Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Cerutty Stories, pt.1

The following is from the book Beyond Winning--The Timeless Wisdom of Great Philosopher Coaches by Gary Walton. It gives an insight into the nature and person of Percy Cerutty.

"Aside from softness, perhaps nothing annoyed Percy more than a coach who failed to practice what he preached. While in Los Angeles, soon after Elliott ran the fastest mile ever recorded on American soil, they both attended an instructional clinic on track and field at UCLA. All of America's leading coaches were there along with their athletes who went through prescribed paces and demonstrations while the coaches lectured to the audience of  nearly 2,000. Puffing their cigars and cigarettes (this was in the late 1950's),the American coaches glibly ordered their athletes around taking about 15 minutes each on the microphone system. When it was finally Cerutty's turn to speak, he was told he had two minutes. He didn't need three. According to Elliott, his coach 'electrified the arena' as he called all the coaches  'a pack of pompous clowns who had no right teaching students in that fashion'. When he'd finished, the coaches were bristling with anger and embarrassment."
Blunt and outspoken, sometimes to a fault, Cerutty  believed that if a coach couldn't do it he couldn't teach it.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

What It Takes To Be A Champion

The following is THE classic Cerutty essay, there's really not much more I can say because the following says it all.

What It Takes To Be A Champion

In the beginning a world class or world champion type of athlete must have the ability above the average but not necessarily be at the top of his age group or other classification.
Indeed, even above inherent natural ability it is important that innate worth be born with the athlete. He will be found to be persistent not easily discouraged (indeed, set-backs will be a spur and goal), intelligent, self- reliant and ambitious once he sees the road ahead and the means to get to his destinations.
I myself believe that nature does not fool us. If we feel within ourselves real potentiality, abilities, we can reasonably attain to any goals that we may conceive of for ourselves, and when these ideas or feelings about ourselves persist. We all know the youth and man who is going to do something but in a week or month has forgotten all about that goal, completely abandoned all goals or switched to others, most equally fatuous. But if the feeling of ability to achieve in something, sometime, somewhere, persists with us, becomes part of us, we can be assured of results mostly beyond our earliest dreams. To cleave to your ambitions, have faith in yourself and believe that if you do the work results must be achieved. But also believe that if work alone did things, then all good laborers would end up rich. We know that many don't.
 It is intelligent work that does things --  intelligent training methods, new ideas, especially when proved, that can work miracles.We must be receptive to the new ideas, be prepared ourselves to march into the future, and either discover new methods, new training concepts or find someone who has done so.
   Seek, and you do find, in time. Ask, and you do get the information, but perhaps not from the sources you thought. Knock and some superior person, coach or teacher will take you in, but you may have to try many doors.
Summed up: You can become what you think you can become. But you must find the teacher or discover new methods for yourself, as did Parry O'Brian:
   Remember: Work does do things, but it is superior work, highly intelligent work, often exhausting, soul killing work that gets one out of the rut, makes one a world figure, no matter in what field. Never entirely give up when discouraged, frustrated.

 Every difficulty carries within itself the means of its own solution. The test for you is to find that means, that teacher. There is a teacher, a way-shower, at every cross road in life. You never know that until you reach the cross-road. He is not available while you are on the journey to his place in life.
    You cannot be taught until you are ready to be taught. And you cannot function until you are ready to function.
    In the ultimate, if you are to succeed, you must believe in the worth whileness of your goals, find the means to attain them and do the essential work, make the personal effort. No one can do it for you. No one can travel the road for you, do your training and your thinking. At the best you can only find a way-shower and teacher. I hope you will feel, in reading this small exposition, that you gain something to help you to your ends, your goals, your successes.
   I would have it so-- so it merely remains for you to do your part.

