Hello Michael. What have you been up to? I’ve been hearing about Michael Johnson Young Leaders. Yes, the foundation is a really exciting project for me; I just launched this year. I think it’s unique. What we are doing is identifying young people from around the world who have really come through some tough, challenging times and situations in their communities, and they’ve been able to rise above that through their passion for sport. What’s really unique about these young people is they have shown real leadership skills in their communities, starting projects of their own or using sport to help other young people. So what my foundation is doing is giving them the tools to go and be effective and reach their full potential as leaders. That’s what I’ve been spending my time on these days.
What prompted it? Is it something you’ve been working on for ages? It’s something that I’ve been involved in: how sport can change people’s lives. I’ve been involved in that around the world since I retired 16 years ago. I’ve been involved in some great organisations that use sport to bring people from the depths, in whatever situations they find themselves in, to help them. But this is different; given the right tools and opportunities, some of these young people can be leaders because they have such potential.
How much running do you do these days? I always start that by giving the caveat that let’s not even think about what I used to do, in running terms, because there’s absolutely no comparison. People ask me if I still run, and that answer would be no. Then the next question would be, “So you don’t run at all?” and that’s not true – I do, but it’s completely different. As a sprinter, you never go out for a three-mile jog, but now I’ll do that once or twice a week. And it took me a while, actually, to get used to that. I was like, “Why would anyone go out and just run for 20 minutes?”
And so slowly! Yes! And it’s long, and constant, and as a sprinter it’s just short intervals: start, stop, start, stop. But I do go out now and enjoy a 20- to 30-minute run, or maybe in the gym doing some functional strength and resistance training, or the rowing machine, something like that. In my job at Michael Johnson Performance I’m in a high-class training centre with world-class athletes every day, and we’ve got all of the equipment there so every now and then I’ll just jump into a training session with a bunch of kids, whatever I can do to keep it fresh – a little bit of variety.
Have you found some nice routes, a favourite place to run? I spend most of my time, when I’m not in Dallas, in San Francisco and there are some nice trails there. We have relaxing trails right outside my backyard.
Do you remember your first ever race? Yeah, absolutely. I was 10 years old, my first organised race. Where I grew up, I could just walk outside and there would be kids, we’d be playing sport and we’d organise our own races up and down the street. But my first organised race, I was 10, in Dallas at part of the Parks and Recreation summer programme, called the Jesse Owens Games, actually. So my first race was, I think, a 100-yard dash; that was back when we still called it yards. And I won it, and one of my sisters was also in the programme and she won the race before me. So we were pretty happy; there was quite the celebration!
You obviously spend a lot of time giving training tips. What’s your top one, for runners? One of the things I see most is that many runners don’t run symmetrically. A lot of these people have been running for a very long time but they still don’t understand that symmetry is extremely important for injury prevention but also for performance. People have their thing – rhythm is very important when you are running, so people have their quirky little ways to keep that. In many cases, that might be the right hand doing something completely different to the left, the right arm swinging in a different way, or a side-to-side motion or something like that. And that dramatically increases your risk of injury.
Do you listen to music when you run? No, I don’t. I know most people do, but I tried it a couple of times but I didn’t really like it. Maybe it’s because coming from a sprint background and never having done that … But also, I like being outside and experiencing all the sounds and everything.
How about gadgets? I do measure how far I’ve gone, and how much time, so I use the Nike Plus GPS watch, just for measuring distance and time.
What’s the worst thing about running? As an athlete, when I was competing, I had a lot of friends who played American football in the NFL. And if they were just a little bit banged up, a little bit injured, they could still play. As a sprinter, you are either healthy and can compete, or not, and you can’t. That’s always tough and it’s a big part of the sport, injury. You are never going to find a sprinter who hasn’t experienced an injury and pretty much every year it’s going to be something. If you are on the shelf at that point you can’t continue to compete, you have to switch your focus to rehab completely and that’s tough.
What about the best thing? I think it’s just very pure. There’s very little equipment, it’s not subjective at all. A lot of people might not think that is the best thing but it’s one thing that I enjoyed: when the gun goes off you’ve got to execute. There’s no half-time, there’s no adjustments to be made and come back next time. It’s all right there. It’s all about execution. And I like that.
What’s your post-race indulgence? When I was competing, it was very, very balanced. I didn’t really deprive myself or have this ultra-strict diet or lifestyle. I think it’s kind of a relic from old days that people think athletes are great athletes because they are willing to make all these sacrifices that normal people wouldn’t make. That’s not true; great athletes are great because they are blessed with a tremendous amount of talent and work very hard to figure out how to smartly and intelligently get the best from themselves and their performance. Working now with athletes at the highest level, our advice to them is: if you try to get an athlete on a nutrition programme that is something they don’t like; they don’t want to do it as it’s not balanced, they are not going to do it.
Did you have a set pre-race meal or breakfast? No, I didn’t have a particular meal simply because with all the travelling around the world you never know what’s going to be available and the last thing you want is to get yourself into a ritual, and all of a sudden it’s not available. I tried to avoid that and superstition and that sort of thing. You have to learn to be flexible about it, not let it affect your performance.
Usain Bolt or Mo Farah? Of course I’d watch Usain Bolt. Just because having been a sprinter. I love watching Mo Farah, but any time I watch athletics, the favourite thing for me is the sprints over everything else. So that’s an easy one for me. I’ll switch to Mo for the last 600 metres!
For you, who is the greatest ever runner? Jesse Owens. Bar none.
Source: Read Full Article