Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Athletes and the Information Overload

  In this modern age we have at our fingertips access to an unbelievable amount of information. Have you ever said to someone who asked you a question about something you didn't have an answer for to go and "Google it"? I have, on many occasions, often with a smile on my face. While "Googling" it may provide information, it more often than not leads to more confusion than answers. Try this, Google (or Bing) a subject like, what type of aerobic exercise is the best. What you will find is thousands upon thousands of articles extolling the virtues of a variety of types of different aerobic activities while downplaying ones that are hyped on other posts. Perhaps a better example: Google the best diet for an athlete. Here you will get hundreds of thousands of listings for a variety of different "best diets". I believe you get the picture, there is a ton of diverse and conflicting information out there. It comes from all facets of the media as well as print and from the computer. So how do you work your way through this seeming informational Babylon?
  A few suggestions on how to get to the truth,and I should say that I am focusing more on athletes here but this can be applicable to everyone. First and foremost, resign yourself to the fact that you will have to do a little research and that will take time. Can't be bothered? Than do what most people do, get your info in appealing and affirming news and soundbites put out by "experts" who are promoting their way as the right way.
You want to find the proper way to train for your particular sport? I do not have the time this year to list the number of books on training (especially running) that tout the virtues of THEIR program. You want info on diet? That's a billion dollar industry which, in my opinion, is leading millions of people down the wrong path nutritionally.
So what do I do? The first thing you do is look to the fundamentals relating to your body. Fundamentals? What do I mean by that? Well, as there are fundamental truths about gravity, there are fundamental truths about your body's needs and what it can tolerate. In training for example, your body is best served when it is gradually introduced to more stressful work. Take running, you need to get aerobically fit before you do sprints or hammer the hills. In weight training, you do lighter weights before you work up to heavier ones. It's not only common sense, it's part of the fundamentals of anatomy and physiology. Of course you could jump right into heavier and faster but your body will  rebel and probably breakdown at some point.
Diet and the athlete? Do you know the basic needs as it pertains to fats, carbohydrates and proteins for your body? Most people don't. I recall that when I was studying to be a personal trainer a few years back I was surprised when I read what the daily protein needs were for the average person and the serious athlete. It was far more than what I had been led to believe from reading health books and articles by self-appointed health experts. The logical response to that last sentence might be, so what made that guy you read credible? The fact that he had a doctorate in his field, and most importantly, the bibliography in his textbook cited numerous studies and testing from valid sources was good enough for me. It all came back to the fundamentals, what your body requires to survive and thrive.
  The second and final way to validate information that promotes a particular way or idea, show me the proof. An example. Many years ago I attended an all day seminar given by the late Arthur Lydiard. Arthur, for those who may not know, formulated the quintessential distance training program. During the question and answer period, someone asked him what he thought of (name of coach here) program that was very popular at the time. Lydiard responded--"How many Olympic champions has he coached?" This coach had guided zero while Arthur had several to his credit. Don't give your acceptance to anything if there is no proof of its merit.
Finally, since we are on the subject of proof, let's consider diet and eating. There is a way of eating that has become quite trendy and popular these days. It is deficient nutritionally but it is not my intention to go into a discourse on it's shortcomings here. The question I have about this way of eating and others is, presently, what populaion on earth have lived long, vigorous lives eating this way?  You say none, yet? Well, there are examples of people living long robust lives eating a way that is radically different from what you espouse. When it comes to my long term health, I'll go with what has worked any day.
  Fundamentals and proof, the way to separate the wheat from the chaff every time.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016


I apologize for so few articles recently--I have been training, studying and spending far too much time on my Facebook Stotan Runners page. It is my hope that I will leave Facebook shortly and the only other posts I'll do there will be ones I link from here. I have some new thoughts and ideas I hope to put them into words.
 In this day and age we are inundated with information from so many different sources. Movies, books, newspapers, magazines, television and radio supply viewers and readers with a staggering amount of things to watch and read. Always popular with the public are the success stories written about, or by, someone who has overcome obstacles to finally reach their goal(s). It's also common to read quotes and sayings by these individuals, you may see them on posters, bumper stickers, online or in magazines. Most of us read them and say something like, "that's really good," and continue on. I'd like to offer a few suggestions for the next time you come across a really good, insightful quote. First off, recognize that the person quoted is not just saying this to titillate you, the intention is for the reader to learn from it, and in many cases, act on it. Secondly, the person giving the quote is operating from his personal experience, what and how he did something led to his learning from or accomplishing something. What follows are some quotes by notable people on persistence. Regular readers to this blog have read that persistence is the key to running and athletic success. Persistence has to do with sticking with it when MOST others have "bagged" their goals and moved on to something else. My advice to myself and others on what you are about to read is: Read, Learn From and Act On It.
 Here goes: "Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence,talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan 'Press On' has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race." This quote, believe it or not, is by President Calvin Coolidge. "Energy and persistence conquer all things." Quote by Benjamin Franklin." We are made to persist. That's how we find out who we are," Quote by Tobias Wolff. As I used to tell the High School athletes I coached, "you can't make an average sprinter great by just training, but, you can make an average distance runner a very good one if the athlete is willing to stick with it and do the work. The above quotes are by people, who through their experiences, know what they are talking about. For those of us who are sitting on the fence in regards to going for it, isn't it time "we found out who we are?"

