Sunday, December 30, 2012

A Runner's List of New Year's Resolutions

It's a common occurrence in the media and elsewhere to disparage the idea of making New Year's Resolutions. Their rationale is that no one keeps them anyway so why bother doing so? To me this is flawed reasoning.You mean,just because you didn't keep them in the past it is not worthwhile to ever again consider or write down things that you wish to do or change about yourself? It is as they say,worthy.Change happens and any direction taken towards positive change is a good thing. What follows is a list of resolutions one runner has made,what are yours going to be?
1. I will follow my training schedule all the way through this year. I am not going to drift off into some type of free form,do as I please routine midway through as I have done in recent years.How can I reap the racing benefits if I don't follow the plan?
2.I will actually use a training log.This is one I've been telling myself I'm going to do for years.I begin with good intentions but get lazy and undisciplined and gradually give up, telling myself that a log is really not necessary.I say this despite the fact that runners much better than myself  use one.Once again,it all boils down to discipline.
3.I will make a concerted effort to go under 3 hours for the marathon one more time. Isn't that the benchmark for us average Joe runners?  It takes planning and total commitment but the journey to that goal makes us better runners and people,if,we allow it to.
4.I will seek out new places to train.I wouldn't say that 'familiarity breeds contempt' but it's good to challenge ourselves with new areas and terrains.As I said the other day,runners tend to be creatures of habit and that may not always be a good thing.
5.I will try running different types of races.Once again,it is essential for runners to venture out of their comfort zone from time to time.
6.I will stick with a regular and appropriate weight training routine.It is a proven, essential part of a runner's training regimen, that among other things,contributes to a runner being less likely to become injured.
7.I will not drink alcohol to excess.Why am I still doing this? You'd think I was addicted or something.
8.I will stop eating junk foods and foods that have no real nutritional value.I will also not overeat which is more destructive to one's health then most people realize.
9.I will give something back to the running community. As a runner I am overly concerned with ME,my training,my diet,myraces,etc. I will volunteer to help at some local road races or mentor some novice runners or...........
10.I will reread the greatest running bio ever written, Pre! by Tom Jordan. It will inspire and remind me of what guts,passion and total commitment really are.I'll read the book slowly and thoughtfully,considering each word. I'll also at some point watch the DVD on his life called, Fire on the Track.

Seems like Monday night might be a great time to start it all off by going long.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Runner's Quirks and Habits

Those of us who live for the run and have been at it a long time tend to have our habits,rituals and quirks.You know,like when you see another runner at the park or the track and you find yourself looking at the kind of shoes they are wearing.I found myself doing this just last week,I was discreetly checking out this guy's shoes when he suddenly says to me,"those (Asics) 2160's your wearing were a good shoe." While were on the subject of shoes,the reason I still had a pair of 2160's is because I bought 2 pairs as they were bringing in the "new and improved" 2170's.Runner's tend to be very loyal to a shoe that works for them and want to have them around as long as possible.
Ah, the relationship a runner has with his shoes:
I won't mention names here but I know runners who won't even drive their car to a workout in their training shoes.
Then their is the extreme reluctance to discard the old ones.When their training days are over the shoes are relegated to casual, walking around footwear.
This all makes me think of race tee shirts,there are ones I've had for decades,they are worn at just the right race or training session. I told a younger runner who had asked me how long I had been racing,"This may sound like a cliche or something but I really do have race shirts that are older than you."
There is specific gear and apparel we wear to races as well as a certain kind of bag or sack we carry them in.
Perhaps alot of these quirks and habits exist because we distance runners are creatures of habit.I mean,don't we all have a pre-race routine? Don't these pre-race routines vary to some degree in relation to the distance to be raced? There is a distinct difference in the pre-race preparation before a 5k as opposed to a marathon.But either way,we have a specific type of routine we do before each race.I recall that prior to longer trail races I would always dilute a bottle of Twin Lab Ultra Fuel with water and eat a Power Bar 3 hours before the start.Speaking of Power Bars,remember when they first came out you could only get them at Bike shops? I digress. Runners are very particular and specific as to what they eat and don't eat before a race.The same goes for what they drink.
Runners who have been at it for awhile and would be described as experienced are locked into the training systems they have followed for years. They are very unlikely to go with the hot new training system that's being touted.They'll tell you they've been around long enough and have seen them come and go, besides,they plan to stick with what works for them.
Similarly,runners have certain races they do year after year,they are the highlight of their racing season. I think of the Belle Watling Club in Buffalo where several members have gone to the Boston Marathon every year for 35+ years.
The social post race and post workout rituals, the "watering holes" where runners go and drink and tell stories,relive great runs,races and experiences.It's all part of what makes distance running so special,people who share a love for the purest of all sports,distance running.
If any of you have rituals, quirks or habits you'd like to share, send them along.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Cerutty on Success

