ask as you read the following is,when was the last time you considered what he's saying here? "Over the years I have come to believe in two rules about training. The first: it is better to be undertrained than overtrained. The second: if things are going badly I am undoubtedly overtrained and need less work rather than more. This is in line with Bill Bowerman's belief that a bad race almost always indicates too much work. Most runners and coaches,of course, take the opposite view. For them a bad race is an indication to double the training rather than cut it in half. We must remember that your body is always trying to tell you where you are. Listen to it. For instance, beware when you become tired and listless,when you lose interest in workouts and approach them as a chore rather than a pleasure." So much of our inability to ease up on our training is rooted in a fear or anxiety that we will go backwards instead of forward in our conditioning. Months of work cannot be lost because of a temporary reduction in training.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

What a Coach Should Look For In An Athlete

So, you've taken a job as the running coach for a track team,or perhaps you will be coaching a cross-country squad,then again, maybe someone has approached you in hopes of having you coach them.Coaching requires a commitment of time,effort and energy. However,the rewards gained from coaching can be well worth the time,effort,and energy you put into it. I know it has been for me. Lydiard once wrote about the criteria he looked for in an athlete he was going to coach. I would agree with the attributes he listed but would add a few of my own to his list. He began by saying he looked for sincerity.That would seem to complement some of the other things Arthur mentioned, such as being ambitious and determined, as well as having pride in themselves.Lydiard did mention one other quality that is essential for a prospective athlete to have and that is coachability, a willingness to follow the program you prescribe for them. I have worked with certain runners,invariably older ones,who did not seem to have the confidence to follow a particular program for the period of time needed to see it to fruition. They interpreted every poor workout or performance as evidence that your program was not working. Or worse yet,they wanted to pick and choose from other coaching regimens they had heard or read about. The red flag with these athletes is when they casually reveal the number of programs or coaches they've gone through in the last 3 years. Coachable, they're not. One characteristic that Lydiard did not list and THE quality I look for is a love and enthusiasm for running. This is just my opinion but I will take a less talented runner who has a love for the sport over one that isn't coachable or one who participates primarily because he does well at it. The beauty of distance running is that you can produce quality runners, even among those who may not be naturally talented, if they possess the qualities listed above. That is one of the things that makes this sport so great.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Being a Coach Is More Than Just Training An Athlete

The following represents some well-intentioned opinions I have in regards to coaching. Over the last several days I have given consideration to what the responsibilities of a coach are, and should be. The situation at Penn State has caused me to consider this as well my recently observing the behavior of a coach of a local soccer team. When I think of the ideal coach,people like Arthur Lydiard and John Wooden readily come to mind. Both of these men conducted themselves in a way that earned the respect of athletes and coaches alike. I recall reading recently that Lydiard believed that it was of the utmost importance for a coach to be honest. John Wooden believed that developing good character in his players was as important as achieving success in basketball. Character as you may know, refers to moral strength and integrity. It's a huge understatement to say the athlete lives in a vastly different society then the one that existed 45 years ago.In recent decades records and performances in several sports have been tainted by drug use and athletes have been more frequently apt to get into trouble then they once did. Would it be a stretch to assume that good character is not as prevalent in our athletes as it once was? I don't think it would be. I believe this is due in part to a few things. In society, I have observed the cultivation of a me first,gotta do what's right for me mindset. Not surprisingly,it has found it's way into the sporting world. You see it in the ads that promote the win at all costs attitude where you read things like, 'you may have finished in second place but it still means you are a loser.' Of course money plays a major factor in problems that develop in pro sports,major college teams,the Olympics and top level running of all distances, from the 100 meter run to the marathon. Personal integrity has often been compromised and sacrificed in an effort to achieve success.One last factor that I will mention that has had a profound effect on the development of character among our youth has been the huge increase in the number of broken and dysfunctional families, as well as the children that have been effected by the alcohol and drug abuse of their parents. I don't make this statement as a casual observer but as someone who spent 8 years working at a child and adolescent psychiatric hospital.The overwhelming majority of kids who found their way into the hospital were in there due to bad parenting.
So what does coaching have to do with all this? I say plenty. Coaches should be role models for good character and behavior. Let me recount some examples I've witnessed of coaches behaving badly. I saw a soccer coach recently tell his 10 to 12 year old players that a player for the opposing team was a cheater. The motivation for his saying this was that he disputed some of the calls that this athlete was involved in. His assertions were baseless and it was totally inappropriate that he expressed his feelings in front of these kids. All I could think was,what kind of example was he setting,not only for this match but for the whole season? Another one,how 'bout the male coach for a girl's college x-country or track team who views his team as his personal dating service? I've seen that occur before and there is no way it can be justified as being appropriate conduct by a coach.We now look at the Penn State fiasco and we see troubling behavior in two areas. One concerns the head coach who was told of the abuse and reported it to his Athletic Director and later claimed he did all he thought he needed to do. He said this despite the fact that after his report the perpetrator was still on campus. What kind of character is this coach exhibiting here? Was he more concerned with maintaining the status quo and a multi-million dollar football enterprise then protecting the welfare of children? A child sex offender was still around and he was OK with that? The other concern relates to the reaction by the students and faculty at Penn State as well as some in the media who defended the coach by saying he did enough and should never have been fired. I can't find the words to describe how ignorant that kind of thinking is.
Yes, coaches must be role models for good character and behavior. Whether they like it or not,they occupy,especially among the younger ones, a special position in the lives of their athletes they oversee that is in many ways parental. What coaches say and teach, as well as how they act, is observed and often copied and emulated by their athletes. Honesty,sportsmanship,discipline,dedication to a goal,and courtesy are attributes that a coach must not only exhibit but instill in those who are under his care.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

