A Gold Medal Mind: My interview with Dr. Jim Afremow

dr. jim afremowTo run and race your best it’s critical you’ve got the right mindset. Dr. Jim Afremow has made it his mission to help runners and athletes of all sports hone their mental training. Just as important and the physical workouts, an athlete’s mind can create a champion or turn into one’s own worst enemy. I wanted interview Dr. Afremow both because I respect his body of work and level of expertise and also because, let’s be honest, the psychology of our sport in straight-up fascinating! Often time elite athletes have trouble putting into words exactly how they get into gamer mode…so read on to hear a mental game’s coach put words to the ability:

JIM AFREMOW, Ph.D.

 

 

1)    What got you started in athletics, and what were your favorite sports growing up?

 

I grew up on sports and physical activity primarily through my father who appreciated the importance of having an active lifestyle. He especially enjoyed hiking, mountain climbing, and participating in Masters track and field. As a youth, my favorite sports included track and field, soccer, and golf.

 

2)    How did you foray into becoming a mental games coach and working on the sports psychology end of the spectrum?

 

Sports psychology provides the perfect opportunity to bridge two of my passions: sports and psychology. I have always been fascinated by human behavior and how all of us can learn to reach our greatest potential. I earned a doctorate in sports psychology and a Master’s in counseling, both at Michigan State University.

 

3)    You work with a variety of athletes in different sports, but in working with runners what are some of the most common mental hurdles they struggle with?

 

Mental toughness is equally import to physical strength when it comes to shining in sports. Adversity strikes all athletes in different ways at different times. Runners must learn how to stay focused and confidently move through any kind of setback, such as a mental block, performance plateau, prolonged slump, or injury. They must also develop ways to reduce off-field issues or concerns that interfere with their training and races.

 

4)    Confidence is a big one with runners and racing, and confidence tends to ebb and flow, be it after bad workouts or ongoing injuries. What are some of the techniques you use to help runners rebuild and remain confident in themselves and their abilities?

 

Confidence is a beautiful thing! Confidence in yourself and your athletic ability is critical to performing your best when it matters most. One strategy for boosting your confidence is to remember a particular occasion when you triumphed over a difficult challenge and write about how you made it happen—memory is the prelude to memorable performances.

 

5)    Race day nerves tends to be another big one, what are some of your suggestions for keeping your racing nerves in check?

 

First and foremost, understand that pre-performance anxiety is how our body readies itself to perform at its peak. So, recognize anxiety for what it is―that’s how humans are made. If you know that, it helps to normalize race day nerves. My new book The Champion’s Mind presents scores of practical tips to help you harness anxiety and use it to your advantage.

6)    In running and in athletics in general what is something you feel is an especially crucial mental component in being your best, if not THE best?

 

Have a big-picture goal and chip away at each and every day. “When you’re good at something, make that everything,” said tennis legend Roger Federer. All it takes is all you’ve got!

 

7)    What’s your favorite mental tip for runners to race and run their best?

 

During competition, the key word is “performance” because if you focus on performing (rather than on any results or other extraneous factors), then you’re totally in the present. Being in the present and staying purposeful lets you “own the moment” and maximize your abilities.

 

8)    What was the greatest lesson or piece of advice you’ve been given either from a mentor, teacher, or athlete that you’ve applied to your work?

 

One important lesson is that we either win or we learn. Forget about losing and focus on continual improvement. Give yourself credit where credit is due and celebrate what you did well. But then if you didn’t do as well as you wanted, say, “What did I learn from this that’s going to help me perform better next time?”

 

9)    Tell us about your book, your services, and your website?

 

The title of my new book is, “The Champion’s Mind: How Great Athletes Think, Train, and Thrive” (Rodale, 2014). The Champion’s Mind explains “what” athletes can do to champion themselves and “how” they can do it. That is, how athletes can fine-tune their game mentally and emotionally to consistently perform at their best. If you want to discover how great you can be and how much fun you can have in your sport, don’t leave the mental game to chance or circumstance.

 

So, I provide individual and team sports psychology services for personal excellence, peak performance, and team success. Although my private practice is located in Phoenix, I work with athletes from all over the world. Important topics include confidence, concentration, composure, communication, and commitment. All athletes can and should learn how to think like a champion. For more information, please visit my website: www.goldmedalmind.net.

 

10)Ultimately, what is your goal in being a sports performance specialist? What gives you the most sense of pleasure and fulfillment?

 

To help people reach their true and full potential in sports and all other demanding endeavors. To help people grow as athletes and as people. Champions think gold and never settle for silver or bronze. They understand that personal best is their ultimate victory. Why settle for anything less?

How Runners Can Stuff Their Face At Restaurants But Still Perform At Their Best

We run so we can eat, right? ;) Okay, okay, I do toss that around here quite frequently because, yes, being a runner entitles us to be a little more gluttonous than our slothy counterparts. BUT at the same time it would be a lie if I said that I only eat crap. And despite all of food gorging stories you share with a rightful amount of pride, wolfing down a whole pizza and ice cream by the pints is pretty cool when ‘earned’, I’m pretty sure 90% of you do too.
runner eating pizza
It’s a balance thing but it’s also that as runners I feel we fall into the healthier living category, no? In my most recent Competitor.com article: ‘The Runner’s Guide to Eating Out’ I’ve got the line, “Competitive athletes are wise enough to acknowledge that what goes into their mouths has a direct correlation to what their legs can put out.”

