Keep It Simple

US 10,000-meter record holder Chris Solinsky (26:59.60) believes training should be simple.

Duncan Larkin recently interviewed Solinsky for his blog.

You are a Nike runner. The stereotype of Nike runners is that they rely heavily on technology, using things like cryosaunas and altitude houses. Where are you at on the technology spectrum?

I’m pretty fundamental when it comes to running. I definitely agree about altitude – trying to be at high altitude as much as possible. I think that is a good avenue to take the next step aerobically. I think that is where a lot of Americans are falling behind the East Africans. We are not nearly as aerobically strong. Take for instance Kenenisa Bekele, or any of the Kenyans that are able to throw down 55 or 56-second last laps, specifically with the 5K. They are so aerobically fit, they are not tired coming into the bell. They are tired, but they are not tired enough that they can’t finish very fast. I think that is where we’ve been lacking. For a long time, Americans thought that a 13:20 was the gold standard. We thought that if you can run under 13:20 then you are a very successful runner. We wouldn’t push the boundaries of aerobic strength. Now, we kind of are doing that. Altitude obviously has a lot to do with that. You get to that last lap [and] you can roll with anybody, because it doesn’t matter so much how fast you are, but how strong you are to use whatever natural speed you do have. So that is the extent of the technology that I or anyone else in our group uses.

In other words, at the elite level, “better” doesn’t always equate to “complex.”

For six years, from 2001 to 2007, I had the dickens of a time making a living. I applied for hundreds of jobs – over 50 with one large employer alone.

Toward the end of that period, I was meditating one day, when I had a kind of waking vision. I saw a brown-skinned man in a woolen robe who stood before a crude rock hut, high in the Himalayas.

I sensed that his life was utterly simple – he had nothing, just the robe on his back, plus food and shelter. Yet on his face there was an enormous smile. I recognized that the brown-skinned man was me. And I knew from the vision that it is possible to be blissfully happy with few worldly goods.

A week later, I had another realization, and I emailed my spiritual teacher and told him about it. I said, “I have come to understand that I am in this world for only three reasons: to love God, to serve His work, and to live simply.”

I sent the email and forgot about it.

A week passed, and I received an email from my teacher’s secretary. He said that my teacher had read the email and had commented: “Very good.”

The sequel is that, bright and early the next morning, the phone began to ring off the hook. Jobs were suddenly pouring out of the sky. It was scary how many people were inviting me to work for them.

Since then, I’ve been able to make a modest living, as long as I’ve taken time to reflect on and practice the reasons I am here: to love God, to serve Him in others, and to live simply. I learned from this difficult test that all of the world’s money is contained in God’s purse.

My spiritual teacher tells the story of a Navaho man in Arizona who became friends with a neighboring rancher. Seeing that his Indian friend had few resources, the rancher said, “I’ve got more land than I can use – I’ll give you 20 acres, and you can raise more crops and have a better standard of living.”

The Indian man replied, “You are very kind, but if I had 20 more acres to tend, when would I find time for singing?”

Chris Solinsky runs countless miles at a high aerobic pace. He enjoys exploring the upper reaches of the aerobic spectrum, seeing how hard he can push without becoming anaerobic. His simple methods, carried out over many years, have brought him tremendous success.

About a year ago, I began incorporating elements of Arthur Lydiard’s methods in my running. The principles were simple, and they brought great results. But when I cleverly made things a shade too complicated, my progress faltered.  I began doing Lydiard-style hill exercises, with bounding, springing, and vertical “high-knees” leaping. And, at my age, added to my gym workouts and long runs, it was too much.

The demanding hill work injured my Achilles. To recover, I went back to simple aerobic running, with occasional skipping exercises. My body recovered rapidly, and I quickly regained the joy of running.

Life goes better when we keep it simple.

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