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Declining Times

I was speaking with a friend not too long ago who made a comment that times at the road races in his area (Buffalo,N.Y.) were slower then they were 25+ years ago. He went on to say that there was a lack of depth in quality performances from the 5k and up.He bemoaned the fact that guys running 17 minutes and change in the 5k were finishing in the top 10, something he said hardly ever happened back "in my day." A little search of the archived race records confirmed what he had said was true. For instance, one of the big road races of the year in my area was the Depew/Lancaster Boys Club 10k. I went back as far as I could,which was unfortunately only till 1986, and found that 81 runners finished under 40 minutes. In 2005 only 31 runners broke 40 minutes. Further seaches confirmed what my friend had said,times have gotten slower over the years. As many of you probably know, this trend exists over much of the country.So what's happened? What's changed?
If you look back to the days of the running boom in the early 70's you will find your answer. The main avenue for getting news and information on running,racing and training was through the running mags, particularly Runners World. If you are fortunate to have copies of RW from the 70's till '83, you will immediately notice a difference between then and now.I should start by saying I am in no way bashing RW for how they are.One of the hardest things to do these days is to keep a magazine financially viable. You will not stay in business very long if you produce a mag that only appeals to a group of runners which comprise a minority of the running population,ask James O'Brian, former head of the excellent,but now defunct, American Runner about that. Returning to the RW's of the 70's, one of the first things you will notice is back then their writers and contributors included people like Joe Henderson,Dr.George Sheehan,Arthur Lydiard,Derek Clayton,Bill Squires, and Amby Burfoot, just to name a few. There was a theme and preoccupation that was evident throughout each issue,and that was,how to go about achieving your best racing performance. There were also interviews with American runners who were successful nationally and internationally. They also contained lots of race results and accounts of the races. Again,the focus was on improving your running and racing. I should add that Running Times was a nice alternative to RW because it had tons of race results and recaps of races along with schedules of upcoming ones from around the country. Their age group race highlights and rankings was a great feature.Somewhere in the mid-eighties things began to change with RW. Writers and contributors were replaced and the theme went from racing performance to the "running experience". Jeff Galloway gained a large readership and following by teaching moderation in miles and effort as well as showing the way from basically zero miles to a marathon in 6 months,or was it 9 months? Jeff was quite vocal in his opinion that too many miles were bad for runners,a point that I was very happy to call him out on when he spoke at a pre-marathon clinic in Buffalo years back. Interviews and stories in RW changed from being about successful runners to ones who had overcome personal issues and tragedies through running. Arthur Lydiard and Derek Clayton's columns were replaced with people like Owen Anderson and those of a similar mindset. Food and diet,stretching,cross-training,exotic locales for racing,and my favorite, attaining 6pk abs, are the subjects that have become the norm in RW today. What exactly does 6pk abs have to do with running anyway? But I digress.
You get the picture,what was once THE vehicle for reaching the runner changed its perception of what the running experience should be and most of the public has followed along. The consequence of this being slower times overall. I suppose this is why we should be thankful that we have the internet to fill the need for those of us who want more. I still miss the days when RW was the source to go to for runners and racers.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

A Quiet Strength

The following text says it all--no pretenses, no BS--

"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"