Despite those hamburgers larger than our heads and boxes of Pop-Tarts the majority of our diets are made up of ‘better’ choices or at least making sure we DO get in the necessary nutrients to fuel our body right. To fuel us for performance. We are running ‘machines’ not just pretty, cool bodies to look at. Yea, runner bodies are way cooler to look at too, but that’s beside the point. ;)
runner eating donuts
I’ve talked about my little filling the foundation of your house with the ‘good’ stuff and do what you will with the attic before and that applies here. In tying in with the dining out at restaurants article I wanted to share a little more on what Krista Austin, Ph.D had to say.

* Athletes Aim for Intuitive Eating: Austin stresses that the aim is to listen to your body when gauging how much is enough, “Athletes should always remember to gauge their hunger to help control the volume of food that they eat-if you’re hungry eat and as you get full-stop!” In being a runner part of our JOB is being better attuned to reading the signals from our body, right, we do that all the time in training. For many, listening to those hunger/full cues from your brain is tricky because growing up and our environments/society has skewed our perceptions of hunger, satiety, appetite, cravings, boredom eating, and all of that jazz.

* Runner Entitlement: Here’s what I was talking about in filling that attic and being ‘entitled’ to eating more freely than most. “My policy is that at least once a week every athlete should have a “fun meal” where they don’t think too much about what they are eating and just enjoy fun food-the key is to watch the portion sizes,” says Austin. Win goes to the runners here, bring on the food trough. ;) Juuuust kidding.

* Calories CAN Get Sneaky: Okay, here is where I will admit to being downright floored at some of the nutritional stats of restaurants. Krista and I both agree on that one, are they injecting straight lard into some of those dishes to get stats that high?! Sure, now and then eating totally blasé on stats is fine, but if you do make it a habit of going out to eat you might want to school up on the nutritional stats of some of those restaurants. You don’t need to obsess, but just have a little awareness.
runner legs
* Gluten Intolerant Folks: “Gluten intolerance athletes can go to restaurants like PF Changs or Red Robin that highlight their GF options but if you don’t know whether the food is GF or not, first start by asking if the restaurant knows and then if you must really eat without knowledge just try to ask for food items that we know are GF such as fajitas with corn tortillas or salads with meat on top etc.,” explains Austin. Amy Yoder Begley is a big fan of PF Chang’s especially when traveling for races; she also warns that if you don’t know of something is GF you REALLY need to be careful of cross-contamination in the kitchen. [I did a whole post on more GF living advice.]

* Race Travel: Revisit the article I wrote because it addresses this more in detail, but basically DO NOT try something new the day before or the day of a race, People. We know better…nothing worse than a burrito induced port-a-potty disaster mid-race, no??

* What Can Your Plate Do For YOU and you the RUNNER?: It’s the yin and yang of being a PERSON but also a RUNNER. You want both parts to feel fulfilled and satisfied, “Ask yourself when choosing menu items, 1)what will the food do for me? Is it going to refill my glycogen stores, help me recover from training, help me obtain the body composition I desire? and then 2) does it contain foods that will make me fill satisfied so I don’t then go for other foods later when I’m not even hungry just because I didn’t like what I ate,” explains Austin.

Runners and nutrition is an interesting topic to put it bluntly. It shouldn’t be as ridiculous as it is sometimes, but such is the nature of the beast. Keep things from erring on the side of driving yourself insane; the best runners I know are adept at finding the balance of person and runner.

Enjoy the entitlement that being a calorie-furnace runner but still be mindful of the times when you’re eating to perform. :)

1) Do you go out to eat very often? If so, what are some of your favorite spots?

2) When you do go out to eat, what kinds of things do you seek out? How do you balance the person and the runner?

3) What is your stance on having nutritional information available on more and more restaurant menus either online or on site?
I think having them available online or if you ask for them at the place is good; I don’t think necessarily on the full menu only because at the same time if you don’t want to feel guilty on something you shouldn’t feel forced into that guilt. Lol.

4) If you’re gluten intolerant, what are some of your favorite restaurants?

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Runners Going Gluten Free: Could making the switch work for you?

Running on a gluten free diet may seem like more work than structuring your training regime. Though there are no shortage of runners ditching the gluten and raving that they are far better for it. Admittedly some were ‘forced’ into because they have an intolerance, celiac disease, but there are others that willingly did a diet overhaul.

running pancakes

Are those pancakes gluten-free?? ;)


I’m not going to lie, I’ve got friends who are gluten free (But being that ‘going gluten’ is basically trending on Twitter who doesn’t have friends who are eating this way?!) and I don’t envy the way they have to interrogate the kitchen staff and be extremely cautious when reading food labels. I honestly have no worries when it comes to the restaurant thing, it’s not that I mind it at all, I totally understand how important their questions are. To be frank, I think it just comes down to me being too ‘lazy’ to put in the work to get gluten-free savvy.

But I’m curious, just as many others, and had heard the benefits of going gluten-free for possibly reducing the amount of inflammation in your body and solving various GI problems. In case you missed it I wrote an article all about this over at Competitor: ‘Gluten Free = Inflammation Free?’. I also included a three day gluten-free sample menu.

The truth is, it’s not THAT incredibly complex, trust me 400 meter repeats are a far tougher pill to swallow. I’d say the hardest part would be the initial learning curve and getting used to what you ‘can’ and ‘can’t’ eat, remembering to double check labels and mostly getting used to how to travel and eat out without gluten sneaking in there.
running fast
I tapped into some AWESOME sources for this one, Krista Austin Ph.D and Amy Yoder Begley who has become sort of the poster runnerchick for going gluten-free. After you read the article, I’ll add a few more thoughts and tips that didn’t make it but I found interesting and worth mentioning.