I Miss the Time

Those of you who have been around for awhile understand that the running scene has changed alot in the last several decades. I got to thinking about this the other day and came up with a "I Miss the Time" list. Those of you who are 30 years old and younger may not realize what the running scene was like back then but perhaps the following will give you an idea. It was a unique and exciting time. In no particular order of importance,here goes.
I miss when the age-group qualifying times for the Boston Marathon were actually difficult to attain. You had to work hard to reach those times,if you did at all. If you don't know what they were, Google, "the Boston Marathon qualifying times as they existed in the 70's" and you'll see what I mean.
I miss the era when you could race at the major U.S. marathons and there would be less than 10,000 entrants.The key word here is 'major' U.S. marathons. I really am amazed how people can go to places like New York and Boston where there are 20,000 plus entrants with wall to wall people before and after the race,where if you are not careful,you'll spend an inordinate amount of time searching for family members and friends. Does anyone actually enjoy walking or slow jogging for 5,10 or 15 minutes before you actually get to the starting line?
I miss the days when American runners were in the top 10 of the 'world' rankings for distances ranging from the 5k through the marathon. On a related note, read the next entry.
I miss the time when U.S. runners regularly finished in the top 10 of the major road races and marathons around the world.These guys and girls became our running heroes,we read their interviews and studied how they lived and trained.
I miss the time when the running scene had charismatic athletes like Slaney,Salazar,Prefontaine,Benoit,Shorter, and Rodgers. There were more but these are a few who readily come to mind.
I miss the time when entry fees for races were anywhere from 7 to 15 dollars. Now, I understand that this is the 21st century and all, and the $25 and up fees are for the charitable cause that is sponsoring the race, but....
I miss the time when the running mags were really good. When they were geared towards doing mileage and getting as fast as you possibly could. Running Times was an especially great magazine back then. They focused on race results from around the country as well as having a section recognizing outstanding performances in various age groups. For example,you could get a short report on a race that Bill Rodgers ran somewhere in New Hampshire with top ten results in the different age groups.The few articles they carried were outstanding. Runner's World? In the 70's and first few years of the 80's they were the go to source for running info,they had the experts and the people in the know writing and working for them. Let me quickly add this,I am not criticizing the way these two mags are today because to stay in business you have to be in the 'black' to survive. American Runner and Marathoning were great magazines but they failed because they couldn't get the numbers to stay viable.
I miss affordable running shoes. Personally, I see very little difference in the quality of running shoes today as compared to the ones in the later 70's, especially when compared with the lighter,minimalist shoes(I'm not talking about the Vibram Fingers here). I'm still replacing my shoes as often as I used to but now I'm paying much more.
I miss the great running books,especially the bios. Bill Rodgers,Ron Daws,Herb Elliott,Derek Clayton,George Young,Tom Jordan's Pre bio,as well as training books by Lydiard,Bowerman and Cerutty were a few of the classics that were published. Also,the training books back then were geared towards performance not just finishing like the ones you see dominating the bookshelves these days.
In closing, it was a unique era. However, as nice as it was,and as nice as it would be to have it still around,ultimately,and thankfully,the beauty of running is in the actual participating,the going out and just running.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Listening To Jack

