Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Speedwork and Distance Running

Perhaps the biggest fallacy in distance training is that you have to do lots of speedwork to be successful.There is no denying you need to do work at the appropriate time that is harder and faster, but,the benefits of grinding out multiple reps and sets of 200's--400's--800's etc. are grossly overrrated.I recall in high school that it was a rite of passage to do all out 200 and 400 meter reps in track practice.Now,I am not saying that some runners will not do well if they go heavy on the intervals,I'm simply stating that they are not a necessity to achieve distance running success.
Joe Henderson,who know running as well as most anyone says this:
"At the risk of sounding like a heretic,I'll state right off that speed is the most overrated commodity in distance running.Speed doesn't come in appreciable amounts,no matter how many dashes a young runner puts in.Speed is there,inborn.Some have it,some don't. Training can only alter the maximum level by a few scanty tenths of a second,yet hours of effort are poured into the search for it.The paradox is obvious:the average four minute miler(or even five minute miler) does 10 times as much speed training as a 9:1 sprinter.Speed,the speed needed to race adequately at distances longer than a mile,anyway,is quickly sharpened down to the limits of our ingrained abilities.After reaching that point,additional speed training is of dubious value.And worse,it hurts.It hurries the inevitable rush of fatigue producing lactic acid through the muscles.And,it raises the risk of stress injuries."
Don't buy into the, 'if the training doesn't hurt, you're not going to get better' fallacy.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Ideal Athlete Is

Perhaps the following would be most appropriate in referring to the competitive athlete.C.Al Huang wrote the following. The ideal athlete is:
Has the courage to risk failure,learn from setbacks and forge ahead.
Sees the event as a means to gain greater self-realization.
Knows his or her vulnerabilities and trains to strengthen them.
Sees success as one part of the process of sports.
Understands that performance is a roller coaster and has the patience to ride the ups and downs.
Enjoys the sport for the pleasure it gives."
The athlete who views his sport the way Mr.Huang details above is a thinking and sensitive person.Consider his reference to self-realization.You learn alot about yourself when you compete against others.Those who have seriously raced,or do so now,know what I'm talking about.You also become aware of your vulnerabilities and weaknesses along the way.
The runner who thinks his training and racing are strictly physical endeavors,something to push through with little thought,gain nothing in the mental and emotional departments.Consequently,this person loses out on the opportunity to grow as a person.
The ideal athlete knows failure and disappointment are part of the process,he expects it and deals with it when it comes from time to time.Who he is as a runner and a person is not determined by how he did at his last race(or workout).
The final entry says it all,"enjoys the sport for the pleasure it gives." The ideal athlete doesn't lose sight of that no matter how much success,or failure,he encounters.
The ideal athlete is a unique individual.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Some Characteristics of People Who Persist

Determination and persistence are the keys to distance running success.Consider the following by C. Al Huang,those who persist tend to:
"Create fun in the process of accomplishment.
Have a strong sense of self and feel that,regardless of the outcome,they will be still worthwhile.
Have the courage to act and take risks.
Make changes gradually and patiently.
Reward themselves periodically for small gains they make.
Seek the support of others when times get tough.
Like variety as a means of maintaining interest.
Expect positive outcomes.
Focus on the joyous aspect of the journey.
Know that progress is always two steps forward and one step, backward."

I really like what the above has to say.One thing that really hits home are the references to the joy and fun aspects that must exist in order to stay persistant.Why turn a great activity like distance running into an ego driven quest for success? Enjoy the journey.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Advice For the Long Run

Most of us who live for the run want to run till,well.....we're not around anymore.Consider the following:
"The runner who keeps going is one who is friendly with himself,who grows and adapts to changing conditions as he goes, and whose greatest pleasure is in where he is,not in where he has been or where he is headed."
The above makes me think of the song by James Taylor entitled,"The Secret of Life." The first line of this song goes,"The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time."
So many runners I've known refuse to face the reality of aging and continue hammering workouts in the desperate hope of delaying the inevitable drop-off in performance that comes with age. These runners are definitely not being "friendly" with themselves. They are opening the door to frustration,discouragement,and inevitably,a diminishing of the enjoyment that can be gained from running.Is anything worth killing our love for the run?
"Living in the moment" has over the years become a new age cliche but it is very applicable to aging and the running experience.Instead of mulling over the fact you are not running the times you once did,be thankful you are still able to run today and make the changes that will minimize "the passage of time."

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Some Reasons Why We Love To Run

Why do we love running so much? Joe Henderson says it best when he writes that running is a "vital counter balance to the often oppressive weight of modern living."
Consider these other reasons as to why running is so appealing:
"1.The more we are burdened with mental work,the more we need to strike a physical balance."
And for those who don't seek the physical outlet,the more likely they are to seek solace in unhealthy activities like overeating,drugs or alcohol.
"2.The more we meet with collective repression,the more we need individual expression."
Most of us are controlled by others in the workplace,not so in our running life.
"3.The more we're alienated from one activity,the more we need strong attachment to another."
I don't know about you but with some jobs I've had,if I didn't have running I would have lost my mind.
"4.The more complex our lifestyle,the more we need a simple uncluttered routine."
Running should always be a return to all things simple and basic.As Cerutty said,running should never become regimented work.
"5.The more we become civilized,the more we need to revert to a more primitive state."
What do you think the reason is that you feel so good and free when you are running the trails deep in the woods somewhere?

