For the last year or so, I've been on a journey to become a better runner and OCR athlete. I've been working with renowned running coach Richard Diaz, owner of Diaz Human Performance, and coach to some of today's top OCR athletes. My journey to becoming a more efficient competitor, however, has not mimicked that of those said top athletes. Like most amateur OCR athletes, though my competitive desire is strong, my resources are limited. And, like many, I have a full-time job, family, and responsibilities. Finding time to train is always a challenge. Most days it happens, some days, it doesn't.
My initial meeting with Richard some ten months ago was the springboard I needed to take my running game to the next level, and since then I've been diligent about putting to use all that I've learned from him. But without regular intervention, it's easy to stray from ‘correct' running form and regress to what's comfortable. As the 2019 season got underway, I knew I needed a tune-up. Enter the DHP Super Clinic.
Traditionally, this is an opportunity that comes twice in the year: A summer clinic in June, and a winter version in January, but with Coach Diaz not traveling as much these days, there's a strong chance the Super Clinic will be offered more than twice a year. I had heard nothing but positive feedback from those who had attended past clinics, and the timing was right, so I decided this was another ‘calculated investment' that had a potentially big payback. It didn't hurt that, while some of the 25-or-so participants were flying in from all around the country, I was only a short 30-minute drive from the ‘Secret Lab'.
The premise of the Super Clinic is fairly simple: Three days of diagnostic testing, gait analysis and correction, informational seminars, and real-world application of everything we would learn during our individual work with Coach Diaz. I was looking forward, not just to getting back on track, but, hopefully, to bringing my fitness level and running game to the next level.
Pre-Clinic & Day One
Those who were local (or who flew in earlier in the week) were encouraged to schedule their testing on Thursday, so as to spread out the testing over the two days. I, along with about ten other participants, showed up bright and early on Thursday to do just that. We began with an RMR (Resting Metabolic Rate) test, performed by Richard's wife Lori, a certified nutritionist. For those who might not be familiar with this test, it's used to determine the amount of energy your body uses while at rest, by analyzing the amount of oxygen your body takes in and the amount of carbon dioxide it produces. This is important because it helps determine how many calories you should be taking in during the day in order to adequately fuel your body, and where those calories should be coming from. In my case, it was extremely informative (and somewhat surprising), as it showed that not only am I burning more calories at rest than I'm taking in throughout the day, but that 100% of the energy my body was using was coming from sugar, or carbohydrates, in lieu of fat, which is a more sustainable source of energy. This could potentially pose a problem when it comes to endurance, especially during longer races. Lori would use the test results to help me make an informed decision about how to alter my diet to facilitate maximum energy efficiency when I met with her the following day.
Once I was finished with my RMR test, I headed into the Secret Lab, where Richard was working on individual running gait analysis (which I sorely needed) and conducting V02 max tests on each participant. V02 max is basically the maximum rate of oxygen that your body can consume during increasingly intense exercise. The importance here is that, theoretically, the larger your V02 max score, the longer and harder you would be able to run before succumbing to fatigue. Though my actual score was pretty good (63), as suspected, the results showed that I was burning 100% of my energy from sugar. Ideally, the body should be burning 50% from fat and 50% from sugar, though even if I could get to 25% or 30% from fat, that would be a serious milestone for me. Once everyone present had finished their RMR and V02 max tests, we headed out back to analyze and discuss our results with Richard, and, as the evening wound down, Richard shared some insights and new theories from his soon-to-be-published book.
On Friday, those who were not present on Thursday came to do their RMR and V02 max tests, while those of us who were there came a little later in the day to discuss our RMR test results with Lori, and talk nutrition options and strategies. In my case, based on my test results, she suggested I take in a minimum of 2,500 calories a day, ideally with about 60% of those coming from carbohydrates, 20% from protein, and the other 20% from fats. Having never actually paid that much attention to my diet or counted calories before, I knew this was going to be a process, but I was excited about the potential for improvement that an on-target diet could bring. I left for the day, both feeling positive about the changes, and struggling to make sense of all this new information. I was enthralled and slightly overwhelmed at the same time.
