Track season is winding down. That means track athletes will soon begin a period of "active rest" before they gear back up for cross-country. But for the COACH, it means I'll finally have the time to run more than two miles at a time. Lately I've been inspired--by a TV show, a book, a person, and a trip down memory lane.
The TV show is The Biggest Loser. On this reality show, a couple dozen morbidly obese contestants go to a fat farm for up to 15 weeks. There, they have access to excellent nutrition, an intense exercise regimen, and psycho personal trainers. There is the whole "get voted off the island" dynamic, but mostly it's about losing weight and getting in shape. The results are AMAZING... by the end of the show, the finalists have all dropped nearly half their body weight and gotten in monster shape. This past season, they had their first female winner--she dropped 47% of her former weight and got down to a lean, hard, buff 124 lbs. Of course, most of us don't have that amount of flab to lose, nor can we work out 6 hours a day. But what impresses me is that these sedentary people can get in great shape from a starting point of absolute zero in 15 weeks. It just so happens that I have 15 weeks until the start of cross-country season.
The book is Masters Running, by Hal Higdon. Higdon is in his 70s, and was an average collegiate runner who blossomed in his 40s to become an age-group world champion. Unlike so many books on running that advise 2 runs a day, 100 miles a week, etc, Higdon recognizes that the goals and the methods of the older runner have to change a bit. So much of my reading and thinking about training revolves around 17-year-olds, that it's nice to read a book that is realistic for me.
The person is my wife, Ann. She has worked a miracle with her body in the past year. She joined a gym near our house and has been consistent (that key element of training which always seems to be what I lack) in working out about 4-5 days a week. Although she has been reasonably careful about nutrition, she really hasn't dieted. And she has dropped about 25 lbs and gotten in GREAT shape. She is probably more aerobically fit than I am right now, and she looks fabulous. Every time she goes to the gym, I feel guilty for my lack of consistency.
Last, but not least, is a trip down memory lane. Last night I pulled some of my old training logs off the shelf and looked back on some of the best periods of my running life. When I was 30, I could race at the same speeds I ran in high school. My total mileage wasn't even that high, but I was consistent. I ran over 20 days a month, every month (so 5 days every week) with an average run of about 4 steady miles, at least one day each week of 6 or more, and one day of speedwork. Sometimes I ran with my team, and two or three mornings a week I would meet a friend at a local golf course and run a quick 2.5 miles down the fairways at 5 AM. Now, I'll probably not run the speedwork so fast anymore, and I'm thinking the 5 AM deal is pretty much out of the question. But I think I really could get back the consistency. I am even (shudder!) thinking of adding some light speedwork back into my running for the first time in several years.
So, there you have it... the germ of a plan to get back in whatever good shape looks like a this age. I have the time and the motivation. The biggest trick is going to be setting reasonable goals and not getting frustrated that my speed has naturally deteriorated somewhat. I want to race again--to be a runner, not a jogger who a couple of days a week "goes for a run." I'll post occasionally how it's going.