Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Random Quotes

There's nothing like getting insights and knowledge that can help us be better distance runners and people.Consider the following:
"One thing we must all be aware of is mental toughness is learned. You are not born with it.Personality is unrelated to mental toughness.Either introvert or extrovert,quiet or boastful,dynamic or reserved,these characteristics have nothing to do with your success as a competitor." Coach Joe Vigil.
I think many forget this,people believe that mental toughness is a quality that is inborn,like being able to paint or play a musical instrument well. Thankfully it's not, through proper training you can become as mentally tough as any champion.
And one more from Coach Vigil:
"Most athletes are ready to make an effort in a race. Few are ready to carry their efforts through months or years of training and racing."
The often forgotten key in training.As I watch the ads for workout videos advertised on television,the big selling point is that the person achieves fitness in the shortest possible time. Not so for distance training,it's a cumulative process that takes years to reap the full benefits.I believe Lydiard said it took something like 7 years of adhering to a training program.
"Difficulties strengthen the mind, as labor does the body." Seneca.
If we are open to that happening and don't take a "why me" attitude.. On a related note:
"To conquer oneself is a greater task than conquering others." Guatama Buddha.
For many,overcoming their fears,anxieties and insecurities, along with being disciplined is the true challenge. When we do,we can accomplish what we set out to.

Let what we do(distance running) become part of our life,not something we fit into our life.Again, on a related note:
"Motivation gets you started,habit keeps you going." Jim Ryun.
And lastly,as it has been said many times here,one of the keys to happiness and success is simplicity.Clutter and having much,contrary to popular opinion,will not bring a deep lasting happiness.
"Manifest plainness,
Embrace simplicity,
Reduce selfishness,
Have few desires." Lao-tzu.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

For a Runner,Happiness Is

In the next few posts we'll take a look at some different types of runners.The one I'll be referring to today is the runner who lives for the run.This is a runner,who in large part, determines how his day went by how his run went.His(her) life would be described by many as simple,free from an unhealthy preoccupation with possessions and money.She(he) still retains that child-like enthusiasm that,for most, is lost as we get older.What makes him happy and gives him pleasure might seem strange to those who don't have the love this person has for the purest of all sports,distance running.Consider the following and say 'Happiness Is' before each entry.I'll add a comment here and there after.
For a Runner,Happiness Is:
1.A new pair of running shoes.After all these years it still makes you feel good to get them.
2. Being with a core group of running friends you train and often race with.These are people who understand you and are a part of this running life you live.
3.That unexpected pr (personal record) or performance that seems to come out of nowhere.
4.The first beer you have with your running friends after that great run.They know how you feel and are interested in what you have to say.
5.That one route you train on where you always feel good running it. You find yourself looking forward to doing it each week.
6.The feeling you get when you realize that all your training for a big race is starting to come together. You feel light and smooth as you go.
7.A good meal a few hours after that easy long run and shower.
8.The cup of coffee you have from the place you make a point of stopping at on chilly mornings after your long run.
9.Finding closeout running gear that you can really use at incredibly low prices. I still treasure the Nike Pre running hoodie that was marked down forty dollars.
10.Travelling with friends to do a race out of town. The camaraderie,the time spent together,the anticipation of the race, as well as the race itself and the time spent after create memories that last for years.
I'm sure many of you can relate to the above.Treasure what you have,take nothing for granted.  

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

May We Not Forget

For most,isn't the person who can be hardest on ourselves,ourself? I was talking with someone not too long ago and he was describing his past racing season and prior training.It would not be a stretch to say he had few positive things to say about how his season had gone.When speaking about his workouts, he often used the phrase, "just got them in." What he meant by this was that they were grinding,unenjoyable workouts. He said he did them because he thought they would help him race better.As he went on, I kept thinking to myself,what keeps this guy running? I believe as runners we need to always keep in mind what appealed to us about running initially.An unhealthy preoccupation with performance can be the great destroyer of one's love for running.Everything pertaining to racing and how you finish must remain in its proper perspective.As the expression goes,'at the end of the day,' isn't one of the main purposes of athletics to provide enjoyment?
Consider the following thoughts from coach/philosopher Percy Wells Cerutty:
"Our athleticism must be,and should be,adult play. If we make it work---dull,routined,scheduled,treadmill work---then we depart from the natural, the spontaneous the joyous,the exhilarating.
Those who do make it work are little likely to know the joys and pleasures that true athleticism can bring us,young or old."
May we not forget the wisdom contained in Perc's words.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Runners,Don't Overstress!

