Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Nine Necessary Qualities Needed to Achieve Athletic Success

Dr James Loehr writes that there are nine qualities an athlete must have to attain athletic success. Read the following and evaluate how you stack up against the nine steps. Are there any areas you need to work on? The comments made below the numbered qualities are by Joe Vigil, the outstanding former distance running coach at Adams State College
An athlete must:
"1. Be self-motivated and self-directed.
Motivation and direction comes from within.
2.Be positive but realistic.
The athlete's tradenark is a blend of realism and optimism,with an eye always fixed on success,on what can happen and what is possible.
3.Be in control of his or her emotions.
Anger,frustration,and fear must be controlled or they most certainly will control you.
4.Be calm and relaxed under fire.
Athletes don't avoid pressure. They are challenged by it and are at their best when the pressure is on and the odds are against them.
5.Be highly energetic and ready for action.
The athlete is his own igniter and can do this inspite of fatigue,personal problems or 'bad luck.'
6.Be determined.
They are relentless in their pursuit of  goals.Setbacks are taken in stride as they move forward.
7.Be mentally alert.
Athletes are capable of long and intensive periods of total concentration.They are capable of tuning in that which is important and tuning out that which is not,regardless of the pressure.The athlete has attention control.
8.Be doggedly self confident.
The athlete must display a nearly unshatterable sense of confidence in their ability to perform well.They do not succumb to self defeating thoughts and ideas.
9.Be fully responsible.
The athlete must take responsibility for his or her own actions.There are no excuses.They must be fully aware that their destiny,as an athlete,is in their own hands."

An excellent comprehensive list with relevant,thought provoking comments by Vigil.
So what areas do you need to work on?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

A Marathoning Tactic

The mind and the marathon;controlling your emotions and anxiety is critical to racing that distance well. Don Kardong offers a technique you may want to consider in the future if you have had troubles in those areas in the past. Kardong,an excellent distance runner and writer, finished fourth in the marathon at the 1976 Olympics.Sadly, he was denied a bronze medal because the winner in '76 was  years later found to be a "druggie." Consider the following:
"I have a theory on marathon running,where a rational approach is so important.During the first ten miles of the race,I try to disasociate myself from what I am doing.I talk,joke and daydream in ways that remove me from the race. But after 10 miles,my consciousness re-enters the picture,and concentration begins.From that point on,the problem is concentration,and the feeling is one of acute association with the task at hand.I switch from automatic pilot to manual control,and through the last part of the race I pick off those people who have over-associated,i.e.,who have tried to concentrate from the start.The people who disassociate(daydream) the whole way are never in the race.I believe the combination of passive with active running is the most effective mental condition for marathoning."
As one who has been guilty of "over-associating" in marathons in the past, what Kardong says makes sense.I recall being on what he describes as "manual control",being too preoccupied with how I'm feeling right from the start of the race, in the state of potential panic where I interpret something going on with me physically as being potentially disastrous.It's exhausting physically and emotionally.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Personalize It!

It's the how to train books that take up most of the space in the running section at your local bookstore.Readers to this blog realize that a "one size fits all" approach to training is not always a good idea. Lydiard recommended that runners take his schedule, which build strength and fitness progressively, then personalize it to fit their strengths and weaknesses.
Bill Bowerman,Nike co-founder and great Oregon running coach offered these related thoughts on the subject: "If someone says, 'hey,I ran 100 miles this week,how far did you run?' Ignore him! What the hell difference does it make? The magic is in the man,not the 100 miles."
 As far as the mindset that further or faster is always better he offered the following:
"runners tend to think the farther and faster they run in training,the better it's going to be for them...A runner can have just as much success,if not more success,by finding what his limit is in relation to his progress.It just doesn't make sense to think,'I'm going to be successful because I have run farther than anyone else.' "
The go to guy on running physiology,Dr.David Costill, sums it all up in this excerpt from 'What Research Tells the Coach About Distance Running', "It is unlikely that any one type of training will produce perfect results for all runners since the combination of anatomical,physiological and psychological factors which compose the distance runner are too divergent."
What Costill and Bowerman recognize is that slavishly following someone elses training regimen or a schedule taken as is from a book is unwise and can be counter productive to a runner's development.The answer lies in the runner evaluating his progress and discerning his needs along the way. This requires an athlete who is not only knowledgeable but thoughtful and patient as well.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

One Thing You Must Not Forget

As human beings we are all capable of change,mentally and physically. The big question is, do we want to change and do we believe a change can actually happen?
Emil Zatopek,who won the gold at the 1952 Olympics in the 5,000 and 10,000 meters and the marathon, has something to say about this:
"By a persistent effort of will it is possible to change the whole body. The athlete must always keep in mind this concept of change and progression; he must never accept his limitations as being permanent,because they are not."
Emil was living proof of the validity of that quote.The logical question is, are we accepting our perceived limitations as being permanent?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

