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Clay Williams Ultra Runner

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New Year, New training Philosophy

Posted by Clay Williams on January 3, 2013 at 8:25 AM

There's an Arnold Schwartzenegger quote that really inspires me to keep running when I'm tempted to walk near the end of my long training runs: "The last three or four reps is what makes the muscle grow. This area of pain divides the champion from someone else who is not a champion. That’s what most people lack, having the guts to go on and just say they’ll go through the pain no matter what happens. " And the more I think about it, the more sense it makes.

When I had a personal trainer last winter, helping me with leg strength training, I would run a mile to warm up, then he would have me doing a couple sets of 100 leg presses or leg extensions. And he would say something like: "gotta love pre-exhaustion" as I cringed from the lactic acid burn during the last few reps.

I know it has taken far too long, but I finally put it together: if I'm doing a set of 100 reps, the last 5 are the most important. If I'm on a 15 or 20 mile run, the last mile is the most important. All of the miles and reps prior to the last little bit are just warm ups, just being done to pre-exhaust me so that I am REALLY challenged to do the last little bit. The last few reps or the last couple of miles is the time when I normally start to think: "well, I've already done 95% of my workout, and I can stop now expecting 95% of the planned result." But it doesn't quite work that way. Most of the gain (strength, endurance) is the result of the last few gut wrenching reps, or the last couple rubber-legged running miles. The gains come from the time when we decide that we want the end result more than we want a brief relief from the pain of the run.

So I've got a new attitude when I'm training: I won't slow down and walk near the end of my long run. I won't walk up the hill when I'm feeling winded. I won't rush through the last few squats or presses when my legs are burning. I've got a very ambitious goal this year that is going to challenge me more than ever, so I've got to work harder and smarter than ever, and I think this is going to help. 2013 is going to be a great year, and I'm ready to work hard to make it so. What do YOU think about pushing a little harder for those last few reps or yards? Is it worth the effort?

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