by Ed Shepherd
So the Arctic blast is dropping temperatures in the U.S. to lows not seen in years but you still have to train. When the temperature drops, there is no reason for your training to drop as well. There is always a way to get your base training in no matter what the weather is like outside... you just have to be mentally prepared and push on in spite of Mother Nature mocking you. Yes, it is hard, painful, and downright unpleasant at times but that's what makes you a winner! Winners do what others are not willing to do... not because they want to do it, but because they want to win!
I have had quite a few conversations over the last two weeks about training and preparing and progress. Even though all of these conversations are in regards to only one aspect of the whole picture, the common thread within them all has to do with a certain mentality. A winner looks at the day’s workouts and knows they must be done with no regard to what the weather is. If you can learn to cope with the weather and train outside no matter what, then you are already one step ahead of your competition. If you can't get outside, but you are willing to do those miles on the treadmill, or bike trainer anyway, no matter how mind-numbing it may be, then you are one step ahead of your competition.
If YOU are willing to do what it takes to be a winner no matter how hard it is today, then tomorrow you will be better for it. It is up to you to fight the voices in your head telling you not to get up early for that 4:30AM workout. It is up to you to do the hard part of the workouts when no one else is around to push you. It is up to you to dance with Mother Nature no matter what. It is up to you to hold yourself accountable and be honest with yourself no matter what you tell your coach or training partner or whoever else it is that you talk about training with. Because at the end of the day... Today is what will make you better tomorrow!
by Ed Shepherd
Welcome to the 2014 race season. You may not have a race for several more months, but what you do now will determine how well you do later. Yes... like everyone else you are working out. You are swimming, running, biking, weight lifting, cross-training or whatever it is you are doing right now in order to prepare. But my question to you is Prepare for What?
I talk with a lot of athletes that do a lot of working out and work really hard, but come race day all of their hard work seems to not pay off. The reason in most cases is due to a lack of planning that leads to more purposeful training. All athletes know how to workout, but not a lot of athletes know how to train. There is a difference. Workouts are something that can be done by anyone... Training is a workout that has a purpose not just for that day but is part of a bigger plan set in motion in order to reach a goal. By setting concrete goals for your race season you can then start making real plans on how to achieve that goal. After you make plans now comes the hard part of doing the right work to achieve the goal no matter how hard it may seem. Remember your goal is bigger than just one workout and the payoff will be worth doing the right work no matter how much you dislike it. By sticking to your plan to reach your goal you will be more satisfied with your outcome. I am not saying that you will necessarily even achieve your whole goal, but what I am saying is you will be a much better athlete no matter what the outcome is.
Now is the time for you to get your goal on paper, make your plan, and start believing in your ability. The reason why most people never reach their goal is because they don't take the time early on to define it. Even worse, those that do take the time don't take their goals seriously or don't view them as absolutely achievable. Winners can tell you about their goals because it is all they think about... actually obsess about. They love to talk about it- where they are going, how they are going to get there, and what they plan on doing each day along the way. The constant talking about their goals is not so much a cockiness, but a repeated mindset that is done to remind themselves why they are doing all of this hard work in the first place. The same should go for you as well. Set a goal and keep it stuck in your head as more than just a dream, but rather more like a future reality to get excited about. You don't have to have a goal of winning a national championship. It just has to be something that is meaningful to you, such as placing in your age group in a race you enjoyed doing last year.
If you are looking for help on putting all of this into play there are tons of books, internet sites, and articles available to help you. Through the power of Google and some key word searches you can find just about anything. There are tons of resources available if you are willing to seek them out. I personally use "The Triathlete's Training Bible" by Joe Friel as well as have coaches to help me with my running and swimming. Setting goals is so important you should use any available resources you can in order to try your best to get it right. By getting a goal and sticking with your plan to achieve it you will have a great 2014 season!
by Steve Crowder
There are a couple of “Mo’s” when it comes to sports. Specifically I’m referring to Motivation and Momentum, and for me, the two are very much tied together. When my motivation is high, I tend to build momentum, or the other can be true as well, and when I start to build momentum, my motivation increases. Regardless, in order to train and race well, I need both going in the right direction, and if they aren’t, then my performance suffers.
Recently I felt like I had some momentum building with my training, but for various reasons, I lost my motivation. I had a lot going on at work along with the added distraction of the Holiday season, and the next thing I knew I found myself not looking forward to runs and more or less just going through the motions. As a result, that momentum I was building with my training went by the wayside and instead of feeling a little fitter each day I felt like I was losing ground. That snowballed further into me questioning whether or not I still had what it takes to compete at a high level and whether or not I even wanted to, and the more I thought about that, the worse I felt in my daily runs.
I definitely think I had some burnout issues going, some of which were physical, but I think a lot of my problem was as much mental as anything. I lost motivation, which led to a loss of momentum, which led to a further loss of motivation. It’s basically a downward spiral that’s pretty easy to get into, especially for someone who tends to be somewhat pessimistic like myself. Negative thoughts lead to negative self-talk which leads to negative performance.
I’m not one to make New Year’s resolutions, but I am one to set goals, and one goal I have for myself for this coming year is to be a lot more positive with my thoughts in training and racing. Far too often I tend to think more along the lines of “I really don’t feel good today so this workout probably isn’t going to go well” or “I’m hurting way too much and way too early to be able to hold this pace” and that leads to a negative self-fulfilling prophesy. Too often I think “I’m too old for this” rather than “I’m doing pretty darn good for an ‘old’ man!” As a result, I lose those all-important “Mo’s” and don’t get the best my body has to offer.
