Even with pandemic, we can be safe and still get out and run. Photo: courtesy of Running Niche

April 11, 2021 — I was watching a Japanese news on YouTube recently and I heard something interesting — “Corona Locomo”. Japanese love to shorten words and put them together. The actual name is: “Corona-related Locomotive Sydrome”. As expected, lifestyle in Japan is a bit different from US or Canada or Australia…. For one, though many more people today own a car and they drive, the main source of traveling is bus and train. Though as popular as it is in China, many people ride a bike as well. Even during the Corona virus lock-down, many people don’t think much about driving to a store and pick up a few things and get home. But when you have to walk to a bus stop or a train station, buy a ticket and wait for a half an hour…and of course, sitting or standing on a bus or a train is most likely not a good place for “social distancing”…. So tendency to not go out at all, especially among older people, are quite a bit higher in Japan than those other above mentioned countries. Naturally, elderly people during the COVID lock-down, tendency of their exercise greatly reduced is quite high. And, the news said, this is quickly becoming a national issue.

At Facebook, someone posted the interview with the late Ron Clarke, considered by many experts the greatest distance runner in history. Unfortunately I lost the link to include it here but, in it, he said: “What is the most important organ in our body? People say it’s your heart, lungs…or liver. But it’s actually your legs!!” Obviously, we don’t mean to put down people on a wheelchair or anything like that!! His point is, as the legendary ice hockey coach from Minnesota, Herb Brooks would say: “Legs feed wolves.” Legs, or whatever would do the exercise for you, are the ones that pump blood through your body and carry through “breath of life”, OXYGEN. Any form of AEROBIC exercise would suffice — run…, if you can’t run, walk, or bike or swim…anything would do!! But if you don’t do anything, you would sure to deteriorate!

Two new books by Peter Snell and Garth Gilmour in 2006

In 2006, combination of Peter Snell and Garth Gilmour published 2 books; one was revised biography of Peter Snell — this was basically the second edition to his first biography, “No Bugles, No Drums”, and “life after athlete” of this New Zealand’s “Athlete of the Century” is now added. Another one is called “Use It, or Lose It”. The primary interest of Peter, as a post-athlete exercise physiologist, was muscles. He often talked about the simple concept of “stimulus-adaptation”. Simply put, you stimulate certain muscle fibers and they will get stronger. If you neglect certain muscle fibers, they’ll get weaker. In terms of Lydiard Training, if you do nothing but Long Slow Distance, your fast twitch fibers won’t get simulated and you’ll have a hard time running fast!! That’s why you do Hill Training and Interval training to work on fast twitch fibers. Coupled with big aerobic base training that you had done earlier, now you are a complete runner. This is why Lydiard would say: “Everything is important!” Now, even light effort exercise, you don’t do anything, your body will get weaker and weaker. I remember, 4 years ago when we moved from Plymouth, MN, to Excelsior, MN; our new house is literally attached to a nice trail and we can just hop out and the trail is there! Naturally, that trail had become my main training venue. Then I went to Boulder, CO, to help a Japanese corporate team’s training camp, I was unpleasantly surprised that, while my heart and lungs were fine at altitude, any slight undulation just killed my legs!! My legs weren’t used to hills.

My 91-year-old mom who lives in Japan walks to a grocery store every day. In Japan, where “space” is very scarce, naturally, our refrigerator is rather small. Consequently she pretty much has to buy food for the day (refrigerator is for left-overs!!). So at 91, she walks about a mile and a half every day. She used to bike but, as you know, the slower you go on a bike, the less stable you’ll become and, about 4 years ago, she fell and broke her arm. So now she walks. My brother who still lives in Japan is worried about her. But I would be more worried if she stops walking. On the other hand, my brother’s wife’s mom is the other side of the coin. She had a knee replacement surgery about 3 years ago and, because it hurts, she more or less stays in bed. Now she doesn’t have appetite so she won’t eat much. Now she doesn’t have energy to do much at all…. It seems she had deteriorated quite a bit within a few years. “Legs feed wolves…”

Bill Bowerman, left, and Arthur Lydiard

As Arthur Lydiard — and Bill Bowerman — was, I am also very interested in starting up running program for anybody. This is called “The First Step” — something I put together back in 2006 for MDRA’s “Beginning Women’s Running Class” at Maple Grove. This is a program to get you from ZERO to 20-minutes of CONTINUOUS running. Anybody who is inspired to lace up running shoes to get out for the first run, I highly recommend to check out this “Jogging — the Lydiard Way” that Lydiard put together in 1970. He liked to talk about this “vigor” — the feel-good effect you gain from physically fitter. Many people misunderstand Lydiard to be a hard-nose coach who expect you to run 100-miles-a-week. Quite contrary, he always said: “We all know our own limitations. If you keep within your limitations, you’ll keep improving…”. The true concept of Lydiard is: “TRAIN, DON’T STRAIN!” Simply put, you do what you can today. If you can run, run. If you can’t, run-walk. If not, just walk. And you keep at it, you’ll improve. You may run a mile today. It’ll become 2-miles next week…or next month. I’ve written a blog on a “Come-back Story” a few months ago (“The Sun Will Shine Again…”)…if you don’t use it, you’ll deteriorate. If you keep within yourself and keep at it, you WILL improve. Even with pandemic, we can be safe and still get out and exercise.