Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Frank Shorter: I Am a Runner

I think everyone who lives for the run can relate to what Frank says below,it's taken from his book Olympic Gold: A Runner's Life and Times. "I am an amateur athlete. I run and train and compete for the sheer joy of the sport. I set goals for myself and structure my life so I can achieve them. When I am running well,I feel whole and happy,and when I am not running well,I try to figure out why so that I can feel whole and happy again.Running is not my job. Running is not,for me,working,though surely it is, at times,hard work. Running, for me,is a form of self- expression.Though I don't necessarily intend it as such,it is a statement of who I am and a lot of what I hope to be,even if what I someday become takes me away from running. Running is the one absolute in my life,and I admit to its control over me--a control that may not always seem to be in my best interests, but then, who is to say? I think I've reached the point where I am,perhaps perversely so,in control of the controls. This thing is really not so complex though. Above all else I run for fun,for the expansive feeling I get from running." Now there is a man who loves to run. Below is a link to an excellent recent interview with Frank.


Sunday, May 29, 2011

Runner, Know Thyself !

The following is from a book by Frank Shorter, the 1972 Olympic Marathon gold medalist.It's called Olympic Gold: A Runner's Life and Times. Much is to be learned from what Frank has to say. Most have forgotten that decades ago he led an effort to eliminate drug use from distance running competition, a noble endeavor indeed. Ironically,the '76 Olympic marathon champion Waldemar Ciepinski,whom Shorter finished less than a minute behind for the silver, was widely believed to be a drug cheat. Nothing ruins a sport's credibility more than illegal drug use. If you doubt that, then take a look at what it's done to baseball's homerun record for starters.But I digress. Here Frank gives an insight into something that can't be stressed enough,especially if you desire racing success: "You have to know your body. It's part of the beauty of the training process,and once you've determined how much your body (and mind) can take, you can then begin to reach your potential. As intensely as I've trained over the years,I never felt I was training too hard. I always felt I had a little more to give. I think I've grown to know my body and exactly how it reacts to running. I can detect subtle changes in the way I run and feel, which better enables me to gauge the effort I put into running and the training effect I might derive. I know when I'm fit,and why; I know when I'm not, and why." Again,serious training involves more than just lacing on the shoes and doing the workout.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Vegetarianism vs Veganism

It's interesting how passionate people can be about certain subjects. Religion and politics readily come to mind as being areas that people have strong feelings about. However,in recent years, the subject of diet,and more specifically vegetarianism, has often been a contentious issue.On a related note, I think we all recognize that a vegetarian diet is very popular among runners.In this article I am going to offer some comments on vegetarianism,diet and lifestyle. I'd also like to preface this by saying that I have read and studied about health and diet since the early 70's. I don't say this to set myself up as some kind of expert but to let you know that I am not a "Johnny come lately" to this subject.I would also say that I am primarily a vegetarian but do on occasion eat fish and will eat certain types of dairy.Now I will quickly add that I might not be a "true vegetarian" to the dietary purists out there, but, I believe I have a little bit different take on the whole subject of vegetarianism. When I first got into healthy eating,etc. many years ago,vegetarianism was just beginning to move from the sort of counterculture perception to mainstream acceptance. It didn't take long for the myths about vegetarianism and the risk of developing vitamin deficiencies to be dispelled and the diet to be adopted by millions of people. I should say that back then if you said the word vegetarian you were generally referring to a type of eating that included eggs and other types of dairy products, as well as for some people at least,fish. The reasons for people becoming vegetarian involved some or all of the following: they believed it was a more healthy way to eat, it was less expensive, it was a humane and animal "friendly" diet and definitely thought to be better for the enviroment. Fast forward to 2011 and vegetarianism is now more popular than ever but some changes have occurred. Vegetarianism has now morphed into an off-shoot called veganism. Veganism,as you probably know, is a vegetarian diet but one without any fish or dairy products. It is a popular and trendy way of eating advocated by celebrities in the entertainment and sports world, but as is often the case,that's not necessarily a good thing. Unfortunately,there are precautions that have to be taken when one adopts this diet because vitamin deficiencies can occur,most notably B-12. Proponents of veganism say this can be avoided by simply taking B-12 supplements. This however raises two questions. First,how healthy is a diet that says you may need supplementation? Secondly,not just any type of B-12 supplement will work. Writers who make a living promoting veganism will say their diet is the way to go if you want to live a long,healthy life. Other proponents will describe obscure groups or tribes of people living thousands of feet above sea level with pristine soil and water as being living proof that veganism works. How that applies to me living at sea level in the smog I don't know. The truth is,is that you can find no people out there where you can search back several generations and say,"yes,they have lived long,vigorous and healthy lives on what we call a vegan diet." A diet that has the possibility of creating a dietary deficiency should be avoided by anyone,especially an athlete who puts his and her body through periodic and varying degrees of stress. Again,in finding the ideal diet,shouldn't we see some evidence that gives proof to such a claim? Of course! Before I offer that proof, the one essential non-dietary aspect for a long,healthy life is being mentally and physically active. The logical question now is,where on earth do people live long healthy lives,where are there more centenarians than anywhere else? The answer is to look to the people of Okinawa and how they eat because that is where you will find the greatest concentration of aged and active people. For those who are unfamiliar with their diet,a little search on the Web will provide much useable and interesting information. Not surprisingly,Okinawans and people from other healthy cultures who have adopted a "western" diet have witnessed a decline in health and longevity. Hardly a surprise when 60% of the people in the U.S. are overweight and our fastest growing industry is healthcare. May we be as confident about our diet as we are about our training.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