Those who have been fortunate enough to read the excellent bio on Percy Cerutty called Why Die?, know that his childhood and early life involved much deprivation and hardship.This experience molded what later revealed itsself as the good and bad qualities of an adult Cerutty.The man knew failure,but more importantly,he knew all about success.What follows are some of his thoughts on success:
"Success is an abstraction.There is no actual or concrete thing called success.There are only successful people,successful ventures,etc."
I would add that one man's idea of success is not necessarily another man's.
"The first step on the road to a personal success in something is to believe that success should be,at some time or another normal for us,and to set about the work of achieving it."
Confidence and a belief in the worthiness of your quest is essential.
"If you would be successful,first examine yourself as to type,and potential ability.Then list your weaknesses.You can take your gifts for granted,since it is easy to develop them.It is your weaknesses that you must work on."
How many of us did this when we began?
"Achieving success is like climbing a mountain.You can stand off from afar,and glimpse the summit.But if you are wise,you will quickly turn away from any such contemplation and start organising yourself,and getting on the way."
This is why there is value in setting short term goals.Also,our "big"goal can at times seem unattainable and far off if it is the only one we have set for ourselves.Cerutty has this to say about too much contemplation of your long term goal when he writes:
"It is more important to study the path immediately before us than to spend much time gazing upwards."
"The practical man,once he has glimpsed his goal seldom talks about it.He gets busy in taking the first steps towards his goal."
"Be glad for setbacks,disappointments.They teach us more than a fortuitous success."
If we are open and allow them to.
"The greater the failure the greater the stocktaking that is needed."
"Experience is essential.Be prepared to put in the time and effort gaining it."
Patience is essential, as they say--'the secret of life is enjoying the passage of time.'
"The old well-proven paths of industry and deep thought are are not the well-proven paths to success for nothing.The paving stones of the path may vary but generally they are found to be intelligent work,persistence,concentration,dedication,erudition,resilliance,and devotion to an idea."
So well put,the above are indeed the keys.I like his naming of intelligent work as a key.Too many distance runners just hammer away giving little thought to what they are doing and what they want to accomplish.They could get so much farther if they considered the type of training they should do to reach their goals.
As the New Year aapproaches,is this the year that you totally go for the goal you have only been considering from "afar off "?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Runners--Don't Overstress!

Overwork,not listening to your body--the two things that can lead to the burnout or breakdown of a runner.Avoiding them means the athlete can continue on his path to distance running excellence with fewer injuries and delays in achieving his goals.
Tom Osler,writer,veteran runner and racer, has the credentials that command respect. We've referenced Tom before on this site,for those who don't know him,take a moment do a search and you'll see that he is someone you should pay attention to.Here he offers some suggestions on what habits athletes should incorporate into their training program to reduce the likelihood of what he calls overstress.As usual,I will offer a few comments after some of his suggestions.
"1.Frequent easy days---Some athletes train hard every other day,running easily on the remaining days.This makes good sense,as it tends to insure recovery."
"2.Flexible mental attitude--there is no surer path to injury,poor health and bad racing than a stubborn dedication to a strict training schedule. Common sense must always prevail and a schedule must be abandoned or altered as the need arises."
As I have said many times before--the athlete who won't back off when all the signs are pointing to the fact that he should,is most likely succumbing to uncontrolled anxiety about the impending race.
"3. Good Diet--The runner should attempt to get his nourishment from fresh natural sources."
Fresh and natural are the keywords--if you wouldn't put a low quality gasoline in a Rolls Royce,then why are you putting junk food and other foods with ingredient lists that go on for 4+ lines in a body that you want to perform at its best?
"4.Wear good shoes---A poor shoe is a sure source of injury.The shoe should have a soft flexible bottom to absorb road shock,the elevation of the heel is critical."
Forget the fads,the trends with an agenda,a light flexible shoe has always been the way to go.Avoid the 'gumboots' and the shoes that claim to 'correct problems' the runner has.
"5.Quit races when exhausted--Long distance races can be brutal on a runner's health."
I believe this fact is most commonly overlooked by those who race.Races are very stressful and not healthful to the runner.By not healthful I mean racing a 30k or say a marathon is more destructive to the body then constructive.Of course, if you prepare properly and take the time to recover you can facillitate a healthful recovery.Gutting out a marathon after going out too fast in the beginning and suffering the last 10 miles is just plain stupid.Maybe for some it is missplaced machismo.Use your head--respect your body.
"6.Watch your weight--A gain in weight of even a few pounds places a heavy additional strain on the runner."
Another fact that is often overlooked.More weight,more stress on every part of your body,bones,heart,.....
Call the above preventative medicine for the runner.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

What Makes a Good Coach?

