Track Legend, Les Gramantik: Evolving Coaching Philosophy

Les Gramantik

Written by Carla

May 4, 2023

Introduction

“Who are you to be interviewing one of the world’s greatest track coaches?” you’re probably asking me as you read the title to this blog.

And you aren’t wrong for asking such a question.

My name is Carla Robbins and I’m essentially a relatively young exercise physiologist out of Calgary, Alberta who has had some immense privileges since moving to Alberta in 2007.

One of them is knowing Les Gramantik.

Even though you might not know me well, I’m going to tell you a quick story and then loop back around to get to the meat and potatoes of this interview-style blog.

In 2010, three years after I moved to Calgary, and while completing my undergraduate degree at the University of Calgary, I moved in with someone named Rachael McIntosh. Rachael was a Canadian National-team heptathlete at the time, who had just moved to Calgary to train with a man named Les Gramantik, after changing her sport career path and letting go (after 1 year) of her full-ride scholarship at the University of Pittsburgh. One might ask why someone would willingly drop their full ride scholarship – and the reason was Les Gramantik.

Rachael had told me many stories about Les Gramantik during her daily training with him, but it wasn’t until I started working for the Canadian Sport Institute in Calgary in 2013 that I got to meet Les Gramantik, and put a face to the name. While writing this, I believe I have officially known Les for 10 years, and his mentorship role in my life has grown a lot. To this day, we often go for coffee to discuss coaching, track, training philosophies, and the evolving nature of our industry.

1 year ago I had the idea to start an interview series with Les Gramantik, which I envisioned to be somewhat informal, with the intention of preserving the evolving nature of a great coach’s philosophy over the years. “If I’m one of the closest coaches to him, and I don’t start writing down his stories and training beliefs, who will?” I thought. Diverging from our typical articles on the blog, I want to share some of what shaped the way he sees training today.

I sought advice from a former prof and one of the greatest exercise physiologists ever, Doc Smith, and emailed him to seek out any wisdom he had about doing the interviews:

“Carla.

You only need to ask one question. Then just listen.

Who or what influenced your philosophy of coaching or training over the last 5 decades?

Doc”

I asked a few more questions than Doc recommended. But, here goes part 1.

A little background about Les Gramantik

Les Gramantik is widely regarded as one of the most successful and influential track coaches in the world. With a coaching career spanning over four decades, Gramantik has led numerous athletes to Olympic medals, world records, and national championships. Some notable people that he has coached include, but are not limited to:

  1. Jessica Zelinka: Jessica Zelinka is a Canadian heptathlete who worked with Les Gramantik in the lead-up to the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. At the Olympic trials, Zelinka set a new Canadian record in the heptathlon with a score of 6,599 points, which stood as the national record until 2018. Zelinka went on to finish in 7th place in the heptathlon at the 2012 Olympics, a career-best performance for her.
  2. Damian Warner: Damian Warner is another Canadian athlete who has worked with Les Gramantik. Warner is a heptathlete who has won multiple world championships and Olympic medals. In 2018, he set a new Canadian record in the indoor heptathlon with a score of 6,343 points. He also holds the Canadian record in the decathlon, another event that Gramantik has coached athletes in.
  3. Michael Smith: Michael Smith is a former American decathlete who was coached by Les Gramantik in the 1990s. Smith set the world record in the decathlon in 1995 with a score of 9,015 points, a record that stood for almost a decade. Smith also won multiple world championships and Olympic medals in the decathlon and was considered one of the top decathletes in the world during his career.

His coaching philosophy, which emphasizes the importance of hard work, consistency, and attention to detail, has inspired generations of athletes and coaches alike. Despite his impressive “track record” (pun intended), Gramantik remains humble and committed to helping his athletes achieve their full potential.

In this interview, I explored how Gramantik’s upbringing shaped his love for sport, his university career path, and the start of his coaching journey. I found it especially eye opening to learn about the differences in the eastern education systems from ours, and training philosophies from ours. This is just part 1 of an extensive series of interviews I plan on doing, but I hope this excerpt of the first interview gives readers some appreciation for some of the development of his coaching philosophy.

One quick thing I wanted to advise readers on is that Gramantik has a thick romanian accent that can be hard to understand. For this reason, instead of video-style, I’m opting for a written interview and I’ve adjusted his grammar, cut out certain things, and shortened the whole interview slightly. Enjoy!

The Interview: Les’s upbringing

Carla Robbins
Okay, let’s start – tell me your name!

Les Gramantik
My name is Les Gramantik.

