Sunday, April 26, 2020

Getting Older, Making The Necessary Changes

I am often perplexed and somewhat amused when I hear people who are "old" make these two comments: "If I had to go back and do it again,I wouldn't change a thing," the other one is, " I wouldn't want to be (pick an age) again for anything."
 I say this to those two statements, gosh, would I ever like to go back and change many things I've done in the past,and, although I consider myself a very youthful 70,it would be OK with me if you wanted to take ten years off my age.
There is however one advantage to the aging process, and that is that for most with age,comes the attainment of a certain amount of wisdom that's gained from your life experiences.For those of us who live for the run and have been at it for years,we've learned many things about running and training.
With me,when I think about some of the things I once did and thought in regards to running,training and racing, I just shake my head. Much of what I did wrong was done either in ignorance or because I allowed myself to get so neurotic about trying to be a better runner.What follows are some suggestions as to what to do with your running as you get older,it's by no means the definitive and complete list.
I'll begin by stating the obvious,with increasing age comes a drop off in not only racing performance, but there is also a change in your ability to train hard and recover from workouts. Here is an interesting point though,everyone has a different age where they reach that drop off. For some it may begin at 35, for others 40, or for some of the lucky ones it may even be 45.Every experienced runner who is at least mildly in tune with their body recognizes when that point is. It's foolish to recognize this point and continue to train as you once did.
So,what follows are my humble suggestions and guidelines to deal with advancing age.
1.We all want to run forever so we must recognize that our running should no longer be primarily focused on optimal racing performance. I'll quickly add that this doesn't mean you shouldn't try and want to race faster.I'll address this point a little further down the list but keep this in mind,hard training and racing month in and month out is not condusive to a long healthy life.This is not my opinion,it's the belief of Docs and athletic experts who are runners and work with athletes, anerobic training and racing is very stressful on almost all parts of your body no matter what your age.
2.As we age there is a tendency to put on weight. To minimize stress on your joints and heart we must keep our weight at an optimal level even if that means making changes to our diet. I know I can no longer drink the beer and eat the pizza to the frequency and degree I once did.I find it amazing at local road races when I see overweight runners running as hard as they can.I give them credit for wanting to run fast but there's no way they should until they lose the weight.For them,longer,slower training interspersed with walking breaks should be the key as well as eating less(the VanAaken method).
3.Here's something I found to be essential as far as dealing with advancing age,maintain regularity with your running,don't take breaks from running. I realized that when I somehow wasn't able to run for several days I was more prone to things like calf,muscle and tendon problems. If I take any days off from training it is spent walking with some brief 10 minute per mile jogs thrown in.
4. Finally,as mentioned above,with age must come a decrease in the amount and degree of intensity of your running. Consider Ed Whitlock who set an outrageous marathon record for 70 yr.old runners by running well below the 3 hour mark. What made up the bulk of his training? Easy 2 hour runs daily at a park near his home. More of an emphasis on aerobic training is needed but Arthur Lydiard adds: "as we get older we are inclined to lose our speed;therefore it is necessary to put in more (aerobic) training to retain suppleness and also do some sprint training workouts.A good idea is to bring into your weekly training one or two sessions of fast relaxed running near your best speed but still keeping relaxed over over about 100 mtrs. with a 250 jogging interval before starting another."
I have found that doing an easy 10 or 15 minute jog before starting say 2 or 3 sets of four reps,depending on your level of fitness, is very effective.Ideally, these workouts finish with a slow jog and are run over a stable,firm grass or dirt surface.Once again,why run on concrete or other hard surfaces if you can avoid doing so?
To me, there is nothing sadder than seeing a runner whose running career was cut short far too soon because he didn't know or ignored the necessity of making some concessions to age.
 I'm sure we all know people that this has unfortunately happened to.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Elitism Versus the Ties That Bind Us Runners

Perhaps some of you out there can relate to the following.
There was a time,now many years ago,I viewed myself as one of the minority. I was a runner but one who lived for running,one who strove for excellence in competition. I believed I trained more seriously then most and I felt I was hardcore when it came to the way I approached all aspects of running.
Although I didn't dislike "joggers," or what some call fun runners,I certainly believed I was on a whole different level as far as the running experience goes. It would be safe to say I suffered from some elitist perceptions as far as who I was and what they were. Of course those feelings were not unique just to me,they still exist in many others,it only takes a visit to a few of the large internet running forums to see proof of this.
However, as the years have gone by,I've mellowed my views and perceptions. Advancing age has a way of doing that,But, I will add that I am as involved and committed to running as I was 25+ years ago when I was "hardcore."
This blog entry today was prompted by an experience I had recently training.As I ran easily down the street,I saw a runner coming towards me from the other direction. As I often do, perhaps because I have coached and been a runner for so long,I watched how this runner moved,sort of evaluated her form and probably was also trying to get a gauge on her level of "seriousness." As we passed she said with a smile,"hey,good morning!" she then held out her hand for a kind of sidearm high five.I was touched by the genuineness she exhibited,just one runner sharing the moment with another on a beautiful morning. I then got to thinking how all of us who love to run and get out there everyday are really not that different.We all share the same feelings and emotions when it comes to running and racing.
No matter the skill level we all share the following:
The pleasure felt from a quiet early morning run.
The pain sometimes experienced during a strenuous workout.
The anxious anticipation of a race that is about to start.
The agony of the closing stages of a hard run race.
The frustration of not reaching our goals or finishing "poorly."
The determination to continue on after those less than satisfying performances.
The absolute joy of running well or setting a personal record.
The inability to conceive of a life that doesn't involve running.
OK,I think you all see what I'm getting at,the above is a sample of the many,many reasons as to why distance running is such a great sport.
 For those who may want to hang on to their elitist mindset I say this, if you are fortunate to stay in this sport long enough; you,we, eventually all of us become joggers........again, and that's not a bad thing.