* Amy’s Top Restaurant Picks: “For really important races, I try to go to places with a GF menu like PF Changes, Outback, etc. However, you need to make sure they have gluten-free prep not just gluten-free food. Things can’t be fried in the same oil as breaded items or grilled in the surface as bread. Cross-contamination is a word to know and ask questions till you feel comfortable, even if it takes 45 minutes,” Amy Yoder Begley explains that cross-contamination is probably the biggest hurdle when dining out.

* Kitchen Overhaul: The same issue applies to your own home kitchen and cooking habits, “To begin with GF eating you need to get rid of the old toaster, really clean down the grill or get new grill plates, and buy new cutting boards. I would also clean out the cupboards, wipe down all surfaces and read all ingredient labels until you know for sure what is in each item,” Yoder Begley explains. I actually roomed with Amy for a while and while her husband does not eat gluten free they are extremely well practiced in making sure none of his gluten products even come near Amy’s plate or food.

* Inflammation and Gluten: Austin explains that while gluten may cause extra inflammation, the biggest reason an athlete’s inflammation may go down as a result of a gluten-free diet is because you’ll be cutting out most of the overly-processed junk, “Usually if you do a gluten-free nutrition plan right, you end up replacing these [processed foods]…as a result, it automatically reduces the high percentage of unneeded trans fatty acids (most hydrogenated) and bleached, nutrient-less flour is removed from the diet. The extra chemically produced fats (think hydrogenated) are what fuel inflammation in the body, so if we eliminate them we will reduce inflammation. Bottom line: we eat cleaner more naturally found foods and thus inflammation goes down.”

* No Diet is a Magic Bullet: That said, I’ve talked a lot about how jumping into a certain style of eating, or overly-cleaning it up isn’t always the ‘best’ thing for your running or your sanity, and it really comes down to WHY you’re switching to a new style of eating. There is something to be said for both moderation and the old adage, ‘if the engine is hot, it’ll burn.’ Austin is frank about this, “However, as a side note, I know many an Olympic athletes, etc in the sport of running that eat horribly and still get the job done, (Although yet to medal so maybe this is why?) …in fact they are the guys on top! Eeeeek…so at the end of the day, the message is this: it’s how you train that matters most…however, if your fuel intake is too low or not adequate in some way, just know training is suffering and we are not optimizing performance.”

I think I’ll end or reiterating that fact: “It’s HOW you train that matters most.”
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Check out Amy’s excellent resource for eating gluten-free at her site, Gluten Free Olympian: GFOlympian.com

Check out more from Krista Austin at her own site: PerformanceAndNutritionCoaching.com
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1) Do you eat gluten free? Have you tried a gluten free diet for any sum of time and what was your experience?

2) What have you heard about eating gluten free? Benefits, drawbacks, etc.

3) What’s your stance on your running diet, how do you approach the fueling issue?
I make sure to get in enough calories, so that means eating things I want and aren’t exactly the ‘healthiest’…but at the same time I think of the ‘junk’ as ‘bonus’ after I’ve made sure to get in the good stuff and enough proteins and such. :P

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Interview With Jordan McNamara Part I: The Olympic Trials 1500…Man on a Mission

The 2012 Olympic Trials are underway at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon; among the outstanding athletes toeing the line will be Jordan McNamara. As a professional runner, member of Nike’s Oregon Track Club Elite, he will be running the 1500 meters. the first qualifying round will be held on Thursday the 28th, and if all goes to plan he’ll then have the semi-finals the 29th and the finals on July 1st.
Jordan McNamaraImage Source

For those who don’t already know, Jordan McNamara has had a meteoric year, PR’s across the distances, and PR’s pretty much every time he stepped to the track. Certainly one couldn’t pick a better year with it being an Olympic year. Though, as is the case with many runners, you don’t just fall into years like that or PR’s for that matter; he’s renowned for his dedication and work-ethic, stayed motivated through the inevitable tests of our sport (having surgery on his foot which meant an entire 6 months of no running at all), and believed in himself and his goals throughout.

I had the great pleasure of stealing some time from Jordan McNamara, for an interview as he prepares for the Olympic Trials and what he hopes to be the berth onto his first Olympic Team. How Jordan differs from some of his competitors is that he is genuinely responsive to his supporters and embraces the role model status thrust upon him. It’s him updating those Twitter and Facebook accounts and managing his own site and blog. (Check it out, he’s a phenomenal writer too!) and in speaking with him, he expressed that taking the time to stop for photos and autographs for his fans is important and worth it to him. He remembers being back in high school and reading interviews from his own running idols, so he hopes that today his own answers are able to help the runners now looking up to him. The fact he was talking to me days before some of the biggest races of his career thus far speaks volumes.

Here is Part I of my interview with Jordan McNamara, come back for Part II and be sure to be cheer for him come the 1500!

1)    The Harry Jerome 1500, you had a mad tear down that home stretch, can you take me through that race a little bit? [Editors Note: After Harry Jerome, on the 16th, he raced another 1500 at Hayward Field winning with a time of 3:35.63, another PR and a mere 0.13 off the Olympic A Standard.]