Carla Robbins
I want to start by asking you – where were you born?

Les Gramantik
I was born in a small town in Transylvania, which was part of Romania, at that time. It used to be an independent principality, to an independent country, so to speak. And then whoever won or lost the war changed that. It had a predominantly Hungarian population as it was almost eight kilometres from what is the Hungarian border today and since the second world war. It has about 180,000 people now – but it used to be a lot less when I was born. It’s in a very insignificant location, nothing special. There’s a river that goes through the town and an even larger river and that’s about it. I grew up right on the highway that crosses Romania all the way from Budapest to Bucharest, all the way to Ivy. My father was a director of the theatre production in a very flamboyant production. Unfortunately, my father was all drinking and smoking. He smoked about 80 cigarettes a day – he chain smoked them – but he’s not alive anymore, but that’s a different story.

But so, what happened is the theater production went around the villages and they went to a village where my mother lived and was born. She was a 20-some year old woman and good looking so you know, he started to like her. Someone said to my mom – “You gotta be careful because that guy was on a 24 kilometre bus ride and the bus stopped seven times – and every time the bus stopped, he had a shot of hard liquor.”

Anyway, they got married. And I came along with a marriage that lasted four and a half years. And they divorced. I was four and a half. I hardly knew him. For years, I couldn’t know much about him. And after he disappeared from my life, pretty much when I started to do well in sport in my mid teens, then he repeatedly appeared and started to hang around with us to come visit me. My mom tolerated him messing around with the actresses he hired for a little but, but not for long. And so the point that I always say about him is I inherited some of his attitude. He had such a light approach to life. Everything was “Oh fine! Whatever! Okay!” Everything had to be fun to the point that he ended up in Budapest with his sister, getting a surgery to cut half his lung off – and he climbed out the window of the hospital on the first level on the first floor because he wanted to have a beer. The doctors said he would live about six to eight months after the surgery. He lived 20 more years. Very bad shape, bronchitis, everything else, but he outlived everything they predicted okay? Despite all these issues, he got up in the morning, dressed up nice, always a shirt and tie. Very pedantic and dressed up like he was going downtown. So I inherited some of it – some of his things inadvertently stayed with me right? I’m not him and I’m not, you know, I’m not good looking, I’m not not musical, but that’s not the point, but his lightness is something I inherited and I used to be a lot more light in life than I am now. And so my mom basically took care of me alone. She worked in a factory, three shifts. Morning, afternoon, and night in a sewing factory. She was a seamstress. So every second week, I’d see her a lot but by the time I got up and went to school, you know, for kindergarten, it was often my auntie who looked after me. I spent tons of time alone as a kid of four or five years of age, I just stayed and played around the house with no babysitter.

Carla Robbins
So how did you get food with no adults around?

Les Gramantik
Well she always left some food. Like in the morning, she would leave a big cup of tea and then some bread or something. We were very poor. Very, very poor. She cooked a very steady menu, haha. Chicken soup on Monday. Meat left over from Sunday dinner for Tuesday. Invariably cabbage rolls on Wednesday, Thursday. Friday, sometimes pasta. But my grandfather didn’t like that we ate pasta, he said, “Poor people eat pasta.” It was an interesting time of my life. If I look back I have no real recollection of anything bad or good. Okay, it’s sort of just plain, okay. I keep telling people that I have never had a Christmas where I remember anything I got. We had no money. But Christmas day school was open. You had to go to school on Christmas Day. Oh, yeah. Socialism – so we had to, to do religious things.

Carla Robbins
So usually, you went to school like, Monday to Friday?

Les Gramantik
Saturday too. Sunday was the only day off. In essence, I was a product of socialism where the state takes care of you. Very, very early, physical education was a big thing.

Carla Robbins
Physical education was big specifically in Transylvania?

Les Gramantik
In the social system of those countries, yes, it was a big thing. We had an hour of physical education every day of the week. You always had to change into a black shirt and black shorts. We were poor so we probably didn’t wash those shirts for months probably, haha. But you always have a disciplined army-kind of regiment. So that’s how I grew up!

Carla Robbins
What are your memories of competing in sports in school?

Les Gramantik
I had some friends and started to compete a little bit on school level formally at about 10 years of age. And I was pretty good early. So that’s how they discovered me so to speak, and I became part of a sports school system.

Carla Robbins
What was the sports school like?

