David McNeill, an Australian Olympian and former NCAA athlete, is one of the first Australian selected athletes to compete at this year's Olympic Games. With his Australian National Championship 10k in December 5th, David ran the Olympic Qualifying time of 28:03.69 (he also ran the Olympic A standard with 27:45.01 in the 10,000m at the Payton Jordan Invitation in May 2015).
In the 2012 London games, David ran the 5000m.
While running at Northern Arizona University, David was a 9X All-American. He has since moved back to Australia where he runs 100+ miles/week. How does he recover from his training, what's his favorite workout, and how does he mentally prepare for hard efforts? See what he has to say 'bout all that:
What is your favorite motivational quote?
I don’t think I have one. People tend to motivate me more than quotes.
What do you feel has been most important for your recovery routine during hard training? (including stretching, sleeping, nutrition, etc.) I really learned the value of sleep this year - my best results came off the back of training camps, where I was consistently sleeping 10hrs/night, and napping for an hour 3-4 times/week. This was probably made possible by doing caffeine-free stints on these training camps (I’m a coffee tragic!) Nutrition has, and continues to be one of my most important recovery assets. I love to cook, and because of that, it makes eating a wide variety of fresh, whole foods easier, than if I didn’t like cooking and relied on packaged, processed crap. Of course, rolling out and stretching have been important for managing the inevitable niggles of running 100miles/week too!
Screen Shot 2016-01-26 at 2.38.28 PM David McNeill running his Rio "A" Standard time in the 10k. He's one of Australia's first selected athletes to compete at this year's Olympics.
How do you mentally prepare for a workout you know is going to be tough? Two factors help with the mental preparation for our biggest workouts (usually on Tuesdays) - one is that often, we don’t know the session until after we’ve warmed up. I think our coach does this on purpose, as some of the sessions we do are daunting just to think about, so this limits thinking about the session too much, and psyching yourself out. The other factor that helps with mentally dealing with the session is that we usually have a large group of 5-10 people all doing the same session. This means that in any session, we each might only be leading a couple of reps each. Instead of thinking about the whole session, you are able to think only about the reps that you are leading, and then just ride the train the rest of the time - focusing on staying relaxed and staying in contact.
What is your favorite pre-race song? Favourite songs come and go. They also depend on the pre-race mood. Sometimes, I don’t like listening to music before I run. But when I do listen to music before I race, they’re usually on the mellower side, to help keep me relaxed. London Grammar was my band of 2015 (Metal and Dust is my favourite song of theirs.) If I’m feeling a little more upbeat, Odesza was my go-to option for 2015 (Sundara being my favourite).
How do you recovery immediately after a race or hard workout? For me, it’s all about food and hydration. Stretching and rolling out usually come later. Most of the time, I start the recovery with a smoothie (blueberries, vegan protein, almond butter, chia seeds, water). After that, it’s usually the triple threat: eggs/avocado/tomato on toast. Sometimes scrambled with turmeric, usually poached or soft boiled. Guest appearances from goat cheese and smoked salmon on the toast, or occasionally a veggie scramble turned into a breakfast burrito. Of course, on race day, you don’t always have immediate access to a kitchen afterwards, so I’ll either have a smoothie pre-made, or I’ll have some bars packed in my bag.
David+McNeill+Olympics+Day+12+Athletics+pop3-l3PuNvl Competing in the 5000m at the London 2012 Olympics.
Where is your favorite place in the world to run?
I usually want what I can’t have! I’m living back in Melbourne these days, so I miss Flagstaff, AZ dearly! But when I was living in Flagstaff, I missed being able to run on the beach - specifically, on the hard-sand at low tide in Queenscliff, Victoria (90mins from where I grew up). Both places have a serenity about them that really quenches the spirit…really makes you feel alive, reminds you of how small and insignificant you are being surrounded by such vast beauty, and just makes you feel so grateful for life!
Do you have a go-to pre-race meal? I don’t. I learned to be adaptable when I was in college. Every different place you race has different offerings, and sometimes, choice doesn't really factor in. But given the choice, at best, I avoid a big plate of carbs - I like having plenty of veggies, maybe some fish, and then a little grains/legumes to accompany it.
David will race at the 2016 Rio Olympics this fall, follow his journey on Twitter and Instagram @rundmc_niell. Read his columns on Runner's Tribe.