Yes, I once ran a 10 K race…and nothing was chasing me

When my wife’s grandma died, I showed up at the old house with various cousins, aunts and uncles to help move grandpa to a residential community. After living in the same house for sixty years, they had acquired a fair share of things that may have seen better decades. I pulled up in my pickup truck and immediately loaded it with far too much stuff. I noticed that my wife’s cousin Trey’s pickup was absolutely empty. It was big, black four-wheel drive monster with enough chain mail on the lights to fight the Black Knight. I was about to load a device that may or may not have been a washing machine into his truck when I was told: “Oh, we can’t use Trey’s pickup.” “Why?” “He doesn’t want it to get scratched.”

Trey’s truck was big and beautiful, but completely worthless for the task of “pickup truck.”

Throughout my athletic career, I have seen the same problem over and over. In football, we have a motto for it, “Looks like Tarzan, Plays like Jane.” I believe absolutely in the concept of “form makes function,” but in training paradigms, we all too often spend our lives on looking like Tarzan.

But, when it comes to life, like moving family and picking up couches, we play like Jane.

A few years ago, I stumbled into bed rather late on a Friday evening. Saturday morning, I got an urgent telephone call from a friend. She was pretty, otherwise this story would have stopped right here. They were running a “centipede” in a 10K race and needed someone to be the tenth person and, “oh, by the way,” wear a huge mascot head.

Twenty minutes later, I was connected to a rope line and began running somewhere around six miles with an enormous bulldog head stifling my breath. I’m not sure of our time, but I finished strong and I am willing to bet no one has ever worn that mascot head again. I sweat a lot and it doesn’t smell like Irish rain.

So what? Nice story, but so what? Well, I had never run 10K in my life. In the year previous, I hadn’t run a lap around a track. I simply hadn’t run for distance. I had played flag football, Olympic lifted, and thrown things. In other words, while the other nine members of our centipede had actually run to prepare for the 10K, I trained in short bursts. We all finished together, but I was the one with the helmet on and I did just fine.

I had seen this before. While I was at Utah State, I had the pleasure of meeting Mark Enyeart, an Aggie Olympian in the 800 meters. He radically changed the mindset of the incoming freshmen and transfers. The incoming athletes all wanted to “Be Like Mark,” but Mark didn’t do what they expected. He spent long hours in the weight room, pushing some fairly impressive weights. He never went s-l-o-w around the track, he only went fast.. The other runners had trained more like joggers getting ready for “Eat a Bigger Bagel 5K.” Mark, though, was an Olympian.

If you train for explosion and power, you can “pride” through endurance. Obviously, you can’t do this all the time. The converse is not true: If you train for pure long slow endurance, you will have a hard time finding your explosion.

No matter what your fitness goals are for this year, you will find that learning the core lifts, training with variety, and mixing athletic movements will be far superior to treadmilling or jogging. My brother, Gary, in his early 70s, learned this a few years ago: after a lifetime of running, he began to throw the discus and hammer. After one year of training centered around lifting, carrying stuff, throwing, and explosion, he told me simply: “I look buff.”

So, learn the core lifts of squats and deadlifts. Use the barbell and add load when appropriate. Pick up some heavy dumbbells and take them for a Farmer Walk. Do some honest Pull Ups.

If you want superior athletic performance, start tossing around some big weights. Get a couple of scratches on your pickup truck and join in the fun of lifting and living.

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