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Thursday, July 7, 2016

The Absolute Necessity of Consuming Enough Protein

The vital importance of protein cannot be overstated. In this age of 3rd world eating practices, protein's necessity, especially for athletes, has often been disparaged and understated. Consider the following excerpts from an article by Dr. Axe. I would like to add this comment, as the body can tolerate long-term abuses(drinking, smoking, etc.) as well as nutritional deficiencies, you can be assured that somewhere down the line, be it months or years, you will pay the price for these abuses and deficiencies.
Eating too little protein can result in these symptoms:
•A sluggish metabolism
•Trouble losing weight
•Trouble building muscle mass
•Low energy levels and fatigue
•Poor concentration and trouble learning
•Moodiness and mood swings
•Muscle, bone and joint pain
•Blood sugar changes that can lead to diabetes
•Slow wound healing
•Low immunity
8 Health Benefits of Eating Foods with Protein
1. Help Improve Muscle Mass
2. Help Manage Your Weight By Filling You Up. High-protein foods cause increased satiety to a greater extent than carbohydrates or fats, so they can prevent overeating and snacking. It’s usually much easier to overeat carbohydrates, especially if they’re refined or sweetened, than it is to overeat healthy protein foods.
3. Stabilize Blood Sugar Levels
4. Help Improve Your Mood Certain amino acids from protein foods are needed to balance hormones naturally, control your mood and act as a natural remedy for anxiety. Proteins help neurotransmitters function and synthesize hormones like dopamine and serotonin that calm us and keep our outlook positive
5. Promote Healthy Brain Function and Learning
6. Help Maintain Strong Bones
7. Promote Heart Health
8. Slow Aging and Promote Longevity
One of the key roles of protein foods is helping the body to synthesize glutathione, often called the “master antioxidant.” Glutathione is stored within our own cells and helps us to detox and reduce carcinogens that age us. Animal and human studies both show that adequate protein intake is crucial for the maintenance of glutathione and helps the body stay in a state of balanced “homeostasis.” Glutathione deficiency contributes to oxidative stress, which plays a key role in age-related diseases.
For those who are vegetarians and related--
People following a low calorie, vegan or vegetarian diet are especially at a higher risk for missing out on important amino acids, since animal foods are considered “complete proteins” (meaning they contain all essential amino acids) but many plant foods are not. It’s possible to combine different plant foods in order to create a combination that has all essential amino acids – such as eating rice with beans or vegetables with whole grains, for example – but some health experts believe this is not as optimal as eating foods that are complete protein sources.
It’s best to eat small amounts of protein throughout the day instead of a very large serving only once or twice. This gives your body the right amount of protein it needs at any given time, since only so much can be utilized at once (the rest will be stored as fat or eliminated). Because your body cannot store protein, eating it throughout the day is the surest way to balance your blood sugar level, ward off hunger and support your metabolism. This is especially important around the time of exercise when protein-rich pre-workout snacks can go a long way.
Top 11 Protein Foods to Include in Your Diet
1. Grass-fed beef (4) — 3 ounces: 19 grams (46% DV)
2. Bone broth protein — ¼ cup/about 1 serving: 20 grams
3. Lentils (6) — 1 cup: 18 grams (36% DV)
4. Wild fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna, etc.) (7) —3 ounces salmon: 17 grams (40% DV)
5. Organic chicken (8) — 1 chicken breast: 16 grams (38% DV)
6. Black beans (or other beans) (9) — 1 cup: 15 grams
7. Natto (10) — ½ cup: 15 grams
8. Raw milk (11) — 1 cup: 8 grams (16% DV)
9. Kefir or yogurt (12) — 6 ounces: 6–9 grams (16%DV)
10. Free-range eggs (13) — 1 large: 7 grams(14% DV)
11. Raw cheese (14) — 1 ounce goat cheese: 7 grams (14% DV)
So how much protein is needed?--Dr. Axe gives the following--
I recommend you take your body weight and multiply that number by .5 The result is the amount in grams of protein you should ideally aim to eat each day. For example, a woman who weighs 150 pounds would aim to eat 75 grams of protein daily and a man who weighs 180 pounds would shoot for 90 grams.
Overall, I recommend that you make about 30 percent of your plate a high-quality source of protein at every meal. This ensures you eat enough throughout the day to meet your needs and prevents you from overeating carbs and junk foods.
I have read from other credible sources that a gram of protein per bodyweight is what is needed for the serious athlete.
Either way,look at what you are eating today, are you getting enough protein?