Thursday, April 9, 2020


With all that's going on in the world I thought the following might be relevant.
Most of us feel uncomfortable pondering our own mortality.
To a certain extent, it's even uncomfortable to write or talk about it.
I'll say this about the whole subject, why not turn what many view as a negative subject into a positive one?
Putting aside personal faith beliefs and considerations, let thoughts of our mortality become kind of a call to action, to live life more fully. No one is guaranteed health and being alive tomorrow, so why live and act as if we have lots of time to do things? Wouldn't it be smarter to get started on these "things" today?
I talked to a friend last week who lives in Florida, he said that unlike myself, he was going to wait until he was 66 to retire because that's when he would earn the greatest amount of pension and benefits. My question to him was, how did he know he would have the health or even be alive at 66 to enjoy it? His only response was: "My, aren't you the optimistic one."
Not to go on about this but I say we need to live like we don't take life for granted--do the things we want to do today--tell the people you love how you feel about them, today--and each and everyday for that matter.
 If you think you need to make changes in your life start the process now because tomorrow is guaranteed to no one.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Jack Lalanne On Negativity

"We have so many negative influences out there that are pulling us down. I try to keep all the negative stuff out of my brain because negativity is like a poison, it develops an acid condition in your body." Jack Lalanne.

Negative thoughts prevent you from going for it; they tell you, you can't do this because you're too old, or you have too many commitments or it's all just child's play.
Negative thoughts keep you locked into the safe and familiar.

What you want to do is as worthy as you believe it is. It has nothing to do with other's opinions. Never discount the fact that 'misery loves company.'
Most people who have resigned themselves to playing it safe can't be expected to enthusiastically encourage someone who is doing something  they wish they could do.

Cerutty On THE Way

This particular time we are living in is a good one to stop and think about priorities and what is really important in this life.
Consider the following by Percy Cerutty. I realize what he is primarily referring to here is his idea of the pathway to athletic success, but, Cerutty believed his program developed the whole athlete, mentally and spiritually, as well as physically. If you have read his bio by Graem Simms, interviews by former athletes (especially Herb Elliott) or his books, exposure to great works of literature, philosophy and music were an integral part of his training. This is referenced below in his quote "the art of living fully." Cerutty writes:
"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 a previously undirected life.
3. The programme implies the cessation of late hours as well as an overindulgence in amusements, both social and entertaining They should be reduced to a minimum and then only in the nature of relaxation from strenuous work.
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."
As I have said before,it's hard to believe there was once an athletic coach who wrote things like the above.
I especially appreciate the quote: "there is no time for wasteful ideas and pursuits." I was thinking that most of the above would be especially excellent advice for the college age athtlete.
For the rest of us, the question we might ask ourselves is, are we wasting our time and ultimately our lives? 
Consider,Commit,Plan--then Proceed with a Dedicated Discipline.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Are You Living Like An Athlete?

As I was reading something about Van Aaken the other day,I was struck by a statement he made in relation to those seeking running success,he used the phrase: "live like an athlete."
That got me thinking about what it means "to live like an athlete."
I feel there are two types of runners, the fun runner and the serious runner.
As mentioned many times before, your degree of participation and committment to running does not make you any better or lesser of a runner than anyone else. It's a personal decision you've made due to a variety of reasons.
So what does it mean to live like an athlete? First off, running is an integral part of your lifestyle when you are an athlete. You plan your days,weekends and months keeping in mind the kind of training or racing you will be doing.
I will quickly add that this is not an excuse to neglect family obligations and relationships. Over the years I've seen guys who have left family to go off and train and race here and there, leaving behind loved ones who over time come to be resentful of what they are doing. As one who has done it in the past, you can easily involve family to the point that it becomes a kind of team effort.
Living like an athlete means you not only have a training system you follow but you plan for a specific racing season. Serious athletes establish short-term and long-term goals.
I'm always perplexed by athletes who say they are "serious" but basically race all year. I remember back in the 90's several Stotans trained specifically for one race,the Virgil Mountain Madness. Everything we did during the year was done while keeping that race in mind.
In living like an athlete we are also very careful of being restricted in what we can or can't do because of the materialistic or financial situations WE have created.
An example,do you really want that second new car if it means having to work more or taking a second job that results in you having less time for running? For those who think this is extreme let me say this again, tomorrow is guaranteed to no one! Don't think you can wait till........and then you'll........
If you are living like an athlete then you are eating and drinking like one. You should eat like someone who respects their body and hopes to live and perform at an optimal level. One of the biggest fallacies that was in vogue years ago, and thankfully seems to be fading away, is that training hard gives you a license to eat and drink as much as you want, and whatever you want.
Athletes have their times when they indulge and enjoy themselves but it is definitely not the same as what the "the world" does.
Some may wonder why I haven't included keeping a journal as an integral part of being a serious runner. The reason for this is that over the years I've read of many elite athletes who say they never used a journal. To me, keeping a running journal boils down to whether or not you personally see a need for one. My journal is the wall calender I have where I pencil in the mileage and where I ran. Probably one other thing that comes to mind in regards to being an athlete is that we learn and draw our inspiration from the great runners of the past. We seek out books and materials about them.
I also can't forget to add that we should be a help and encouragement to other runners,no matter what their level of committment is.
In closing I say this, living like an athlete means we are more focused and disciplined than most people but we have such a love of running that it is by no means a sacrifice,it's a joy.