Monday, July 8, 2013

Book Review: The Talent Code

Daniel Coyle’s The Talent Code, explores the origin and construction of talent in humanity. Within the roughly 200 pages of text, Coyle explores a variety of modern talent hotbeds, Brazilian soccer players for example, in an effort to isolate the factors behind greatness. Coyle begins his exploration by starting with the biological facilities possessed by all humans—the building of neural pathways through the addition of myelin, a compound that serves as insulation and thus allows the neuron to fire more effectively and efficiently. In this section, a section that breaks scientific expertise down into basic terminology, Coyle allows the reader to understand how practice literally makes perfect through the extended construction of improved neural pathways.
Coyle then heads to the hotbeds themselves, observing the world’s best becoming the best. First providing an analytical breakdown of their deep practice, and then expanding upon this explanation, Coyle breaks down genius and greatness into the combination of deep practice, practice in which students engage in their field of study in an intense, driven manner, a manner that allows them to expand their abilities rapidly, and the ignition of said practice. Deep practice does involve and in fact thrives off of frequent and repeated error, error that is corrected and built upon by master coaches. Yet such practice requires a key component: desire. Desire comes through an area that Coyle terms as ignition, something that lights a fire among the youth and creates a desire to be great. For example Anna Kornikova’s early success in her tennis career ignited a desire for young, Russian girls to play professional tennis.
Lastly, Coyle explores those behind talent hotbeds and everyday talent growth: Master Coaches/Teachers. He provides extensive examples of these individuals in action—not only describing their methods and pedagogy, showing them in action, but also digging deeper, demonstrating how they became who they are. The skills of the master, what he terms as a Matrix of skills, are the product of years and years of practice, of trial and error, of undergoing the very same deep practice in the method of instruction that their pupils undergo in terms of their desired craft.
Overall, the text is a quick read, one that all teachers, coaches, and parents should invest in so that they can understand those they influence.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Celebration 5K 2013: Race Review

Celebration 5K is an annual Independence Day 5K run in Jacksonville, Florida. While I had never run this race, the running store that puts it on uses the course for a couple other events. The course is mostly flat, shaded in the morning, all road, and by my definition, fast.
Skora Core

The Race:
Result: 19:37, 39th overall, 5th in 30-34 age group
State of Mind: Stoked on an adult PR
Weather: 75, clear, humid, slight breeze
Shoes: SkoraCores with Injinji socks (wore a mid-weight pair for a little extra padding with the ultra minimal Cores)

The Report:

Very quick report here—I ran this race on a whim, deciding a couple days before. Typically, I only run a few 5k events a year, never this event, but I had a stale taste in my mouth from not hitting my goal time two weeks prior in Run for The Pies where I had aimed to break 20:00 and hit a 20:02. I wanted to average 6:27 or faster per mile, and hopefully eke out my goal.  

Originally I was going to go out and watch one of my top runners give it a go, then maybe run the last mile with my wife, but in the end it was the other way around as the runner decided to go on a quick 3 miler by pacing me. We had done this before, three years prior in a beach 5k. The runner in question had planned to help me break 20:00 that day and do it for the first time in his life himself, but I didn’t have it that day, wasn’t quite ready, and he went on his own. During this particular race, he stayed with me, jogging a few steps ahead, and making sure I stayed on pace—not the pace I planned for, but rather the pace he planned for me. At practice on July 3, he had said “You can run 19:38.” Well, he got me there.

Conditions were great for a July, Florida morning, and while it was humid, the 7:30am start time, made things comfortable. I was a bit nervous about using my Cores, I had never raced in them before, but the decision paid off.

I ran most of the first mile myself, with my runner deciding that he wouldn’t race all out somewhere in the middle of it and running back to me. I tried to be steady, to stay on pace, but first miles, whether as a spectator or a competitor, can get away from you. Thus I went out in 6:07. I wasn’t burned out or tired, but I knew that when one pushes a 5k, that the second mile is the mile that matters—guts and excitement will pull you through miles one and three, but mile two is all you. Thus the presence of a supportive, friendly face, one that picked competitors for me to pass and told me to do it, beside or slightly in front of me, made the mile manageable. At times the things he said cracked me up inside (they were my exact words, uttered during races and conversations, being tossed back at me).

Mile two clicked through at 6:25. I hadn’t noticed the shoes one bit. The softer RO2 soles of the Cores, the same soles that worried me for a road race, had been of no detriment, in fact, I never thought about my feet beyond landing pattern and form. Instead this was a race where I thought purely about the race. I pushed through mile three, a slight uphill, a turn from a side street I had run on hundreds of times on to a main road, and confused thoughts in my head. With about 200 meters left, I thought hmm, at 18:30, I should be able to just break 20:00—um yeah, my typical 200 in a workout is a consistent 33-36. Mile three was 6:31, a slight drop in pace, but I was on track, even if I didn’t understand it at the time.

My runner, who was kind of enough to offer me water (I didn’t take it) and to pour water on head (I may have uttered an unkind phrase at that suggestion) pulled off for the last .1, meeting me after the finish, and after :32 seconds, I finished in 19:37, the fastest I had run in 14 years, the fastest since my senior year of high school. Stoked, we talked for a minute, cracked a joke or two, and then I ran the course backwards, first jogging my nephew in and then jogging my wife in, high on the joys of feeling young even when not.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

A Dynamic Warm-up for Running


One of the many concepts that runners must confront is warm-up. Warm-up’s are tricky: what do you do for a warm-up, how to you go about it, and what are you looking to get out of it. For years, many people simply stretched, then as research trended for a more active routine, they jogged a couple slow laps and then stretched. But, stretching will diminish your body’s ability to perform at a peak level for 30-40 minutes—not the goal of a warm-up—and it has been shown to be of no real consequence when it comes to injury prevention. Today, we now know that a dynamic, active routine is the best overall solution.

Thus we work with our runners and have them use the following lunge routine before their steady runs. These lunges warm the body up, work on movements in all planes of movement, engage the core and leg muscles to build strength, and in the end improve athleticism. We do a total of five lunge exercises, doing five reps per leg. Once five becomes easy, you can consider going to ten.

1.      Forward lunge:
a.       Step into a lunge forward. Be sure that you keep your knee above or behind the ankle to avoid putting a great deal of tension into the knee and risking injury.

Lateral Lunge
2.      Side/Lateral lunge:
a.       Step to the side, pushing your rear back a bit as you fall into the lunge. Be sure to keep the knee and ankle placement as described above. To do so, you may need to ensure that the center of gravity is slightly back.
3.      Back and to the side:
a.       Step backwards at a 45 degree angle into a lunge
 4.      Forward lunge as a twist
a.       Same movement as the forward lunge but with an added twist. Twist your torso, toward the forward leg as you step into the lunge.
5.      Backward lunge:
a.       Same form as a forward lunge except that you step back into it instead of stepping forward

See this video if you have questions. He has her do them in a different order, but it is the same thing

Outside of lunges, I warm-up with the following two exercise as well:

Ankle jumps: Stationary jumps where you jump from your toes, landing forefoot first and then kissing the heel to the ground. Complete around 20-30 to work on landing pattern for faster running and explosion.

100 Ups: Literally marching in pace slowly, this video will do it best , but be sure to tense the muscle in your support leg to practice support work. This is a form exercise that is great for warm-up. Complete anywhere from 25-50 with each leg.