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Self-Mastery--Essential Practices by Maher Sagrillo

Self-Mastery--Essential Practices by Maher Sagrillo:

In the modern age, with its endless and intoxicating distractions bombarding us and pulling our consciousness in many directions, it is vital for us to develop and follow a personal discipline that keeps us focused on the real purposes and meanings in our lives, so that we can slowly attain the fruits of our practices.
When we live for instant gratification, or live to chase “happiness” — as many have come to conceive of it — we ultimately end up disappointed. Hence the old adage that, “one who chases happiness is sure to avoid it”.
This is the strange irony: The human spirit does not gain authentic and lasting happiness from satisfying base desires and from being briefly satisfied with some outer stimuli because it forms nothing lasting or solid.
Instead, people become truly and authentically happy when they place such things as discipline, values, purpose and meaning above immediate gratification. Then we can attain true fruits of the spirit — which in turn makes us truly, authentically happy — without ever striving for it as an end goal in itself. Eventually, through practice, one comes to realize that their spirit is already everything they truly need, and so much more. The whole inner world is rich with all the soil and seeds needed for any growth, and this growth is true and sincere, because it is unique and comes from within.
Sacrifice, discipline, and attainment makes us joyful because, and when, they enable us to create something true and meaningful. We are willing to put aside the distractions and take on the real work and challenges that push us beyond our ourselves and our cravings.
Below are practices for cultivating oneself and attaining lasting, meaningful happiness:
Contemplation: Think before speaking or acting on anything. If you don’t have a good reason, don’t do it or say it. Speaking little is ideal. Think for yourself and don’t use other people’s reasoning unless you really understand it and can’t think of anything better after exhausting your own ideas. Beware of biases, cognitive dissonance, logical fallacies, and wishful thinking.
Emotion: Find the roots of worry, anxiety, fear, etc., to solve them rationally, emotionally, and spiritually. Never let emotions lead, but also do not deny or suppress them; try to understand, resolve, and grow from them.
Stillness: If you cannot rationally decide on what to do, don’t do anything. Return to the Tao and act from there. If you get emotional, you lose Tao. Go elsewhere and wait until you return to calm, think over your emotions, and consider your next actions.
Will: Once you’ve thought something through, put all of your power behind it. Do not allow doubt. You cannot travel effectively nor enjoyably while constantly questioning and doubting the craftsmanship of your map.
Discipline: It takes about three weeks without interruption to form or discard a habit. Aim to feed good habits, and be very wary of feeding poor habits. Remember that your spirit and responsibilities are more important than your happiness.
Simplicity: Keep all matters as clear and simple as possible. Use reasoning to sublimate things, reducing them to only what is really important and matters. Let go of burdensome emotions, desires, memories, and thoughts.
Health: Thinking clearly, deciding specifically, avoid your own and other peoples’ toxic behaviors. Distance yourself from toxic substances, foods, habits, people, ideas, and avoid producing further toxicity in the world. Feed the body nutritious foods, meditate to calm/focus the spirit, and contemplate to strengthen/order the mind. Exercise regularly, even if it’s brief, and expend your energy fully.
Compassion: Even if someone has a poor behavior towards you, be compassionate, noble, polite, but distant from their toxicity. Have genuine empathy and understanding for others, even in the face of hate.
Truth: To thine own self be true. Always be honest and sincere in your actions, thoughts, estimations, and judgements. Weigh truth rationally and to its logical limits in any given context. Accept that many truths are not enjoyable or pleasant, and that things often have far more than one “truth” to them.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Physical Strength As the Basis of Enlightenment

Something a little different----thought provoking-----much like what Cerutty taught---written by Angel Millar, it's called-----Physical Strength As the Basis of Enlightenment------