You Know You're a Real Runner When......pt.1

The following question came up on a forum recently and it was an interesting one,the writer asked: "Just interested in people's views on this. At what point and at what level of ability for 5k, say, can you honestly and truthfully say that you're a runner, as opposed to a jogger or a fun runner?" It's not uncommon for people,especially younger ones, to equate performance with being a bonafide,or as I call it,a real runner. Those of us who live for the run know better,it's all about your passion and love for this sport,not the fact that you can run fast.What it all boils down to is that running is a priority in your life because it's something that's a part of who you are.The following response pretty much nails it in regards to when you know you're a runner. "You can say you are a runner when you live for the run--when running is THE thing in your life---it's about scheduling your days around your runs not your runs around what you think you should do first before you go out to run----it's NOT about whether you run this or that time for some distance, it's about a passion and a love for the sport that only serious injury or death will keep you from it."

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Ultimate Goal of Athletic Training

Ideally, training,athletics and sport should elevate the athlete mentally and physically to a point where they become the complete person.The following is an excerpt from Graem Sims biography,Why Die? The Extraordinary Percy Cerutty, Maker of Champions. Here Cerutty comments on what can be ultimately obtained through the RIGHT kind of training: "a. The ability to withstand severe physical hardship,to accomplish feats of strength and endurance,to understand orderliness and the true meaning of intelligence. b.To know oneself as an organism and a personality. c.To emerge,eventually emancipated from all dogmas,creeds and beliefs,as well as worldly and unworldly hopes and fears. d. To habitually function upon the highest planes of thought and physical effort. e.To place the objective of an alert,informed intelligence,and a perfected body,as primary in Life. And to arrive at the conclusion that all else will follow on. f.To learn that on this basis the whole world, and all that it has to offer,opens out as a vision splendid,normal and realisable. g. To understand that Past,Futures,Fates,Fears,Death,Selfishness,Egoism,Pride,Envy,Hate and Prejudice can be replaced by Intelligence that controls emotion,dominates destiny,manifests completeness, and exults in Life. h. To understand that in actuality, evolved man is a King, but without the trappings. That Kingship is his right and destiny. That we can make ourselves,in time, all that we would. That we honor real men but are subservient to none." An especially noteworthy quote by Cerutty asserts that through proper training of the body and mind: "we can make ourselves,in time, all that we would." So much for the stereotype of the one dimensional, "dumb athlete"here,Cerutty's philosophy on athletics involves more than just getting fit,strong and ready to race, it also requires what some might call "mental" work. This philosophy is what makes him unique,relevant and different from all other coaches. Cerutty knows that when you develop all aspects of yourself it positively effects the way you live and view life.I will continue to periodically offer insights into his philosophy.

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.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Strength in Training

Before I start today's post I would like to ask readers that if you enjoy what you see here on this site then pass the word along to others. I started this blog last December and there are now about 90 articles to read. You can access older posts from past months by simply scrolling down a little on the right side of the title page. It's my desire to continue offering info that you normally can't get elsewhere.

