Saturday, June 26, 2010


"Summer is the season when the air pollution is much warmer."- Anonymous

Is anyone out there excited about the World Cup yet? You know, that soccer thing going on in South Africa. I almost hit my head on the ceiling on Wednesday when the the USA scored in extra-time (soccer's overtime) to advance to the "sweet sixteen". Today, we play Ghana to try to advance to the Elite Eight. I know, Ghana is an itty-bitty country and we're the big-bad USA, but the size of the dog doesn't matter in this game - Ghana knocked us out of the last Cup in '06. Now that my beloved, ex-defending Champions, Italia have taken a shameful exit, it's all USA...USA.
Man, it's hot. Please be drinking all day, and carry a water bottle with you during your runs. I know it looks great when you step on a scale after a run..."Hot dog, I lost 6 pounds!!!". Quickly step back into the world of reality and hear the voice of Coach Al..."You lost water weight because you sweated like a pig in a sauna. You didn't lose fat weight!!". You will lose weight if you burn more calories than you throw into your body, but it's a gradual process that only works if you're consistent with your training. You need fluid for EVERYTHING your body does physiologically, not just trying to cool down the engine. I know I sound like a broken record (which is a term that half the folks who read this don't even know what that means because they've never even seen a record, but that's another story) , but it's so high up in "Al's Non-Fallible Tips For Successful Marathon Running" that I will keep repeating it until you learn. When my son was growing up, saying "Clean up your room" to him repetitively didn't work very well, but repeating is the only technique I know of as a coach. Actually, Mark Twain once said, "Holding a cat by the tail, a man learns a lesson he can learn no other way!", so maybe brushing up against heat exhaustion a few times will create new beneficial habits.
When I run with one other person, or a group, I'm more than happy to share any training pearls I can share and those that run with me on Sunday mornings will pick up on a few tips that I just spout out as we go along. One of the tips I like to give as we get into our longer runs is on form. New runners that I've coached for TNT or for the Mercedes and old Vulcan Marathons come with preconceived thoughts that I'm going to take their hands and teach them how to run and a marathon will be easy. Well, there's 3 mistakes in that sentence - first, I'm not going to take you're going to take yourself towards that finish line. I'll give you tips and tell you how to make this marathon thing more efficient nutritionally, mentally, and physically, but YOU have to do the work. Next, I'm not going to teach you HOW to run. You've been doing that since you learned how to climb out of that crib that your parents put you in to get a break from you for a while. Running, next to walking, is probably one of the most natural things you do. Our caveman ancestors found that out when the brain suddenly sent a message to our legs that said "Saber-toothed tiger comin' at you. Get the heck out of here!", we got the heck out of there! I just have to teach you how to run for a long time! If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Don't fiddle with Father Nature. Some folks hit on their toes, some on their heels, and most, someplace in between, and don't let anybody tinker with it if it's working. I think that's one of the problems with this crazy barefoot running fad. Here are these folks doing perfectly well with shoes and then they read some book that says barefoot running is the greatest thing ever, and the next thing is they're in my therapy office asking me why they have plantar fasciitis. "Well gee, changed anything in your training lately?". Finally, a marathon is never easy, but through training, we make this difficult task a whole lot more pleasant. Now, to get back to form...the whole thing is be as efficient as possible. In other words, we're going to expend a ton of energy, so let's not waste any. We're not trying to overcome gravity, we're trying float as smoothly along as gravity will allow us. If you live on Earth (and MOST of the runners I know I'm sure live here, but I'm not sure they came from here), gravity wants to pull you DOWN, so bouncing up and down wastes precious energy. The higher you bounce up, the more force you have to absorb when you come back down. This is bad unless you own a shoe company because it makes it easier to sell those cushioned shoes. One way to work on decreasing that pesky bounce is to picture your feet just gliding barely off the ground (don't trip). Try to run "quietly" - it's almost like ice skating (I'm sure that's a great example in Alabama). Think of pushing off with the ball of your foot more than the whole leg. Gliding and running quietly will also cause you not to crash down on your heels and have you land closer to a flattened foot strike. This is one of the things that barefoot proponents say will occur if you trash your shoes. I happen to like not stepping on glass, so I'll glide and run quiet with shoes. Finally, the most efficient posture for long distance runners is straight up - balanced over your hips and feet, not leaning forward like a sprinter. If you lean forward, your center of gravity is way in front of you, and your body has to chase it like the greyhounds chase that fake rabbit at the track. Your back has to tighten up to keep you from falling forward, you crunch your diaphragm which limits your breathing, and you actually shorten your stride. Jeff Galloway likes to have you picture yourself suspended from a string, like a puppet, that goes through your head, shoulders, hips and feet - whatever works. The point is to make your body work with you and not against you.
There are no magic bullets or pearls that get you to your goal, but committing to the little things over and over make this a lot easier.
That's about it folks. If you have any specific questions that you'd like me address in one of these RWA's, just drop me a note to . In the meantime, keep cool, stay straight, and I'll see you on the roads - AL

"One child lost is too child saved can change the world"

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