Michael Arnstein is an ultrarunner (runs ultramarathons and longer distances) and like most ultrarunners is a facinating person to read, listen to, and learn from. Here is a good lecture from him on some details of why he runs, his diet, his motivation, his routine, etc:
There are a lot of things mentioned in this video that I’d like to comment on at a later time, but there is one thing he said that really struck me. Michael said that his main challenge in his running life and the most important part is getting enough sleep. He said that if he gets 10 hours of sleep the night before a run, he can run any distance without a problem.
He drew a distinction between rest and sleep. He said that a lot of runners tend to taper before a race. Tapering is reducing the training mileage as you approach the race, so your body is sufficiently recovered and well rested. He suggests that this is a crappy alternative for simply getting a full night’s sleep night after night, and most importantly the night before a race. You may agree or disagree with that idea, but one thing is for sure, most of us recreational athletes do not get enough sleep, and I would venture to guess that most professional athletes do not get enough sleep either, especially before a big competition.
That served as a reminder that I need to take sleep, not rest, more seriously. And also, if I know that I have to wake up at 6am for a tournament next weekend, I better be waking up at 6am for many consecutive days before then.
Anyway, I’m officially declaring to myself as a goal that I’m going to get at least 6 hours of sleep every night for the month of May, and shoot for 8 hours as often as possible. You should do the same.
Circuit training is popular these days in preparing for judo, bjj, mma, etc. You basically pick 3-5 exercises and repeat them in a circuit at high intensity, taking timed short breaks in between. The goal (in terms of time and intensity) is to simulate a competition match. I’m a big proponent of this kind of strength and conditioning, because it’s fun. A lot of programs are effective, but not all are effective and fun. The variety of circuit training makes it fun.
Same goes for simple interval training on the track. It’s quick. It gets the job done. And in a sick kind of way it’s “fun” as well.
Okay, now to the topic of this post…
The term “roadwork” is something I’ve heard boxers (and no one else) use to refer to the old school jogging of 3 to 5 miles done early in the morning by many great and not-so-great boxers of the past. It’s boring as hell, but that’s why it’s good. I feel like in all the craziness of kettlebells, ropes, hammers, tires, etc, people might forget to train patience as well, in the quiet of the road where you are left alone with your thoughts.
From my conversations with people, the reason roadwork has been and still is popular is because so many people did it in the past and in the movies. That might seem like a ridiculous reason to continue doing it, but not to me. To me, I just think of guys like Rocky Marciano that religiously did 7+ miles per day, and dominated many 15 round fights. Not to mention the wrestling greats such as Dan Gable.
There is something to be said about building not just the kind of toughness that gets you through an intense workout, but the kind of toughness that gets you through a long boring workout day after day after day. This prepares you mentally not just for the years of brutal training, but for the long tournament days where you may wait hours between matches.
I’m learning a lot about myself in the last couple years about how I best can summon the will to “survive” physical challenges. One of the things I learned is that I’m much better at overcoming in the quiet of my own mind. So, for example, for me, a 20 minute 3-mile run is about the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It requires being in extreme discomfort for about 15 minutes (the first 5 minutes are manageable). But I accomplished it several times last Spring and Summer. On the other hand, I seem to be incapable of doing the same on the mat in grappling with lots of people around me, coach yelling, uncertainty of what the goal and time are, and many other factors coming into play.
In the latter case, I feel like my back is up against the wall and every second in that state wears on me mentally until I start quitting a little, and once I start doing that, it’s over. I’m not sure I’m explaining any of this well enough, or whether people experience similar things. Of course, I’m becoming a better and better grappler, so I find myself put to the test less and less cardio-wise which in one sense is good, but in another I know that there will always be guys especially in competition that will push me to a place where all I want to do is quit. I can overcome that when I’m alone on a hard run, but I still can’t do the same on the mat.
Jared told me a while ago that it’s something I have to find inside myself: the will to overcome the exhaustion, the fear, the uncertainty. It all sounds awfully dramatic. It’s not, in the larger scheme of things. But I find the same situation plays itself out in the rest of my life in my work, in my reading, etc.
I’m not sure why my mind takes on challenges much better in isolation, but perhaps the key to my success in competition (and in the rest of my life) is in finding the kind of focus that is equivalent to isolation.
PS: I mean isolation in a positive productive sense (as in distraction-free, flow state) not in the melancholy existentialist philosophy sense.
I’ve been running to afternoon training and back. I did it when it was below freezing. I did it when the wind was beating up my face with dirt bits it picked up from the ground. No problem.
Rain is the new challenge. I’ve ran in a drizzle before many times and arrived damp. That’s no problem. But when it’s pouring, it’s a different “experience”. Something about the feeling of a wet blanket attached to your body is a real pain in the a**, even on a quick 1-2 mile run.
The nice thing about rain though is it makes you question your approach to life. It makes you question why you give a damn about being wet or why it even feels unpleasant for your clothes to be soaking wet. Monkeys and lions have been sitting in puddles of mud in torrential downpours for thousands of years. I would be hard pressed to provide any good evidence of why I’m any better than those two. It is true that I have read Nietzsche, but to most creatures in the jungle that makes me even less worthy of respect.