Coaches,most readers I'm sure have had one at some time in their lives,perhaps some of you do now.A coach can make a lasting impression on an athlete,hopefully that impression is a good one.Unfortunately,nothing can destroy a love for athletics like a bad coach.
As we get older and become parents we want our children be guided by intelligent,sensitive coaches.
A very good coach,Joe Vigil,provides some criteria below as to what constitutes a good coach.After some of his criteria I will offer a comment or two.
1. "A coach must be thoughtful and imaginative."
How true. He must be able to assess and evaluate his athletes and make changes accordingly.
2. "A coach will act as a tutor initially, and then eventually allow the athlete to introduce his/her ideas into the plan."
This is especially so for the older,more experienced athlete,this belief was also advocated by both Cerutty and Lydiard.
3. "A coach must have good technical and practical knowledge in all aspects of running."
Not as common an attribute in distance running coaches as you might think.
4. "A coach must be able to communicate this knowledge and experience to the athlete."
What did Cerutty once say: if the coach can't do it,he can't teach it? Perhaps it would be better to say,if the coach hasn't done it,can he teach it?
5."The athlete and coach eventually become a team and share in all aspects of training and proper direction for living."
This is the ideal coach,I think of the late John Wooden among others.
6. "A coach must be able to assess ability and determine a person's potential."
No easy task,it's a skill,some call it a gift.
7. "A coach should inspire, motivate and lead the athlete in all training and competition."
And,a coach should support an athlete and offer only constructive criticism when they do not perform up to expectations.
8. "A coach must never use athletes to further his/her own reputation."
A great point,the coach often takes the credit for the success of his athlete but never takes the blame when they're injured,often habitually.
9. "A coach must be absolutely honest so that the athlete may be able to rely on his/her decisions."
A no-brainer,the world has seen enough of dishonest coaches,particularly on the professional level.
10."An athlete must respect the coach's experience and judgement just as the coach must respect the athlete's ability and determination."
11. "The coach and athlete must get along well,both on and off the track.It is vital to enjoy a good laugh together as well as discuss the technical aspects of training and racing."
It's because of these kinds of relationships that athletes talk about their coaches for decades after.
12. "A coach should be a guide,philosopher and friend.He/She must be positive and always constructive with criticism."
Amen to that! We need more coaches like this today,thoughtful,sensitive and philosophical.
13. "A coach must be enthusiastic and easy to talk to.This enthusiasm should be infectious and should lead to greater training and racing."
Yes! Leave having a fear of your coach to football and other such sports,this type of coach has no place in distance running.
14. "Above all, remember that if a good coach can stimulate an athlete, so can an athlete stimulate a coach to good coaching practices."
I'm sure lots of you recall the teams you've been on that had an energy when you were at practice,it seemed to flow back and forth between team members and the coach.
If you have,or have had a good coach,be thankful,they are not as common as you think they are.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

To Live a Life Fully

Percy Cerutty believed quite correctly that with the body properly trained and honed, a person was best able to take on the challenges of this world. Consider the following:
"That without strength,efficient organs,intelligence and an absence of secret fears man is only a parody,and for him life cannot be fully lived. He does not dominate his enviroment,it is the enviroment that dominates him.Such a man is not free. Only the mentally free and the physically strong can live this type of life to the full.Nature ordains it this way.There is no catch to it.Nature favors the fit."
There is a confidence and self-assurance that just seems to be a part of the person who trains his whole body on a regular basis. I am not only talking about getting in your daily five miles here,I'm talking about other exercises and types of training routines which ultimately challenge you and build character.Consider the above and ask yourself, are you doing enough?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

One Day Delay

I spent the last 2 days in Asheville,North Carolina and along the Blue Ridge Mountains scouting out potential locations for a New Portsea homestead. Due to my arriving back late Wednesday,the scheduled post will be on Thursday.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