This past January 26th I dedicated an article to the late Jack LaLanne who I described as a modern day Cerutty. If you haven't read it you can access it by going to the Archive section that is to the right side of this page.The picture that accompanies the article is simply incredible,it's of him doing fingertip push-ups with his arms extending out in front of him,at the age of 85! Jack was totally committed to personal fitness as well encouraging others to recognize the benefits of working out and eating right. He "walked the talk" as they say. What follows are some things he said that all of us can learn from and be inspired by.When asked if at the age of 84 he still worked out 7 days a week he responded: "Absolutely,see I'm one of these guys who don't want to take a step backward. I either want to hold on to what I have or improve a little bit. My workouts are part of who I am." I think most of us can relate to that last statement. Commenting on training Jack said this: :"Fitness starts between your ears(editor: where have you heard that before?). You have to figure out what you want and then go ahead and do it. Your body is your slave. We must learn to control the bestial and sensual sides of ourselves." A few thoughts on these remarks: many times people who say they desire running success are a bit hazy as to exactly what kind of running success they want outside of the generic,"I just wanna race well." If you really want success you have to be much more specific then that or chances are you will simply continue on by just sort of going through the motions. Jack was big on the quote, "As a man thinketh in his heart,so is he." If you really want it, then commit,totally! Finally,"controlling the bestial and sensual sides of ourselves" has become less common in this day and age,even among athletes. It is a qualitywe must have to not only achieve success but to become better people.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

From the Archives,pt.5, Sport's New Fundamentalists

It's interesting how every sport has its fundamentals for learning and training. These fundamentals are basic to their respective sports and have been for ages. In running and other sports like weightlifting, stress is added to workouts progressively as the athlete becomes fitter. In sports such as basketball,baseball and football, how you throw,hit,catch and shoot has remained the same for decades.These fundamentals have not changed because they take into account the basics of anatomy and physiology. What follows was written sometime in the early '90's and inspired by some of the people of that time who believed they had a new and better way to train distance runners. The name of the author mentioned in the article you are about to read was changed around yet may still be familiar to some despite the change.
Sport's New Fundamentalists
" So you thought running was the only sport where advocates of new training systems and techniques existed? Wrong! Combing through coaching journals I found what I call the new fundamentalists existing in America's most popular sports,basketball,baseball and football. This month we'll profile a gentleman whose revolutionary approach to basketball is changing the sport as we know it.
Dr. Andy Owenson M.S.,P.H.D. is heralding a new way of dribbling the basketball, and that is by using both hands. Dr. Owenson believes the time for players from grade school to the pro ranks to adopt his technique is now. He says: 'studies have shown that utilizing just one arm in dribbling creates unnecessary wear and tear on the player's rotator cuff, using the Owenson technique avoids this plus athletes can actually maintain greater control of the ball.' After initial skepticism, Dr Owenson is beginning to receive wider acceptance of his technique. Two-hand Junior and Muny basketball leagues are cropping up all over the country. The good Doctor and his associates are going full-time with seminars and promotion of his book, A New Path Two Success." I have found over the years that the introduction of a "new and revolutionary" way to distance training is always accompanied by the selling of books and seminars.It's interesting how these "new fundamentalists" make an initial splash,get the coverage in the running mags,sell alot of books,then a decade or so later they are pretty much forgotten.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Arthur Lydiard on the Young American Runner

