Saturday, February 18, 2012

Resist the Temptation,Stay on Track

"I think there's a great temptation for an athlete to test himself. It's a weakness in every one of us. We like to know if everyday we're improving. That's part of human nature. If a guy decides to go on a crash diet, he doesn't want to see that scale a couple pounds lighter in three weeks time. He's got to be bloody lighter by tomorrow or to hell with it.
The athlete has the same sort of tendency when he's training. There is a terrific temptation to test yourself and to measure your improvement and I believe that's a weakness. I think that you have to resist that temptation and have confidence in yourself and the toughness of your training and know within yourself that it is going to produce results. I'm a great believer in resisting temptation to keep proving yourself to yourself." Quote by Herb Elliott.
Herb is correct when he says succumbing to the temptation to test oneself is a weakness. The athlete that does this may not only be exhibiting a lack of confidence in his training as Elliott states, but may also be allowing his anxiety to get the best of him.I have known many distance runners who regularly deviated from their prescribed workouts to test themselves by going all out in an effort to see if they were, "where they wanted to be". The classic example being the individual who increases the pace during the last 3 miles of his weekly 20 miler down to his 5k racing speed. Doing such things,as most of us know, has the potential to sabotage the success we seek in the future. You see other examples of anxiety getting the best of runners when they do things like: overtrain, not taper properly for big races or ignore impending injury. You can also include athletes who are changing training systems has often as they get new shoes. I recall a friend who used to periodically call and tell me excitedly how he had found THE great training system,then 6 months later he'd call with another one. Chi running,Natural running,Daniel's,Anderson,Galloway,the systems went on and on.
What can be done to avoid giving into temptation and being influenced by anxiety? First off, if you know that your training system is right for you and you have been doing the work that it requires,then write notes on every page of your training log reminding you of that fact.Make it a daily effort to read and consider those notes. Secondly,maybe you do need to do more. Perhaps a light 15 or 20 minute easy jog in the morning during the week will serve to give you the added confidence you need and stifle the anxiety.
Ultimately,it's all part of a mental,as well as a physical toughening process, that occurs when you realize that most people you will race against have not done the type of Stotan training you are doing.


  1. I agree with the author that having confidence in one's training schedule and sticking to it is the key to successful running. Some training partners feel the need to compete during routine workouts in order to build their confidence at the expense of others. I usually will find other running partners if this pattern persists. There are many training programs that will produce a successful long distance runner but, in my opinion, the common thread is consistent training and avoiding injuries if at all possible.

    1. I fully agree, but I have happened to run across Percy Cerutty in 1968 (I have been continuously running since 1958, and lived close to Ernst van Aaken near Krefeld, so I have meat him for the first time when I was 15, and ran a weekend seminar for coaches with him when I was 18). What impressed me most, was his strive for improvement, for explanations of things he found and could NOT explain. He sounded like a good science professor, raising questions, no one could answer, but that were pertinent and you wanted to try.

      His life theory of the Stotans is very similar to what Mihalyi Igloi preached: If you want to be excellent, you have to put all of your mind, your time, your dedication in being excellent. Igloi always referred to the violin player, who would also practice 8 hours a day to be world class, why should a runner train less or with less dedication?

      When we watched the 1968 Olympics together, Percy Cerutty and I discussed why the runners from Kenya were better. His theory was that they were closer to nature. Mammals have a flight reflex. They change modes when running under duress. A horse can trot (diagonal coordination) or gallop (double leg action), the same with a dog or a cat. When they want to race they would never trot (the trotting horse is 'unnatural' and it is much slower than a galloping horse). But men coordinate diagonally when racing.

      How can you make a runner use the flight reflex and mobilize hidden reserves?

      Coach Cerutty assumed about the Kenyan runners that - when their Kenyan coaches shouted 'Zimba' (Swahili for 'Lion') - it was not an encouragement like 'go get him tiger' (Jim Bush, my coach at UCLA, used to shout) but a key word to change modes into the 'flight reflex mode".

      What can you learn: Never give up learning, studying, thinking about what you are doing. There are many questions around that are still unsolved. Our emphasis on physiology and biochemistry may solve some but not all of the problems of training.

  2. Arnd--very interesting,especially that last paragragh! Thank you.