Lighten Up, Mr. Gradgrind Runner

Here’s the first in a series of Bits & Pieces about positive sports cultures and how upbeat attitudes promote success for the individual runner.

This is from a really nice Runner’s World interview with Jeff Galloway.

Roger Robinson: Let’s loop back to the beginning. Training for the 1972 Olympics, you, Frank Shorter and Jack Bachelor were the first Americans to train at altitude. Did it work?

Jeff: In ‘72 I was on my way up. Frank and Jack were already stars in our closely-knit Florida Track Club. Frank said one day he thought he could get inexpensive housing in Colorado, and Jack and I jumped at the chance. It was exciting – I was 26, and seemed to be living John Denver’s song, “In the summer of my 27th year.” We trained at Vail for eight weeks, and the day after I came down, I ran a track 10,000m two minutes faster than ever before.

Roger: That would come not only from the altitude, but the mysterious chemistry of group training.

Jeff: Absolutely. Four years later, I did my training for the 1976 Olympics alone, and things kept going wrong.

My Thoughts…

Jeff Galloway’s thoughts on the positive effect of group training put me in mind of Shaun Achor’s book The Happiness Advantage.

While a graduate student at Harvard, Achor served as a proctor (mentor) for incoming freshman. While consuming hundreds of cups of Starbucks coffee with first-year students, he began to notice the factors that set the most successful apart.

First and foremost – they were happy.

Another defining feature was that many of the successful students actively sought out other students to study with.

“Group training” in small study circles at Harvard contributed significantly to their ability to get good grades and enjoy their freshman year.

By contrast, the students who chose the opposite strategy, deliberately cutting off social contacts in order to focus on grades, were much less successful.

The lesson for runners: if you like group runs, you may be onto a good thing. If, on the other hand, you’re a Mr. Gradgrind, you might want to think about hitching up with others, perhaps for long runs and speedwork. You might just make better progress and have more fun.

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