Monday, February 15, 2010

Reconnecting with an early exercise influence

As mentioned in an earlier post post, I haven't always been such an enthusiast for running.

In high school, I loathed running unless it involved playing a sport like basketball or football. My best mile time was 8 minutes flat, and that came with my asthma acting up by the end of the run. If you'd have told the 17-year-old version of me that I was going to eventually run a marathon, I'm fairly certain the youthful version of me would've stared at you with a look of disbelief normally reserved for a fictional person with lobsters growing out out of their ears.

But somewhere along the line, my perception of running, and fitness and general, took a major turn. And a big early influence on that was Jeff Kellerman, my high school track & field coach.

At first glance, Coach Kellerman hardly seems like the type who would have an influence on a person like me. Kellerman was a distance running guru (he also doubled off as the head cross country coach) and my one year on the track team was spent throwing discus and shot put. At one point, Kellerman told me that he wished I would have joined track earlier because he saw me as being a good relay runner (in hindsight, he might have been more of a visionary than I gave him credit for). But that was about the extent of our running interaction. He rarely coached the throwers and we only really saw him when he brought the whole team together for meetings.

However, while he didn't have a direct influence on my current running habits, Coach Kellerman did have an immense influence on my work ethic as an athlete. Kellerman was a coach with boundless energy toward his sport. You could tell he thoroughly enjoyed running and part of the enjoyment he derived from it came from making his athletes better at the sport. No one exuded more excitement for upcoming track meets and no one was more apt to praise his athletes for their hard work.

Before that track season, I was mostly in sports to hang out with friends and pass the time. But Coach Kellerman's enthusiasm (and me having fluke success in the discus ring) went a long way toward exercise becoming part of my daily routine.

Recently, I managed to get a hold of Coach Kellerman, both to catch up with him and to soak up any form of training advice he could give. Here is a rough sketch of what we discussed:

  • Surprisingly enough, Coach Kellerman has ran the exact same number of marathons that I have: one. To his credit, Kellerman keeps himself busy with coaching and teaching and is admittedly more concerned about helping his daughter Hannah, a high school senior and one of the top runners and skiiers in the St. Cloud area, train for sports. Kellerman is also more of mid-distance advocate, having participated in numerous half marathons and 10K races.
  • As far as marathon training goes, the biggest point he could think of was the importance of getting a long training run in every week. He said the sheer distance helps prepare you mentally and physically for the abuse your body is going to take. At present, my weekly long run is in the 10-mile range. Kellerman told me that it would be in my best interest to build that up to the 20-mile range before the marathon rolls around.
  • He also stressed the importance of getting an interval training run in every once in awhile. This means trying to work in short sprints to help build up speed and keep your cardiovascular system guessing. We both agreed that fartlek was an effective training method for this.
  • Another simple, but key point he gave for training: Listen to your body. If you're not healthy, you're not getting the most out of your training.
  • His nutritional advice was pretty basic: eat healthy and stay away from bad carbs and late-night eating habits. Apparently, Coach Kellerman has the same mindset that I have for dieting: Part of the beauty of long-distance running is having more freedom to eat what you want. This probably doesn't bode well for weight loss goals.
  • For weightlifting, he explained that trying to pack on pounds of muscle in the weightroom is counterproductive to distance running, where it's better to be light on your feet. Lifting is still important for building strength and endurance, but he advised me to shoot for more repetitions per set at lower weights.
  • The advice he had for breaking in running shoes was to taper the new pair in gradually with your existing pair. That means breaking them out once or twice a week during your shorter runs so they'll form to your feet without causing pain or blisters. He's been rolling with the same type of New Balance shoe for the last 10 years, which probably helps a lot in the breaking-in process. I'm more of an Asics man myself.

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