Saturday, March 30, 2013

Proper Running Form

Something that is most often overlooked by runners is the importance of good running form. Poor running form can add seconds and minutes to your time,and worse yet,lead to injuries.
I believe there is a mistaken belief that we think the way we run is just the way we run,that it's something which is unique to us as a runner and there is no real need to "tinker" with our running style.The majority of runners I see could use varying degrees of instruction on their form,most notably in the way they carry their shoulders.
Here Lydiard gives some great insights on this neglected subject:
" Most people you see running don't know how to run.Invariably,they bring their arms up around their chests somewhere and roll their shoulders.If you run that way,you lose forward momentum by throwing kilos of bodyweight from side to side.Tight shoulders are another fault which wastes effort.
You do need to know how to run properly and how to develop a technique which will direct all your effort into going forward comfortably and as economically as possible.
The key to good running is relaxation.You must be nice and loose in the shoulders.The arms should be loose,relaxed and coming straight through as they do when you walk.The hands come from behind the hips and,when the elbow gets alongside the torso,the arms should flex so that the thumbs are in a line directly in front of the shoulder blade.
Check your footfall by running on sand or across a dewy lawn.To be most effective,your feet should form almost a single straight line."
Any of the above comments speaking to you? Making adjustments to our form takes time,concentration and a self-monitoring of how we are running. What we've been doing for years won't suddenly change overnight.If we stick with it though, we'll become faster and more efficient runners.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Cerutty Speaks,pt.1

"No door remains forever locked against the man of indomitable will and courage.What we most lack is the power to continue:continuity and perseverance---the never quit spirit allied to intelligence is the secret key to success:not great natural endowments." Percy Wells Cerutty.
The biggest excuse a distance runner can give to explain his lack of success is to say, 'I just don't have the talent.' The above quote applies to all facets of our life,not just running.
Also,the path to success more often than not takes years.How many of us truly want to put the time in? But as I always say,in distance running,the joy is in the journey.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Running As I Teach It

"Running as I teach it is not a sport or physical activity so much as being a complete expression of ourselves,physical,mental,spiritual,if we can admit of this being something above the mental and artistic.Therefore running as I teach it is to teach the full and complete development of the athlete. One of the ways he attempts to express this development is in superlative running.The training for running therefore becomes an integral part of our life plan and not merely a pastime to be dropped as of no further value when we leave high school or college as does appear to be the case in the USA.
Such a basic human activity as running surely must still have a deep importance to us in our physical and psychological states.Not only can we continue to express ourselves happily as long as we live,but quite incidentally,to do so implies an intelligent aptitude to how we life---in a word intelligent fitness." (Quote by Percy Cerutty).
One of the many things I derive from the above is that a life is incomplete without some type of physical activity, or physical expression, as some once referred to it. Cerutty wrote this in an era when most adults viewed "working out" and participation in sports as something to be done only by the youth. Another thing,although more adults than ever are doing some type of fitness regimen, most are missing out on the true benefit of training when they simply view it as a means of "keeping in shape." To those who feel this way,read the books of Cerutty,get a copy of his biography,Why Die. Your training and life will take on a whole new dimension.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Pain in Racing--Words of Wisdom From Dr.Sheehan

The wonderful thing about Dr George Sheehan was that he was not only a medical doctor, he was also a competitive runner.He experienced everything we competitive runners experience.He possessed remarkable insights into this great sport.Consider his thoughts in regards to pain.
"Pain is a private affair.My pain cannot be felt by another.When I am in a race I know the others around me are also in pain.But each of us is in a separate cell.I can never know quite what the runner next to me is going through.
There is but one answer to pain:go out to meet it,plunge into it,grasp it as you would the nettle.If your instinct is to withdraw,you are done.There is always the chance you will push through it into an area as calm as the eye of a hurricane.
The runner is not a masochist.He does not enjoy pain.But between the runner and a personal best lies pain in quantity.He does not seek sufferance but once it has been experienced he somehow feels better for it."
I would add to the last sentence that the runner also gets a sense of satisfaction after the race knowing that he resisted the little voice in his head that was telling him to ease up when things started getting painful.
A good point Sheehan makes is that every runner in a race is suffering as much as we are. We need to remember that fact because more runners than you think do back down or let up some once the going gets tough.This is especially true of the runners who come in after the first one third of the finishers at a road race.Frankly, from what I've seen these days, the figure may be closer to three quarters but that is a topic for another post.
As Cerutty,Lydiard and others have taught,acclimate yourself to dealing with the pain you'll experience during the closing moments of a race,practice finishing strong so it almost becomes a reflex action when the real thing comes,remind yourself to remain smooth and relaxed,maintaining form; tell yourself that everyone is hurting but you have prepared yourself better than anyone else in the race.
Successful racing is all about meticulous mental and physical preparation.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