physical-strength-spirituality“First of all our young men must be strong. Religion will come afterwards,” said Swami Vivekananda. “Be strong, my young friends; that is my advice to you. You will be nearer to Heaven through football than through the study of the [Hindu religious text of the Bhagavad] Gita… You will understand the Gita better with your biceps, your muscles, a little stronger.”
We in the West have inherited the Christian image — and I would say, largely a false image — of the spiritual or enlightened man: self-sacrificing, passive, slender, and in a sense anti-physical.
Where Christianity has declined or disappeared, this image and the assumptions of the religion — equality, a focus on — or a belief in — the poor and the outcast, and strong suspicion of the physical body, especially physical strength — have become the major motifs of politics.
But the traits we associate with spirituality and intelligence are not necessarily accepted by either non-Western or pre-modern cultures. 
If we look to the East, we find that the Buddha — a prince in his earlier life — was said to be skilled in martial arts; Krishna revealed his teachings on the battlefield, urging his disciple to fight. Then, of course, there are the Shaolin warrior monks, who developed Kung-Fu. So, too, in pre-Christian Europe, the gods prepare for a final cataclysmic batter: Ragnarok.
“God is not to be reached by the weak,” says Swami Vivekananda. “Never be weak. You have infinite strength within you. How else will you conquer anything? How else will you come to God?”
If we have infinite strength, physical and mental, isn’t it a blasphemy to cultivate weakness within ourselves? Certainly, it is. Yet, today, across the West, we see not only a loathing of the strong, muscular physical body in regard to men (and feminine beauty in regard to women), but we see college students calling for the banning of ideas with which they disapprove (but have never engaged), the banning of speakers with which they disagree, and even for the establishment of “safe spaces” on campus.
This is both an anti-intellectual and anti-body environment. Although the figure of the false Jesus-like male invariably turns up here, against both physical and mental strength, it is essentially an anti-spiritual movement.
It is a movement, or, really, a mob, designed to keep people locked into certain beliefs, but not to understand them. Learning, understanding, awakening, self-development, and character or cultivating inner strength all require the individual to consider ideas different to, and even contrary to, his beliefs. He may or may not change his views. But he should at least understand his own better by doing so.
True spirituality, as would be understood by Swami Vivekananda, ancient tribes, martial arts lineages, Buddhism in the East (especially Vajrayana Buddhism), Hinduism in India (especially Tantra), and even Freemasonry (with its symbolism of death — the dagger, and so on), requires not safe spaces but dangerous spaces — that is to say, spaces of cultivation through a kind of positive-opposition to the disciple, student, or initiate. Such spaces are not reckless, but designed to push the individual beyond what he believes his limits are (but in fact are not).
Cultivating physical and mental strength means cultivating inner and outer peace. It is not only an act of self-reliance, it is a real self-sacrifice — sacrificing one’s pettiness through focus, the pain of physical exercise and inner-growth — to one’s society that should benefit from having more men and women who are noble in mind, body, and spirit.
Today, we have come to mistake the shallow appearance of niceness for the substance of inner peace, attained through strength. This is an enormous trap.
“Nice guys” are usually not that nice. A man whose body is weak, and who is easily intimidated must avoid violence. Such a man is not peaceful. He is merely forced to be subservient. “Peacefulness” and “enlightenment” and “spirituality” become a pose — excuses not to engage in confrontations. It is not merely a case of avoiding physical violence, but even in expressing his feelings to his girlfriend, for example, if it could lead to a heated discussion. Because he does not do what he believes is good for him, and because he expects others to act as weakly toward him when he wants something from them, inside of the “nice guy” boils resentment that he does not get his way.
We see this frustration played out in other ways, imposing itself on society.
In the past, weak-bodied priests talked viciously about God’s “love,” and warned of hell fire for anyone who disagreed, while religious schools often meted out harsh punishments to boys and girls, traumatizing them for life.
Today, we see a new expression of the same old fear: Large groups of “peaceful protesters” screaming, shouting, threatening, committing acts of vandalism, and even sometimes physically attacking a lone individual who has had the nerve to say something with which they disagree. All of this happens for some alleged ideal — usually some secular variation of Christianity’s universal harmony among mankind — which melts away the moment it becomes an inconvenience. Alone, each member of the mob is utterly without strength.
As Swami Vivekananda said, “strength is life, weakness is death.” Choose life. Cultivate physical strength. Make it a foundation for authentic inner peace, for cultivating higher qualities, confidence and focus, and make it a shield against the winds of modernity that blow this way then that, ever changing, always howling, always empty.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Real Courage

Another look at the meaning of the word courage with a dose of integrity thrown in.
Soko Morinaga had this to say about courage:

"I believe that courage is upholding what you have once decided to do and enduring all the troubles encountered along the way. To sustain and carry out that original intention--just this,in itself---is real courage."

Monday, May 2, 2016

A Few Comments From a Health and Fitness Pioneer

I have a picture of Percy Cerutty  and the man I reference below(Paul Bragg), as well as others at Cerutty's International Training Center at Portsea, Australia. Both men were quite similar in their beliefs, both were Health and Fitness pioneers. When I am able, I'll post that picture.

I first became aware of Paul Bragg in the early 70's. His health and nutrition books influenced me greatly. Exercise, natural foods and a healthy lifestyle was what he lived, preached and wrote about for many decades.
The great Jack Lalanne credits Bragg as being the one person who influenced him most in his life. What follows are some insightful comments by Bragg on all things pertaining to athletics, health and nutrition.

 To those who believe 6 pack abs and a muscular body are signs of health, Bragg had this to say:
"Big powerful,bulging muscles do not necessarily mean internal health. The thousands who exercise daily but neglect healthful nutrition have no desirable record of longevity."

