Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Do Women Really Weaken Legs? Answers to That Question and Much, Much More!

Fred has left a new comment on "Suggest a Topic!":

I'd be interesting in hearing what an athlete's typical work week looks like. Do they work out 5, 6 or 7 days? How many workouts per day? How many hours per workout? What does their diet look like, and how many calories in the average week would they burn off? Do women really weaken legs? How much time do they spend on the massage table? What do they do for lactic acid? How much sleep do they take in? How much alcohol?

What is absolutely forbidden? It's a reasonable assumption that recreational drugs, late nights, tequila shots, and trips to malaria-infested regions are all verboten, but sports training has become so scientific, it's not a stretch to imagine that horror movies, yard work and high heels might also be off-limits.

I've posed too many questions to answer, but any insight you may have into the everyday daily life of an athlete would be fascinating.

Entire books have been written about many of the questions you have asked and many of them are much better written than anything I could write, even in a 100 posts. I can, however, point you in the direction of the best of those books.

James F. Fixx's The Complete Book of Running, although now a bit outdated, started the running craze in 1977 when it was released. Some people say Frank Shorter's marathon victory at the 1972 Olympics in Munich started the running boom, but his victory only inspired us fanatics. The average civilian was inspired by Jim Fixx's book 5 years later. It's currently out of print but it's well-worth the trouble of hunting down. I still read it every so often whenever I need some inspiration.

For the more serious runner who is looking to advance to the intermediate competitive level, I recommend Bob Glover's The Competitive Runner's Handbook: The Bestselling Guide to Running 5Ks through Marathons.

I recommend Daniels' Running Formula for those scientists among us. Jim Ryun, one of the greatest middle-distance runners of all time, said, "this book is a fine example of the perfection that the running world has come to expect from Jack Daniels. Well thought out, concise, and purposeful, it embodies the training programs of time-proven principles that enhanced my own running performances. Simply put, Daniels’ formula works. This book is a must read for every runner and coach interested in achieving peak performance."

For the masters runner, I recommend Hal Higdon's Masters Running: A Guide to Running and Staying Fit After 40. Higdon is one of the greatest masters of all time so he can write from a position of experience and authority.

For beginning coaches, and for a general overview of the sport of track and field, I recommend Fundamentals of Track and Field by Gerald A. Carr.

For field events, I recommend Complete Book of Jumps by Ed Jacoby and Bob Fraley, and Complete Book of Throws by Jay Silvester.

For the nutritional aspects of athletics, I recommend Nutrition for Serious Athletes by Dr. Dan Benardot.

If you're looking for that extra advantage that will get you to the finish line first, I recommend a book about visualization techniques by Kay Porter called The Mental Athlete.

For the ultimate insight into the mind of a middle-distance runner, I recommend a work of fiction. Once a Runner: A Novel by John L. Parker, has a rabid cult following among runners. Also out of print, it is also well-worth tracking down. It's pricey, though, going for as high as $100+ in rare book stores and websites. A long-awaited sequel, called Again to Carthage, is supposedly due out late this summer.

I realize now that I have just asked you to buy 10 books. If you're really just after a little bit of insight into the world of track and field, perhaps the best single book I could recommend would be Pre: The Story of America's Greatest Running Legend, Steve Prefontaine by Tom Jordan. It offers a glimpse into the athletic life of one of the most intense and charismatic track athletes the world has ever known. Highly recommended.

As for your question about whether or not women really weaken legs, New York Yankees manager Casey Stengel put it best: "It's not the sex that wrecks these guys, it's staying up all night looking for it."

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