At 7:30 on Saturday morning we met at the Secret Lab. Today would be a day to put to use what we had learned so far and to just simply put in work. At about 7:45 we headed to a local park (which happened to have a beautiful 400 meter track circling it), where we met with Dennis Dunphy, director of education for Stick Mobility, which is a company that teaches stretching, joint mobilization, and strength training by using specialized 4-7 foot long sticks. He put us through an hour-long workout, teaching us how to use the sticks, and explaining how it translated to foot stability and better running and recovery. The best part? The clinic participants got to keep the sticks! Now that we were warmed-up and stretched out, we did some barefoot running and cadence work in the grass with Richard, before putting back on our shoes, and heading for the track. So far, so good.
At about 10:00 AM, we packed up and headed for the famed ‘Gulch of the Gods', a short 10-minute drive away. As I suspected, it was an actual gulch located at the bottom of another local park, where Richard regularly trains clients like Spartan Elite Veejay Jones. We warmed up with a one-mile run around a slightly elevated course, then got to work with some uphill carries, sandbag burpees, rope climbs, and one-legged up and downhill runs, before ending with another one-mile run, made more difficult by the fact that we were all absolutely exhausted! At about noon we called it a day. Those who did their testing on Friday were invited to meet with Lori to discuss results and nutrition, and everyone was invited to meet at a local Mexican restaurant at 5:00 for drinks, appetizers, and just to enjoy each other's company. It was a welcome reprise, especially considering what was to come tomorrow.
Sunday morning we met bright and early at Sycamore Cove, just north of Malibu. At about 7:00 AM, Veejay led the group on a challenging (but undeniably scenic) five-mile run in the hills above the cove. Once we were finished with the run, we knew what was coming. We headed north along the Pacific Coast Highway to a sand dune that overlooked the beach. There, Richard put us through a battery of exercises and relays that included running up and down the 45-or-so degree angle with and without buckets, sandbags, and other horribly awkward and heavy objects. It was brutal. Point taken. Sandy, sweaty, and exhausted, we made our way back to the cove, took in whatever liquids and fuel we could, and headed for the beach. Though the air was a comfortable 70 degrees, we soon found out the water was not as warm. After putting us through a barrage of exercises, including planks, squats, and toe-touches, we were instructed to roll down the sand and into the water. Wading in slowly only prolonged the inevitable, so it was head first into the waves for me. Once out, we repeated the entire procedure. And again. And again. Ugh. I'll admit, it was tough, but invigorating at the same time. Finally, we broke into two teams for the last task…the infamous ‘Tug of War'. First, it was co-ed teams, then the men vs. the men and females vs. females, with each ‘losing' team ending up back in the water for a full minute (which, of course, seemed like an eternity if you were on the losing end). Though luckily, I ended up on the winning team both times, I took a final dunk in the ocean to show my solidarity to the squad. After all, we had suffered together for the last 48 hours, or so, and that was definitely worth something.
Without a doubt, it was an awesome three (OK, technically four) days. For me, this was an amazing opportunity, and I'm incredibly thankful to have been a part of it. Not only did I get a much-needed tune-up when it came to my running form, but I also learned some new and important information about myself and how my future nutritional habits can and will play a part in my athletic potential. To be honest, I feel like I took in so much information this weekend, it will take me at least the next week to sort it all out in my head and put it to use. But sort it out and use it I will, as this kind of information is just too valuable to throw by the wayside, if you're seriously interested in becoming a better and more efficient runner. Will everyone who needs it have access to the opportunity that I did this past weekend? Probably not. For some, an investment like this may simply not be an option. But, if it is, and you have the opportunity, I'd highly suggest not letting it pass you by.
The next DHP Super Clinic will take place on October 11-13 in Camarillo, CA. Go to naturalrunningcoach.net for more information.