A little over a year ago, Pat Williams, the president of the Orlando Magic, joined a group of state representatives and board members of the Road Runners Club of America for a luncheon meeting. One of the major takeaways from that luncheon speech I got was to read something on a daily basis. "What kind of reading?" said Williams. He was not the slightest bit concerned with the material as long as it was something we enjoyed. My wife, Suzanne, has told me she can learn something, even from a science fiction story. I, on the other hand, prefer to pick up a book which has something directly to do with what I want to learn. Sometimes you find when you close the book at the end you learned something far different than your initial expectations.
My most recent completed books on the Spanish Civil War and the life of John Belushi varied in the "surprise" factor. I knew little about the struggle which served as the "warm-up" to World War II, and quite a bit about the man I like to call the "real Last Samurai."
This week, I started in on the autobiography by foodie/chef/traveler/party animal Anthony Bourdain, "Kitchen Confidential." I was drawn to Bourdain by his snarky commentaries from his Travel Channel program, "No Reservations," but couldn't justify the read sooner because I really wanted to learn something else. Silly me. I'm three chapters into the book and love it. Bourdain describes his his second summer in New England's restaurant business in the same way I have entered my first workout with a new training group; naive as hell.
More often than not, hubris at the beginning of the workout usually is the appetizer for a full-course meal of humble pie, crow and just desserts. With a to-go bag.
Open your mouth to say how simple a workout is? Did that after a two-mile road loop around the perimeter of the U. Tampa campus during the early spring of my junior year. I was hanging tough at the back of the pack; found out minutes later from the team captain the loop was only a warm-up. Three or four 1200-meter repeats later (I cannot recall exactly how many; it might have been closer to five.) my attitude was much more humble. When I came back the next day ready to work, truly ready, it was the first step on a long road to being a runner.
We had people who you would never thought would stick it out; we had (seemingly-)motivated people slip and slide away. I still have a photo on the wall of my team from the autumn of 2000; a dude named Greg came out to one workout, received a uniform, and stood in the team photo. After that workout, Greg was never seen or heard from again. As small as that campus was it would have been an amazing feat if he had not been seen by any of the dozen guys...or the dozen girls, for that matter.
Three years later, I "ordered" the same "hubris with a side order of suffering" during a late-November evening workout of repeats on a grass loop behind a football stadium. You would think human beings are smart enough to not make the same kind of mistake twice.
Well, it wasn't the same kind of mistake; more like the same mistake, just later in the workout.
When a coach talks about perceived effort in a workout, they usually mean it's the athlete's perception. The hardest lesson to teach, especially to the new athlete, is that their "70-percent effort," for example, may not be the same speed as someone else's "70-percent effort." The second hardest lesson to teach is to preserve their energy until they are certain the workout is soon to be concluded. Run like the second coming of Prefontaine for two sets and suck wind in the third? If I had a dollar for every athlete who's done that, I'd retire wealthy.
So, if you're going to your first training session with a group, take the time to ask the group leader or coach about what to expect. Most will be good enough to communicate to you if a cautious approach is necessary for the first few workout sessions.
And make certain to take a "to-go bag."