I've referenced Tom Osler on this site previously.He is one of those people who are a part of the fabric of American distance running.An accomplished ultra runner in his own right,Tom's gift to distance running has come in his writing of his two classic publications,The Conditioning of Distance Runners and Serious Runner's Handbook.If you do not have a copy of Serious Runner's Handbook I would encourage you to get one.Thankfully,used copies of this book published in 1978 are still available on Amazon. For some reason, the book is offered there under, The Serious Runner's Handbook which is not the real title,but as they say,whatever.At least it's still available.It says alot about the state of American distance running thought  today when you see the absurdly low price it's selling for.
Osler is one of those rare individuals who has a real knowledge and aptitude about all aspects of distance running.In part, I'm sure this comes from his 55+years of running.
In keeping with the last post that pertained to runner's health and their maintaining it,Osler gives some practical advice on not just preventing injuries but avoiding illnesses.He writes:
"If we train too little,we do not improve.If we overtrain,our bodies not only fail to improve,but injury and/or illness are likely induced. How can the runner decide upon the quantity of training which produces improvement?
I believe that a practical determination of this optimum quantity can be arrived at by first learning the symptoms of initial overstress.The optimum quantity of running is,then,the largest amount which fails to produce these symptoms.In practice,the amount varies from day to day,and the experienced runner learns to 'feel in his bones' the appropriate training for that moment.Here is a list of key symptoms:
Symptoms of Overstress
1.Mild leg soreness.
2.Lowered general resistance(evidenced by sniffles,headache,fever blisters,etc.).
3.Washed out feeling and I don't care attitude.
4.Poor coordination(evidenced by general clumsiness,tripping,stubbing one's feet,poor auto driving,etc.).
5.Hangover from previous run.
I cannot overemphasize the importance of this list.If any of these symptoms is observed today,it is likely that yesterday's run was too hard to allow the body to adapt effectively to its stress and improve.Instead of getting a little better,you've gotten a little worse.Easy running should now commence,and harder running be resumed only after all these symptoms disappear.One should also note that all these symptoms are quite mild.They are not dramatic and are,unfortunately,all too often ignored because they seem trivial.But remember that when training effectively you should feel good." At this point I would like to offer a few comments in relation to what Tom has written.First off,it is a most common fallacy that training 'through' fatigue and soreness is simply the reality of distance training. The overstress symtoms that he refers to are frequently the result of many workouts,not just yesterdays'.There is a type of misguided machismo that seems to be a part of distance training that says you should ignore what your body is telling you.Sure, there are times in training and racing where we take it to a level where it is uncomfortable but I am not referring to such a time here.As Osler says:"The runner must be aware of his body's fine tuning" in order to discern what is really going on. Secondly,I like his comment,"when training effectively you should feel good." This is an often forgotten truth in distance training. Back to Osler:
"The first symptom,mild leg soreness,is perhaps the most important.It means that the legs are too tired for any real work.It is in this fatigued state that the opportunity of injury becomes fertile.If the runner continues training hard for several days ,so that this soreness remains,an injury will likely be born.If he rests or runs easily until the soreness disappears,injury will likely be avoided.
Runners must avoid following a predetermined training schedule with ascetical zeal.A flexible mental attitude is required so that necessary corrections can be made."
As I have said so many times on this blog before,the reluctance of a runner to back off in training is most often due to fear and anxiety.They are so worked up mentally they can't do the right thing and ease up.
Osler offers this warning to those who habitually ignore the signs their body sends out and he's not referring to a short term injury.He cautions that continued overstress can produce problems from which the athlete never fully recovers.
I close with a summary and words of wisdom from Osler:"When we feel good,look good,and are alert and productive,our bodies will be adapting effectively to stresses(like running)which we place upon them. If we feel tired,pain,and are washed out,we need rest not stress."
With all that said,I say we go long,and easy,Sunday.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Runners,Doctors and Medicine