Les Gramantik
Sport school was made up of the school and the track. You went to class for four hours, trained for two hours. That’s it, six hours a day. Then after that, home. Okay, so the first four hours of the day, eight to noon, was school, mathematics, language arts, everything that every kid should have. That was pretty much standard. And after that, depending on what your sport was, you started to kind of, you know, do more track or something else, you know, but track was a basic sport for everyone at that time, because that was the basis for everything right? Even for the volleyball players or basketball players, or soccer players – obviously. So when I say product or socialism, that’s how they envisioned their people growing up. Through sport, you get trained to be some form of disciplined person, right? Look at the army and those kinds of things.. If you ever see a documentary called “Hitler youngend” – “youngend” meaning youth. And they show exactly what they did with us. They took kids, young men and boys, away in the summer, for a summer camp. We liked it. We loved it. We got to fight, wrestle, run, you know, it was all challenging physically. So that almost ended up being indoctrination, a little bit. “Brainwash.”

Carla Robbins
Do you have a “favourite” or “fun” memory as a kid despite saying that you feel like your childhood was very plain?

Les Gramantik
One memory is very interesting. It’s not a “favourite” and it’s not “fun”. But it is very eye opening. We had a teacher who taught like a shop class. He had a storage unit available outside and one day we peeked in there and saw that there was good wood in there. So one day, we broke into it, and took it. Man, we were punished! And he was fired. So it’s not a fun memory. So, I don’t really have that many fun memories but I had a favorite phys ed teacher, a young man. I just got an email two days ago from a former classmate who died just now. Istvan Kolumban was his name. He was very harsh and very hard and that’s what appealed to me… his sarcasm, his aggressiveness, his demands. He would put you in your place in no time, challenge you, hit you in the head. It was a different time.

Carla Robbins
How did your mother influence how you are today?

Les Gramantik
Oh, my mother taught me everything: discipline, punctuality, order, you know, respect, respect for women. Very important for her. If I was late coming home from somewhere, I got slapped. She was a hard woman and then she never got married until I got married.
She also was loving but not demonstratively loving. We never hugged each other. I never ever remember hugging her. And then it’s affected my life later because I’m not as open and I’m not blaming anything or anybody. Okay. For me to hug somebody now is easier now than then. But I think what she taught me as far as discipline, punctuality being on time, always finishing my work, to never quit.

Carla Robbins
What was your favourite sport growing up?

Les Gramantik
I loved sports. I loved soccer. I played all the time. It was my favourite by far… by far. I did track because I was pretty good at it. I was a pretty fast good sprinter. And I started hurdling early. At about age 15 or so, my old coach who was an amazing man left for vacation (for a month or month and a half) and a much older fellow that trained the hammer throw, called me up and told me, “Everyday we’re lifting”. And he meant lifting heavy. In about two months, I gained 25 pounds. So my coach came back, saw what happened, told me I couldn’t run, and made me do pole vault. So then I got the ball rolling and it progressed from there, and I lost some weight obviously. It is very much a social Russian system. We lifted a lot and heavy.

The Interview: Leading up to university

Carla Robbins
What kinds of lifts did you do in middle and high school around the time when you were becoming a good sprinter?

Les Gramantik
Parallel squat, power clean, hang clean, snatch, bench press. Not much coordinative stuff, okay? It was nothing too sophisticated. Just heavy loads.

Carla Robbins
How frequent was this lifting program?

Les Gramantik
Pretty much everyday. It wasn’t as structured as other things, like our running programs. They were more written down and followed, but lifting was almost like okay, go lift!

Carla Robbins
When you started doing more pole vaulting after you gained weight, did you keep lifting heavy or not?

Les Gramantik
We kept lifting but not as much. What I did was some more gymnastics because it was related to pole vault. We did a lot of the climbing ropes and the parallel bar and high bar and things like that. Then I got to university eventually. That was the biggest improvement for me. I got to do very good quality gymnastics every day, two hours, even on Saturday. We had a very good gymnastic teacher. I was privileged enough to have him, but it complimented the pole vault very much.

Carla Robbins
The teachers that taught you track. Did they have a specialty in track?

Les Gramantik
We just had Physical Ed teachers. But the physical education teachers learn track in university with an extensive program not like here. I’m not trying to crap all over the education system here. But the phys ed teachers were well educated for all sports. That system we had to learn track in school. They had to do anything. Nowadays, some of the teachers that end up teaching high school never took track classes. Oh, can you do that? You don’t have to be a superstar but you have to at least practice a little bit to understand what’s happening. And I think that’s those different processes of socialism. We did every sport. Well, not every sport. We didn’t do tennis. We did the basic sports like soccer, track, European handball, etc.