A Grown-up Runner's Christmas List

Christmas is a special time of year for many reasons and gift giving and receiving have alot to do with why it is so special.
For me, getting gifts at Christmas brings back memories from years ago when it was a simpler less complicated time.
What follows is my Christmas wish list,emphasis here is on wish,but hey,there's nothing wrong with wishing.
1.How 'bout an English language version of Yiannis Kouros' book he wrote years ago that chronicles his remarkable 6 Day Race in New York City. Against all odds and at one point,horrible weather,Yiannis set a record for that distamce. Are there still some hardcore runners out there who don't know he is? He is in my opinion the greatest runner who has ever lived. He owns every point to point ultra record as well as every one from 24 hours to 6 days. Consider 303km for 24 hours for starters.Break it down and see how many miles that is in a day. Go to Wikipedia and take a moment to read over the records he has set and the prestigious Ultra races he has won. Google Yiannis and read some of the accounts of his races. Yet this man can't get his book published? I mean they're publishing Dean K's books,why not Yiannis'? If you have not seen the documentary on Yiannis entitled,'Forever Running', you really need to buy it,today! This man is one of a kind,unlike any runner you have ever read about or seen. Last time I looked the site Zombierunner was selling the DVD.Oh yeah,Chris McD., I'm still waiting for that story you told me you were going to do on him.
2.I'm showing my age here,how about more marathons with fewer entrants,say 200 or 300? I'm tired of the congestion and confusion that comes with the thousand plus marathons.Making your way through a sea of people every which way you turn and go,waiting in lines for most everything and running for several minutes before you pass the starting line gets old quick.You younger runners may have never experienced the calm and lack of confusion that accompanies the smaller marathons.
3.I'd like cheaper running shoes. I think I'm finally a believer in the recommendation that you need a new pair every four months but,come on,100 plus dollars for new ones? Despite marketing research to the contrary, I still don't believe the majority of runners can easily afford the cost of  changing out shoes every 4 months.
4.I want a running magazine that is like the way Runner's World and Running Times were in the 70's.They were performance oriented,maximum performance oriented magazines. They had quality interviews with great runners,people like Lydiard,Clayton and Sheehan were doing monthly columns.Yeah,I understand that magazines have to reach the biggest audience to survive but this is a wish list isn't it?
5.I want a charismatic American runner like Steve Prefontaine to arrive on the scene,someone to get this country interested in distance running again,especially the young kids. As Dick Kendall once told me,if the sport doesn't involve hiting,catching,dribbling or throwing a ball, the people aren't going to be much interested in it.
6.An injury free year.A year where I can move up the mileage, and at times the intensity,and not have my body rebel.
7.One more great racing season,heck,give me one more truly great race and I'll be happy,I shouldn't be greedy.
So there you have it, my Christmas list,what's yours like? Feel free to send some of yours along to the comments section at the bottom of today's article, I'd love to read them.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Before Your Next Big Race

We all know that evaluation and re-evaluation of all things pertaining to an athlete's training and racing is essential. I mean, who wants to make the same mistake over and over again?
Jon Sinclair,a former U.S. champion in Cross-Country and at the 10,000 meter distance,co-authored a book that gives a checklist of what we should ask ourselves after we have run an important race.The emphasis here is on important. This is a race that you made a point of really preparing for. I'm not talking about your generic weekend 5k road race here. For many,you can use the following after a recent marathon,but again,it can apply to any distance.
After some of the points I will offer an opinion or two.
1."Will I eat differently? Will I drink more fluidls during the race?"
Not drinking enough during a long race,especially a marathon,is a common rookie mistake. As a running mentor of mine said decades ago,if you feel thirsty during the marathon,it's too late,you're well on your way to becoming dehydrated. As far as eating? I still remember these guys eating big pancake breakfasts 3 hours before the Revco- Cleveland marathon.What were they thinking? The advancement in fluid replacement drinks and energy bars,etc. have been a Godsend. Eat a nice quality meal the night before in a relaxing,peaceful enviroment.
2."Will I rest more? Will I build a longer taper into my training schedule?"
Here is another common mistake made by all runners.Although some experienced runners would never admit it,continuing to train without backing off prior to the big race is proof that they are succumbing to pre-race anxiety or nerves.Take the marathon; you have been focusing all year on this race and you can't bring yourself to do a calculated taper before? Studies have shown that if you don't run a step for a week you lose only 5% of your overall fitness.
3."Will I run more mileage or less? Will I do more speedwork,tempo runs or resistance training?"
In my opinion,runners,particularly in the longer races like the 30k and up,don't do enough aerobic running.This pertains especially to the weekly long run. You do 20 milers all year to prepare for a marathon? What about the other 6 miles? This is my personal opinion but the longer the distance to be raced the less the emphasis should be on speed(interval) work.Now I am not talking about tempo runs,fartlek and training over hilly terrain and time trials,they are essential to long distance race preparedness.
4."What will I do the same or differently next race to prepare myself mentally and physically?"
Ah,the million dollar question for runners who want to race well. These are the the kind of questions you ask yourself the morning after THE race over a copy of coffee while wondering how many days it will take for the muscle soreness in your legs to go away.
5."Will I train exactly the same for the next race?"
I don't know about you folks but no matter how well I raced I always think I can "tweak" the program a little to do even better next time.

