A Little Training Lesson

“I was involved in an unusual experiment on one of my trips to the United States. A number of schizophrenic patients of the University of Wisconsin Outpatient Psychiatry Clinic, most of whom were suffering from depression, were started on a jogging program and, at the end of ten weeks, 75% of them had recovered from their depression. The goal of their therapy was simple: they were taught stretching before and after running, and then filled 30-45 minutes with comfortable movement – not to cover a particular distance at a set pace, just to jog.

The researchers, two associate professors of psychology at the university, were both joggers who had noted that their own momentary blues virtually always disappeared when they were running. One of their conclusions: ‘If there is any secret to the success our patients have had treating their depression with running, it is that they have tried to run each day in such a way that they would want to run again the next day.’

As an exposition of training, that’s an excellent vision.”  —  Arthur Lydiard

With the end of the track season and the impending end of the school year, I’ve been fielding requests for training plans from kids who want to know how to train over the summer. It’s great to see the motivation, and I love the process of discussing running goals and writing out training plans. But I also feel a bit of a fraud because most of what I pass off as my own wisdom is just Lydiard recycled.

To relative beginners or those returning to running after a long absence I usually say, “run often; not too far, at first, but a little something almost every day.”

In the last few days I’ve been following my own advice. The first couple of weeks of May I was essentially a non-runner. I had been dealing with injuries since March, and had been making them worse by following a toxic pattern that included missing weekday runs (and the daily routines of stretching and rolling) and trying to jump into weekend long runs with faster, fitter folks. Basically, I was a bio-mechanical mess of compromised parts and misaligned limbs, and I needed to step back and start over.

On Sunday, the day after our last meet and the first day of my release from captivity, I took my first real run in a week. It was humbling, to say the least. I ran about three miles with the simple goal of finishing the run in such a way that I would want to run the next day. The next day, I did the same thing, and I felt a little better. The next day, I felt like going a little longer, but basically I did the same thing — a short run completed in a way that made me look forward to running again twenty-four hours later.

Three days, and already I feel like a runner again.

There’s no great insight here, or at least nothing more surprising than the sun coming up in the morning. It’s fun to think about and explore the mysteries of high-end training, but it’s even more profound to appreciate the essential miracle revealed in the body’s adaptation and habituation to daily activity.

About Jon Waldron

Running and Racing have been important parts of my life for as long as I can remember. I ran Track and Cross Country at Amherst HS, back in the day, and am proud to have been training and competing with the Cambridge Sports Union (CSU) for more than thirty years. If my bones hold out, I hope to continue for another thirty. Sixteen years ago, I began coaching, first as an Asst. Coach at Newton North HS in Newton, MA, and for the past ten years, as Head Track and Cross Country Coach at Concord Academy in Concord, Massachusetts. I've been writing about running for almost as long as I've been running, dating back to high school, when I would write meet summaries for the Amherst Record for about $0.33 per column inch. I've been blogging about running since 2005, and began blogging at "the runner eclectic" in 2014. Until recently I also had a day job, working full-time as a Technical Product Manager for Nuance Communications, based in Burlington, MA. But I am now on what might turn out to be a permanent sabbatical. Thank you for reading my blog, and please consider leaving a comment.
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