 You can, if you but will.
May all success be yours. It can!
{Percy Wells Cerutty
Portsea, Victoria
                                                                   Febuary, 1959

Monday, July 21, 2014

Training With Cerutty, The Marathon, pt.2

We learned in part one that Cerutty viewed the marathon as being an event in which only the serious, well conditioned athlete should compete. He also believed that training on hard surfaces were a detriment to a runner. The obvious problem with this type of surface was the stress it causes on the body which increases one's susceptibility to being injured. There was another reason and that was: "athletes who train most continuously on hard surfaces are noted for short(er) strides and mincing gaits. So the marathon man, meaning the road runner, must watch that his musculature does not respond by shortening his stride as a result of running on these hard surfaces, thus causing the development of a restricted gait that almost completely inhibits the possibility of being a free mover, with commensurate high speeds."
As previously noted in part one,  Cerutty was a believer in being able to run the marathon distance in training. Once you could do that he taught that marathoners should do a lot of their training at their projected per mile marathon pace. Consider--"He will get his body used to his hoped for marathon speed by running 3 or 5 miles at this pace then easing down between the efforts sufficiently to recover. If he can manage two or three repetitive efforts he will have had a very good workout."
Cerutty also thought that marathoners had to be careful that they didn't develop into 'plodders' as a result of doing miles upon miles in workouts. He advocated the practice of surging distances up to a mile throughout the course of their long runs. He acknowledged that doing so required time but it was an essential component of training because--"As we train so we race. And we shall race as we have trained." (a great quote).
Cerutty also urged athletes to run, "not necessarily any great distance, even five miles, and learn to race faster over the last quarter mile." The rationale for this practice was to develop a 'conditioned response'. Developing this conditioned response "makes fast finishing efforts normal and automatic."
As he wrote--"How futile to have run 26 miles and then be beaten because one was unable by an effort of will to increase pace."
In closing Cerutty said---"Marathon running must now be considered as we once considered 10 and 15 mile events: a distance event, but one in which speed is a very definite factor. It is all a matter of concepts: stepped up training and added power(strength)."
Well said!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

A Quiet Strength

Part two of the Marathon article will be on Monday, Consider the following--

A Quiet Strength
It's a quiet strength, not one borne from slogans printed on t-shirts or bodies. It's a strength acquired from a conditioning and lifestyle that has no need of vain proclamations. It's a strength earned by challenging yourself daily within the simplicity and sometimes harshness of nature while striving to obtain victory over oneself in the process. Ultimately, it's a quiet inner strength gained from a life you've chosen, understanding that there are no sacrifices in this process, it is a labour of love devoid of pretense.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Training With Cerutty, The Marathon, pt.1

The following is not meant to be a comprehensive view on training for the marathon by Cerutty. Instead, it is intended to provide a few insights into ways of preparing for a marathon.
Cerutty believed that the marathon was not to be taken lightly as far too many runners do today. It is no surprise that he did not hold to a --'to finish is to win' mentality.I would quickly add here that thousands of people are being done no favors when they are led to believe that they can go from zero to marathon in 6 to 8 months. I often wonder how many people give up running after trying to run a marathon before they are ready. In fairness to them, there are lots of running 'experts' out there who teach that you can run a marathon by following what basically amounts to a 'crash' course.
The great Greta Waitz said it best decades ago--"Many of those who attempt a marathon would do better if they ran a 10k instead."
Cerutty was less diplomatic when he said this--"Too many poor types get an easy ego gratification by plodding in poor form and style over the marathon distance in what amounts to really poor times and performances that tend to make a burlesque of one of the toughest events in any sport any man can compete in." Ouch! I say this, I give credit to all who attempt the marathon, prepared or not, but, I hold to the school of thought that racing this distance should come after years of training and many miles under your legs. I've seen lots of people short circuit successful running careers at other shorter distances by getting into the marathon too soon.
Cerutty believed that a newcomer to the marathon should work towards covering the full marathon distance in training. I know that for years the staple of marathon training was the weekly 20 miler. Personally, as I look back, this didn't really work for me. I say this because the last 2 or 3 miles of the marathons I raced with this kind of training we're quite painful, to say the least. It was when I ran for 'time out on my feet' as Arthur Lydiard used to say, that things greatly improved for me in the marathon. Adding a few 3 to 3 1/2 hour runs were the key. I would quickly add that those workouts did involve some walking breaks.
Cerutty offered another suggestion for newcomers and that involved hard mountain walking of up to 30 miles to supplement their early training. It is also no surprise that he recommended gymnastic work and weight training. It's all about building mental, muscular, and overall body strength. Doing this type of preparatory strength work greatly work reduces the likelihood of getting the injuries that are all too common in marathoners.
Cerutty was also against training on blacktop or concrete. He correctly noted that doing so made a runner more prone to injury. I am well into my 5th decade of running injury free because of the fact that towards the middle of the 1980's I started training exclusively on dirt roads,trails,in parks and on hard packed sand. It's a sad fact that as you get older you will notice, as I have, friends leaving the sport because their legs, knees and backs could no longer take the pounding on these hard, unforgiving surfaces.
Coming in a few days, pt. 2 of Training With Cerutty, The Marathon. It will offer some specifics on marathon preparation.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Training the Stotan Way: Suffering in Silence

