Sunday, May 22, 2011

Nature or Nuture, What It Takes To Be A Champion

I remember when I was much younger it always used to sound kind of reassuring when I would read or hear a coach say,"champions are made,not born." I believe I got this feeling because as a competitive runner since the age of 8, I had been beaten by enough runners to come to the conclusion that some runners were just born to be better than me. But that statement by the coaches gave me hope that I too could someday beat the best. Well, as the years went by and I ran for my high school cross-country and track teams, I noticed that certain runners were much better than me despite the fact that I ran and did every bit as much work as they did. Since that time,as I've continued to run and coach H.S. runners,I found that there is no denying that some people just seem to be naturally talented. They get fit fast, they have natural foot speed,perfect body type,great foot strike,ability to recover quickly,etc.,etc.. So what am I getting at,that there is no hope for us mere mortals? Not at all, but I am saying that you can have a certain degree of success but it will not include toeing the line at the upcoming U.S. Olympic 10,000 meter qualifiers'. Getting back to my H.S. experiences,one thing I consistently found was that when the star distance guys went off to college they frequently were never heard from again. Their wins ended and they often struggled to just place. The reason was due to the fact that they went from being, "a big fish in a small pond," to being a big fish among many other big and bigger fish.Suddenly they were on a team loaded with other natural talents. Many runners did not take their change in "status" well,most I knew eventually quit running sometime in college. I guess they came to the point where they were confronted with a question that is not always asked audibly,it was: do I want it bad enough? And this brings us again to the question of nature or nuture. There IS something that the average guy and the H.S. phenom who got the rude awakening in college have in common, it has to do with whether or not they have the desire to make the adjustments and do all the work necessary to achieve success. From my observation over the years I would say that most don't. If you have not read my January post entitled, "The Lesson of Ron Daws," I would recommend you do so.Read the part where Daws said he paid attention to things and details that other more talented runners didn't even bother with. Remember that Ron Daws was once an incredibly average runner whose times in H.S. and college showed zero indication that he would someday qualify for the U.S.Olympic Marathon team. The key for any runner,born good or not,is that to get to the next level, attention must be paid to all aspects of your training and life. Things like achieving optimal(maximum) aerobic mileage and conditioning,minimal bodyweight while having developed overall strength,ideal diet with correct supplementation and hydration, as well as being able to train progressively to the point where you arrive at race season in peak condition.There are other things but these are some which readily come to mind.Daily evaluation of your training is required and adjustments made where needed.Training becomes a focus and pre-occupation.In addition,there are the life questions,will my family, job, and others understand and tolerate what I want to do? Of course,the biggest question is,do I really want to commit to seeing how far I can take my running? Count the cost but remember that one man's dream may be another's idea of madness. Some of you out there might need to get a little crazy.

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