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Qualities Needed and Not Needed

Much has been written about what is required to be a successful distance runner. Cerutty's classic, and best book was entitled,Athletics:How to Become a Champion.Over the decades of my being involved in this,the purest of all sports,distance running,I have found some qualities you need, and some you don't need to become successful. By successful in distance running I mean either competitve success or becoming as fast and fit as you can be.Obviously,determination and persistence are essential but everyone should know that,let me present a few that are frequently overlooked. Here goes:
1.A love for the sport of distance running is an essential quality needed.This love, that is a part of your being, takes you through the years,the injuries,the changes in your life,the times when you feel you are getting nowhere and every other obstacle that arises along the way.For instance,I'm sure you've seen  runners come and go over the years,some have enjoyed varying degrees of success only to abandon the sport after the success fades,the injuries arrive or they move onto some other activity.When you really love something you stay with it because it.
2.You don't need to be born with natural talent to do well in distance running.Buy a used copy of The Self-Made Olympian by Ron Daws,look up an article I wrote entitled,The Lesson of Ron Daws and you will see how true this statement on talent is.You will find you have to pay more attention to details than the naturally gifted runners but Ron wrote the textbook on achieving much after starting with less.By the way,The Self-Coached Olympian is on my top 5 list of greatest running books of all-time.
3.You must be organized.Having a training program with an accompanying racing schedule is a must.The schedule must reflect work and family demands.More on this below.
4.You need to be goal centered,some may call it self-centered,others maybe selfish.What I mean is,if you really commit to excellence in distance running,you lay out the plan that includes training and racing,you go over it with your significant other or family and then you work your life around that.There are 24 hours in the day so I hardly think taking 2 hours out of 24 is being selfish but.......On a related note,I still haven't figured out why self-described hardcore runners marry people who don't respect their love for running.I mean,it's a part of who they are,it's what in many ways makes them the kind of person their partner finds appealing, so why does this person resent their degree of involvement in running? For far too many significant others it's about control and doing what they want,it's not just about the running.
A refusal to be methodical and organized indicates a questionable desire to succeed.The proof as they say is in the pudding,what you do proves what you say you want.It's easy and fun to lace on the shoes to do a run; for many,it's less exciting to sit down and write in a journal,lay out a schedule or any of the other seemingly mundane tasks that you need to do sans training shoes.
I could go on, but for me,the above are the essentials. I think of other things like you don't require much money to be a runner.I have a friend who has spents thousands of dollars on being a triathlete.His bike cost more than the used car I bought a year ago. I guess that's one of the reasons I refer to distance running as the purest of all sports.It's natural simplicity is what makes it so great.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Ron Daws On Beginning Track Work

Those who are familiar with this site recall that I have referenced Ron Daws previously.He was a member of the 1968 U.S. Olympic marathon team.His list of pr's prior to making the squad would be at best be described as unremarkable. Ron was an example of what persistence and determination could accomplish.He also wrote one of the truly great books on running,The Self-Made Olympian.Here he gives some sound advice on how to begin training on the track.Track work has to be approached carefully and with a certain degree of restraint at first. Four sets of 4 --400 meter reps all out,for most,is not the way to begin but you see people doing this all the time. Here's what Ron says:
"When first going on the track,capitalize on what you have most of, endurance and stamina.Therefore, do not start with fast runs or sprints,no matter how anxious you may be to test yourself after two or three months on the roads.Track training should evolve from high volume,relatively slow work with short rests to faster,shorter workouts with more rest,and finally to fast workouts with little rest.Cutting out all rest from an interval workout leaves a time-trial or a race.
The best introductory interval workout I've devised is the following:
Two mile jog; two x 220,two x 440,two x 660,two x 880, 220 jog after each;1320(3 laps),880 meter jog, two x 880,two x 660,two x 440, two x 220,220 jog after each; two mile warm down jog."
You can tell the age of this schedule by the fact yards are used instead of meters.
Daws does not recommend using a watch the first few times you do this workout.The reasons why should be obvious,one,you don't want to be so preoccupied with time that you run too hard before you are ready,and two,you avoid becoming discouraged when your initial times don't meet your expectations because this is a new phase of your training.
Take a look at what the total mileage is for this workout,this type of training is going to make you fit and ready to race.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Quote That Says it All

The quote that says it all about distance running was written by Kenny Moore,perhaps running's greatest writer.Not surprisingly,he was an excellent runner himself.If you have not read his books and articles I would highly recommend that you do.Begin with Best Efforts for starters and then search out the Sports Illustrated archived article on  marathoner Mamo Wolde( a link to that article is in the comments section below). Whoever said winning is everything didn't know distance running.
Kenny Moore writes:
"The enduring satisfaction of distance running is not in in records that will inevitably be broken,not in knowing that you were the best on a given day.It lies in knowing that you have learned how to be brave and to do something better than you first thought you could,and perhaps in knowing you amazed a few people along the way."
Not much you can add to that.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Now Is the Time

"The credit belongs to those who are actually in the arena, who strive valiantly; who know the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spend themselves in a worthy cause; who at best know the triumph of high achievement; and who, at worst, if they fail, fail while daring greatly, so that their place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” Quote by Theodore Roosevelt.

If you haven't, now is the time to really challenge yourself physically; consider shooting for a sub 3 hour marathon, try a 50 or 100 mile road,track or trail race. For that matter, consider any challenge that makes you a little nervous when you think about it.
It might take a few years or more to get there but as Roosevelt says, it's in the commitment and striving that we truly feel alive and grow as people.