For years, Grete Waitz has been the epitome of excellence in women's running, with such credentials as seven New York City Marathon titles, an Olympic silver medal and several world track titles.
But while nobody is more of an expert than Waitz on distance running and marathon training, she doesn't translate that skill into her debut video for the intermediate and advanced runner. "Running Great With Grete Waitz" goes the distance of an hour, but it quickly hits the wall and has to struggle to the finish.
The video is suited mainly for the novice athlete, not the experienced one it claims to address. It is the beginning runner who would do well by spending the money for the hour's worth of coaching.
The video breaks down the progression of running into 10 parts:
1) an introduction;
2) the warmup;
3) running form;
4) base building (increasing mileage);
5) building up speed and distance;
6) the video inexplicably has no No. 6;
7) inner running (concentration and motivation);
9) race preparation; and
10) extras, including a 10-minute cool down, a muscle-building program and a four-part training schedule.
Waitz has allowed herself only an hour to discuss topics in intermediate and advanced running -- such as speed workouts and mental state -- that could legitimately take days to cover. Then she annoyingly takes a full 15 minutes to demonstrate how to stretch before the run and cool down after -- something most experienced runners should already know about.
In the "Building Up" segment, Waitz is shown doing speed workouts, one workout on the grass and roads and the other on the track with her coach/husband Jack Waitz. This is where she could have talked about the effects of speedwork on the cardiovascular system and on the mental state of the fine-tuned athlete. This is where she could have cautioned about different types of injuries caused by speedwork and when to pull back or stop running completely.
Her only advice on speed is: "To get the maximum benefits from your harder quality workouts, alternate easy and hard days with recovery." But why and how?
The segment on strengthening -- hill repetitions and intervals on the track -- is just as basic.
"This video project is a new direction for me," Waitz said in an interview, "but I wanted to show that running isn't boring. Basically, I run because I enjoy it. I wanted to share that with other people -- the fun of running and being healthy."
Had Waitz produced more powerful segments like the one called "Inner Running," she might have become the Jane Fonda of the running videos.
"It is important to train your mind to work with your body," she says during that segment. Waitz suggests using imagery while training -- imagining, for example, the cheering crowds at the New York City Marathon. She said that at New York last year, when she was struggling through the last three miles of the 26.2-mile race, she kept reminding herself that the distance from her house in Norway to the food store is the same distance. She also suggests keeping a diary and setting goals.
"It is important to have a goal," she says, "because without a goal, what are you running for? When you have a goal, it's so much easier to work hard and get motivated. It's also important that the goals of the runner are realistic."