Harry Jerome was a great confidence booster for me. Coming into the race, I knew I was in shape to compete with every big name on the starting list. I also knew that if the opportunity presented it self, I could get below my PR (3:36.48 at the time). The race itself went smoothly. Through two laps, we were on A standard pace. I asserted myself early and found myself along for the ride in fourth position. As is an all-too-common occurrence, the pace lagged in the third lap as everyone began to gear up for the final lap. I felt confident and relaxed, running slightly wide through the penultimate 200, ready to cover any early bids. With 250 meters to go, I felt Matt Centrowitz come to my right shoulder. I instantly reacted, using that warning as impetus to begin racing in earnest. Passing two people I instantly glued my eyes on the tall figure of Andrew Wheating, who was absolute flying around the curve. I jumped into fourth gear around the straight away, around another competitor, and found myself in third with 100 to go. At that point I made a decision, which in hindsight, likely cost me the race. With Wheating in full flight, I decided to slow and drop from outside lane one to the rail. Doing so allowed me to pass second place, and gave me a clear lane for the final 70m. Finally free, I released my final gear, feeling myself pulling in the leader. Sensing a race, the crowd bellowed and I felt my adrenaline spike as the margin between us lessened… 3 meters, 2 meters, 1 meter. Alas, with 30m remaining, I stalled, spent by the effort. I finished 0.1 off the win, rewarded with a PR of 3:36.03. Though it missed the coveted A mark, it showed me that I have the ability to kick with the very best that this country has to offer.
Jordan McNamaraPhoto Credit: Jordan McNamara/Nike Town

2)    Obviously there was the Olympic ‘A’ Standard as a time incentive for you; while you narrowly missed it there, Hayward Field offers you the opportunity. How does the confidence from last week’s PR affect your plans going into the Trials?

It’s a great time to be in the best shape of your life. It’s a rare and special thing, to have things align at such a particular moment. Going into the Trials, my confidence is high, and my fitness is unquestionable. That being said, my competition is equally capable, and I will need a bit of luck combined with flawless execution to achieve the results I desire.

3)    Backing up just a bit here; in speaking of PR’s you’ve been on a similar tear of those across the board. This season, nearly each time you stepped to the line you set a new one. Can you share a bit of your journey through this season? Is there anything in particular you’ve done differently this year than those previous?

My results this year have been the product of consistently hard, intelligent training, MENTAL preparation, and tactical execution. As a distance runner, it’s very difficult to be consistently good. As runners, so many variables are at play: nutrition, sickness, injury, tactical awareness, race-day psyche- all of these factors contribute to a great performance, or to one less desirable. To PR again and again, I didn’t do anything dramatic training-wise, I simply made smart decisions every single day. If I needed to get in a 17 mile day, I did. If I needed to take a day on the couch, I did. I stayed in tune with my body’s signals, and did my best to heed it’s requests.

I visualize my races at all times, because my races are the only times when I can validate the thousands of miles that it’s taken to get to this level. Ultimately, my desire to do great drives me to perfect my craft, to make each and every race count as something special.

4)    Through high school, college and turning Pro you’ve continued to progress; what are some of the key elements you attribute to that and can you share a bit on what motivates you?

As a high-schooler, I fell head-over-heels in love with running. I can distinctly remember running at 5 A.M. before school- long before the sun had risen. My friends would often see me running laps around the school during lunch. After school, I’d often run fifteen miles, all alone- simply for the sheer enjoyment of it. My results were never spectacular, though they certainly weren’t average. My continued improvement through the high school, collegiate, and pro ranks has been attributed to a simple love of running. My motivation is simple: when I’m not running, it’s what I want to be doing. When I am running, there’s nothing else I’d rather be doing. I crave every aspect of the act of running. I feel truly fortunate to have found such an active, exciting, and rewarding passion to call my own.
Jordan McNamaraImage Source

5)    How has has the shift to becoming a Professional affected your outlook, if at all, on running?

Compared to collegiate running, pro running is an entirely different ball-game. The fact that this is now your livelihood can be stressful, but I enjoy the challenges. Running has always taught me the [depth] of one’s internal strength. Races will never be won for you. Every competitor has sacrificed and will do everything they can to beat you. As a pro, I enjoy the feeling of excelling in such a circumstance.

6)    There is no secret to success, it’s hard work and dedicated training; how do you get yourself out the door on the days when inevitably you’re tired or the motivation may wane for a bit?

There are many days- when I’ve already run 10-12 miles in the morning, and the sky is an ominous shade of gray- days we I feel like my job isn’t so glamorous. During times like that, I control the “controllables”- I lay down for a few minutes, collect myself, caffeinate, hydrate, and get the hell out the door before I can convince myself otherwise. In training, there’s a time to push and a time to pull. Sure I may get run-down from the constant workload, but at the end of the day, I can’t think of a run that I’d finished and thought, “now I wish I hadn’t done that.”

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Running Interview With Ahrlin Bauman: Speedster, Hilarity, Pacer, Big Mac Destroyer– This runner’s been taking names across the greater North-West

Chance are that if you live anywhere in the greater Portland or Eugene area, you’re a runner, and you like to race you’ve probably lined up next to Ahrlin Bauman. Just as likely you’ve gotten your tush beaten by him, though in all fairness his fellow Bowerman Athletic Club (BAC) teammates give him a run for his money and have beaten you too. :)

I first had the pleasure of meeting Bauman back in 2004 when he’d do a girl a favor, slow down, and do some pacing duties for the Nike Oregon Project. Pacing can be a tricky duty, but Ahrlin is not only a human metronome when it comes to splits he’s even better company. He’d have us laughing on the warm-ups, even a bit on those early mid-interval recovery jogs (before we were too tired to laugh back, he’d still be quick with the quips!), and be just as gregarious on the cool-downs. Pacing duties aside, he’s one heck of a competitor, has remarkable range from the 1500 to the half-marathon (he just finished last weekend’s Eugene Half in 1:08:20, placing 4th), and hasn’t been sidelined with an injury in years. What’s more, is that he balances all of his training with a job working for the USPS; trust me that job entails crazy hours and all of them on your feet. Yet he still retains a social life and is married to another stand-out runner, Annie Kawasaki. He’s the got the legs and the personality and plenty of wisdom to share, so without further adieu…Ahrlin Bauman.