There are many very basic differences in the training philosophies of Arthur Lydiard and Percy Cerutty. One area in which they differ is in regards to weight training. Lydiard did not believe it was necessary,Cerutty thought weight,and more specifically, what he referred to as strength training, were essential if an athlete wished to reach his full potential.Strength training to Cerutty was more than lifting weights,it also included cross-country, mountain walking and running,swimming,as well as using a gym rope and horizontal bar. I believe that strength training is a needed component to a runner's workout routine,especially if they are seeking competitive success.He wrote this in Athletics:How To Become a Champion: "The athlete who confines all his training to running around a track with occasional outings over the country must be limited in experience, variation,enjoyment and the development of strength(power) in comparison with the athlete who bases his training on regular visits to the weight-training venue,the gym,the coastal regions and hilly places,the sand hills,beaches,deserts and the high mountains. This all adds up to power--the mental and physical power that is behind fast running as we practice it.Power(strength) has always been behind fast running,although weak people prefer to dissect technique as if technique alone is all that is required to enable a weak man to run a mile in four minutes. Technique is an important factor but technique today is useless against the athlete who is supported by technique plus power(strength)." Herb Elliott once said: "My golden rule was to train for mental toughness." Something that is overlooked in strength training is the mental strength and confidence that comes from such training. Sure, you will become stronger and less likely to succumb to injury because of strength training,but, we must not ignore the important mental benefits that will be gained. There is something to be said about the way you feel when you are able to pick it up in the last part of a race knowing that no one else has done the kind of strength work you have done.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Random Cerutty Quotes

"It cannot be over-stressed,for survival--intelligent survival and longevity,there must be some return by man to the natural enviroment,the elements,in a word,the simple life of the country or the seashore." Herb Elliott once said that the ideal life for an athlete is one of simplicity. How true that is. Too many activities,committments and striving for more "things" will eventually become the determining factors as to how you live your life. If you can't put yourself in the enviroment that Cerutty describes in the opening quote then you should make a point of regularly training in the ones he mentions above.

"Fitness,above all,pays dividends as no other investment can." The only thing better than being fit is being optimally fit,ready to race fit.I see people walking down the beach at about a 15 to 20 minute per mile pace and wish I could tell them that if they really want to get fit they have to do more than what they are doing. Sure, it's better than sitting in front of the TV eating Doritos but they've bought into the lie that sauntering down the street for X amount of minutes is a way to physical health. Getting fit takes work,sweat and dedication. The dividends paid out are both mental and physical. Those of us who live for the run know this only to well. Ideally,we should become an example to family and friends of what a healthy lifestyle can bring.

"Living is not only getting and gaining but doing." I think I've cited this quote previously but for obvious reasons it's a good one. Not only is living vicariously through the lives of million dollar pro athletes a waste of time but it can detract the spectator from actually being a particpant in sport.

In closing--Live life vigorously!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Food For Thought

You've read it on this blog before,tomorrow is promised to no one. So many things can happen that could change what you do and how you live in an instant. Each day we need to remind ourselves of this. What follows are some things to consider. When I read it I thought of a bumper sticker I occasionally see,it says: "Live the life you love." Consider this: "The Best day-Today, The Best Work-What You Like, The Greatest Stumbling Block-Your Ego, The Greatest Mistake-Giving Up, The Greatest Need-Common Sense, The Greatest Wealth-Health, The Great Sin-Fear, Your Enemies-Envy,Greed,Self-Indulgence,Self-Pity, Life's Greatest Adventure-growth on the Physical,Mental and Spiritual Plane, The Greatest Race To Win-A Long Vigorous Life,"(author unknown).