So, if you’re like me, and tend to be very positive and encouraging to others but sometimes do the exact opposite with your own self, set a goal to make a change this coming year. Instead of coming up with reasons why you can’t, come up with reasons why you WILL. When negative thoughts crop up, refuse to listen and instead give yourself a pep talk. It might seem silly at first, but I think you’ll find your motivation will increase, and as that motivation increases, so will momentum. The next thing you know, you’ll be on track for a breakthrough season. Here’s to lots of “Mo” in 2014!
by Steve Crowder
Looking back at this past year, I have mixed feelings. As a whole, it wasn’t a bad year. I wound up totaling 3,428 miles, which is my highest total since 2005 when I exceeded 3,700, and that’s coming off 3,319 miles last year, which was my previous high since 2007. In other words, I’ve been pretty consistent the past two years, and that’s a good thing. Additionally, I managed to run 16:29 for 5k, 22:06 for 4 miles, and 35:04 for 10k this past year, which is the fastest I’ve run since 2010 when I experienced the double Jones fractures that nearly ended my running career altogether. While I don’t necessarily like to get into this, when you enter those times into an age-grading calculator they translate out to 15:35, 20:53, and 33:08 respectively, which are all well off my lifetime bests but still not too shabby. Finally, I won quite a few races this past year, pushing my lifetime total to 155 first overall finishes and surpassing my goal of hitting 150.
So that’s the good; now for the bad. Having run an average of almost 3,400 miles per year the past two years with some decent workouts throughout, I would have thought I would have run faster. I was frustrated to not race better than I did in 2012, but I was able to chalk it up to still coming back from injury and needing to build more consistency. I can’t necessarily say that for 2013. Furthermore, there were more times than not in 2013 that I felt like I was struggling. Workouts and everyday runs alike just felt like they took more effort than they should have and I often felt run down and fatigued. My training and race results suffered accordingly.
With that said, the question becomes where to go from here. I could simply write it all off to old age, but I’m not ready to do that. Just this week I was reading an article in Running Times about Tracy Lokken, a lifetime runner who set two PRs in the marathon this year at age 47 with a best of 2:21:34. I also see guys like Kevin Castille, another lifetime runner who ran 28:49 for 10k as a 28 year old then ran 28:53 in 2013 as a 41 year old. While those guys are obviously exceptional, there are countless other 40+ year olds, some of whom I raced and stayed pretty darn close to or even beat in my younger years, who are tearing up the roads and track as Masters. In other words, it CAN be done.
Having been self-coached the past few years and feeling like I was out of ideas, I asked Roanoke College Assistant and RVE Coach Carl Blickle to take me on as a major project this past October. From that point forward, there have been some significant changes to my training. I’ve spent more time on the track the past few months than I had in probably the last couple years combined. I’ve also done workouts that I hadn’t done in years or even ever for that matter, things involving the recruitment of fast twitch muscle fibers and the development of running economy. Finally, I’ve started doing drills, a general strength routine, and core work, which are all things I’d basically neglected in the past. One thing I’ve learned is the older you get the more you have to cover all your bases and stay on top of everything. If you neglect even one aspect of training, whether it be speed, endurance, stretching, or whatever, you pay a much bigger price for it than when you were younger. Also, consistency becomes even more important as well. If you mess up and miss some time, it takes a lot longer to recover and get back in shape than in your younger years.
All this leaves me excited for 2014. I’ve still been battling a feeling of cumulative fatigue, so that’s something I need to continue to work on finding the root cause of and overcoming, but aside from that, I think I’ve positioned myself for a very successful year to come. I could look at the past couple years as frustrating, but instead I’m going to look at them as having laid the base for the next few years. I’ll put up a post about some of my specific goals in the near future, but in the meantime, here’s to a great 2014!
by Ed Shepherd
Ok... it's time to lift. If you haven't started then now you are behind and it is only the first week of the year. This is the final part of my off-season blog posts on weight training and now it’s time to talk about how much. During one of my fall runs with some of the guys at Roanoke College and with some of my Roanoke Valley Elite team mates, the topic of lifting came up. There is only one thing that I wanted to stress then and that I cannot stress enough now- lift weights like a weight lifter, not an endurance athlete! Give me a chance to explain.
Remember in my first post I stated that weight training is all about muscle fiber recruitment. In order for your body to be signaled to recruit more muscle to do work, it must be stimulated by something heavy. Not so heavy that it is impossible to move, but heavy enough that there is a need to bring on more muscle for the job. So what is enough without being too much? When I set multi-sport athletes up to begin lifting, I start them out with five basic movements- bench press, lat pull down, seated row, squat, and leg press. These are all multi-joint movements designed to hit big muscle groups that also do the majority of the work in competition.
Always begin by doing a warm up set of 15 with very little weight in order to get blood into the muscles you are getting ready to stress. For the first three or four workouts do NO MORE than two sets of no more than ten reps of a weight that is a struggle to get to ten. I begin this way in order to allow your body to adapt to the workload that you are putting your body through without causing soreness. After that, you should move it up to three sets of 6-8 reps on each movement. Remember, your goal is to recruit muscle for the job and this is done at the neuro-muscular level. Weight lifting is not an endurance activity... it is totally done to get a higher level of power output from your muscles to transfer into your endurance activities when you need it. As you work harder in the gym the more of your training efforts will be transferred over and allow you to do more work with less effort in the sports where you need it. I promise, if you stick with it for at least two to three months leading into your season it will pay big gains during your 2014 race season!