I should begin by saying that I spent close to 36 years in the healthcare field. During this time I was employed in many different capacities within the areas of medicine and psychiatry.It would be a huge understatement to say that things have changed over the decades.
What follows,in no particular order, is some advice  I would give to runners in regards to their health,medicine and seeking medical treatment. Forgive me if some of what you are about to read is already familiar to you.
To begin,prevention is always the key,meaning,you want to do all you can to avoid going to the doctor or taking medication. Obviously, I am not discouraging physicals and diagnostic tests,they are a part of assessing your health and wellness.What I'm referring to here is reducing or eliminating risk factors that could eventually lead to you  needing medical treatment.Things like poor diet,overeating,smoking,and excessive alcohol consumption over the years will take a toll on everyone.I recently heard a health practioner say that up to the age of 40 the body can tolerate many abuses inflicted upon it but after that age it will start to break down.I would also add that for athletes who train hard,compete and have been doing so for years,you have to be very careful to give adequate time to rest and recover.You must not over race.Years ago when I was into the ultra scene,I would read about these runners who would emerge out of nowhere and run some incredible races,many within a relatively short period of time.You'd read how this athlete did a 24 hour race one weekend and a month later was in the top ten at the Leadville 100. Then within a couple of years after, you'd never hear from them again except to read that they were struggling with some type of chronic injury,blood disorder or muscle wasting.The body can tolerate tremendous amounts of abuse for only so long.
Concerning doctors:I can't tell you the number of runners I've known who've gone to a doctor for an issue that was obviously related to overuse.For example,the runner who wanted to increase his mileage but did it too quickly and started to develop knee problems. What is a physician going to do for him in this case? He's going to tell him what any runner should know,rest,ice in the beginning,motrin as needed,assess your training and make the necessary adjustments.
And while we're on the subject of doctors,are there any of you out there who still go to one who thinks running is basically bad for you or that doing more that 12 miles a week is folly? If you are, why? Decades ago it was commonplace for docs to warn the masses that running would ruin your joints,cartilage,etc. With that said,here's what I look for in a physician:
1.Does he listen to my concerns and at least act concerned?
2.Does he respect the fact that I try to take control of my health by exercising, taking vitamins and eating a certain way?
3.Does he take the time to explain why he is ordering certain tests?
4.Does he explain how he has come to a certain diagnosis?
5.Does he address ways of preventing problems?
6.Does he recommend follow-up care and interventions?
Now to the subject of medicine.
I have found that in my years as medication nurse that there is an action and a reaction to all meds.It is always the desire that the effects of taking a med resolve the problem while the reaction(side effect) to it is minimal.For instance,lets look at the seemingly innocuous drug motrin(Ibuprofen).Runners like myself popped them as if they were vitamins in order to deal with muscle and joint pain.Motrin works.The problem with it is when taken long term it causes stomach problems,is not good for the kidneys,and perhaps worst of all,causes an increase in blood pressure and can contribute to heart problems.So am I advocating never taking motrin? No,but I am advocating looking for other ways first to relieve the problem.I recall that after very long runs or races I would soak in a tub of cold water.My muscle soreness was never a problem after I did this.Thinking along these lines goes for other drugs too.Cholesterol drugs,blood pressure drugs,drugs for adult onset diabetes;if you make certain lifestyle changes your need for medication for these disorders and others are greatly reduced.
The key in medical treatment and medication should be,look to eliminate the cause of the problem,don't just treat the symptom.Taking control of your health requires a desire to think,study,and a willingness to monitor and assess yourself and your training.Who knows how you feel physically better than yourself? Take control,be in control!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Fitting It In

I've referenced Derek Clayton on this site previously.Those who love the sport of distance running must make a point of getting his book Running To the Top. There are certain books about running and runners that should be in every serious runner's library and Clayton's is one of them.
Wait one minute,are there some of you out there who don't know who Derek Clayton is? He is an Australian distance runner who first set the world marathon mark in December 1967 and then lowered it to 2:08:33 in 1969.His record stood for an incredible 12 years.
Derek was an outspoken,hard training runner who believed in doing mileage. I recall years ago there was a push.among some of the top U.S. distance runners to be financially subsidized in the hope that this would help them be competitive on the world scene again. Clayton was blunt as to his feelings on the subject,in a nutshell, and using himself as an example, he said there was no reason for runners not to work.What follows are his views on fitting training in with working and having a family. I think we can all benefit from what he has to say.As a sidenote,if you've been around long enough,who hasn't had a former running buddy say,"I got a job and family now,I don't have the time to run anymore." Derek has this to say to elite,as well as serious runners:
"I don't think that work should be an excuse for poor running habits any more than running should be the reason for sloppy work. The two can mesh successfully. The higher your goal,the more dedicated a runner you must become.This doesn't mean you have to quit your job,leave your family and devote your life to running.It's clearly not worth that but it is impossible to reach your potential in a casual fashion. I was never obsessed solely with running.Running was just the major part of my life around which everything else was built.It was never important enough to exclude my job and family.All people have tasks they have to fit into their lives.I think the important thing is to acknowledge these priorities,such as family and work,and not allow them to become so consuming that you can't reach your running goals.People are amazed to find that during the week I worked at least 40 hours as a civil engineer,did speaking engagements and 150 miles of running.But what is so amazing about doing something that is important to you? Some runners act as though a hard day at the office excuses them from training.Rather than make excuses and fight having to work forty hours a week,I learned to live with it.When I quit fighting the load, it became less of a burden.At that point it became a training tool that helped build my mental toughness.While people I ran with were complaining that work was ruining their running.I was using it to improve the quality of mine."
Two words come to mind after reading the above, one is attitude and the other is prioritizing.Clayton realized that complaining and having a "poor me" attitude would get him nowhere.As he said,he viewed his seemingly intense schedule as one that built mental, as well as physical toughness.Also, I doubt that there was any wasted time in his day.I don't know about you but I see a fair amount wasted time in mine.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Some Things To Think About

