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Magness Speaks — Learning From Alan Webb

 Steve Magness (#72), as a high school senior, with Alan Webb (#73) at the Pre Classic 2003. 

Steve Magness (#72), as a high school senior, with Alan Webb (#73) at the Pre Classic 2003. 

400 meter repeats; twenty of them in total with a scant 60 to 90 seconds of rest in between. Starting at 60 seconds per 400 meters, and ending number 20 in a blistering 50.1 seconds.

This mind-blowing workout comes from the log of Alan Webb, performed in the weeks leading up to his American Record (3:46) in the mile. In a recent podcast with Alan, we broke this workout down rep by rep; but what struck me wasn't the awe-inspiring workout, but what he did the following day; he rested, completely.

One of the lessons that I've learned in coaching elite runners is that when you are riding the razor's edge of stress and recovery, when you have a phenomenal day, that isn't a signal to push forward, it's a signal to pull back.

Yet our temptation is often to do the opposite. How many times do we get excited as athletes or coaches after a breakthrough race. "Wow, you just dropped from a 4:20 mile to a 4:10 one!" Then, the next week of workouts we start formulating based on the athlete being a 4:10 miler. Yet, a week ago, he was training as if he was a 4:20 miler.

We get greedy. Excitement and new possibilities fill our minds. "What if I can go faster, work harder, accomplish more..." It's easy to fall into this trap. Part of the human condition, and certainly the athlete condition, is never being fully satisfied. When a breakthrough occurs, it acts as fuel to our motivational fire. But our reaction shouldn't be to drive forward. It should be to take a step back and assess where you actually are.

As Alan aptly put it, he had just completed something that his body and mind had never done before. Even for someone who had run world-class times and workouts preceding this, a workout of this magnitude was unheard of. His body had reached a new level. When you are somewhere you haven't been before, your body doesn't need to press down on the gas further, it needs to step back and absorb what has been done.

The lesson from Alan is a simple, yet profound one. We are our most vulnerable when we are reaching new heights. The prospect for success is at its highest. Don't let the excitement blind you to what you've done. In any endeavor, success begets greed. Next time you have a breakthrough, be it in athletics or in your workplace, remember the lesson from Alan. Respect the work and effort it took to reach that performance.


Any questions? You can send me a Direct Message on Twitter.  Thank you for reading.| Steve

This post originally appeared on at Steve's Peak Performance website

Steve Magness