As the Racing Season Begins, Consider This

Racing and competition can be a healthy endeavor or it can be a frustrating and discouraging experience. It all depends how how you approach it. A preoccupation with how you place in comparison to others and winning age-group awards can be one way of setting yourself up for disappointment.Consider this excerpt from an article published in Racing Techniques many decades ago.Allow me to quickly say that it does not promote the "everyone is a winner" mentality because everyone is not a winner in a footrace.It suggests taking a different view of competition.
"You never need to lose a race.And you never need to keep anyone else from winning,because everyone can win. The way to win all the time is to concern yourself mostly with yourself.This is the one factor you can control.Let other people worry about themselves.They are uncontrollable as far as you are concerned.Thinking this way,any runner can maximize himself without reducing anyone's elses chance to do the same.Two nice features about running makes this possible.
1.It has objective standards.Times offer a measure of success and a comparison that transcends the immediate competitive setting.
2. Races are personal. The longer ones particularly are more a struggle with the man inside than the men outside.
Competitive times give every runner meaningful and personal standards.He doesn't have to beat anyone to reach them;only to control himself.No matter how many other runners finish before him,he has won if he has met his own standards."
A few thoughts on the above:
Anyone who has run a marathon or longer recognizes the truth contained in statement #2.It is so true.
Too many people with limited conditioning,training and/or experience take an unrealistic and unhealthy approach to racing.The above view of competition would be a better route to go until a runner begins to demonstrate that he can race with the front runners.
An unhealthy attitude towards racing has killed more runner's love for distance running than anything else.And that's truly a shame!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Working With Your Body

"More often than not runners see their bodies as another obstacle in their path (to running success).When a runner does well,the impression one gets is that success has come in spite of the body,rather than because of it.

It appears that many (if not most) runners have lost touch with the simplest of realities.They have lost sight of the fact that it is the whole organism which achieves and not just the power of will. Most runners are too busy conquering themselves with high-mileage weeks to see the profound significance of this idea.

If we could only realize that we can gain more (in the largest sense) by cooperating with the body then by trying to conquer it,everything would fall into place. We would begin to see running as a means to develop the body to make maximal performance possible. Words like 'nurture,coax,and develop' would replace 'thrash,push and force'.The necessity of rest would become dramatically obvious." By E.C.Fredrick.

Well put.Runners tend to take an adversarial approach to their bodies as it relates to training and racing.Listen to your body,have respect for your body.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Hill Phase---Building Strength

A few months back I posted the article, Putting Down the Foundation,which was about building an aerobic base.Those who are serious about racing well,must follow a training schedule that culminates with a specific racing season.In a nutshell,well planned training schedules in any sport should be sensible and logical.That means the body is introduced to increasing stress as it is ready to tolerate it.
After you have put down the aerobic foundation,your body has become accustomed to the miles,it's now time to step it up.The hill phase means harder workouts but the strength gained from them makes it more than worthwhile. Most runners I've known over the years spend way too little time on a hill training phase.
This is Part II in a series of three articles on formulating a Lydiard-type training program. The hill phase is a period of developing speed,power,and the ability to exercise anaerobically. There are other benefits to be gained from this phase. One is that it builds strong quadriceps which allow us to maintain a good knee-lift while running. Granted, knee-lift is essential for speed but for the marathon runner it can help the knees maintain a height that gives the most economical stride length and frequency. Another plus to the hill phase is the confidence that develops as you feel yourself becoming fitter and stronger.

 Before beginning I should say that Lydiard did make allowances for some racing during this period but said "If you train and race too soon without proper consideration of the various aspects of training you are doomed to disappointment." Also,although this is a modified version of the Lydiard hill program, it's still a physically exacting phase. It's intended to last six weeks; as you become fitter, speed and intensity of effort will naturally increase. These words of Lydiard should be ingrained in the mind of every runner and coach; "The  wise only train according to their age,physical condition and their capacity to exercise." How many injuries and how much discouragement could be prevented if all runners heeded those words? Regarding the amount of mileage you do during this phase,it obviously will not be as much as it was during the base phase.

Lydiard recommends doing 3 hill and 3 leg speed sessions per week with the remaining day being reserved for a long run. Initially, I believe 2 hill workouts and 2 leg speed drills per week are plenty. The other two or three days should include easy distance runs and a day [if desired] of rest. At the beginning of your fourth week, If you feel you are ready to add a third hill session,go ahead.

 The first step is to find a hill that is 200 to 300 meters long. Lydiard recommends a hill that rises at a gradient of nearly one of three -- what that means exactly, I'm not really sure,but seriously,a quick Google search will let you know about the scale in case you don't. The hill should definitely not be too steep and have a flat area at the top where you can do your recovery jog. It should also be flat at the bottom to provide an area for you to do sprints.

Lydiard believes each hill session should last an hour discounting the 15 minute warm-up and warm-down. Needless to say,you can start at 30 minutes and work your way up to an hour. Once again, intensity of effort in doing the hills and sprints just naturally increases as you become fitter and stronger during this phase. Don't jump into this by going full-tilt right off the bat.