The planned post on Cerutty and marathon training will be delayed by a few days. As I was about to begin my weight workout today I thought it would be nice to put on a little Marley (as in Bob) while I was lifting. I never listen to music while working out but I was having trouble getting motivated, it felt like it was a hundred degrees in my garage. A thought then came into my head, what would Cerutty do?  Well, if you've read anything by Perc (as he was often referred to), you'd know that there would be no music. Although a great lover of music, Cerutty believed there was a time and place for everything.
All this got me to thinking. We are always surrounded by some kind of noise most of our waking day. Think about it, talking, music, cars, TV, phones, etc.,etc. The mind needs a reprieve and rest from all this 'noise.' We need time to be alone with our thoughts, to think and consider. When I lift in silence, I find myself thinking about the workout, am I maintaining proper form, stuff like that. When I'm out on a long run I think of and ponder a wide range of things. I think back to what Dr. George Sheehan once said, "I do my best thinking when I'm out on a long run."
No 'noise' helps us to focus on the task at hand. If our goal is optimal fitness and/or performance, we deserve to give all our attention to the task at hand.
Stotan up!
As a treat, the link below will take you to poetry in motion--22 seconds of Herb Elliott destroying the field, in silence, at the 1960 Olympic 1500 meter final.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Percy Cerutty and Coaching

Readers of my other blog--www.torunistolive.blogspot.com --may recall that there were several posts relating to Cerutty's views on the nature of coaching. The following, although not written by him, certainly are in line with what he taught.
In teaching your athletes instruct them to:
1. Set reasonable goals.
2. Use only positive statements in discussions with your athletes.
3. Help the athlete rationalize and understand poor or disappointing performances.
4. Help the athlete plan intelligently for a race.
5. Be knowledgeable of the sport, as in the psychology, physiology and mechanics.
6. Be strong-willed; don't waiver in your  determination or lose yourself emotionally during the competition.
7. Don't convey the coach as indispensable--rather work to build self-reliance in the athlete.

If only all coaches were able to convey the above to their athletes. I know in my experience I had far more bad coaches than good ones. I would quickly add that these men were not bad people, they just didn't understand the fullness of teaching and guiding athletes. Perhaps this was due in large part to the fact that, as Cerutty wrote, "those that can't do, can't teach." In doing, I'm sure Cerutty wasn't just referring to the physical aspects but also to the mental and emotional aspects that go along with 'the doing'.
Next post will be on Monday, it'll deal with Cerutty's take on marathon training. The fall marathon training season is upon on us, so  it seemed like a good choice. He has insights into marathon training that are certainly unique.
By the way, I'm on Facebook, go to Stotan Runners.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Stotan Way: Create Your Own Portsea