If You Are Thinking of Running a Marathon Consider This

Without a doubt the marathon is the distance that has the highest number of ill-prepared entrants.Something happened many years ago that led to this distance becoming the be all end all for runners.Whether it was Runner's World or people like Jeff Galloway, or the programs that seemed to appear overnight that said they could get you from zero miles to the starting line in 6 or 8 months,the marathon experienced a huge increase in participants. By appealing to people's desire to climb a type of personal Mt. Everest we saw the emergence of "coaches" only to willing to help them on their journey while making money in the process.
If you are a thinking,discerning runner you recognize that racing,as well as running a marathon, is something that should be done only after years of preparation. I know that flies in the face of those who believe that there is always a better, faster way, but, if you want to do it right and have a long running career, then you must be patient.Nothing can speed up the benefits your muscles,tendons and joints get from seasons of mileage and time out on your feet.Years ago everyone was shocked when Carlos Lopes,at age 37,won the gold medal in the Olympic marathon.When asked what was the secret for this success at such an age,he said that his whole distance running career had prepared him for the marathon.
While we're on the subject of age,far too many young promising runners,those in their 20's, prematurely begin racing the marathon. They either ignore or are unaware of the fact that as we age the drop off in performance times lessen as the distance lengthens. So what's the hurry?
I say ignore the marathon hype,race a variety of distances over different terrains and settings,see what you can do,find your ideal distance,then,when you've put in the time,laid the foundation,make the move to the marathon.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Lest We Forget: The Basic Requirements For the Stotan Are

Consider the following by Percy Cerutty:
"1.Realization that,as Wordsworth the poet says, 'Life is real,life is earnest'.which denotes that there is no time for wasteful ideas and pursuits.
2.In place of wasteful hobbies there commences a period of supervised and systematic physical training,together with instruction in the art of living fully.This replaces previously undirected life.
3.Swimming will be done all year round.It is obligatory to swim in the open sea at least once every month. This especially strengthens the will and builds resistance to quitting the task ahead.
4.The programme implies the cessation of late hours.Amusements,both social and entertaining,should be reduced to a minimum and then only in the nature of relaxation from strenuous work..
5.To become a leader it must be accepted that the first requisite for leadership is being able to give wholehearted loyalty,obedience and support to the leader at the time.
I hold that the human being cannot be reduced to the status of a machine--and I attribute the success of the athletes who received their early training at Portsea on my specialized fartlek methods,not so much to the initial ability of the athletes,but to the form of training we favour at Portsea,and the terrain we train upon.The introduction of resistance in the form of sand and hill is too important to be ignored and the track can never fulfill the lack nor the scientific formula replace 'natural and instinctive' effort."
As I've said before,it's hard to believe there was once an athletic coach who wrote things like the above.I especially appreciate the quote: "there is no time for wasteful ideas and pursuits." I was thinking that most of the above would be excellent advice for the college age athtlete.
For the rest of us, the question we might ask ourselves is,are we wasting our time and ultimately our lives? Consider,Commit,Plan--then Proceed with a Dedicated Discipline.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


I don't mean to be critical,think of this as an observation with a question: why is it that everywhere I turn I see people talking on cellphones? Be it in the car,going into a store,in the store,going out of the store,walking down the street, I see people on cellphones. What is most disturbing is the number of people I see texting while driving.There is no doubt in my mind that cellphone use is habit forming, and to many,addicting. However the purpose of today's post is not to rant about cellphone use and abuse but it did give me the idea for what you are about to read. Today we consider the necessity for athletes to "hibernate" periodically,to get away from it all; away from the noise and the busyness of everyday life. Cerutty addresses this subject quite nicely in the following excerpt from one of his early writings.
"Few or no animals would appear to function without periods of rest. Many have periods of hibernation. Man can benefit similarly.For many years I practiced this principle.At least twice a year it is good to get away from it all.This does not mean tearing off to some social place for a round of fun. Hibernation is when we go to some remote place and rest.I conceive it as perfect when we assume a hut or cabin,with or without companions,where we are 'snowed in'.There is food,firing,books.We lie about,resting alot; eating a little,reading resting,dozing,perhaps chatting a little.After two or three days a man will leave and return to 'civilisation' like a giant refreshed."
To the above I'd add that your place of hibernation should have no TV or other electronic conveniences like radios and cellphones.If you do bring someone along with you make sure that they understand fully what is,or better said,isn't going to be happening.Solitude and having the opportunity to think and rest allows you to "recharge your batteries",to consider things you might never have considered if you hadn't taken the time to "hibernate".