Monday, December 3, 2012

A Philosophy of Commitment,pt.2

In considering yesterday's post,we are again reminded that the qualities needed to find success in athletics are the same ones needed to succeed in "the world." I believe this fact is sometimes forgotten.Most people tend to think that if you are not winning championships,setting records or are a member of some national team then a total dedication to distance running(athletics) is,well.......extreme or inappropriate. Of course, I quickly add that your involvement in sport does not give you license to neglect family or other obligations.Sadly,over the years I have seen athletes do just that.They have not developed the moral precepts and values that Coach Vigil notes are essential to success in sport and life.However,no matter your level of skill in your chosen sport,your dedication to, and the pursuit of excellence in that sport is a worthy endeavor.
Consider the following by Vigil:
"It doesn't matter what your goal in life is,you must develop a sense of purpose.To participate in sport,to study,and to train is to believe in something.It is this relentless quest for excellence and the unyielding belief in yourself that challenges you to strive and overcome.During the process,the individual becomes transformed and inspired to new heights of achievement.You must develop a deep vision and total commitment because then,and only then,will you develop a deeper perspective of life in general."
I don't know about you but I find the above profound and most insightful. For instance, it is so true when Vigil says you must develop a sense of purpose in your life. From my experience in the psychiatric field, I've seen countless numbers of people drugging and drinking to excess because they were just going through life,they had no purpose, no passion. Look around at the people who live long,vigorous lives,these are most often the people who are doing something they love.
What you may already know is that there is much more to distance running then simply lacing up your shoes and heading out the door.Yes,it's a physical sport but it should also be a thinking man's (person's) sport.I've known alot of great runners in my life,many of whom were not what you would call people of character,many tended to be shallow and egocentric.Unfortunately, they  were never taught or recognized the totality of what this sport has to offer and the lessons that can be learned from it.Ideally, athletics should make you a better person in all areas of your life.
So,are you really committed to achieving athletic excellence? Have you made it a priority in your life? If you haven't, you should consider doing so today! I say this because you will reap more than the physical benefits.As Coach Vigil writes: "The decision to go after a goal is the key to success.The determination to stay with it is what brings out the quality of excellence."

As a reminder,new posts will be published each Wednesday and Saturday.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

A Philosophy of Commitment,pt.1

"Every Man Must Find His Own Philosophy---His Attitude Towards Life"--  Lin Yutana
It is vitally important to establish a training system that works for you.Your training system has to take in how you are physically,what you're goals are and how much time you can dedicate to achieving personal athletic excellence.
What follows are some more words of wisdom from Coach Joe Vigil on becoming the best you can be.For those who might not be familiar with Coach Vigil: he has a doctorate in exercise physiology and has coached and lead his team,Adams State College, to an unprecedented 19 national championships (14 in cross country).He has coached internationally at the Pan American Games,The Olympics and the Cross Country World Championships. Obviously,the man knows distance running and has much to say about all aspects relating to it. I find it interesting that most runners I've encountered over the years have never heard of Coach Vigil.
In his mind, an athlete must establish the worthiness of his seeking athletic excellence.If a distance runner believes that his running is just a healthy supplement to his life then chances are that's what it will be and remain. As we've said here before, when running is a part of your being,a part of who you are,you don't put it on the back burner of your daily life. You'd no sooner do that than you would disregard eating,sleeping or working.Those who Live For the Run don't view running as a frivolous activity.Vigil reveals that the quest for success in life and sport are intertwined.
Coach Vigil states the truth when he says the following:
"Philosophy for life and philosophy for athletics are one and the same. It is essential that those who have a dream or vision of accomplishing a goal or task in life develop a set of guidelines or values which will become their philosophy--their roadmap to a destination of victory and success.You must be willing to inquire and understand the most comprehensive principles of reality that are available to you.It is this love of knowledge about your sport and the search for it that directs the course of action which becomes your philosophy,like a huge umbrella hovering over you and constantly reminding you of what your purpose in life and sport is all about."
After reading the above I asked myself,"Is it any wonder that Cerutty entitled one of his books,'Sport is My Life'?"
Due to time constraints I have to cut this article short but I will post the remainder of it tomorrow.
Coach Vigil has some really unique insights that I'm sure you will find most helpful.