Sunday, June 30, 2013

Bill Bowerman

Thanks to Jack Ridley for introducing us to “Bowerman and the Men of Oregon” by Kenny Moore. We are barely a quarter of the way in and already have read several gems.

The first comes from Bill Hayward who was coaching track at Oregon in 1932 when Bill Bowerman went there to work on his 440. We find the correlation to swim training and racing compelling in that it seems to be roughly 4 to1. A running 440 or quarter mile or 400 meters is equivalent to our 100, yards or meters. Anyway, Bowerman learned from Hayward that how fast you run is almost unrelated to how you feel. “You’re near death’s door anyway afterward, paying off your oxygen debt,” said Hayward. “You may as well make it worthwhile.” Bill (Bowerman) was soon knocking at the door of a 50-second 440.

He broke through when Hayward taught him finesse. “Sprint the first 110 yards…then float the second 150, then sprint again in the last turn. After that, it’s who slows down the least.”

Nearly 20 years later Bowerman became the track coach at Oregon. By this point he was thinking way ahead of his time, developing his concept of alternating easy days and hard days. He would explain to his freshman, “Stress, recover, improve, that’s all training is. You’d think any damn fool could do it.” Moore says, “In fact, interval training takes such care that to this day few coaches can consistently produce milers.”

When Bowerman first articulated the hard-easy method he was widely despised for it. Most coaches felt the more you put in the more you’d get out, much like the no-pain-no-gain mantra. Bowerman said, “…the greatest improvement is made by the man who works most intelligently.”

We find it curious that there are still coaches who doubt the wisdom of this approach, even given all the science that reinforces these concepts.

So…train yourself to be the one who slows down the least. Do this by building cycles of work and recovery which will give you the improvement you need. Simple enough…

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