Recent Races of Note:

(Track) Linfield Icebreaker 10000 meters: 4th place 31:19.55
(Roads) Race for the Roses 10K: 1st place 32:16.80
(Roads) Corvallis½ Marathon: 4th place 68:32
(Track) Pacific Relays 3000 meters: 1st place 8:51.05
(Track) Mt.Hood Open 1500 meters: 4th place 4:04.24
(Roads) Red Lizard 5 miler: 3rd place 25:43.3 (Oregon 5 mile Road Championships)

1) How did you get started in running and can you share a little about some of your running highlights? Your twin brother, Oscar, is also a runner; did you both start at the same time and did you/do you have a brother rivalry at all?
I was very active as a young kid, and in the 3rd grade we got silver stars for running a ¼ mile loop around the school yard. I thought that was pretty cool, and would show up before school and run 4 or 5 laps in the morning, that’s really how I got into running. It wasn’t until my Junior year in High School that I actually went out for Cross country and Track because everyone thought I was a decent runner in gym class. I immediately got a stress fracture though, and my whole year was done. Over the next summer my brother and I ran a little more then usual, and my senior year I was decent, but not great. Never went to state as an individual, but managed to go as a team in cross country. My brother was definitely better than me at the time, and it made me work harder to get as good as him. We were great training partners.

In college I didn’t think the school I went to;Portland State, even had a track team, so I never bothered competing. My brother on the other hand was at Clackamas Community College, and was running well. I transferred there the next year, as Portland State just wasn’t my favorite place to go because as a freshman, I couldn’t get any classes I needed, and wound up getting a bunch of worthless high priced credits. I transferred to Clackamas the following year, but also started working full time at the Post Office, so it was a lot of work to balance school, running, and a full time job; 10-12 hour days back then. I managed to be an All American in the 5000 and 10000, as well as won the Oregon Cross Country Champs. I thought my times were pretty solid for what I had been in high school, and managed to crack the top ten times at Clackamas with a 14:47 5000 #8 all time and a 30:58 10000 # 2 all time my sophomore year.

Some schools had shown interest in me after that, but I had just bought a house in Washington, and liked my job, so going away to school for something I really didn’t need kept me in the NW for good. Saved me a lot of money.

I volunteered at CCC the next year to help some runners I had started with, and wound up finding various training partners for the next 15 years. I hit most of my personal bests when I was 32. 3:52 1500—8:17 3000—14:17 5000—29:48 10000, kind of a late bloomer. Then I sort of evened out, and just maintained my fitness. It was hard trying to train at such a high level for so many years. I could never dedicate myself enough to really get to the next level, which was fine, as I thought I got to a level I was happy with.

I’m still very satisfied with how long I’ve been running so well for. I can’t win everything, but I am still quite competitive, even with the college kids. I finally managed to get better then my brother, and that’s kept him motivated to keep training. Sibling rivalry at its best.

2) I met you because you were a pacer for quite a number of years for Alberto Salazar and his Nike Oregon Project athletes; you’re one of those metronome type runners and came in to help with workouts. How did that come about?
In 2004, my college coach bumped into Alberto and was asked if he had any athletes that wouldn’t mind pacing some of his athletes. I was available, and was in great shape, so I said sure. Kara Goucher was the first elite athlete to train with, and she had a lot of success. We hit it off really well, so I was happy that I could help and get her back to the level she needed to be at. She ran amazing those years. More athletes came on board, and Julius Achon and I took turns helping many of Alberto’s group through their workouts. Julius was very fit as well, and could help the guys a lot more then I could. Aside from Kara, whom I trained with the most, I also helped her husband Adam Goucher, Galen Rupp (high school through college and post college), Josh Rohatinsky (post college), Amy Yoder Begley (post college), Alan Webb (comeback), You, Ari Lambie, Dathan Ritzinhein, and some of his current crop of ladies (Alvina Begay).

Now that Alberto’s group has grown a bunch, my pacing duties aren’t need as much, which helps my legs stay nice and fresh. But it will always be a great memory training with such great athletes and seeing them have success. Kara won a bronze medal under Alberto, Dathan set an American record in the 5000, Galen came into his own on the collegiate level and post college level, Amy made the Olympics. Alan had a nice comeback as well before leaving.

I think one of the reasons I fit so well with each of those athletes, was that I put my ego aside, and did what was asked. I never felt like crushing a workout, even though I only had to do about half, but rather being as close to pace as possible. It also helped that I could train early in the morning when most people were working.

3) You’re racing and training with the BAC; how do you plan your own training? How often do you get to meet with the other BAC guys?
As for as my own training, it is based on what has worked for me in the past. I tried high mileage, and it worked to some extent, but I was always sore. I started thinking about what worked best for me. 45-60 miles kept me fresh. I was open to workouts that fit my training, so I never set anything in stone. That way I can jump into workouts with anyone and adjust it to my training. If I need a day off, I take one. I haven’t been injured in 20 years, so I’ve developed a lot of base. I figure I don’t need to over due the heavy miles to stay in shape. Two workouts a week, a race and nice fluffy miles in between. It seems to be working.

My diet is horrendous though. I eat healthy stuff, but supplement it all with tons of junk food and soda. I drink way too much Mt.Dew, and always have a sugary candy bar some place close. People marvel at how much I eat, and why I never seem to get fat. That’s easy though; I’m hyper, and always busy. I don’t watch a lot of TV, work in the evenings, so during the day I’m outside most of the time. I wouldn’t recommend my diet to anyone but myself. Thankfully I haven’t seen any rolls developing around my gut.