What follows is an excerpt from the excellent biography, Arthur Lydiard Master Coach. It was written by long time Lydiard collaborator Garth Gilmour and published in 2004. While reflecting on the American long distance running scene and some of the problems he perceived that it had, Lydiard had this to say: "A major trouble in America is a misunderstanding of the value and purpose of anaerobic training which they use excessively in both volume and intensity,even in high schools. The potential of the modern-day American middle and distance runners is huge,as they have proved before,but it is not being properly tapped. Potential Olympic distance and middle distance champions would emerge if coaches would concentrate more on aerobic conditioning and not burn their young runners out with excessive anaerobic training to try to gain quick results and points for their institutions." The Master doesn't mince words when he says this about those who improperly use anaerobic training while coaching their young athletes: "I consider those people to be the real menaces of the sport because they continually overlook the problems now known to be associated with the excessive use of anaerobic training. They are responsible for retarding the development of the best potential of the athletes they are handling." As a former coach of high school runners I saw first hand the truth of what Lydiard says. Although I would agree with him to a point that the motivation for coaches to overuse anaerobic training is a desire to get quick results, I believe the main reason for them doing so is based on an ignorance as to the proper way to train athletes. Too many of these people are clueless and actually believe that you have to run fast most of the time to race fast. Over and over again I heard and saw how coaches would give their runners a couple of weeks of "easy" distance running at the beginning of the season,then, would move into a program stressing mostly speed and hard workouts. This was pure folly because the majority of athletes were not anywhere close to being fit enough to begin such a regimen.Injuries and burnout are all too common among our young runners. Something else,Arthur correctly reminded us that young developing hearts, as well as the athlete's muscular,skeletal system, should not be subjected to excessive amounts of stressful anaerobic work,simply put,it's bad for their health to do so. This is just my opinion but in a perfect world every coach of a young athlete would be required to read at least one book by Lydiard on training.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Thoughts On the Run--Have An Attitude of Gratitude

I believe it was Dr George Sheehan who once wrote,"I do my best thinking while out on a run." What follows are some thoughts that came into my mind recently during the course of a workout. If you haven't considered what you are about to read, take a few moments when you have time and do so.
Be thankful: Be thankful that you have the ways,means,time and health to indulge in the purest of all sports,running. More people than we can imagine don't.
Don't take things for granted:I know people don't like to read this but we are an accident or diagnosis away from losing it all, each day is a gift,make the most of it. People should remind themselves of this daily,I know I need to.
Don't put off tomorrow what you should begin today: I can't tell you how many people I've known who've had big running plans and said they were going to start on them as soon as they did this,or got finished with that. Guess what? Tomorrow never came. I've said this before,it's not a good feeling when you realize you should have gone for it years back when you were able to.
Be your own boss: You're the one who is in charge of your destiny. You're the one who has to answer for the mistakes you make as well as take credit for what you do right.So why do some of you allow others to dictate to you as to how you should live and determine as to whether or not what you do is worthy or not? I will quickly add that what I say is not advocating being selfish and insensitive to others.The reality is, it's your life,be in control of it.
Don't abuse yourself: too many people drink too much alcohol,eat too much, as well as eat too much crappy,unhealthy food. One of the biggest fallacies in the athletic world is that because you train,you have a free pass to do eat and drink whatever you want. If you believe that and do it year in and year out, you will eventually have to "pay the piper" somewhere down the line.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Trojan Horse Syndrome--Two Possible Scenarios

