Friday, May 10, 2013

Learn From The Right Teachers

When I first retired from the Air Force, I took a job at an automotive group as the training manager and the systems coordinator.  One morning I was sitting at my desk when one of the salesmen, an exceptionally over weight fellow, rushed in carrying a big bag of meat, a George Foreman grill and a big smile on his face.  He had just learned while watching a TV commercial about eating low carb: "I can eat all the meat I want as long as I don't eat bread and vegetables".  That probably wasn't exactly what the commercial said but that's what he got from it, he heard what he wanted to hear.  So for lunch that day our hero was treating everyone to his new discovery.  They had steaks, burgers and Italian sausage, but no buns.  Now one of the things I've discovered, over my many years on the planet, is that if you want to lean something talk with someone who is at the top of their game, in the subject you are interested in.

I have learned some interesting and helpful tips while having conversations with successful athletes.  One of the advantages of being in the Air Force and being an athlete, especially a runner was that I often got to meet successful athletes, when they visited the base.  Since I was a runner I also occasionally had the opportunity to go running with them.  They would of course keep it slow and gentle for us mortals. The elite are glad to share their knowledge, they love their sport and know how important it is to help others along.  They are successful for a lot of reasons but the most important is their passion for what they do.  Passion is a non-negotiable part of athletic success, without that passion they couldn't train as hard as they do, day after day after day.

While having lunch with an Olympian, who had just won gold in the decathlon, I learned a tip for putting on my shoes, that I use to this day.  When you put your shoe on, keep the shoe flat on the floor and pull your heel back into the heel cup, then adjust the tongue and laces for the proper tightness.  I have used this method to put my shoes on and never had any problems with blisters, caused by my heels slipping, in my shoes, during long runs or race walks.

A visiting fitness expert and pioneer in the new 'Aerobics Class' craze taught us the exercise called waist vacuuming.  That is where you tighten your stomach muscles as hard as you can and hold it for 10 seconds, release and repeat. You imagine that you are trying to get your abs to touch your back bone.  The great thing about this exercise is you can do it anytime and no one knows, so it can even be done standing in line waiting in line to check out at a store.  Several times a day can work wonders for your abdominal strength.  Much safer than crunches also.

From a world class sprinter I came away with a way to think, while doing the sprint distances.  He said that he blocked out everything but the pumping motion of his legs.  He concentrated on pushing his knee down and pulling his other foot up as fast as he could, he was seeing that motion in his mind and willing his legs to go faster and faster.  I have used that and it has helped me go faster when I did the corporate challenge races, while I was stationed in Vegas.  It also helped to get me going faster in the long jump.

I learned an interesting breath technique form a very good marathoner.  She was the one that taught me about super charging my muscles with oxygen.  When she is waiting the last few minutes before the start, she is breathing deeply and on the exhale tightening her abs in a motion that pushes the last of the used air out of her lungs.  When she is getting ready to put a move on someone ahead of her she also does that same breathing technique, to give her muscles the maximum amount of oxygen, before she starts to pass her competitor.  I have used that during those times and also when I'm starting to get tired while training or racing.  It seems to give me the boost I need to feel stronger.

Several of my, 'Warrior Princess', race walking friends have helped me become a better walker by telling me how to visualize what I was doing.  Things like learning better posture by imagining I had a rope tied around my middle and I was being pulled along by that rope.  Or that I should concentrate on my hip going forward and the counter balance of my opposite arm going back as fast as I could.

These are little things but it's the little things that separate the good from the amazing when it's game on, for the talented athletes.  What they have to say is important and we less talented should never miss an opportunity to hear what the elite athletes have to say.

Thanks for reading.


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