4) You’ve proven to have great range; I know you’ve got some speedster wheels and not always such a fan of the longer runs and races, but you’ve just run a 1:08:31 half [4/15-Corvallis Half-Marathon] so you can’t say you aren’t good at them. What’s your favorite distance, or what you consider your forte, and how do you approach distances you’re not always so fond of?

I consider myself to have decent range as far as racing. In fact, this week I ran 1:08:32 for a ½ marathon (4th place)… Then raced a 1500 5 days later in 4:07.10 (2nd place)…Then a 5 miler the next day 25:43 (3rd place)…Then a 400 later that morning 56.60 (2nd place). I guess I just don’t think about it, but for each of those races after the ½ marathon, I figured it was a good workout to get some speed in my legs, so I didn’t think of it as a race. Sometimes you just run for fun, and don’t care about the place, although I think I placed pretty well in all of those races. They all came down to a kick. I lost.

Ahrlin Bauman

Bauman (far left) at the Eugene 1/2

5) Let’s talk training…can you give me an example of what a typical week looks like for you running-wise? What are your favorite workouts? What do you dread the most?
A typical week for me begins on Monday. Usually its an easy 7 miles at about 6:30-7:00 pace, nothing too exciting.
Tuesdays are workout days. I tend to go with stuff I can manage on my own just in case no one wants to workout with me. This will be something like 3000-1600-800-400 (9:00 or faster) (4:35 or faster) (2:10 or faster) (60 or faster) I give myself a full recovery after each. Or if that seems a bit out of reach I’ll do 200-400’s with equal recovery, usually around 29 and 63.
Wednesday is either no running or an easy 7. Just depends on the time of year.
Thursday is a group workout day because it is my day off and I can workout with my brother in the evenings. We usually do longer strength oriented stuff like 8 X 1600 at 5:00 or faster or 6-8 X 800 repeats uphill.
Friday is another easy 7 mile day.
Saturday is either a race or 7-9 mile tempo effort every other week.
Sunday is a long run between 12-15 miles. So around 55 miles.

Now the workout days change with what I’m trying to accomplish. If it’s a base phase, there will generally be no speed workouts, just lots of strength stuff. Near the end of a taper session workouts are more speed oriented. Even on easy days, I’ll throw in 30 second surges to keep sharp.

If I’m really motivated I’ll lift weights too. Generally that entails bench press, push-ups, bar dips, pull-ups, and curls. Rarely do I do any leg work. I can’t stretch to save my life, so I usually never attempt any sort of stretching. Believe me, I’ve tried, and have never come close to touching my toes, so I just threw in the towel. If I’m sore or stiff, I’ll usually shake out a little, but nothing elaborate. I have no routine I go through to warm up; just some strides and a proper 10-15 minute warm-up jog.

6) Do you do anything outside of running for training, things like core, weights, plyo’s, stretching?
As far as things I do outside of running to keep me fit, I used to bike a lot. I guess about 25 miles a day. At work a do a lot of pushing and pulling of heavy equipment, that probably keeps my core strength in great shape. I wrestle my dogs too, but I doubt that helps my fitness any.

7) What’s your diet like; now I know you’re one of those lucky guys who actually has trouble keeping on the pounds and you’ve done some pretty incredible food feats of strength, if you will, how many Big Mac’s was it in a sitting? But for nutrition, what is your approach, and do you try and get in as much healthy things as you can or do you not really think too much about it?
Don’t ask about my diet…it’s utterly awful. Lots of Mt.Dew, candy bars, fast food, and peanut butter sandwiches when I’m too lazy too cook. I’m embarrassed to admit how sad my diet is…thankfully I’ve weighed the same since Freshman year of college. Usually I range from 129-134lbs…never more never less.

8) What advice would you give to runners who are really competitive and want to race at a high level but still have a ‘real life’ where running isn’t their job?
The best advice I’d give someone trying to be competitive is that nothing happens overnight. Training will suck sometimes, and workouts might not be indicative of how you race. There are lots of people who run well in workouts and bomb in races. Take your training in stride, and always remember that your going to have some disappoints. Weather never cooperates with your fitness. I can be in great shape, and on race day the weather is awful, there goes all that training. Instead of making your goal a certain time all of the time, how about place. Forget about time and just race. We tend to rely on splits and whether we’re on pace. Sometimes you just have to forget about plans, and take a chance on how you feel. Some of my best races I never looked at my watch, because I was afraid I’d be disappointed with the split. The times will eventually come, but you have to learn how to race sometimes.

9) What about someone who wants to take their running to the next level; what do you feel were/are some of the key things that you’ve done to continue improving and PR’ing?
The most important thing about getting to the next level is don’t get injured. That will set you back every time. Some people think getting to the next level means training like a mad man. The steps to getting better involve a slow progression, and staying injury free throughout the long haul will reap the rewards. If you’re injured, it doesn’t make any sense to come back early because you might lose fitness. You’ll just injure yourself again, and there will be no fitness at all eventually.