Carla Robbins
Do you think it’s the same sort of phys ed system happening right now in what was Transylvania? Or do you think it has changed?

Les Gramantik
Well, I can’t totally comment on what’s happening now because I left the city thirty-five years ago. So I’m not sure what’s happening right now. I think the school system has changed obviously, the universities have changed also. The classic model is Physical Education faculties teach physical education. Physical Culture, the Russians call it “FisCulture”, means physical culture, and it’s still influenced by Russians so it’s still teaching probably similar things. But things changed there too, everywhere, okay? So I can’t exactly comment.

Carla Robbins
Did you ever skip school and if you did, what would happen?

Les Gramantik
I didn’t skip classes, because you couldn’t skip classes. If you weren’t in class where would you go? There was nowhere to go. There’s no chance not to be in school.
Let’s say you did, then they would suspend you, lock you up in a dark room or whatever. You don’t want to be punished in that system. I never really got punished but I didn’t really do anything bad either. I liked my regiments.

Carla Robbins
Would you ever fight or have issues with your coaches?

Les Gramantik
No, yeah, no, no, no. My coaches were very different from what coaches are today. Even now, I don’t think I don’t think I would have the mildest coach, but at the same time, can I have disagreements? Athletes can disagree with me but I don’t consider it fighting. Yeah, we can talk about it, but I don’t go into fights. But I can understand that sometimes people might disagree with something that I say – like the girls who I’m coaching sometimes. I encourage them to question what I’m doing. You know, sometimes I think they should know more than what we’re doing – “why” we’re doing it okay. But no, no, no fights. No.

Carla Robbins
Would it be acceptable back then to ask your coaches why you were doing something?

Les Gramantik
No, no. No discussion. “This is what we’re doing, do it.” That’s just how it was with the communication from the system structure.

Carla Robbins
That’s such a different system than here.

Les Gramantik
Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.

Carla Robbins
Looking back on that training when you were like 15 or whatever… Do you still use some of the similar stuff from it? Or would you throw it all out?

Les Gramantik
No, I wouldn’t throw everything out. The system wasn’t that bad. You know, there are a lot of advanced institutions there like the Russian system, the physical education system was very advanced. There were a lot of good things. Organization of training.. they did periodization. The first book on periodization was written in 1920. Matveyev became famous about 1938. So they were advanced. America didn’t know periodization – and even today Americans, we don’t know periodization. A lot of people don’t know what it means. Okay. So many researchers, good people, but they make average coaches. Once I was mentoring a coach and he didn’t even know what a YTP was! So there were a lot of good scientists and research done in different kinds of research, more practical research, experimenting on humans. That’s what it was.

Carla Robbins
Can you remember examples of what researchers were researching at the time?

Les Gramantik
Heavy lifting – what it did to the human body – how you respond to the heavy lifting, competition wise. We’re still sometimes having to learn more about that even to this day. Nowadays, at least we understand better. We used to sometimes lift heavy squats to as many as 10 sets three days before competition.

Carla Robbins
So you would go into your competitions super sore and tired?

Les Gramantik
Tired, heavy, not really sore, just heavy. You know, because we lifted so much we never got so sore. Because you were never recovered either.

Carla Robbins
Could you have been a better athlete if you had more understanding on how to taper? Was it common for your athletes or teammates to be injured?

Les Gramantik
Well, yeah, that’s… you know… that’s just the eternal debate. “How much better could I have been if I would have had a different kind of program, more scientific program?” I don’t know. Humans do amazing things and adapt to everything. If the stimulus doesn’t break you down, you’re adapting! So that’s how they operated. We had no medical support. We had no physiotherapy, no massage or nothing at all. I ended up on the National team the first time I had a physio or did a massage. So anyways, when somebody got hurt, they just recommended resting until they were ready to come back. It was simple.

Carla Robbins
It seems like in modern sport systems, there are more and more injuries appearing over the years. It feels like a modern problem, at least, but is it? Or is it also a problem that you all faced back then too?

Les Gramantik
I’m almost sure about this but I think the reason why here the athletes have so many more injuries is because as kids don’t play anymore. We would free play throughout all our childhood, outside, barefoot, running around like idiots. We would play soccer and other sports for hours and hours. Physically, we were so much more differently ready going into a sports season because we were basically just always outside playing. I never had shin splints, and never knew anyone who ever had a shin splint. Nowadays, yeah everyone seems to have them. The surface was grass surface or dirt. Sometimes rocks, but usually not that hard of surfaces. Recovery wise we didn’t do much stretching, not much for recovery, no supplementation. We weren’t allowed to drink water during our training, so you drank before, and would go without drinking for two hours with no water. Can you imagine that today here? People sip on water throughout their whole practice.

