Saturday, August 30, 2014

Percy Cerutty--For Those Seeking Athletic Success

Consider the following by Percy Cerutty:
"1.Realization that,as Wordsworth the poet says, 'Life is real,life is earnest'.which denotes that there is no time for wasteful ideas and pursuits.
2.In place of wasteful hobbies there commences a period of supervised and systematic physical training,together with instruction in the art of living fully.This replaces previously undirected life.
3.Swimming will be done all year round.It is obligatory to swim in the open sea at least once every month. This especially strengthens the will and builds resistance to quitting the task ahead.
4.The programme implies the cessation of late hours.Amusements,both social and entertaining,should be reduced to a minimum and then only in the nature of relaxation from strenuous work..
5.To become a leader it must be accepted that the first requisite for leadership is being able to give wholehearted loyalty,obedience and support to the leader at the time.
I hold that the human being cannot be reduced to the status of a machine--and I attribute the success of the athletes who received their early training at Portsea on my specialized fartlek methods,not so much to the initial ability of the athletes,but to the form of training we favour at Portsea,and the terrain we train upon.The introduction of resistance in the form of sand and hill is too important to be ignored and the track can never fulfill the lack nor the scientific formula replace 'natural and instinctive' effort."
Words of Wisdom from the Master, they're still relevant and needed today. Keep your life and training simple and natural.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

What It Takes

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

An excellent comprehensive list with relevant,thought provoking comments by Vigil.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Self-Examination and Not Fooling Ourselves

Part of the process of becoming a champion,or at least achieving some degree of personal athletic success,is having the ability to look at ourselves in a critical way.Are we really who we think we are? Have we been doing the necessary work or have we just "been playing the game?" It's of course easy to find fault in others but not so easy when it gets personal.
Consider the following questions: how active are we in trying to improve ourselves? Except for the fact that we work out, are we basically living the same kind of life as the guy who is a spectator watching endless hours of television while eating and drinking whatever he wants? When was the last time you read a book,did some study on the science of your sport,went to a seminar or did the disciplines that could improve you physically as well as mentally? I've known alot of people who thought they were much more committed to athletics than they really were.                                                                                                                                                          
I know this sounds crazy but for those of us who seek athletic excellence, it's almost like a calling. Why else would we spend a great deal of time pursuing something that offers little or no financial gain and a minimal amount of recognition? The answer is that for most, it begins with a love of the sport. There's more though. It's also about something deep inside that wants it and it's an activity, for lack of a better word, that is as worthy to you as any other that's out there.
Cerutty touches on this subject as he tells us that we must evaluate ourselves.
"Thus it is far better to study oneself than to study others.When we have mastered ourselves as persons:accepted our weaknesses,and tried seriously and conscientiously to overcome them: when we have discovered by trial and error(such as by tests,pitting ourselves against standards) we can then have a chance of reasonably evaluating ourselves as against our fellows."
"When we have mastered ourselves"---that's a process that takes time and effort,but,it's a labor of love if you have a love for what you are doing.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Finding the Way

