Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Foundations #1 revisited: "Variety". (Endorsed by Jack).

Posted by speedygeoff on Wednesday, February 09, 2011 with 3 comments
Running Around In Circles.
Well we all do it. Run in Circles, that is. Running on the track is not entirely natural when you think of it. If you want to arrive ahead of others, start sooner! But even if you avoid the track, what happens on your other runs? You drive to some venue, park the car, run from point A back to point A again, and drive off again. Strange behaviour, I wonder what alien observers think we are achieving?

Here’s a thought; we are achieving a great deal when we run. Maybe it’s
• Solitude. The loneliness of a long distance runner is not loneliness at all, it is peace.
• Or, if the iPod is attached, the longer the run, the more pleasure there is listening to your favourite music, uninterrupted.
• Or, if competition is your thing, a focus on achievable objectives, doing the training you need to make you good at your sport.
• Or the point of the exercise may be to take steps towards developing or maintaining your desired level of fitness and health.

The great coach Percy Cerutty would have said that running is our way of getting in touch with nature; of establishing a link back to our evolutionary origins, of learning how to live instinctively again. His was the way of striving, achieving, overcoming pain, conquering self. He wouldn’t have been too happy with this era of stopwatches, heart rate monitors, massages, blood tests. (However, I suggest he would have loved iPods and Garmins; i.e. music and maps.)

Percy also would have said that running teaches you about life. I am not sure what exactly it teaches you, unless it’s about life kicking you in the shins occasionally. While it is certain that running does, or can, build confidence, self-assurance, isn’t it also possible that in people we don’t see after a token run or two with us, it may have the opposite effect? I think Percy may have been a “survival of the fittest” supporter; one of his books is titled “Be Fit Or Be Damned”, which just about sums up his attitude towards those who did not excel, I suspect.

Running in circles, i.e. on the track, doesn’t appeal terribly much because it is quite “unnatural”, except in this regard: it is the perfect way of testing your level of fitness in a controlled, predictable environment. For those who are not going to win any medals or receive any prizes, there is this to recommend about track: how else will you know for sure how your training is going if you don’t push yourself to the limit on the track from time to time? The times you run there are the best way of measuring your progress.

Percy on the other hand loved track because it was on the track that his athletes could prove they were the best in the world. That was his ego on display. But his bread and butter training was on sand, on sand-dunes, and along the coast line, as well as on bush tracks. The weight lifting, chin-up, and sit-up area was outside under trees. Few of his training sessions were conducted on a measured running track: in the dozen or so times I visited his home / training centre in Portsea, Victoria in the 1960s I recall only one such session, and that was a five person continuous sprint relay, what fun. Otherwise the training we did do every day varied between sand and the trails around Portsea and beyond.

In the spirit of Percy Cerutty, I am repeating my first “foundation of running” for 2011: VARIETY.

Vary your running from day to day. Run long. Run short. Run over hills. Run on the flat. Run when it is hot. Run when it is pouring rain. Run on the road. Run in water. Sprint up hills. Race down hills. Run on the track. Run on grass at Stromlo. Run with great friends. Run alone. Run with music. Run in silence. Run through the suburbs. Run out in the country. Experience every kind of running condition, and see how enjoyable each experience can be. Run!

Variety helps us establish a solid base upon which can be built any specialised kind of running we might like to pursue. And I think more importantly, variety keeps us motivated, keeps us training consistently and regularly, protects us against staleness. Don’t just do the same thing every time you train; develop variety in your running.

Percy also would have said that we soft Australians don’t push ourselves hard enough. But I also heard him say privately that we should NOT train flat out. Not all our endurance training should be fast: in fact it is far better to slow down and run further. More of that, again, soon.


  1. wannabelimerickwriter said:

    Alas, we have a new Jack
    A doyen of yesteryear track
    Please show us some mercy
    Don't rehash old Percy
    We'll start running and never turn back

  2. Said old Jim with a look of much pain,
    "I have run over quite rough terrain."
    "I enjoyed every yard,
    Whether easy or hard,
    But I'll never come this way again!"

  3. [by Geoff: I thought I'd quote this email from Emma P]

    Hi Geoff,

    I agree that running teaches us about life. In my opinion it teaches patience, and that you get out what you put in. Sebastian Coe had a great article in a UK runner’s world about life as a race and how we can apply our training philosophy of continually trying to improve and welcoming difficulties to help us improve in the race of life. This article really struck a chord with me.

    Also, I would like to thank you for your blog. I find it really motivating, but also I don’t know if you realise but it really is an important way for people just coming to Canberra (or me just coming back) to feel connected to the Canberra community.

    Anyway, I hope that you are well and I look forward to catching up with you on Saturday.

    Emma :=)