I like reading things that make me stop and think. The following fits that category.There is much truth and food for thought in what you are about to read.I am uncertain as to the authors of the following,some I believe are quotes by Arthur Lydiard.
"The difference between two men may not be in their physical potential so much as in what they believe to be physically possible."
I've seen it happen repeatedly,particularly when I was a high school coach,where the athlete who was confident in his abilities would beat a more naturally gifted,but less confident runner.
"How terribly hard it it is to do something that everyone believes is impossible."
Sixteen runners went under four minutes for the mile within two years after Roger Bannister first broke what was once thought to be an impossible mark.
We may not be trying to break any world records but just the same we need to tune out those who say we can't do this or we shouldn't bother trying that.
"Of ten runners or more that walk up to any starting line,all tend to assume that he alone is nervous."
Isn't that the truth. To varying degrees,all runners have have common hopes and fears.
"Success in endurance running comes not only through physical conditioning but also from quick thinking,intelligent planning and the reckless courage to risk more of oneself in the race than will any of the competition."
This last quote makes me think of 1968 Olympic marathoner Ron Daws,his one,two and three mile pr's when he graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1960 were: 4:30, 9:43 and 15:22. To say they are unremarkable for someone who would be a future member of the U.S. Olympic team would be a gross understatement.Daws credits his improvement to Lydiard and paying attention to details that other runners overlooked.
If you have a bad case of 'I can't do it,' then you need to read and study The Self-Made Olympian by Ron Daws.
Distance running is loaded with talented athletes who never reached their potential as well as it is with runners who got the most out of what limited gifts they were born with and achieved great personal success.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Stepping Up

Humble apologies for being a day late on this post. Day trips to train in the hills and the subsequent "unwinding" that often comes after is the reason.As we begin this new year with the understanding that we are going to make a real effort to achieve our athletic goal(s), let me offer up some random things to keep in mind:
A quote from Herb Elliott, "the battle within is far tougher than overcoming the competitor."
'Mind or over matter'(your body) is more than just a cliche. There comes a time in certain training sessions or races where you are faced with the decision,do I relent or suck it up and try harder? If you have done the training,you have the capacity to persevere.
Consider the following by Brian Mitchell--"The avoidance of stepping up the pace is the ruin of ambition because it is a case of accepting defeat.I daresay that defeat is accepted by many more athletes than would care to admit it." Whew, that hurts! You can use the word defeat to include not only being anything less than the first one across the finish line, but also letting a runner(s) go by you towards the end of a race. Later you painfully admit to yourself you could have tried harder.It's a crappy feeling that most of us I'm sure have experienced.
Again,being fit,and doing the drills in training at the appropriate time can prepare you to face the challenges of racing.
How profound and true it is when Mitchell says,in so many words, that the acceptance of defeat is the ruin of ambition.Think about it.
I once wrote this about Yiannis Kouros as to why he was so successful as a runner(think about 303km in 24 hours for starters):
1.He was physically prepared.
2.He had supreme confidence in his ability, no doubt gained in part from his training and past race experiences.
3.He prepared and focused on all aspects of the event he was to enter.
Yiannis was quoted as saying---"During the race I try not to think negative thoughts."
When he says negative thoughts it makes me think of things that go through your head in races,things like: "boy,am I ever starting to feel this pace, I can't keep this up, I usually only feel like this at the 3/4's mark, uh-oh"............and on and on.
Ultimately though, the athlete must have in him the desire to excel. Since you have decided that you have the desire, now is the time to prepare.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Why We Run

Why do some of us have a passion for running that many would say borders on the fanatical? Over the years essays,books and articles have been written on this subject.The following was taken from a 1998 issue of The Stotan News and gives one man's view on why he loves distance running so much. Due to the fact that I could only find one page from the article,I am missing the name of the person who wrote this. I believe,but I'm not entirely certain, that it was written by Olympic gold medalist (in the marathon) Frank Shorter. He says:
" I am seeking an inner satisfaction that only I can determine,not the recognition of applause,headlines or alot of money.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 become takes me away from running.Running is the 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? Above all else I run for fun,for the expansive feeling I get from running,and while that feeling is enhanced by winning,it is not enhanced by the prospect of being paid for it."
So well put---I particularly like, "above all else I run for fun,for the expansive feeling I get from running."

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

It's a New Year

Happy New Year! I have two reasons for posting on what is usually an off day.
One, is to let those who have just come across this site know that new articles are published each Wednesday and Saturday.Also,check out the 300+ archived articles that can be accessed on the right side of this page.
The other reason is to reinforce the idea that the start of a new year really can be a new start for those of us 'who live for the run' (see my last post on runners and New Year's resolutions).
If you make no other resolutions consider at least one that rejects all negativity as it pertains to what you can and cannot do..
As someone once said: "we can accomplish infinitely more than we think we can."