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RELAX AND WIN
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Original article appeared 1974 in Philadelphia Bulletin
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Interview with Bud Winter

Would you like to run faster? You can, you know. All you have to do is relax. "Well," says LC (Bud) Winter, "that's not quite all. But relaxing is the main thing.

The way to run faster is with a four-fifths effort. Just take it nice and easy. Remember the demand for 110 percent effort? It's wrong. Going all out is counter-productive. Our greatest athletes have been the sleepy looking guys. Joe DiMaggio, John Unitas."

Fair enough, but who says so? Who's Bud Winter? He's a track coach, a specialist in sprinting. For many, Winter has rated as the most consistently successful coach of sprinters on the planet. During his first three decades at San Jose State (1940-1970) Winter's sprinters broke or tied the world record at all distances from 50 yards through 440 yards. For a period in the late 1960's they held all the records at the same time. And in that period they also broke the world 880 relay record and set American records for the 440 and mile relays.

A fan of all sports, Winter is depressed these days by the fact that baseball and football players remain so slow. "Baseball players," he says "are the most atrocious runners. They're slowed by their big butts. You can't run with a caboose sticking out. The problem is that guys with big butts take little strides." Winter at 63 is a forceful but soft-spoken 6 footer with the ruddy look of an outdoorsman and the patience to write four best-selling books including "So You Want to Be a Sprinter."

Today he is a fulltime writer, lecturer and track consultant who thinks any baseball or football team playing .500 ball could become a champion by applying his major principles: run relaxed using perfect form. "Everybody can learn to run faster," he says. " and most people can improve a lot. Your inherent speed is just part of it. The trained sprinter is faster, and the key is learning how to relax under the pressure of combat. An athlete who wants to die for dear old Rutgers or San Jose State misses the point. He's no good dead."

Question: What's wrong with the all-out try?

Answer: "Your antagonistic muscles mess up your performing muscles. A clenched fist is the mark of a loser. So is a set jaw.

Question: What are antagonistic muscles?

Answer: The reverse of performing muscles. For instance, it takes one set of muscles to extend the arm and another set to draw it in. Under conditions of tension, antagonistic muscles drag you back.

Question: Should an athlete attempt to fully relax his antagonistic muscles?

Answer: Yes, that's what leads to full efficiency of performing muscles. The thing you want is leg speed-the legs are moving faster-and relaxation achieves this. Therefore, to run at top speed, you run with a four-fifths effort. This theory applies to other things too. Have you ever stood next to a shot putter who, after coming close to a record says: "That seemed easy?"

Question: Not recently.

Answer: I have. He's thinking: "That was so easy I'm going to gun it this time." The guy wants to set a shot put record that will last forever. But when he guns it the second time, it falls three feet short of the first one.

Question: After an incident like this, can you explain to an athlete what went wrong?

Answer: We try, but most people find such things hard to believe. Here's another example. At San Jose, to get a man's inherent speed, we measure him at 30 yards with a running start. If he's any kind of an athlete, he'll do it the first time in about 3 seconds. Then we talk it over and I tell him to have 2 things in mind when he runs it again: keeping his hands loose and his jaw loose. And that time, invariably, he takes from 1 tenth to 2 tenths off his time. But even when we show him the watch he can't believe it.

Question: To be a great sprinter, what does it take besides the ability to relax?

Answer: It takes perfect form. You've got to have that to reach your full potential.

Question: What do you mean by "perfect form"?

Answer: There are a half dozen or more essentials, starting with high knees. A man doesn't walk with his knees up, so first you have to develop the muscles for it. The second and most important essential is foreleg reach. The knees have to be pumped high; but they can't be pumped straight down unless what you want is to run in place. Watch a whippet sometimes or a racehorse. They're extending their legs as far as they can.

Question: What are the other essentials?

Answer: Good arm action, lean forward, run tall, and "dig a hole" in the track with each foot as it comes down.

GC Cross Country