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Training:Putting Down the Foundation,pt.3

In this third and final installment on base training we get to the heart of this all important part of your training schedule.
"For those of you who are looking to increase mileage to 50 or 60 miles per week max, it is advised to increase the bulk of your mileage on two of your weekday runs(refer to Tuesday and Thursday of the schedule below) and on the designated long run done on the weekend..As for the 'traditional' Sunday long run, it is not an absolute necessity that you must do it every weekend. Something else to consider,if you plan to run marathons I would certainly encourage you to at least work up to a 23 mile long run.It has always baffled me why those training for the marathon would only go as far as 20 miles on their longest run.We've all experienced the pain of those last 6 miles(or less),why not acclimate yourself to the distance before hand?
Some things to watch for as you get further into your base phase: becoming fatigued and/or feeling listless. As fitness improves,your resting pulse lowers. It is not a bad idea to check it each week. They say if your pulse is faster than usual when you wake up,it may indicate that you need to take it easy for a day or two. Perhaps this can all be prevented by trying to sleep a little more as your training volume increases. It is not a crime to take a day off or halve your mileage for a particular day. The saying, 'an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure',is definitely something you want to keep in mind during this phase.
The following is a sample of what a beginning training program might look like. I would assume that readers have been doing some running prior to starting this. Of course this schedule can be adjusted to fit your level of conditioning.Remember to plug in the out and back exercises referred to previously.
Sunday: 1 hour and 15 minutes of easy running.
Monday: 30 to 40 minutes easy fartlek.
Tuesday: easy running,1 hour.
Wednesday:steady running, 45 minutes.
Thursday: easy running 1 hour.
Friday: 30 to 45 minutes easy fartlek or a run over a hilly course.
Saturday: steady run from 20 to 50 minutes,or,take the day off.
Well,there it is,a base program devised by Arthur Lydiard decades ago.A system that is time tested,proven physiologically and by race performances. As far as distance training fundamentals go---'there is nothing new under the sun."

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Training: Putting Down the Foundation, pt.2

We continue this series on the most important part of your training schedule, base building. How you do this type of training,how well you do it, meaning,how long and if you do it the way you are supposed to,will determine how the rest of your conditioning and eventual racing will go. I continue:
"It is suggested that the runner have several out and back courses where he can accurately measure his time.I find this 'exercise' devised by Lydiard to be ingenious in its simplicity and practicality.The purpose of it is to develop your aerobic threshhold. Here's how it goes: run out easy for about 20 minutes or more(depending on your fitness) then turn around and return. The key to doing this practice is to run easy,comfortably;making sure you don't become 'winded'.If it takes you longer to return to your starting point then most likely you went out too fast. Again,the aim of this workout is to improve your aerobic threshhold. Also remember that if you have to back off or feel winded doing this, then most likely you ran a portion of it too fast and went into an anaerobic state.Do these measured courses twice a week,as you become fitter your times will become faster. This happens because you are achieving an increase in your maximum steady(aerobic) state as a result of your improving physical condition. As fitness develops,lengthening of the courses are necessary. Initially this workout requires control and discipline because you have to run a certain way,resisting the urge to go too fast. The more you do it though,the more natural it feels. The improvement in your aerobic fitness is subtle but you'll be surprised at how well this exercise works.
By the way,many like to use time as a yardstick for measuring their workouts instead of miles.Lydiard recommends this,especially in the beginning stages of your training program. It's easy to get preoccupied with mileage thus losing sight of the real purpose of the base phase. I have found that experienced runners seem to instinctively know how fast they're running so translating time into mileage is no problem.
In regards to increasing mileage,accepted thought is that a 10% increase per week is fine. Of course,each runner is unique and this percentage may not be right for you.Listen to your body,especially when you get towards the maximum mileage you want to achieve. You may want to increase at 5% or keep your mileage the same for a few weeks or even drop down a little one week before increasing it again.
Another question often asked when formulating the base phase: should I run twice a day? Lydiard states that if time allows and it doesn't take away from your main workout then a second run is good.He believes that one longer sustained run is better than two shorter runs. The longer running is best for developing the capillary system and increasing your oxygen uptake.
Varying the distances run each day is advised.Needless to say,different places to run,even if it requires a little travel time,makes the aerobic phase even more enjoyable.
Once or twice a week your course should take you over some hills and/or involve some easy fartlek. The hilly course should not have hills that are too steep or too long. The fartlek should be comprised of easy 100 to 200 meter 'pick-ups' interspersed throughout an easy run.Again,consider your level of fitness as you formulate your workouts for the base phase. I have known runners that have no problem running a hilly course during the early stages of their base phase while others,less fit,need to wait before doing so. It all boils down to the phrase, 'listen to your body.'"

This ends part 2 of Putting Down the Foundation. The third and final section will be posted tomorrow(Sunday). I apologize for not posting this section last Thursday as I said I would but work related issues prevented me from doing so.
Many have asked recently what I thought of the cancellation of the NYC marathon. I had two thoughts on this: first off, it was as they say,a no brainer,it needed to be cancelled. But here's where race organizers and the mayor of NYC went wrong; early on, or at the latest halfway into the week, it was obvious that there was an incredible amount of damage and destruction.That was the time to cancel the marathon. By waiting till Friday thousands of runners from all over the country had already arrived in the city, they'd spent their money on getting there as well as on hotel accomodations.By cancelling the race when it was obvious to everyone but a few,these runners could have been saved alot of money and time. One wonders if the fact that the NYC marathon generates 350 million in cash for the city played a factor in the late decision,a decision that was made after there was an increasing outcry from the public to do so. Mmmmm.