Carla Robbins
No, I can’t imagine that. How was the weekly training laid out for you back then, before you went to University and went to the National team?

Les Gramantik
The primary program was based on what your choice of sport. Sprinting was always a part of the program – as we would always work speed and always had jumping stuff. Things were more technical with technical components than tends to be prescribed nowaways. You would warm up, do pole vault, lift, repeat the next day. It wasn’t very scientific. Sometimes you would realize that you needed a bit more of a break, so you might do less jumps that day, or something. Lifting was somewhat unorganized but we would pretty much lift a little something every day at the end of the session.

Carla Robbins
That sounds like things were sequenced in a pretty good way. How would you train that differently now?

Les Gramantik
Well, I would separate segments/sessions into different components. I wouldn’t lift everyday obviously, that’s one thing. And I have more and more come to the realization that excessive strength training doesn’t do anything good for you. Do you need strength? Oh, definitely. More balance in the program, more coordinative work, but maximum strength has no real advantage in the sport I’m in. Some of the football-type sports will need more strength obviously, but if your performance isn’t measured by how much you can lift, why are you measuring lifting? Okay? And so I would still keep the speed a high component in my training program. In hindsight, looking back we don’t run a hell of a lot of long distances. Honestly, unless you were a distance runner. And I think it’s a realization that more of the slow running makes you slow. So I don’t use it with my athletes.

Carla Robbins
And you don’t really train “endurance athletes”, at least currently, do you?

Les Gramantik
No, but even with endurance athletes, I’ve seen success where they do a combination of circuit training with exercises and running, rather than just running. One athlete named DaSilva popularized “The Brazilian”. They would do a bunch of exercises, then run around the track, then do exercises some more, and repeat. DaSilva won the Olympics in, you know, an 800m, training that way, so that’s why we called it “the Brazilian”. I use that type of circuit training too in a different form, with more body posture-like work: planks, push ups, posture drills, that kind of a combination with running. And then you can work with the cardio component by doing that back and forth.

But I do believe that if you improve your maximum speed, your speed-endurance will improve as well. Now, it’s not quite as simple as that, it won’t automatically improve, but for example:

A 44 second time in the 400m is a very high world class performance. You can think of it as needing to be able to do 4 times 11 second 100’s. The 2nd, 3rd and 4th “repeat” is a flying start, so sure, it’s less hard than an 11 second 100m, but let’s use it for this example. If your personal best is 11 seconds for the 100m, you’ll not be able to do a 44 second 400m. However, if your best 100m time is 10 seconds, you’ve gotta do 70% of your max for the next few “repeats”. If I can make you faster in shorter distances, it will help with the 400m time.
I believe the development of speed is more important than the development of speed endurance, because it transfers over better.

It seems like simple math but of course in real life it doesn’t work out quite so simple. With Jessica Zelinka, we never did too much long distance running, but we tried to improve her 200 meter time to help her run a better 800m. And I still believe that if you make a guy run a better 300m and 200m, then your 400m will be better. Yeah, so I mean, there’s just some people who have a different approach but that’s mine.

Carla Robbins
Yeah, I would say it’s more common to hear that athletes will try to get better early in the off season at 800m’s to get better at 400m’s, which is the opposite of what you’re saying.

Les Gramantik
Yeah, some people will train for 400’s to get better at 600’s. Some people run 1000m repeats for better 800m times. Or 600’s to improve the 1000’s, or whatever other variations and whatnot. Okay, but I mean, I’m not saying it’s one way or another. Two different ways to skin a cat! So, yes, back to the original question, we did a lot more speed. In the early years of my development as a school kid, we did a lot more speed. Also a lot more hurdles, okay, because rhythm is very important. And I still follow that method with myself today. I do a lot more hurdles than anybody else.

Carla Robbins
Were there any notions about training that you thought were stupid back in the time when you were still training? What would you use nowadays?

Les Gramantik
Well, you see, we grew up in an environment where we were always non-critical. We accepted what it was. If the teacher told you something was black, you would say “Yup it’s black!” You would NEVER question them. So no, I never really never got any kind of idea of being critical. Looking back, I would have liked to have a better understanding of what we were doing, and why. Not being critical about it, but just think I would have asked more questions. With my athletes, from time to time now I give them chances to ask why we’re doing what we’re doing.

