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Sunday, August 15, 2004

Everything You Thought You Knew Is Wrong

In the past year or so, since deciding to try doing triathlons, I've discovered that many of the basic tenets of sports I had been taught as an athlete growing up were wrong. That's not to say I was some uber-athlete growing up, I just did a few sports, some not even competitively (I never swam on a team, for instance)

For whatever reason, no running coach ever taught me technique, when technique is very important in running. I now know that with a little help on technique I would have been much faster racing cross country. The only times I ever really had any kind of technique in high school were on steep hills, which I attacked with nearly perfect form. Now with barefoot running, and with more focused workouts than just "go run X miles", I've managed to take that form from the hills to the flats.

Nobody ever told me I could be fast. We always had a few "naturally" fast runners, the rest of us were just place holders. I really never pushed myself because I was given the impression that I would always be slow. I was slow, but extremely aggressive - which left me very frustrated. With some training, I could have pushed myself much harder and gotten my times down quite a bit.

Most of the cross country training I did was just different runs with different distances and courses. Some had hills, some were flat, though that was mostly for variety. The only real structured training I was exposed to was fartlek runs and indian runs. While those have value, at most we did them once or twice a season, which is really not enough to make a difference.

While just going out and running is better than nothing for most people, it's just not enough. If you're constantly pushing yourself too hard on runs, you're not going to see much benefit (you'll be anerobic the whole time, which isn't good). If you're not pushing hard enough, like I was in high school, you'll never improve. If all you do is run, you're going to miss out on a lot.

Just about everything I had been taught about freestyle or the crawl is wrong. I was taught to use a straight leg, straight foot kick. I was taught to keep my torso as flat and level as a board and windmill my arms.
It's a wonder I got anywhere with that technique.
I've been swimming since I was at least 3 years old, if not longer. I always loved swimming underwater, and when I was a lifeguard I would do my laps underwater, often down the "long way" (75+ yards) of the pool. My body knows how to move efficiently through the water, but my swim instructors told me to be rigid, which didn't feel natural at all to me. That's one reason I never swam competitively - I had been taught to fight the water.
After spending some time with the drills I've learned with ACME Coaching's TI clinic, I feel a lot better about doing laps. I'm a lot more comfortable in the water, and also much faster (sometimes).

For a long time I didn't think I could go much farther in those sports, mostly as a result of what I "knew" from instruction (or a lack of it). Now that I've come back to swimming and running and actually gotten some real training in, I'm surprised at just how far off I was. I thought I couldn't be fast in a run, yet now I've dropped from a 9-10:30 minute mile to 6:40-7:20. I didn't think I could perform well as a swimming, but an hour after being told to swim more naturally I had a lower stroke count than anyone in a group of 40 triathletes and competitive swimmers.

The things that limit you do only because you think they do.

8/15/2004 11:14:46 PM ] [  ]