So true--as I have said in the past--too many people believe that just because they work out that gives them the right to eat and drink whatever they want as well as,as much as they want.

 And as far as good,healthy types of exercise, weight lifting alone is not enough. However, when used in conjunction with aerobic and anaerobic training, it is ideal. Pick the training that will make you complete,ones that gives you muscular, respiratory, and circulatory stimulation. I am sure for most readers out there this is not exactly a revelation.

Again from Bragg:
"The first exercise is a mental one. We must learn to discipline ourselves. We must learn not to overeat, even on good natural foods. We must learn to push away from the dinner table feeling that we could eat just a little more. We must eat a balanced natural diet."

The key word above is discipline--if people would discipline themselves--- millions of dollars would not be spent on diet books that say they have 'the secret' to weight loss and the perfect body.
For those desiring more on Paul Bragg--here is the link to his Facebook page: 

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Keeping it Simple

Yet another truth Cerutty taught concerned the benefits of keeping all things "simple." He writes quite a bit about this subject in his book, Be Fit! Or Be Damned! His most successful student, Herb Elliott, once said that the ideal life of an athlete is one of simplicity. Keeping with that theme is the following, perhaps it is relevant to you or someone you know.
Ah,to simplify,the new buzz word,the bumper sticker,the popular subject of articles in a variety of glossy mags.  To simplify means more than just cleaning off your desk or getting rid of accumulated "stuff". When you truly simplify it effects every aspect of your life; this includes something as seemingly innocuous as what and how much you eat, to how you spend your time,what you buy and don't buy,where and how you live and what you do with your body.There are more aspects to simplifying which will be discussed in future posts as well as the ones I've mentioned above.
Those desiring true peace and contentment must begin the process of simplifying.There is no other way to go about it.
Consider the following:
At the start of the day do you feel that the majority of your waking hours are already committed to doing something or being somewhere? I am including your "days off" here also.
Could you take a job tomorrow that was more to your liking but paid 5 or 10,000 dollars less a year?
When was the last time you spent more than two hours in the woods or a park?
When was the last time you were in an area that was quiet,meaning free from phones,televisions and radios?
Are you overweight,fat?
Do you drink too much alcohol?
Do you eat too much?
Do you eat denatured,unnatural foods?
Do you take what they call recreational drugs,most notable of which is marijuana?
How much time do you spend in front of the television or computer during the course of a day?
Are you preoccupied with watching professional sports?
How often do you read a book.
Do you exercise,if so,how much,how often?
Believe it or not the way to true peace and contentment has alot to do with the questions I just asked.
You will see this as the days pass.

Discern and Validate All Things

From my Stotan Runners Facebook page---


"To my mind, the greatest mistake a person can make is to remain ignorant when he is surrounded every day of his life by the knowledge he needs to grow and be healthy and successful. It's all there. We need only to observe, read, learn...and apply."
Paul Bragg

To that great quote I would add this---another big mistake people make is to hold onto to their preconceived beliefs on health, training and nutrition, or anything else for that matter, without having personally studied the validity of those beliefs. This type of laziness can lead to failure, ill health and worse. Read everything with a discerning mind. Accept the fact that you may find that your "pet" beliefs are not correct. This was a core Cerutty teaching.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Big Race Preparation: Quieting the Beast Within