The International Training Center that Percy Cerutty founded was at Portsea in Victoria, Australia.It was right by the ocean, the 'center' was basically what some would call a very large shack on one half acre of land. However, from this seemingly nondescript facility, great things happened; future champions and non-champions were trained, but perhaps more importantly, they were instructed on how to live and experience life to its fullest.
We may not have a Portsea that we can go to but that doesn't mean we can't create one of our own. If you have access to parks, trails, beaches, pools, and a set of weights you can develop your own Portsea. Here's what I have, in my garage I have weights and a bench. The weights were almost all garbage picked and bought at Play it Again Sports. Behind my house is a dirt service road that is 8/10's of a mile long. A quarter mile away is a park and not ten minutes away is the Atlantic Ocean. In these areas exist all the components needed to train like a Stotan. I'm sure all of you out there,have excerpt for the ocean, the potential for similar training opportunities.
Something else you may want to think about doing. The following is a sample of the daily schedule at Portsea. Consider following something like it for a day or weekend. Obviously, there are certain areas where you would have to improvise but you can still maintain the intention of the schedule, building the body and the mind. May we not have become so jaded that we view the following as childish or frivolous.
7 a.m.---A five mile run before breakfast in any direction our whim took us followed by a dip in the ocean.
8 a.m. Breakfast of uncooked rolled oats(without milk) sprinkled with wheat germ, walnuts, sultanas, raisins and sliced banana. Perhaps a few potato chips to follow.
9. a.m. Swimming and surfing or outdoor chores like chopping wood, painting and carpentry.
Noon- Training and lectures at Portsea Oval, followed by another swim.
2 p.m. Lunch--fish and fresh fruit.
3 p.m. Siesta.
4 p.m. Weight-lifting.
5 p.m. Ten mile run along  dirt roads ending once more at the beach.
7 p.m. Tea and a general discussion led by Percy on a wide variety of subjects.
11 p.m. Lights out.
Maximize your life!

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Stotan Way: The Necessity of Weight Training

"A normal rate for muscle loss with aging has not been established. A 1998 article in the "Journal of Nutrition" reported on a cross section of research that showed the overall loss to be 35 to 40 percent between the ages of 20 and 80. Some research reports changes as early as your 20s, but most agree the most significant changes take place after age 50. Both genders lose the same percentage with aging but women lose less mass overall." (From an article found online)
Ladies and Gentlemen, I rest my case on the subject regarding the necessity of weight lifting. We all know how Cerutty felt about strength work. In his mind, it was vital and necessary. Cerutty was greatly influenced by the works of George Hackenschmidt, a man he met personally later in his life. Hackenschmidt,besides being an author, was also a heavyweight wrestling champion and reportedly was the 'strongest man in the world.'
Hackenschmidt lamented man's separation from nature and his increasing urbanization. Keep in mind folks that he wrote this a little after the turn of the 20th century. Here's what he recommended we do as a remedy for our increasing softness and urbanization:
"Since he has separated from the natural physical advantages, which were freely offered to him in bygone centuries, he should surely avail himself of the efficient substitutes which are offered to him by trained and practiced physical culturists."
"For it is only by exercising with heavy weights that any man can hope to develop real strength. The knowledge of one's strength entails a real mastery over oneself, it breeds energy and courage, helps one over the most difficult tasks of life, and procures contentment and true enjoyment of living."
And you thought you were only building muscle.As an aside,  I gave myself over to strength training for six months and can say that what Hackenschmidt and Cerutty taught about weight training is true. If you call yourself a Stotan, you lift weights.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Ten Characteristics of Truly Great Coaches