In order to understand the following you need to have read the post from yesterday. What you are about to read is a fictional account of two possible scenarios by someone(Mike Marathon) in response to the concept that running is potentially hazardous to your health.
"Here are possible responses that could occur when someone read the running moderationists latest assumptions. We'll begin by providing a brief background description and then follow with two conceivable reactions. Mike Marathon is a 34 year old runner who resumed serious training about a year ago. Up until that time he had been jogging 5 or 6 times a week for about half an hour. He has experienced a good amount of racing success following a modified Lydiard training schedule. Mike recently told friends he's never felt better. Today however, Mike is in a state of shock after learning that a pea-sized growth on his left testicle will have to be removed surgically. He sits dazed in his living room.
Scenario #1--Mrs.Marathon: Honey,it says in this article in Runners World by Dr.Cooper that running may cause cancers. Mike: I read it......I don't know. Mrs.M: But he's a DOCTOR who's written books on running, he should know! Look here, it says he's the Father of the recent running boon(Editor: yet another "father" of the running boon). You have been running alot. Mike: I love to run, besides, I've only been running 55 miles a week. Mrs. M: Dr.Cooper says here that,that's too much. Mike: Oh boy,I just want to get through this. Mrs. M: If,I mean when this is over you should take Dad up on his offer and start golfing with him at the Country Club. After all,you're 34, you shouldn't be running around like a high schooler! Mike:(long pause) Yeah....maybe I should, everyone at work golfs, they're always telling me I'm crazy to run and that I'll end up like Jim Fixx. Honey, hand me that Dick's Sporting Goods catalogue.
Scenario #2--Mrs Marathon: Honey, I read here in Mike Deebe's running column that he say's Dr. Cooper believes too much running may cause certain cancers. Is that what happened to you? You have been running alot! Mike: Yeah,Yeah, I read that same crap in last month's Runners World. I called Dave of The Stotan News and he referred me to Dr. Colon Towers a cancer surgeon who runs. He told me that testicular cancer is the most common cancer found in males aged 25 to 35. What I got is easily treatable because it was found early,thanks to your weekly checks. Dr Towers also says there is positively no definitive medical research that proves running causes cancer. Actually, findings have shown that eating less and following an aerobic based program prolongs life. Dr Towers believes Dr. Cooper is just using sensationalism to promote his forthcoming book, Run Long,Die Early! Mrs. M: But Honey? Mike: Haven't I told you that you can't believe everything you read? Oh yeah, don't throw out the Runner's World,I need it to line the bottom of kitty's litter pan."
Wasn't it written somewhere, 'You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.' Be very wary of reports and people who say running is a dangerous or unhealthy activity.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

From the Archives,pt.4--The Trojan Horse Syndrome--Betrayal From Within

The following is an article from The Stotan News first published in 1998. The subject is as relevant today as it was when it first came out. Dr. Kenneth Cooper, an early exponent of what some call "jogging", later published a book that warned of the potential dangers of running. Back then, he made the statement that if you ran more than 15 miles a week you were running for reasons other than fitness. It was easy to dismiss those statements for a few reasons; the first being, he's an author, and all authors are hoping to sell as many copies of their book as possible so sensationalism sells.However,when Richard Benyo, ultramarathoner and past editor of Runners World and current editor of Marathon and Beyond agreed with Cooper's bogus assertions by publishing an article to that effect, I had to respond.Here goes: " Just when you thought it was OK to go out and do your weekly 20 miler here comes yet another running moderation scare. This one however is from a most unlikely source. It comes from writer,veteran ultramarathoner Richard Benyo. In the editorial of the May/June issue of his Marathon and Beyond he cites unproven speculation by Dr. Kenneth Cooper that 'Too much exercise could lead to excessive production of free radicals which could in turn open the way for certain cancers and heart disease.' The seven reasons Rich provides are some of the weakest and flimsiest you'll ever read. Briefly they are: 1. Dr. Cooper believes it therefore its got to be true(editor:honest). 2. Benyo spouts his beliefs about evolution and that 'primitive hunting man' had a range of 8 to 10 miles per day from the tribe's center hence running any longer than that is unnatural. Hey Rich, existence of a primitive hunting man is at best pure speculation. 3. All running is not necessarily good running. I thought Rich might have gotten to the point on this but then blows it by saying bad running is mileage. 4. 'No two people are made the same', got that one right! 5. Run too many miles and an overuse injury sets in, rest too little and burnout occurs. So let me guess, do I rest more and listen to my body or run 3 days a week like Jeff Galloway now advocates(Jeff for a time heavily pushed the dangers of mileage,he may still for all I know). 6. Bill Rodgers used to get sick often before a major marathon. He'd have flu-like symptoms. Rich! Rodger's illness was a classic sign of burnout. It's common knowledge he ran 120-150 miles per week with intensity of effort,his illness was the result of this type of training. Training too long and too hard will cause this,Rich finishes this section by saying, 'when you breakdown in training the more susceptible you are to whatever comes along, from flu bugs to cancers.' What? Let me see,from overtraining you'll either get the flu or cancer,how absurd! 7. Benyo names two runners who had run the Western States 100 miler as well as other ultras and had died prematurely in an attempt to justify his running is unhealthy theory. Hey Rich, I've known people who've died in car accidents after drinking alcohol, am I gonna stop driving? That wouldn't make sense,neither does your premise. He almost touches on the real reason but again misses the mark on why (possibly) some runners have encountered cancers,heart problems,and other serious illnesses. To understand what the real reason might be I refer Rich and others to a book written in 1976 by a former runner and medical doctor named Ernst VanAaken. His book the Van Aaken Method describes the consequences,performance-wise and health-wise, of running too hard and too frequently. He says that suppressing the immune system and weakening the runner are just a few of the things that happen. Van Aaken goes on to give a convincing argument in favor of strengthening the athlete by doing large amounts of aerobic runs and then running intervals much below the speed and quanity recommended by today's 'experts'. He gives Harold Norpoth as a prime example of the success of his training system. So Mr. Benyo and Dr.Ken, it's not the running that 'may' cause certain health problems,it's the intense training and racing month in,month out,year after year that may(once again,show me the real medical evidence) cause serious health problems. I mean, isn't it logical,hard interval work and hard racing are very stressful? Racing too many marathons or ultras coupled with hard training is too much,period. We don't realize that because our bodies allow us to abuse them year in and year out we think that it must be OK to do so. Do I need to remind some of you that we are not machines? To Rich Benyo I say this, quit putting misinformation in the minds of unsuspecting readers. You have a responsibility to your readership and with this editorial you have failed them badly. To the illustrious Dr. Kenneth Cooper,first you told us it was good to run,then you reassured us after Jim Fixx's death that running was still a good form of exercise,now you are potentially scaring people off from running. In my opinion it appears you have tapped out things you can say about running, may I suggest another area with the unlimited opportunity to provide conflicting information and advice,have you considered writing a nutrition and diet book?" I remember writing a letter to the editor at M & B totally refuting what Rich had written,I was happy that they chose to print it. I also recall making it a point to not renew my subscription to that magazine. Van Aaken was right,when done correctly, running is an extremely healthy form of exercise,Dr. Cooper and Benyo totally blew it on that one,they should have both known better.I decided to reprint this article because even today you will see certain "experts" warning you of the various "dangers" associated with running. Tomorrow I'll try to inject a little humor on the subject by printing a response by a couple of people who bought into the premise that running is potentially bad for you.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Cerutty On The Benefits of Hill Running