Finding the way to athletic success, a quest of mine and millions of other athletes. I recall that at one time I bought into the 'you're born good' mentality, then I read about Ron Daws
If you were to ask most runners today who Ron Daws was they would probably say something like, "who"? Ron was a distance runner who was a member of the 1968 U.S. Olympic marathon team,he also wrote one of the great all-time running books,The Self-Made Olympian. Part autobiography,part training guide,this book is unfortunately out of print. It is probably still available used on Amazon.
So what makes this book so good?
Ron writes that he really began to run seriously as a freshman in high school where he competed in cross country and track. His running continued through college where he had one,two and three mile bests of 4:30,9:43 and 15:22. Before I go on, let me say what most of you readers realize, that these times are not what you would expect from a future Olympian.To say they are unremarkable would be an understatement.Now, let's take a look a look at what he accomplished during his career:
1.Held the American records for 15 miles and 25 kilometers.
2.Four top ten finishes in the Boston Marathon.
3.A member of the Pan-American Games marathon team in 1967.
4.Qualified for the 1968 U.S. Olympic marathon team by finishing third at the trials race in Alamosa,Colorado. In doing so he beat several world class distance runners who held much better credentials than he.
5.Finished 22nd at the 1968 Olympic marathon.
After looking at the accomplishments listed above,one would have to ask,how did he get from being what appeared to be an average runner to one who became an American record holder and Olympian?
What made Ron Daws so special? Throughout the pages of his book the answers are given,answers that we can utilize to achieve our running goals. To those who believe you must have the genetics to succeed in athletics Ron said this: "I realized my physical talent was limited."
His quest began after watching Abebe Bikillia in the '64 Olympic marathon. Daws decided then that he wanted to make the next Olympic team.He then set a sequence of goals he wanted to achieve that would lead up to his ultimate objective. He began by formulating a training system that would prepare him physically.Ron was a big believer in the Lydiard system,about which he said: "Lydiard developed basic concepts 25 years ago that still remain the latest word in conditioning.....The whole purpose of his build-up was to prepare the runner to survive the grueling workouts and time trials that lead up to the racing season."
Ron also believed in paying attention to all facets of his racing and making adjustments when necessary.This included everything from acclimating himself to the heat and altitude, to customizing a pair of running shoes he bought from,believe it or not,J.C.Pennys'. He says: "I paid more attention to details than the others and was willing to pay the price required. Beating the odds is not all enthusiasm and hard work. It's also devising detours around seemingingly insurmountable obstacles." Stop for a moment and really consider the truth of what this man just said,it's so true.
Then there was Daws' attitude,he would not be deterred from reaching his goals. He said this:"It's just a matter of how badly one wants to get to the top. The ones who find it too much trouble devise excuses. In the end, it just means they really didn't want it. Ron then says: "Running is made in men's minds,it's owning the feeling that no matter what,nothing can stop you. No runner is so untalented that he cannot improve vastly enough to beat the more talented ones whose approach is less intense...who knows,you may venture into worlds never dreamed of."
It's not all about talent, it's about really wanting it, it's about finding a way, having the right attitude, using your brain as well as your muscles. That's the lesson of Ron Daws.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Stotan Way--Will Power

Your Will Power
George Hackenschmidt was a Russian born wrestler and strongman, as well as a fitness and strength innovator.Born towards the end of the 19th century, Hackenschmidt lived to be 90 yrs old.He was an example of the truth of what he taught regarding health and physical training.Cerutty was influenced and encouraged by Hackenschmidt and referred to him often in his writings,in later years they became friends.Described as a deeply spiritual(Editor:not in a conventional way) and thoughtful man, a writer said this about him:"George Hackenschmidt was the epitome of calm,self-assurance and inner peace,with full awareness of his own capabilities and thus like all masters,found no need for machoism or outward aggression. His tactic to win was skill and speed,born of confidence in his own ability." The proof of a truly unique and remarkable athlete is the one whose entire life exemplifies what he believed in and espoused. These days,after most athletes retire from competition, the majority move away from sport and on to the business of, well business, translation...making money. Although you can't blame them a bit for doing so,I hold special affection for people like Cerutty,Lydiard,LaLanne,Hackenschmidt and others who devoted their entire lives to helping others through training and athletics. The following is a quote by George Hackenschmidt and is a reminder as to what conditioning one's willpower can accomplish."The frequent employment of one's will power masters all organs of movement and trains them to perform feats which otherwise would have been difficult,painful and even impossible. The man becomes independent and self-reliant; he will never be a coward,and, when real danger threatens,he is the one who is looked up to by others. 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." It's not hard to see the similarity between the above and what Percy taught.What Hackenschmidt has to say is true but cannot be experienced unless we set about the process of developing our will power. For many,that should begin by understanding what will power actually means and all that it comprises. Self discipline and challenging oneself are the keys. The benefits as described by Hackenschmidt should be irresistible to those seeking to live life to its fullest.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Percy Cerutty--The Way He Sees It