For  the many who are about to enter their racing season I dedicate the following. I'm sure at least some of what you are about to read is applicable to athletes of all sports---
An all too common occurrence among runners is when weeks or months of preparation for a "big" race end in a poor performance on race day. Too often this is the result of letting our fears and anxieties take control. Quite frequently, runners attempt to deal with these feelings by training hard practically up to the day of the race and not using their heads once the race starts.
Studies have shown that if a reasonably fit runner does not run for a week he'll lose only 5% of his overall fitness. However, this percentage increases dramatically if he goes into a second and third week of not training. So I ask, what can you do in terms of training in that final week to improve your performance? I say not much. What can you do in this same final week to ruin your race? A whole lot! I at one time had naively believed that not backing off before a big race was something that only novice runners did, I've come to find that this is also quite common among experienced runners who you think would know better.
You may be thinking, "OK, I need to rest before a big race." Yes that's true but there's more to it than just easing up or resting, it's about having your mind in control of every aspect of your being. It's about putting our body into subjection. As Cerutty said: "Total subjection of the body by the mind is a necessity for the athlete who wants to reach his potential."
How well I recall days past as a coach of going on 6 hour van trips the day before a cross-country meet. Arriving tired and stiff, many of the runners had an almost frantic compulsion to get to the motel, change and go out for an easy half-hour run.Those who opted to take the head coach's suggestion of going to an area mall and walk around for awhile were looked upon as wimps. Thinking back on it, was anything really gained from that half-hour run? Outside of temporarily subduing an anxious mind, nothing was accomplished. It would have been better for them to relax and walk around with their teammates, getting the muscles stretched out while enjoying themselves. There would be plenty of time the next morning to focus on the race. I have found one thing about the fears and anxieties that may be a part of our racing life, and that is if you don't get control of them, they will always reappear.
Some other examples of fear and anxiety run amuck: how 'bout the pre-race warm-up? How often have you heard runners say, "I feel terrible." You've probably said it yourself at some time. Then, after starting the race, when you're a quarter mile or so into it, you're thinking something like, "Boy do I feel crappy." From this point on you become open for any sign that will reinforce these negative thoughts. The good news is that you can overcome the fears and anxieties connected with racing but it takes time and is an ongoing process. To accomplish this I strongly recommend having a list that you bring out a week before each race. What follows are some physical and psychological guides that comprise this list. By the way, I'm referring to races from 1,500 to 10,000 meters here. A 30k,marathon or longer distance requires a specific physical tapering schedule. Obviously, the "mental" aspects of this list are applicable to any distance. Ladies and Gentlemen,The List:
1. Tell yourself, I've done the work, I've put in months of hard training, now it's time to rest and allow my body to be totally prepared to race. As an aside, this may come as a surprise to some but our bodies are not machines that can be worked hard day in and day out. Rest is a necessity, it is one of the three vital components to race preparation along with training and nutrition. Neglect one of the three and it will negatively affect performance. A sample race week tapering schedule might look something like this:
Monday: a moderately hard workout, some type of fartlek comes to mind.
Tuesday: an easy jog.
Wednesday: an optional day off or light fartlek run, emphasis on light here.
Thursday: a short jog
Friday: an optional day off or easy jog in the morning.
Note: Distances,intensity,and duration of even your easy runs are lessened race week.
2. Expect to get antsy race week. You're not doing as much this week as you have in past weeks and months,so it's only natural that you are going to get restless. Expect it and deal with it,but don't do so by training "as usual."
3. It's a race. Keep things in proper perspective. For most,this won't be the Olympic trials,your legacy as a runner does not hinge on this race. You'll be running many,many more. It's better to be blase about a race than to arrive at the start in a panicked state. Remind yourself that most everyone in the race is feeling nervous and anxious,but,unlike you,they don't have these feelings under control.
4.At the start, Stay Calm! As the race begins remind yourself to run your race. Ninety percent of most road races are made up of runners who start out like "frightened hares"(rabbits) as Percy used to say.For most, that first mile is run way too fast,don't get suckered into going out with them.In the beginning you must control the adrenaline and excitement. Remember,your mind is controlling things,not your body. If you do find that you are suffering a little as a result of going out too fast too soon,drop your pace down,concentrate on staying relaxed,breathe deeply and tell yourself you'll recover. The well-conditioned athlete will recover and be able to resume his pace.
Let these four points be the start of your list. Add other things you may need to remember. Don't be like so many others who,race after race,year after year,make the same mistakes and wonder why they don't get the results that correspond to the training and effort put forth. Serious runners deserve better.