The Interview: the physical education degree

Carla Robbins
What did you study in University?

Les Gramantik
Physical education. It was education in all sports, physiology, psychology, we got everything. You know, all the sports, wrestling, boxing, swimming, gymnastics, all sports, everyday – for hours! In my final year of my physical education degree, I had four hours of track every day. It was like physical training on how to throw the javelin, talked about the technique, very detailed and very extensive preparation for each sport. I mean, my physical education preparation and athletic preparation was superior to what anybody can get here nowadays. Not even close.

Carla Robbins
Now in universities, there’s like volleyball 101 in your first year, maybe, and I would say it’s more theory and then just playing games and barely practicing or going over the technical sides of the sport. And it’s maybe 1-3 hours per week for 1 semester. And if you’re injured you can just get a note and skip class or not need to participate physically. Not that I’m trying to throw our systems under the bus, but that’s the reality of how much technical training we’re getting at universities these days.

Les Gramantik
Yeah, in my education we were very prepared for what physically and tactically we needed for sport. We could have done a bit more on the physiology side, although we did do some physiology classes, but we didn’t have the same knowledge as we have nowadays in universities. There was no Dr. Smith there, ha! I mean, we learned about fast twitch, slow twitch etc, but nothing compared to the universities here, now.

Carla Robbins
Did you learn a lot about how to test athletes in your education?

Les Gramantik
Yeah just with a stopwatch and tape measure. Nothing like the electronic testing software they have now, obviously. You know, part of passing your undergraduate degree, to pass it, you had to complete a Decathlon to pass the degree.

Carla Robbins
Every student needed to do a whole decathlon? That’s crazy! There’s even a pole vault in the decathlon – that’s impressive. What did you have to score to pass?

Les Gramantik
Yes, you had to get a 5500 score to pass! We had a classmate who was very good at the hammer throw, but he struggled in gymnastics with his size and struggled with the pole vault. He passed eventually, you know, but yeah everyone had to pass a decathlon to pass university. But the impressive part to me is that you had to do all ten events, no excuses.

Carla Robbins
That’s so impressive. What are the 10 events in decathlon again?

Les Gramantik
Day 1: 100 meters, long jump, shot put, high jump, 400m. Day 2: 110m hurdles, discuss, pole vault, javelin, 1500m. Now in the Hungarian physical education university, they have to do the double decathlon back to back. So finish the 1500m, and start the next day with the 1500 again and go backwards again.

Carla Robbins
What were exams like in university besides the practical exam of scoring 5500 on the decathlon?

Les Gramantik
Yeah we had written exams, not multiple choice, question-based, you know. You had to defend your thesis verbally, in front of a committee of teachers in oral-exam style. They would ask questions like “What do you think about the execution of this exercise?” And you would have to defend what you thought.

Carla Robbins
Do you think we should implement that in our universities here, now?

Les Gramantik
In hindsight, I think that people would benefit from oral exams here too, but we don’t have a structure for them. There are too many people here – universities are overloaded. Back then I only had 22 kids in my program in university. But I do think it would be a better way to see if students were learning the right things. With this structure, teachers and students can ask better questions. You know, like, sit down together and talk about training, and the teachers could have a better understanding of whether or not the students were learning.

Carla Robbins
What did you do after university?

Les Gramantik
Olympics and army. I graduated in 1971, went to the ’72 Olympics. And then after the Olympics, the army – since we needed 2 years mandatory in the army. Romania still has the same system. If you go to university, you can defer a year and I was allowed to defer another year.

Conclusion

In closing, I hope that this quick interview summary in the first of a multi-part series with Les Gramantik, one of the world’s greatest track coaches, and the sharing of some of his stories was a bit eye-opening to some of the readers here.

I remember once, early in my university degree, one of our teachers asked us as students, if we were to become coaches or therapists, what our coaching philosophies would be. I remember thinking it was an impossible and somewhat mind-blowing question as I didn’t yet understand the principles of training that well, let alone what things I would throw out and what things I would keep or underpin my practice with.

It hasn’t been until years later, and with the help of some older and more experienced mentors in my life, that I am slowly better shaping what type of coach or physiologist that I am and want to be, and qualities that I see in Les underpin everything for me.

If you enjoyed this, please reach out, and I will pass the message onto Les, as I know he won’t love getting all the fan mail! Send me a note at: info@vitalstrengthphysiology.com

Carla Robbins
Owner, Vital Strength and Physiology

Get your free copy of our eBook “Endless Endurance: The guide to building Work Capacity in the weight room or on the track.”

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