10) Mental toughness…what’s something that works for you in battling the pain of running and racing?
The thing that helps me most with mental toughness, is picking some of my favorite runs and thinking about them while I race and where I am at on my favorite run while I’m racing. It makes a lot of lonely miles disappear. I also like to break up a race into something like; as soon as I start feeling a little wore down, I’ll concentrate on the next distance I want to make it through, and try and forget what I’ve been through. For example; in my last half marathon, we went out pretty fast (5:02 pace) I only looked at my watch the first mile because I didn’t want to panic about the pace. At mile 5 I looked at it again. We had just run up a long hill and the mile was 5:18. I thought, well that was a pretty hard mile and 5:18 isn’t bad. I didn’t look at my watch again until mile 10. It too was a long uphill and I was at 5:18 for it as well. I was tired then, and thought that the next 3 miles would be pretty rough. So I just thought, well at the worst its only 17 minutes of running left. Next thing I know I have a mile to go and I’m not hurting anymore. You just need to find things to keep your mind off the pain long enough to forget about it.

11) Looking forward, what’s coming up next for you and what are some of your goals?
As for what’s coming up:
Eugene ½-Marathon April 29 [editor's note, post-interview finish: 4th place, time: 1:08:20]
Oregon Road Mile Champs May 28
Portland Track Festival 5K June 14
Bowerman 5K July 14
Hood to Coast August 24-25
Cross Country !!!

I’m taking a two week break after Eugene to recharge.
Hoping to run under 4:20 for the road mile
Hope to run under 14:50 on the track and on the road for 5K
Have fun at Hood to Coast
And get a solid competitive team of BACers for Cross country.

Thanks to Ahrlin Bauman for taking the time to answer my questions and let’s all cheer for him and his fellow BAC teammates to keep kicking some butt! :)

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My Adventure in Cryotherapy: The treatment that’s reportedly 4 times better than ice baths (read: FREEZING!!)

Last weekend I had the opportunity to visit US Cryotherapy. I’d been hearing a bit about cryotherapy from a few places (ie: Oregon Project Runners getting a Cryosauna and more comically Usain Bolt’s little foot and frostbite situation) and the gist I’d gotten was that it was supposed to be more effective in speeding along muscle recovery than ice baths.

I knew of a few groups of elite runners getting in on the cryotherapy action and they found it beneficial. I mean we all know that Paula Radcliffe and plenty of other pros swear by ice baths immediately after their workouts; the draw of the cryotherapy chambers then, is that you get the same (if not more) benefits in less time. Reportedly the systems are four times more effective than the standard ice bath. So, how is it supposed to work in a few minutes instead of the 10-15 minutes of an ice bath??
cryotherapy chamber
It’s FLIPPING FRIGID!!! This is me coming out of the cryotherapy chambers after a bit over 2 1/2 minutes…I was a squealing mess. In fact, you can watch my entire cryotherapy adventure here…

Let me tell you, I was not prepared for how cold it actually was, partially because I tend to tune out when I hear lots of numbers and my temperature estimation is always way off…I feel like it’s cold when it’s under 70.

Fun Facts:
* US Cryotherapy is the only treatment center of it’s kind in the United States. Apparently there are more in Europe but they are just starting to make the trip abroad.
* Temperatures: -76° to-166°F
* Uses: speeds up muscle recovery and decrease inflammation
* How: 4 times colder than an ice bath, it will cause your veins to first constrict then re-open which causes blood to flow back to the treated areas and this leads to cellular repair
* I’d seen the videos of Dathan Ritzenhein going into a cryosauna chamber, so I thought I was going to go into a tube/pod thing with my head sticking out. I went into a room and this one is different in that it’s not gas-powered (liquid nitrogen) but rather, powered by electricity. With the gas you can’t have your head and shoulders being treated, but with the electric it is safe to do so. Also, with the electric chambers the temperature stays constant and is evenly distributed over your entire body versus the jets in the saunas.

Anyways, I went into the main (colder) chamber for 2 minutes (the max is 3 1/2) and afterward they have you do a bit of easy cardio just to get the blood moving again. While it was a punch to the gut shock to the system, I did warm back up pretty quickly and felt fine right after. I’d even say that I felt able to walk around and move again much faster than I’ve felt after any ice bath…you know the post-bath rigimortis shuffle. ;)

Last I went in and tried their localized treatments, here would be what you’d use on small areas experiencing soreness or any issues. (last part of the video) It felt like a hairdryer on my skin but with cold air…not nearly as cold as it felt in the chamber, and this little guy wasn’t even that hard to tolerate. I got it on my left quad and right hip flexor.

How would I say I feel after? Well, I feel fine and nothing starkly different either way; my hip flexor has been stiff/tight on an ongoing basis because of the ellipticaling I’ve been doing, hence the local treatment on it. I’d say the next day it was a little less sore, but there could be a little ‘power of suggestion’ thing going on in my mind. (Update: it’s now three days since and my right hip flexor is a lot less tight; funny, now it’s my left hip flexor, the non-treated side, that’s sore! haha…but that’s pretty usual, aren’t we all sore somewhere all the time when we workout regularly?? So it’s no biggie.)

The thing though, is that I’m not in heavy training and not with a real muscular injury so to speak. That said, I do honestly think that the therapy would be really beneficial if: 1) you go in after a hard workout 2) go in on a consistent basis (I didn’t expect a miracle after one trip) 3) have an acute or ongoing stiffness/soreness/muscle injury to get treated.

The verdict: we all know ice baths work…these chambers are supposed to be even more effective. They are incredibly cold but, the self-induced torture is only a minute or two…even this weather wimp could handle it. An ice bath is 15 minutes of torture AND you’re numb for awhile afterwards…given the option/luxury I’d pick the two minutes with cryotherapy…just saying.