Cerutty taught the necessity of staying relaxed while running and provided useful instruction on how to physically do so.In the following, which is a testament to his ability to think "outside the box," he provides some reasons for athletes not being relaxed.They are things that one would not usually consider but they should cause us to stop and think.If anything, the following is provocative.
"I go further,I hold that as long as people retain fixed prejudices,rigid ideas,and convictions,lack a sense of humour in their attitudes to themselves,their fellow men, and life in general,there must be,and will be,tensions which extend from the mind to the physical body and its movements.
So relaxation,in the last resort,if we would be perfect,depends upon,firstly,freeing the mind of all restrictive attitudes and beliefs,and adopting,if it is possible, the carefree(but not irresponsible) attitudes of the child,trusting in our instinctive likes and dislikes,responding to,and giving to others,kindnesses to others more than ourselves. In a word--living fully,freely,with as little restrictions upon our good impulses,in particular,as possible.
Never was it more truly said that to enter the athletic kingdom of heaven one must become as a little child."
Well Said!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

This Stotan Life---Words to Live By

If you have read the Percy Cerutty bio,"Why Die," you learned about the poverty,depravation and illness he experienced during his childhood years.These hardships and the way he responded helped to mold him into the kind of person he became. Cerutty had the desire and perseverance to overcome many obstacles during the course of his life. A little known fact about him is that in 1945, at the age of 50, he became just the third Australian to run 100 miles in less than 24 hours.This was accomplished after years of poor health. Cerutty knows what he is talking about when he writes on subjects like obstacles, failures and overcoming. He offers the following: "It is said the darkest hour(in human experience) is just before the dawn. Be grateful if you have blundered: proved to be ignorant: made a mistake. It is only through such experiences that greatness can ever be achieved. When you experience frustration: discouragement: even a feeling of futility and hopelessness--it is then you should take heart: resist the temptation to abandon your objectives: to give up striving and trying. It is commonplace in human experience that--when we are about to abandon hope: when we are on the point of quitting--the miraculous occurs: we break through: we achieve(and what seemed only yesterday--the impossible)--the goals we dreamed of: but we must never have ceased believing and working towards those goals. In our moment of desperation something heartening occurs: the letter arrives: the invitation is received:we are added to the 'team'. So: never--whilst you breathe,whilst you have life,entirely give up hope: cease to try: abandon the search: cease doing. No one,until we have turned it,knows when we shall turn the corner, even which corner we may turn! But it is always well to remember: there is no road but has a turn somewhere: there is no problem but has a solution--if we can but find it: that there is no limit to what we may accomplish--at least whilst we have life in us." Perseverance is the key to success,you read this over and over again in the bios on successful people. Unfortunately,most people appear to lack the desire to persist and continue pursuing their goals. That is really too bad because I believe people are capable of accomplishing much more than they think they can. 

Friday, August 8, 2014

I Teach

Percy Cerutty wrote, "I teach: It is not important that we merely compete; that it is important that we endeavor to excel. That means, we do with all our heart and soul that which we find at hand to do. That we leave no stone unturned: no page unread:nothing frustrates us---since with the difficulty is the means of overcoming---and this once we have resolved upon a course of action. There are much more priceless things than winning, especially if the victories be unearned or cheap.It is the training: the way, that is valuable. That winning is only evidence of something and may be valuable, or not. That value is only earned when there has been self-discipline: exhaustive effort: and the development of intelligence through experience and thought. That without these factors preceding winning---winning itself,rather than be an advantageous experience,can hinder the personality---not add to it." Quite profound if I say so myself. Again, Cerutty understands that when seeking athletic success,when approached in the proper manner, it will have a postive impact on all aspects of your life and build character.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Cerutty on How Your Running and Training Should Be