1. Committed to individual integrity, values and personal growth.
2. Profound thinkers who see themselves as educators, not just coaches.
3. Well educated (either formally or informally).
4.Long run commitment to their athletes.
5. Willing to experiment with new ideas.
6.Value the coach/athlete relationship.
7. Understand and appreciate human nature.
8.Love their sport and work.
9. Honest and strong in character.
10. Human and therefore imperfect.
The above is really a great list. Percy Cerutty fits everyone of the 10.
Percy was all about experimentation (#5), just read Athletics: How To Become A Champion.
Although not formally educated (#3), he read extensively on a wide  range of varied subjects. I recall in 2000 much of his personal library was up for sale on Ebay. In the description of his 'library' it said the books covered such subjects as yoga, philosophy, weight training, religion, and nutrition. The seller also added that the books were underlined and filled with notations by Cerutty. It still pains me that I didn't have the funds to make the purchase.
Read Cerutty's bio Why Die by Graem Sims and you'll understand why he at times behaved in a way that was less than exemplary(#10).
Cerutty had a  deep love for athletics (#8) and recognized that it was so much more than training and competing.
Although he's gone we have his books that show the truth and the way.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Living the Stotan Life: What Would Cerutty Do....And Not Do,pt.1

Anybody remotely familiar with Percy Cerutty knows that he was all about keeping life simple and natural. For those who aspire to the Stotan Life consider the following---
Imagine if you will Cerutty  at his training center at Portsea in say, 2014, not 1960. He's talking with his students, dressed like they are, in only their shorts. Suddenly, the sound of a Beethoven symphony bursts forth. Cerutty reaches for his cellphone clipped to the side of his shorts, it's Herb(Elliott) calling saying he will be at camp this coming weekend. Percy puts his cellphone back and continues instructing his athletes, minutes later, Beethoven returns, it's a reporter inquiring about doing a feature story. Cerutty looks at his schedule on his phone, makes the appointment and returns the phone to his hip..
It all sounds absurd doesn't it? Would Cerutty have a cellphone if he were around today? Maybe, maybe not. But, I'm sure he would not be obsessively calling,looking and checking it. As one who has witnessed the tremendous growth in cellphone use in recent years, I have come to the conclusion that cellphone use is addictive. I will add that in fairness to its users the addiction has been fueled by what I believe are called the 'apps' that have turned cellphones into hand-held computers.
People need to stop, especially those who are Stotans or desire to be Stotans. Leave them in your car, home or your desk when you go for a workout, an event, a date, shopping or whatever. Saying you need them for work or family is an excuse to continue obsessively using. That's why we have message or answering machines. You can leave, if you desire, a message on your cellphone as to why you are not answering every call that comes your way 24 hours a day. This excessive use is mentally and emotionally draining.
Put the beast down, discover again what it's like to be alone with your thoughts, uninterrupted by intrusions from with out. To the severely addicted I say this, yes you can drive to the supermarket, shop for half an hour and drive all the way home without using the worst invention created in the last several decades. Maybe I'm extreme, but maybe I'm right. Stotan up people!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Remembering Cerutty,pt.1

In the preface to the new edition of Athletics: How To Become A Champion, publisher Peter Masters tells of his experience training at Portsea under Percy Cerutty. His impression of the Man?
"I'd never met anyone like him before. He was scary to a 16 year old but compelling. He had a larger than life persona. I remember it was hot at Portsea which made training even more arduous. I remember too that there were some very talented older athletes so I felt a bit over-awed.
Percy's methods were unconventional and sometimes a bit extreme such as his exaggerated running action,which he used really to make a point.
I remember training up the sandhills.
One day, a boy blacked out in front of me and tumbled down the sandhill and when I went to his aid, Percy yelled out words to the effect, 'he's not dead so don't stop.'
The boy recovered of course but the incident illustrated Percy's determination.
I remember one day we headed to the beach to train and of course moved to below the high water mark to run on the hard sand. Once again we heard a booming voice telling us to run in the soft sand. There were never any easy options.
I didn't go on to become a champion athlete but I admired Percy Cerutty for his willingness to 'push the boundaries' and to challenge accepted practice.
I think Percy's philosophies are as relevant today as they were back in my youth."