Do all of us recognize the many ways in which hill running can make us better runners? It is my belief that for the average runner,if they did nothing but running up hills that varied in length and steepness,as well as aerobic work, they would become fitter than if they just did track and aerobic training.Cerutty mentions the sometimes forgotten benefit of running hills on a regular basis in the following excerpt. Percy writes: "Flat-out hill running,on roads or grass, help more than any other type of training,as they teach the 'habit' part of our mentality to deliver full effort irrespective of pain and fatigue. The more it hurts,the harder we try to run. In time,one of two things will happen to us. We will have developed a 'retreat complex', which means we will avoid very painful efforts,irrespective of our will,or we will become one of the few who can do the super-normal on occasion, which means we have learnt to run through the pain barrier, that barrier that stops so many. We all know that little voice that says, 'postpone your effort to the next lap or mile...He will come back...It is not my day...next Saturday I'll do it.... Is it so important after all...? and many other equally disconcerting whisperings. We all know them. Only a few ever learn to dominate them. The sandhill and hill running are the answer if we are ever to learn." The above brings a few things to mind.First,that "little voice" that Percy mentions,who hasn't heard it and succumbed to it at one time or another? Remember how crappy and angry we felt after we did? Also, what he says regarding hills goes nicely with what Elliott said about the spirit in my post before last. Something else, Cerutty used to teach that we should "thrust against pain" and that "pain is the purifier." There is no question that pain can be a purifier if you enter into the workout with that thought in mind and allow it to do so. In closing, if you have been neglectful of hill work for whatever reason,now is the time to make it an integral part of your training.For those whose fitness may not be where it should be,try incorporating an easy aerobic run over a hilly course for starters.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Runner's Spouses,Friends and Significant Others

It is my continuing desire to provide info and articles that aren't readily available on other sites dedicated to running. With that said I will ask this question, when was the last time you read a post that pertained to what is written in the above title? Ideally, what I am about to write would be most appropriate for those who are young or people who have recently discovered that they too live for the run. I have written in the past that those who are considering committing to another person must make it clear to them from the onset regarding their zeal for running. If this person has a problem with your "passion" then you have two choices,either end the relationship or give up your "passion." The problem with giving up your "passion" for a relationship is that if your significant other doesn't understand your zeal for running, then this might be a "red flag" indicating that this person has a problem with anything you are into and they aren't. If that's the case, then this doesn't bode well for a healthy long-term relationship.