So you've done the warm-up and you're ready to go. It's at this time that I'll offer an alternative to the way Lydiard recommends you go up a hill.He describes a hill springing action  that may be difficult for a novice to do without personal guidance from an experienced hill runner.If you desire to find the correct way I'm sure Youtube can show you,simply type in, Lydiard Hill Springing drill and several videos will appear.With that said,it is OK to just run up the hill. However, you must run up with a high knee lift, hips forward [to avoid the tendency to "sit down"], head up and looking forward. Reminding yourself to keep your hips forward is important. This makes it easier to keep those knees high going up the hill. At the top,take a recovery jog about 3 minutes before heading back down. You might think that since you're at the base of the hill, you're just going to head back up, right? Not so fast! On every other hill rep you do a little something called sprint repetitions. At the base of the hill, sprint 50 yards and float 60 yards three or four times before doing your next hill rep. These sprint repetitions begin development of your capacity to exercise anaerobically. As this hill phase progresses you can lengthen and intensify the sprint reps to 100,200 and 400 meters. Feel free to mix up the distances of the sprints and floats. Some things to remember when doing these hill reps:
1.While going up, keep the arms, shoulders,neck and facial muscles relaxed
2.At the top of the hill,try not to stop. Do a slow job to recover.
3.At various times during the workout, make a conscious effort at "flexing" the ankles as you run.
This develops ankle strength and leads to increased striding efficiency.

So you've done a hill rep session and the following day you've gone for a leisurely run -- now you are ready to do the leg speed drill. Begin with at least a 15 minute warm-up jog. Pick a flat area that is 100 to 120 meters long, perferably with a slight gradual decline. Run over this distance thinking only about moving the legs as fast as possible. Forget about stride length, keep the knee action fairly high and think of pulling the legs through fast. This exercise is designed to develop fine speed. After each rep give yourself 3 minutes of very easy jogging to recover -- don't rush this exercise!! Lydiard suggests doing 10 of these sprints plus making sure you do at least a 15 minute warm-down. For the mature, experienced runner, he also recommends a supplementary aerobic run each day. Lydiard said half an hour is ideal.bit even 15 minutes is good. He believes light aerobic exercise aids recovery. Of course, you have to determine if and when you're able to do these additional runs. Perhaps this is something you can gradually introduce to your program one or two days per week. However, if this doesn't seem feasible to you, it's no problem -- you've done the hill reps and leg speed drills, that's what really counts.

This hill phase toughens and strengthens your body in a way that no other training regimen can.
Following a program that ignores or downplays it will definitely impact your overall fitness. A sample schedule for the hill phase might look like this:
Sunday - long aerobic run.
Monday- hill workout
Tuesday - easy aerobic workout
Wednesday - leg speed drill.
Thursday - easy aerobic workout.
Friday - hill workout
Saturday - leg speed drill.
Of course you're free to mix this up to fit your individual limitations and needs.Want to maintain a fair amount of mileage during this phase? Simply do longer warm-ups and warm-downs.
Doing a Hill Phase and doing it right, builds strength and speed,it also minimizes chances of becoming injured.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Mind Over Matter

"The athlete,through being trained and practised properly,will find that the mind can dominate the physical body,and he can maintain an effort long after other competitors have abandoned all hope of holding the speed required to win." Quote by Percy Cerutty.
"Percy helped me to world records not so much by improving my technique,but by releasing in my body and soul a power that I only vaguely knew existed." Quote by Herb Elliott.
A strengthening of the mind and will should be the product of a well planned training regimen.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Advice For Marathoners From Cerutty

"Little or no training should be done on the bitumen or concrete roads.I am one who does not believe that the body can ever get used to running fast with free movements if it is trained on hard artificial tracks and roads.It is bad enough that the athlete has to race on such mediums: to me another illustration of how far intellectual decisions made by officials differ profoundly from the conclusions arrived at by serious experimenters and knowledgeable performers.The marathon man must watch that his musculature does not respond to his type of training by a shortening of his stride and the development of a restricted gate that almost completely inhibits the possibility of being a a free mover with commensurate high speeds." Comments by Percy Cerutty.
And you thought that running on the roads and hard tracks only caused undue stress on your knees? As a sidenote,years of running and training on hard surfaces also greatly increases your chance of having back problems.If you desire a long healthy running life you should make it a priority to seek out parks and courses that have hard packed dirt surfaces.
Perc's above comments were made in reference to marathon training.He wanted runners to be wary of the restricted,shuffling gait that is sonetimes adopted by athletes who do alot of long easy runs.It was his desire that marathoners run smoothly and efficiently,maintaining good form.
Interestingly,although written sometime in the late 50's,Cerutty had very definite opinions on who should and shouldn't run marathons.Again,keeping in mind the era and mindset of when this was written,he said those who run a marathon just to finish it "tend to make a burlesque of one of the toughest events in any sport any man can compete in." Whew!