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Hangin' and Bangin'--Not the Stotan Way

The following is from the archives of The Stotan News. May you find it of some help as you begin the upcoming racing season.
"I rarely go into a race with preconceived tactics. The only tactics I admire are those of do or die," quote by Herb Elliott. We've all experienced it before,you're in a race,cruisin' along,thinking you are doing the best you can when you become aware that someone is running a little behind you. Initially paying it no mind you find yourself becoming mildly annoyed when this runner is still with you a half-mile or so later. As this continues you try throwing in a few brief surges to drop him but they remain a step or two behind. With the finish in sight you pick it up with intentions of finishing fast and strong. At the same time your unwanted running partner also picks it up and blows by you to finish 10 yards in front. The above described tactic of sitting,leeching, and then kicking it in, is what I call hangin' and bangin'. And folks,I've got a confession,I've utilized this technique in the past as part of my race "strategy." I don't believe it would be a stretch to say many of you have done this also. However,I have come to learn that this is not the Stotan way to race,and in many but not in all cases, it is a gutless way to race. In a related matter, I remember watching either the '88 or '92 Olympic 1500 meter final as the best in the world ran an extremely slow race for 1300 meters and then kicked it in with 200 meters to go. The finishing time was the slowest 1500mtr. final since the 1952 Olympics race! All I could think was,what kind of way was that to race one of the most prestigious races? So where do I get off saying sitting and kicking it in is not the way to go? I should clarify this statement by saying it's not the Stotan way. You only have to read the quote at the beginning of this article plus the two I'm about to write to conclude that anyone who purports to be a Stotan would not use the hang and bang strategy. Former world marathon record holder Derek Clayton said: "I've never been one for sitting back in a race no matter how I feel. I prefer to go 20 miles and blow it for a fast pace rather than go the whole distance and finish about 10th or 20th." Not surprisingly Cerutty nails it when he says: "Rather be beaten than let another athlete make all the pace and beat him in the last few yards." As a thought, it's interesting in reading the above that this go for it mentality was part of their character unlike those of us who have to make a conscious decision to be more aggressive in our racing. Some runners I've spoken to about this subject say, "who cares, I'm not a Stotan so what value is this type of strategy to me?" Take a moment and think about this "go for it" mentality. Ever run a race and believe you're doing rather well,you're running smoothly and efficiently telling yourself that with a half or three-quarters of a mile to go you'll begin a long kick to the finish? However, as you approach this point the inevitable fatigue(translation-pain) sets in and your plan of stepping it up becomes one of maintaining pace. Running a race aggressively could eliminate this from occurring but I would keep two things in mind: #1. This strategy shouldn't be done if you aren't in proper condition to do so. Too many people race without being in shape. It only takes a visit to a local road race to confirm this statement. #2. As Cerutty wrote: "this (strategy) does not mean we go off like a frightened hare but we have acquired an instinct for pace." As we reassess our training periodically we also need to do so with our racing.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Angry AL Again: You May Be a Trendie 21th Century Kind of Runner If:

Back in March I introduced a runner we call Angry Al. After my post the other day entitled,You're a Retro Runner If, Al sent me his version entitled,You may Be a Trendie 21th Century Kind of Runner If. True to form, Al demonstrates why he earned the surname "Angry". Although I don't necessarily agree with all that he writes I find much of it humourous.Here goes, You May be a Trendie 21th Century Kind of Runner If: 1.You change training systems at least once every year. 2.Bemoan the fact that you can't find the fluorescent tights in the colors you like anymore. 3.Are certain running sleeves and knee high running socks are essential running gear. 4.Actually believe a certain exercise physiologist is the "World's Best Coach." 5.You eagerly await each issue of Runner's World and Men's Health(for the ladies,RW and Shape magazine).6. Honestly believe that running a marathon is THE ultimate running accomplishment.7. Believe a cool down is having a cold drink after your run. 8.You've been pricing bikes for months due to the fact you're now seriously considering a triathlon because running is getting to be "kind of boring." 9. You have no clue who Arthur Lydiard is but can tell me who formulated the V-dot system. 10.Believe "six-pack" abs are really a sign of being healthy and are something a runner should try to have. 11.You believe doing a trail race is "living on the edge."
My favorite is #11,years ago when certain runners found out I raced on the trails they acted like I was doing something that was kind of dangerous. The reality is,is that every person who races should try a trail race,it will forever change the way they look at running and racing.

What Sacrifice?

