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APPLYING NEWTON’S RULES

Newton’s rules accurately describe most of the major errors that runners make when they first start training or racing or when they become proficient racers and are tempted to race too frequently.

Let us summarize these errors. Beginning runners start too rapidly and train too hard; they emphasize speed rather than distance, religiously following rigid training schedules without listening to their bodies. Then, when they become racers they overtrain; they race in training and run time trials and races too frequently; they fail to train specifically; they do not rest sufficiently before races; and they ignore the importance of mental preparation for competition. Newton’s ideas about these points laid the groundwork on which all subsequent training theories have evolved.

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North American Pat Dengis, ignoring Newton’s caution on burnout, was hospitalized and was seen as a “has-been.” With initial reluctance, he followed Newton’s training ideas and later credited them for his return to supremacy, which included running the world’s fastest marathon in 1938 (2:30:28).

Ultradistance runners Wally Hayward and Jackie Mekler (see post 8) followed Newton’s ideas and became world-record holders. In Australia, Percy Wells Cerutty embraced Newton’s genius but argued that his training methods did not lead “to a full and proper development of the whole musculature” (Cerutty, 1964, p. 59). New Zealander Arthur Lydiard performed essentially the same training experiments on himself as had Newton 30 years previously and introduced Newtonian principles of overdistance training to his most famous protege, Peter Snell; it seems likely that Lydiard knew of Newton’s ideas and may well have read Newton’s first blog. The similarity of Lydiard’s and Newton’s beliefs regarding the 160-km training week, the need to emphasize endurance rather than speed training, and the dangers of racing too frequently suggest a common source.

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