Monday, April 11, 2016

My Awakening: In the End, It's All About Body Building

There was a time, now many years ago, that I believed long distance running was the be all end all as it related to achieving ultimate physical fitness and health. When I say long distance running, I include things like hill and interval training as well as racing.
 I began racing as a youth of 8 years and continued until I was 64. I raced A.A.U. Developmental meets and ran cross country and track in High School. I did very serious training and mileage from 1979 through 1993, maybe 94'. After discovering the teachings of Cerutty towards the end of the 80's, I tried to run and race as much as possible in the parks and on the trails. During this time I raced distances from 8K to 50K, primarily on The Finger Lakes Trail System. At that time there was no doubt in my mind that I was a superb physical specimen.I was confident of this because I felt good and all the running literature I read confirmed my belief.  I was only partly correct, in reality I was a superbly conditioned aerobic/anaerobic athlete. I say this because I had not personally put all the pieces together as it pertained to reaching optimal physical health and conditioning. The missing piece to the puzzle was weight and strength training. I had chosen to ignore Cerutty's teachings on the necessity of weight training for runners and all athletes because....well...probably because of laziness. That was one teaching of Ceruttys' where I preferred to stay in the Arthur Lydiard--distance runners don't need weight training camp. So, what got me to come around to recognizing the benefits (understatement here) of lifting weights? Rereading Cerutty for starters was one, plus taking a Fitness Trainer course where the author of the textbook, Dr. Fred Hatfield confirmed what Cerutty had taught in addition to a few other things. Not the least of which is that weight/strength training helps delay the loss of muscle and testosterone that comes with aging. And before you readers out there think I am referring to just the "old' guys like me, may I remind you that diminishing T and muscle loss begins occurring way before you hit my age. Emphasis here on way before. But, irregardless  of your age, the benefits of weight/strength training to most all systems of your body are well documented. In the final few paragraphs below, Cerutty writes convincingly of what happens when runners and others incorporate weight work into their training regimens.
So what am I getting at? What I'm getting at is that to be complete as an athlete you must build the totality of your body, you must be a body builder. When people see the word bodybuilding they usually picture guys that are posing and showing off their muscles in pro competitions, which are at least in this day and age, the result of training as well as taking copious amounts of growth stimulating and other types of drugs. That is why I separated the body from the building, what myself and others advocate is vastly different from what comes to mind when you conjure up the word bodybuilding.  Body building is the complete way, the best way, to achieve your goals in athletics and life. Body building includes aerobic and anaerobic work as well as other disciplines.  More to come on this subject in the future.
Below is an excerpt by Cerutty spelling out, like only he can, the benefits of weight training for runners and other athletes. It was first published on my Stotan Runners Facebook page not too long ago.

Percy Cerutty, from his book, Athletics: How To Become A Champion(1960), writes about the benefits of weight and strength training all athletes.The following was written in 1959.
"Summed up, the whole purpose of weight-conditioning, as any form of conditioning such as running the sand-hill, is to acquire enhanced 'power' in order that we can do a thing more powerfully, faster, better.
Great strength, properly acquired, makes for quicker reflexes, greater agility, longer stride, more endurance(since great strength can be parcelled out in a short terrific effort--or a longer easier one).
We have seen the benefits of strength training as witnessed by the performances of gymnasts and tumblers and athletes of other sports. It (strength training) is now used by golfers, tennis players, pole vaulters and other specialists, all who find they have greater control, resilience and power at their command."
To those who dispute the benefits of strength and weight training, Cerutty has this to say--
"Nothing could be more fallacious than the statement that those who are weight conditioned will become muscle bound or slow in movement. Weaker types who profess this and those who offer watered down training concepts, tend, by the very constitution of society, to attract a greater number of followers--the many being weak rather than strong, negative rather than positive. Again, it is how we know them."

Thursday, January 21, 2016

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 because 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 and 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.
There's 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.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

From the Archives, pt.5---Sport's New Fundamentalists

It's interesting how every sport has its fundamentals for learning and training. These fundamentals are basic to their respective sports and have been for ages. In running and other sports like weightlifting, stress is added to workouts progressively as the athlete becomes fitter. In sports such as basketball,baseball and football, how you throw,hit,catch and shoot has remained the same for decades.These fundamentals have not changed because they take into account the basics of anatomy and physiology. What follows was written sometime in the early '90's and inspired by some of the people of that time who believed they had a new and better way to train distance runners. The name of the author mentioned in the article you are about to read was changed around yet may still be familiar to some despite the change.
Sport's New Fundamentalists
" So you thought running was the only sport where advocates of new training systems and techniques existed? Wrong! Combing through coaching journals I found what I call the new fundamentalists existing in America's most popular sports,basketball,baseball and football. This month we'll profile a gentleman whose revolutionary approach to basketball is changing the sport as we know it.
Dr. Andy Owenson M.S.,P.H.D. is heralding a new way of dribbling the basketball, and that is by using both hands. Dr. Owenson believes the time for players from grade school to the pro ranks to adopt his technique is now. He says: 'studies have shown that utilizing just one arm in dribbling creates unnecessary wear and tear on the player's rotator cuff, using the Owenson technique avoids this plus athletes can actually maintain greater control of the ball.' After initial skepticism, Dr Owenson is beginning to receive wider acceptance of his technique. Two-hand Junior and Muny basketball leagues are cropping up all over the country. The good Doctor and his associates are going full-time with seminars and promotion of his book, A New Path Two Success."
 I have found over the years that the introduction of a "new and revolutionary" way to distance training is always accompanied by the selling of books and seminars.It's interesting how these "new fundamentalists" make an initial splash,get the coverage in the running mags,sell alot of books,then a decade or so later they are pretty much forgotten.