"No ambitious person: no person who has set his sights on some goal above the average or the normal attainment: no dedicated person: no one willing to work, and anxious to achieve, ever considers the "way" he has determined upon: the path he is resolved to travel: the work and suffering he sees ahead of him,and which he encounters,ever thinks of all,or any of this as a--Sacrifice,"(quote by Percy Cerutty from Success in Sport and Life).
"The number of miles I have run since I was a toddler would have taken me around the world several times and still I cannot define precisely my joy in running. There is no sacrifice in it,"(quote by Ron Clarke, Australian distance runner, Olympic bronze medalist; during a 44 day period in 1965 he competed 18 times and broke 12 world records). I think one thing these two quotes have in common is that when you really love what you're doing then there is no feeling that you are sacrificing anything. Perhaps you have had people who know the amount of time you spend running say something like: "I admire the dedication and sacrifice you put into your running." Little do they realize that it is a labor of love.******* Posts were delayed for a few days due to the host "Blogger" having several technical problems.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Twenty Factors That Determine Racing Success

Twenty factors that determine racing success are: 1. The date of the race. 2. The challenge the race represents. 3. Age 4. Talent 5.Health 6. Nutrition 7.Hormones 8.Body build 9. Running technique 10.Aerobic capacity 11. Weight 12.Body fat 13.Training methods 14. Coaching 15. Tactics 16. Self-discipline 17.Track conditions 18.State of the weather 19.The opposition 20.The balance between aerobic and anaerobic exercise.The above is taken from the book,Running to the Top written by Arthur Lydiard. Although he writes that the factors are in no particular order of importance he does say that, #1,The date of the race, is of utmost importance. As you have read here before,Lydiard has always maintained that until you know how to be in peak condition on race day,you know nothing about training. How true that is. Those who have watched the Olympics over the years may have seen where the big favorite for a partcular distance race performs well below expectations only to set a W.R. in the same event a month later. The reason? Most likely this is because he peaked after the big race.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

You're A Retro Runner If

You're a Retro Runner If: 1.You've been using the same training system for 25+ years, Because, it works for you. 2.You gave up on Runner's World in the early '80's but won't even consider lending out any of their '70's issues. 3. You remember way back when feeling a little sheepish the first few times you wore the Gore-Tex running suit that someone bought for you. 4. It's 30 years later and you're still going to the same coffee shop after those weekly 20 milers. 5.You make a point of buying your running shoes at a small independent store even though it's 25 miles away. 6. You can't understand why they still don't make Adidas Marathon Trainers. 7. Every now and then you reread Pre by Tom Jordan but always skip the last chapter. 8. For Men: you won't admit it to anyone but you hate it when a female runner beats you. 9. You feel a little irritated when people refer to you as a "jogger." 10. Your weekends are planned around your runs. 11. You've got at least 2 running posters from the '70's on your walls. 12.You continued to carbo-load before marathons well after everyone else stopped doing it. 13. You're traveling further and further to find interesting and challenging races. 14. You resist getting rid of certain old running shirts because they hold a memory and tell a story.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Lydiard's Laws,14 Keys To Competitive Success

Not everyone who lives for the run aspires to race,and as mentioned previously,that makes you no less a runner than those who do. What follows are some insights by Arthur Lydiard on what the runner must do in order to arrive on race day in the best condition possible. Needless to say, what he recommends is relevant to all runners whether they choose to compete or not. As it is with all lists,it's easy to breeze over them and not really give them much thought. If you are serious about your racing,read each one carefully and consider each "Key" in light of how you've been training. I say this because over the years many people have told me that they are frustrated over their lack of competitive success yet they approach their training in a haphazard manner and never really stop and evaluate what they are doing. It is essential to do so,especially when you believe progress is not being made.I should preface this by saying that in key #10 Lydiard refers to 100 mile weeks. At a seminar he gave in the early 90's he said that weekly mileage was dependent on what each runner could handle, he recognized that not everyone could do that much. Lydiard went on to say that you should adapt the essence and principles of his program to fit your needs.So here goes, Lydiard's 14 Keys to Competitive Success: "#1. The gradual development of stamina as a foundation for higher intensity of speed work. #2. In terms of months of training,aerobic/anaerobic training should be on about an eight/two ratio. #3. Planning must be done carefully for the runner's entire career,not just this year or for these three shool years. #4. Training occurs 7 days a week,52 weeks of the year,but the degree of intensity varies greatly from month to month and day to day. #5. Development of endurance is a process of gradually raising the level of stress from running that can be sustained in a steady-state condition. #6.Variety is essential in all aspects of training and competition---variety of terrains, of kinds of running,of kinds of stress,of training companions,of methods for sharpening for competition. #7. A sound balance between the values of training and those of competition,each contributes to the other. #8. Zeal in training must be equated with zest. #9. Careful preparation for a few Big races, to which all other races are primarily developmental. #10. Mileage should be gradually increased during each year and for each year of a man's career. At full maturity, a man will run 100 miles per week at the higher stress levels of a steady state. #11. Great stress in training or competition must be balanced by full recovery,physical and mental. #12. Energy must be conserved prior to the Big races. #13. The purpose of time trials and developmental races are to analyze weaknesses, ensure adaptation to hard,steady-pace running,and harden self-confidence. #14. Sprinting speed requires specific sprint training."

