Coach Toya
Coach Toya

In linguistics, grammar is the set of structural rules governing the composition of clauses, phrases, and words in any given natural language.  In the unspoken language of running the grammatical structure — the clauses, phrases, and words — comes from the components of the workouts – hills, repeats, tempo, long runs, etcetera. Only when properly ordered do these structural elements turn into the finished composition of racing success.

For many new runners it is difficult to understand the grammar of this language; running is just running.  This illiteracy is often seen first in the approach to workouts.  What many might see as tangential, the warm-up and cool-down, rather than being a precursor or postscript, are instead primary elements of the workout itself.  Thus, the grammar of the workouts must be understood before the composition of the race can be mastered.

“So now we have warm-up and cool-down paces,” said coach Toya, “because we can’t have them dragging their bodies during the warm up and cool-down.  ‘Don’t drag your body! That is what it will remember!’

“People condition themselves into believing their limitations, and the body follows suit.  People are not used to marshaling their forces. Plus, they work all day, and you have to take that into account and be sensitive to  it.  At the same time they have to remain focused.  ‘I need you focused till May. You are not just out here on Thursday night.  You are out here on Thursday night X weeks out from your race.  This is part of the plan.  We are doing this workout on this day, in this week, during this month as we aim toward that race.’ And you have to make them a part of it — ‘I see why we are doing this.’

“If they come to the workout after working all day and their mind set is, ‘I’m tired and down’, that isn’t setting them up for a positive workout. So the warm up is just as much to transition their attitude as it is to prepare their body.  And when we finish that last repeat, we’re not done. There is a reason for the cool down, rather than, ‘I’m through, so I can just walk-jog now’.

If Strunk & White had been coaches rather than an English prof and an author, they might have said, Vigorous running is concise. A workout should contain no unnecessary elements, a repeat no unnecessary steps, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the runner make all his workouts short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his training only in outline, but that he make every step tell, even the slow ones.

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