Now lets look at running and relationships from another angle. During the several decades that I have been to races I've seen many runners neglect, use and abuse their spouses,friends and significant others because of their running and racing.Let me give you some examples: Joe likes to go out of town several times a year to run marathons and other races. This usually involves being gone at least Friday,Saturday and Sunday with "the boys" to cities like Boston,N.Y.C.,Charlotte, and Tampa. He spends alot of money in the process and has never taken his running supportive wife to any of them. His idea of a vacation for him and her is to go off-season to Myrtle Beach for 5 days,every September. Then there's Tony, he 5 years out of college and is the local road racing stud. His long-time girlfriend from college is his #1 fan and supporter. Tony has issues,when he doesn't perform up to HIS expectations,which is 65% of the time,he barks at her and is a pain in the ass to be around for the rest of the day. I should add that if he wins it doesn't necessarily mean that he will be in a good mood. The key here is if he performs up to his (Tony's) expectations. When he does have a "good day" he spends most of his post-race time with the other local "heroes" getting his ego stroked while the girlfriend hooks up with another neglected significant other.It doesn't take a Rhodes scholar to see what the problem is with both of these characters,they are among other things,quite selfish.Running is potentially a self-centered endeavor if you don't consider the feelings and needs of others close to you. Sure, you have a right to go here and there to run,but,you must reciprocate by making time for that spouse,friend or significant other. I've known those who are partners of runners who've come to hate the sport because they believe it has become a hindrance to their spending time together. The reality is,is that it's the runner who is the hindrance to the relationship because of his selfishness.As far as guys like Tony? Hey guy, grow-up! Being the local stud at the races doesn't give you license to go off when you don't race well. After all, this isn't like it's a national championship.It's a local road race! And what I say goes to the others who finish back in the pack yet behave after some races like they were the 4th man at the Olympic trials.Getting back to the guys who make it a point to leave their significant other and go off to "exotic" locales with the boys to race I ask this,would it kill you to bring that certain someone along? Take it from a guy who saw the light many years ago,having that partner along as a support and encouragement is no sacrifice,it's a huge plus. Ultimately, it all comes down to this, it's not just about you or me,it's about having consideration and not being selfish.Unfortunately,for too many runners,they never realize that.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Insights on Strength and Spirit By Herb Elliott

Interviewer James O'Brien, while talking with Herb Elliott in regards to the things that Percy Cerutty taught him early in his career, made this comment: "It does seem that you were totally immersed in what you were doing." Elliott responded: "Certainly that was one of Percy's beliefs, that if you immersed yourself in something and wanted it enough,made it part of your total being,then it was inevitable that it would be achieved.One of the things he suggested that I read were yoga books. Yoga(editor: for those who don't know,yoga is much more than just stretching) is based on quieting the appetites and the demands of the body and allowing the strength of spirit to come through. That's very appropriate for athletics,to challenge the weaknesses of your body and develop the inner drive to carry you through the pain and lethargies and all the things that athletes go through. It was a matter of taking total control of the external part,or the unreal part, to enable the real part,or the internal part to dominate." O'Brien had this to say in response to these remarks: "You were addressing philosophical issues that 99% of runners didn't even look at then and probably still don't now." Herb answered with these insightful comments: "Perhaps so. It was a matter of understanding that you're driven by that bit inside you that for a want of a better word we call the spirit, and that the spirit needs to be nurtured and developed and that to do that you need to subjugate your body. And you need peace and you need quiet and you need beauty; all of those sorts of things which enable the spirit to grow. Your strength comes from that. The development of the aerobic power and the muscle efficiency and all that sort of stuff just comes as a by-product. I think that was a slightly different approach.My goal was to subjugate the body and master my weaknesses."
Some look to Jerry Lynch and other mind body,sports psychology types to gain an edge but what Herb Elliott talks about above comes from a voice with the experience and the results that validate what he says. There are athletes who consider only the body in training, some are wise enough to also consider using and developing their minds,but the key is to involve the body,mind and spirit. This however takes a willingness to put in the time and to be able to recognize the immense benefits that can be gained from doing so.