Saturday, December 11, 2010

How's your training going?

We all have a different idea about how hard we work, how much sacrifice we make, how disciplined we are. I have friends who tell me about their workout and it sounds absolutely easy and boring. Mine sounds grueling to my husband. We are all very, very different.

We all see the world through a different set of lenses.

I do know that there are rare individuals who put more effort into their training than most of us, individuals who have a drive that just isn't found in many people and you will now read about one.

After reading this article I started wondering if I was really pushing myself as hard as possible. I go to the gym every single day without fail. I have a written plan, I record what I do, but am I pushing myself as hard as I can or am I just wasting my time, getting up early to go hang at the gym?

I went to the gym the following morning, it was shoulder day. I used heavier weights than I had been using in a long time. It was really hard. I wanted to stop. My shoulders ached in the afternoon. They would undoubtedly be sore the next day.

I challenge you to do the same. Are you training as hard as possible every day? Are you even going to the gym?

I don't think we have any valid excuses not to.

This is an article by Lenny Bernstein, a fitness columnist for the Washington Post.

How's your exercise routine going? Are you hitting the gym consistently, putting in your 30 minutes a day, maybe even 60? Are you doing your reps, pounding out the miles, sticking with the program -- even in the face of work and family obligations and the hassles posed by the weather? Feeling pretty good about that?

Meet Aaron Heo.

His typical workout lasts 3 1/2 hours. An hour, sometimes 90 minutes, is cardio work, a relentless regimen of 1,000-meter sprints at breakneck speed. The rest of the time is devoted to a lengthy warm-up, followed by stamina, strength and flexibility work. That can mean 1,000 to 2,000 squats per session, along with stretching, jogging and plyometrics. Then he strains against a canvas belt held by a bigger, stronger friend or coach: back and forth, over and over again.
He does this, on average, four days a week. Another two days a week, he trains on his own.

Aaron is 10 years old.

He and his family live in Warrington, Pa., north of Philadelphia, but Aaron trains here in Wheaton, Laurel and Arlington. On Thursdays, his mother begins the five-hour round-trip drive with Aaron and his 8-year-old brother, Andrew (another promising local short-track champion) after school. They arrive home after midnight, and she trundles the youngsters off to bed and gets them up for school the next morning. They come back on Friday afternoons and stay through Sunday, living in an apartment they have rented in Laurel. Aaron's father joins them by train on Saturdays.

Aaron, a fifth-grader, is one of the best short-track speedskaters in the United States for his age, and this is the life he and his family have chosen so he can train with Dong-Sung Kim, the 1998 Olympic gold medalist, at the Arlington-based Potomac Speedskating Club.

If all goes as planned, Aaron will be standing on the podium at the conclusion of age-group championships during the first week of March, a few weeks after the Olympic speedskating competition ends in Vancouver, B.C.

It is a life of endless sacrifice for both Aaron and his parents, of rigid discipline to make it all work. He has a few friends from school, where, by the way, he also excels academically. But mostly, his friends are other speedskaters and the siblings and parents of speedskaters, all of whom have formed a close-knit extended family centered on Kim and the Washington area rinks where they spend so many evenings and early mornings.

The sport attracts Asian Americans, particularly Korean Americans such as Aaron and Andrew, whose compact body type is suited to its demands. In South Korea, speedskating is something of a national sport.

Aaron's dream is to skate in the Olympics, to win a medal like the coach who is training him with a careful eye, shouting words of encouragement and instruction as Aaron takes yet another corner, fearlessly flying around the ice, his form flawless, other tiny, speeding youngsters in pursuit.

"We just want to support him as long as he wants to continue," says his mother, Jennifer Heo.

Aaron's father, Peter, owns an auto repair shop in Philadelphia. In addition to the expenses of everyday life, the family pays $1,200 a month for ice time and coaching and $1,500 a month for the apartment, plus the cost of the commute. Speedskate boots run about $1,000 a pair; Aaron and Andrew go through a pair each year. The long, razor-sharp blades are $400 to $500 a pair; the boys need two or three pairs each year.

The skating itself is a breathtaking workout. Kim divides about 50 skaters into three groups based on their abilities. Aaron's group will sprint through a nine-lap, 1,000-meter race in 1 minute 45 seconds, then skate slowly in circles while the other groups take their turns. Then he is back at it again.

Jennifer Heo admits to some concerns about the rigors of the training, whether that much physical exertion could harm her son. But she trusts Kim and his methods. Peter Heo says his son's doctor has voiced no opposition to the workouts. He believes the exercise makes his son both physically exceptional and mentally focused. On the report card he received the other day, Aaron was once again on the honor roll.

"The training he does, the coaching, keeps him up with his studies," Peter says. "It makes him focus on his studies."

CeCe LeBauer, president of the Potomac Speedskating Club, says that while Kim is old-school in his training methods, he is careful to adjust his demands to the age and abilities of the skaters, who range in age from 5 to older than 50.

And in the meantime, Aaron will do what is necessary to realize his dream.

Kim "is an Olympic gold medalist," Jennifer says. "That's why we're here."

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