What Does Endurance Mean? Ask Sprinter "Doc" Patton About How an Athlete Lasts
Elite athletes are known for enduring grueling training sessions. It’s what they do: trudge out in the heat, the rain – in whatever conditions – again and again. They cope with constant pain and fatigue. But Darvis “Doc” Patton – a two-time Olympian, a two-time world Champion, and a two-time U.S Champion – has a confession: “Earlier in my career I got by mostly on natural talent. I didn’t train as hard as I could have and should have,“ says Patton.
You wouldn’t know it by looking at his résumé: In 2004, Patton captured a silver medal in the 4 x 100 relay at the Summer Olympics in Athens. He’s a two-time world outdoor gold medalist in the 4 x 100 relay and the 2002 USA outdoor 200 meter champion. He was also a finalist in the 100 meters at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.
But Patton realized a few years ago that he needed to take training and overall health more seriously and do a better job of staying fit. “When I was in my early 20s it was more about looking good in a body suit and having ‘guns’ than lifting weights for strength,” recalls Patton. He also didn’t pay much attention to eating the right foods and getting adequate rest, he says.
That changed in 2006, when Patton suffered an injury that sidelined him. “I realized that I had to change my lifestyle.” Working with strength coach and nutritionist Eric Minor, Patton immediately knocked out junk food, including burgers, fried foods and what he calls “lots of sweets.” He began working harder in the weight room and getting serious about stretching and massages. The new regimen paid immediate dividends: It helped him climb from number 17 in the world to number 2 in 2007.
Today, Patton focuses on a diet filled with eggs, sandwiches, and lean meats, with fruits and vegetables at every meal. “I stay away from anything fried,” he says. What’s more, he’s in the weight room a couple of hours a day rather than, he says, “making an appearance.” Minor also taught him to lift weights properly: “He corrected my form and helped me achieve better balance. The time I spend in the weight room is a lot more meaningful.”
Patton still devotes about four hours a day to track work, typically starting his training at 9 a.m. Working with trainer Monte Stratton, he spends about two hours on the track and then heads to the weight room. The first eight weeks leading up to track season he does stadium workouts, including single-leg hops, double-leg hops, lunges, running bleachers, hill workouts, plyometrics, hurdle drills, and various sprint drills. The next eight weeks focuses on endurance and speed track workouts. Once the season starts Patton transitions into more focused speed work. Wednesdays and weekends serve as recovery days (Patton gets one a massage once a week).
The result? Patton is still going strong at age 34 — a remarkable achievement for a sprinter. This year, he ran his fastest 200-meter time, 19.98, and finished second at the 2011 USA Outdoor Championships. “I am simply trying to put my God-given talent to maximum use,” says Patton.
Training Advice: “You have to know when to give your body a rest so you can do it all over again. It’s also important to know when to shut it down so you don’t over-exert yourself and wind up with an injury or burned-out.”
Do you have a favorite training regimen or technique that keeps you going strong? What does endurance mean to you?
–Sam Greengard, Runner’s World Reporter
Photo Courtesy of Darvis Patton