Thursday, May 5, 2011

More From Joe Newton

Two posts ago in the article entitled,"Some Thoughts on Character and the Athlete," I referenced Joe Newton, a truly great American running coach.What follows are a few of what is called Newton's Rules of Running. He has acknowledged the influence of Arthur Lydiard on his training system in the past and you can see evidence of this in these "Rules." They are: "Running is a science.Build your program around cardiac efficiency. Distance training must never end.It is a 365-day-a-year job. Improvement in distance running is directly related to footpounds of work.Build strength through hill training and sprinting. Do not run so many meets(races) that you never have time for practice.Warming up and cooling down are two of the most important parts of a training schedule." What is the common theme evident among these "Rules?" It is a reliance on the fundamentals of long-distance training. Conditioning is a progressive process in which more stressful work is introduced as the body is ready to tolerate it thus leading to a point where the athlete is in peak fitness to race. Varying from the fundamentals increases the possibility of injury and not racing at your optimal level.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Listen To the Silence

"When you run you clear out your head," quote by Bob Marley. Bob was an avid soccer player and runner. Reading this quote you will see that he had discovered what those of us who live for the run understand,running is a great way to clear your head. A runner once wrote that he did his best thinking while out on a long run. I'm always amused when I read various running and fitness magazines that list the favorite music their readers' listen to while working out. We have enough sound and noise around us all day,why not go for the peace and quiet?

Some Thoughts on Character and the Athlete

Living in North Carolina the newspapers here were filled with stories about the Carolina Panthers football team making college superstar and Heisman trophy winner Cam Newton their #1 pick in the draft. For those who may not know,Newton is considered to be an absolutely incredible football talent. There was however many concerns expressed prior to the draft about his past behaviour which involved dishonesty and criminal actions. Critics also voiced concern about Newton having a less than ideal work ethic. You may recall that about a year ago there was an investigation into the fact that his father was "shopping" around the rights to draft his son for $200,000. Still, Cam Newton was the #1 choice in this years pro-football draft.Character issues were evaluated and found to be unimportant. On a related note, a leading football writer,Mel Kiper jr, had this to say about those who voted against Newton for the Heisman Trophy because of his past behaviour:"they should have their right to vote taken away." This statement is all the more astonishing when you take into account that one of the criteria for being awarded the Heisman is that the recipient should be a person of good character. Good character isn't a factor in pro-sports anymore,you only have to read your sports section throughout the year and you will read of pro-athletes geting into every imaginable kind of trouble on what seems to be at least a monthly basis. ESPN periodically runs features on athletes who were blessed with so much talent but failed because of a lack of discipline and good character.No matter what the sports world has to say,we all know that character is important and it matters. Let me now speak of another Newton,a man named Joe Newton. He has been the cross-country coach at York High School in Elmhurst Illinois for over 50 years. His teams have won 27 State and 20 National Cross-Country championships. He is a living legend in the world of running.Joe believes that character building is as vital in training his athletes as is team building.I couldn't help but think of this quote by Joe Newton when I heard the media last week dismissing character as being an issue in regards to the other Newton; Joe said this: "A person can have some talent and some character and have the chance to succeed,but, if he has tons of talent and no character he will fail. Players like Ryan Leaf,Jeff George and Todd Marinovich came to mind,guys who had tremendous talent but lacked the character needed and as a result failed.I close with one last quote by Joe and as I do I wonder if the reason we are producing more troubled athletes than ever before is because their coaches perhaps lack the right character or simply think it's all about the talent,nothing else. Newton adapts a quote by Plato and says: "The duty of coaching is to make good people because good people act nobly. That's my goal. I'm trying to make good people that will act nobly and go on to be doctors and lawyers.That's the story of coaching,it's more than running." Amen to that Joe.