From Cerutty:
"Man is an animal. Naturalistically he fluctuates from day to day---his feelings, strength, abilities, desires. Capacities vary from day to day, hour to hour. His strength ebbs and flows. Civilization, the daily routine of school and work, disciplines him, conditions him, and mostly reduces him to an automation, a robot. How futile to add to such a regime to his athleticism. How much better to use his training, conditioning and racing as a means, as it should be, to at least temporarily to remove him from this artificial, and harmful, civilizing mediums that result from normal school and work. In his ordinary life he has little chance to escape from the humdrum, the routine. Why, then, as I say, add his exercise, his athleticism, to the list of compulsions. Athletics should be, and with me is, the prime means to escape from these imprisoning conditions, to exult in our liberty, free movement,capacity to choose. Our training should be a thing of joy, of hard,battling exhaustion and enthusiasm,not a daily grind upon a grinding track,artificially hard and carried out under full circumstances and unaesthetic enviroments as a rule. How much better to run with joy,shear beauty and strength,to race down some declivity,to battle manfully to the top of another. At Portsea we train along paths that are found along the cliff tops,descending at times to beach level,in the midst of of some of the finest scenery in our state.We run for miles on the heavy sand with the great waves crashing and pounding and swirling,at times,to knee depth as we run. Or we run upon the the golf links,or moors,or some speed work,occasionally on the grassed oval in one of the prettiest and most natural amphitheaters,surely,in the world. Here, in this enviroment, over this terrain,the spirit of beauty and high endeavor enters our souls. Seek out your Portseas,train and run as the impulse comes on you. An hour,two hours of training slips away as so many minutes. You become tired,exhaustingly tired, but never unhappy. It is work,but it seems only fun. Exhilarating,satisfying fun." Whew--that about says it all to me as far as what is the essence of Stotan or Cerutty inspired running. Something to especially take note of is written near the end when he says: "Seek out your Portseas..." You can establish your version of Portsea somewhere around where you live. When you do, your running will reach a whole new level in regards to enjoyment and performance.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Cerutty Says: Be A Rebel

Cerutty often spoke about going against the norm in an era when it was not so common to do so as it is today. He was not only talking about doing this in athletics but in one's daily life as well. The following is an excerpt from his book, Success in Sport and Life: "Be a rebel against the perfunctory, the orthodox, the traditional, even the secure, the safe, the satisfactory,the conforming. It takes courage with a blend of so-called stupidity to burn one's bridges. I would hazard a guess that all great men at some time in their careers, burnt their bridges, said Good-bye to what looked to others sane and sensible. It is true that not many will not pay the price. It would be awful if everyone wanted to stand on the summit of Everest at one and the same time! But many can, if they rebel against mediocrity and complacency."  I think of a saying that has become almost a catch phrase, "leave your comfort zone." I expect to see it written on a Nike or NB running shirt soon. It is a saying worthy of consideration though. After 30+ years working in the psychiatric field I've seen the effects brought on by people living a life or having a mindset of "going with the flow" or doing what others expect. Things like frustration, unhappiness, and damaged relationships, along with alcohol and drug abuse, are often the consequences of suppressing who you are and what you really want to be. The bottom line is this, be who you really are and live the life you love while respecting others and being responsible.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

A Real Runner,pt.1

The following question came up on a forum recently and it was an interesting one,the writer asked: "Just interested in people's views on this. At what point and at what level of ability can you honestly and truthfully say that you're a runner, as opposed to a jogger or a fun runner?"  To this I answer: It's not uncommon for people,especially younger ones, to equate performance with being a bonafide,or as I call it, a real runner. Those of us who live for the run know better,it's all about your passion and love for this sport, not the fact that you can run fast.What it all boils down to is that running is a priority in your life because it's something that's a part of who you are. I believe the following pretty much nails it in regards to how you know you're a runner: You can say you are a runner when you live for the run--when running is THE thing in your life---it's about scheduling your days around your runs not your runs around what you think you should do first before you go out for a run----it's NOT about whether you run this or that time for some distance, it's about a passion and a love for the sport where only serious injury or death will keep you from running.