The catch: Like I said, getting access to one is pretty difficult unless you are sponsored by Nike or another big company, or lucky enough to live in the Roseville, CA area. It is also a lot pricier than an ice bath, so it would be an investment. Which, if you’re not loaded with the extra fundage could be tricky and really only take a trip if you’re dealing with a real muscle problem (or one of the other specific injuries this works for) or in serious training mode and want to recover after an especially hard workout/race.

The Wow Factor: I have to say, the whole experience was pretty cool. I felt a little special, even though I’m not, and so props for the ego stroke…I mean it IS the only place in all of the United States after all. ;)

***Thanks to US Cryotherapy as I was given a complimentary treatment.

1) Had you heard anything about this cryotherapy treatment?

2) What are your thoughts, would you want to try it? Do you already use ice baths?

3) Honestly, I know I look like such a doof…but how do you handle -166 degree F??

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Michael Wardian: A Peek into the World of a Runner Inhuman

“The man is a freak of nature, unlike anyone I’ve ever met…he’s just amazing,” even Rich Hanna was at a loss for words, grappling with the right ones to fully express just how impressed he was with Michael Wardian.
Michael Wardian
Source
Let me back up a bit and set the backdrop for you. I was working on an article centered around treadmill running and how it could best be adapted for trail runners. A high number of the magazine’s readership were ultra marathoners and so I went to Rich Hanna, an ultra marathoner that I’d met back in high school while working at a running shoe store. Like many runners, his passion for the sport spilled over into his ‘real job,’ which meant coaching and heading a highly successful race marketing business. He’d regularly come in and out of the Fleet Feet Sports I worked at.

So I contacted Rich, told him about my article and the first words out of his mouth were, “Wait, I have the perfect person you have to talk to, I met him at a marathon in Hawaii and the guy is a beast…literally, he’s got to be the most talented ultra runner I’ve ever met!” This led me to Wardian. (Silver 2011 World Championships 100k, USATF Ultra Runner of the Year 2008/2009/2010)

I’d read about him actually, and he’d already impressed me. He raced an inhuman amount (think 100 milers then come back a few days later and running a marathon), didn’t believe in any kind of taper, and unlike many ultra runners he still possessed the speed of an elite level marathoner. He’s going to be lining up in Houston for the Olympic Marathon Trials this January with a time of 2:17:49.

He crisscrosses the globe on a weekly basis for races. Rich went on to detail how for the race in Hawaii he had flown in the morning before and barely made it to the starting line on time…Michael went on to win the race and further begged Rich to join him for another 13 mile hellacious hill climb. He told Rich before the gun went off, “I’ve got to fly out later this afternoon, so after I finish, grab your car, I ran this mountain trail during my honeymoon and I’ve been dying to come back.” Boom, the gun went off.

Yet, he still makes his family his top priority. How so? He’s there most mornings babysitting his children while doing his training downstairs, “I use a treadmill because I need to be close to my family and we got our treadmill the day our second son Grant was born…they still wake up and go down to the treadmill to find me and I hope off and make them their snacks and get their milk, then jump back on.”

The allure of those additional 13 mountain miles can be explained as such, “I love being outside and pushing it and trails are a great way to see a lot of amazing things in a short amount of time. I also like running to places that are hard to get to because I feel like they are just mine, if only for a few minutes.”

I’ve heard many other runners relate, whether it’s the solitude of a trail or the pulsing pace of a track race. In the end are we not alone with ourselves, reaching for a goal, pushing against the pain? That moment is all yours and up to you whether you dig deep and keep going or stop and relent.

Wardian got into running later than most and only ventured past the marathon on a dare. “Someone told me it is not possible to run 3 marathons in a month so in 1998 I ran Chicago, Marine Corps, and then New York City in four weeks and then they said, ‘Well, you couldn’t do a 50 miler on top of that,’ so I ran the JFK 50 Miler two weeks after NYC and it was hard but I finished. Still really proud of that.”

Beastly. Like Hanna, I am lacking for a better term. Many have begged Wardian to conform to some kind of taper, even Hanna recounted to me, “He won’t do it, but I’d love to see what he could do if he actually rested for one of these races.” But the Beast won’t, he just enjoys running and racing too much to cut back, and ultimately he doesn’t believe resting would yield him any better results.

How does he beat treadmill boredom? “I tend to use the treadmill like I am outside and that means I use my imagination, I pretend I am coming up to a tough section of the race and then increase the incline or speed, or then I am crushing down the hill and I might speed the treadmill up. Treadmills are great because they allow you to get everything you want whenever you want it. You just have to remember to change the variables.”

Mix things up, keep your legs guessing, challenge your weaknesses. “I am trying to do hills a few times a week, that is a weakness ,or has been, so I want to fix that,” acknowledges Wardian, “for me that means hours of running up vertical inclines, sometimes fast, sometimes just a long grind, but always pushing to get better.” Words to live by.

We all may not log 120 miles a week but there are plenty of things we can take away from this inhuman human.

Don’t let others set limits for you. Further, don’t set the limits yourself. Instead, embrace the seemingly unattainable and try it; live to prove them wrong.

•Make your training fit your life. If you don’t have access to trails don’t think you can’t win a 100 mile trail race. If you have a job that doesn’t allow you to run outside during daylight hours, don’t think the treadmill isn’t a viable option. The same for family; you don’t have to sacrifice one or the other.

•Still include variety in your workouts. “I try to do a few really quality workouts, so hills, tempo runs, speed play, a track workout, long run and then a race or two.”

I could go on, but instead, I think I’ll follow Rich’s lead and leave you with this, “The man is a freak of nature…but in the best possible way, he’s a beast.”

Be sure to root for Michael Wardian and all of the other racers competing in the Olympic Marathon Trials in Houston January 14th.

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