Categories: Motivation

A day in the life of a world-class athlete | Will Leer

September 5, 2017

As a professional track athlete, Will Leer’s days revolve primarily around two things: running and recovering so he can run again. “As rote and routine as a day in the life of a professional distance runner may seem, I find it to be quite the contrary,” says Leer. So what does a day in the life of a pro runner actually look like? We got Leer, a Polar athlete, to share exactly how he and his wife, fellow professional runner Aisha Praught Leer, spend a typical Sunday.

Today is Sunday, which means it’s time for our weekly service at the Church of the Sunday Long Run. Run time is 9 am. Since our move to Boulder, CO, in January, one major change has been an increased emphasis on timeliness. This means being ready to run at 9 – not showing up and rolling out of your car, shoes untied, having not done any activation drills or pre-run stretching. Now, there are some in Boulder who may argue we have yet to master this skill. And to them I say, “We are trying our best.”

I’m up at 6:45 am. Since the earliest days of our marriage, breakfast has been my role. It’s one of my most important jobs to get the day started. So on with the espresso machine and putting together something edible. On most days, this means granola with an assortment of fresh berries (blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries), chia seeds, and yogurt for me and whatever the non-dairy milk du jour is for Aisha, who is lactose intolerant.

Breakfast and coffee are on the table no later than 7:15, allowing plenty of time for digestion and subsequent hydration. After reading the entirety of the internet, responding to important emails, and catching up on the day’s news, it’s time for the increasingly necessary 10 minutes of activation drills and stretching. Our hydration strategy on long run day consists of a pint glass of water, a pint glass of Emergen-C, and, most importantly, SOS cocktails, which we sip on all the way up Boulder Canyon to Magnolia Road, where we start our run at 8,500 feet.

If you’ve never been to Mags or read Chris Lear’s Running with the Buffaloes, just know this: There is no such thing as an easy Mags. It’s a hard run. Not only does the elevation continuously remind you of this ever-present fact, but there basically isn’t a single flat section of the entire road. You’re either going up a long climb – most with one, if not two, false summits – or down a descent that punishes your quads and doesn’t ever let you regain your breath from the ascent. But it’s beautiful and makes you tough. How do you think Emma Coburn just won that World Championship gold? By beasting on runs like Mags. And that’s what I think about today. It makes the 15 miles fly by, even though my lungs are burning and my heart is pounding out of my chest for its entirety. Mags ends with a mile-long climb back to the car. It’s an out-and-back run, so this inevitability is unavoidable. The beauty of this climb is that it tests your mettle and leaves you hungry for brunch.

Alas, brunch must wait. Down the mountain we cruise in our post-run bliss, straight to the gym. On days such as this, having a preplanned recovery strategy is key. For me, this is a protein-and-carb-heavy recovery drink and usually some sort of bar and a banana – anything to help stave off hunger for an hour.

Sunday gym sessions are quite short and focus on mobility (we just spent a long time doing one motion and running once pace) and core stability. A dozen exercises takes roughly 40 minutes, then we have a quick shower and head to The Buff, where we meet a variety of other hungry runners, friends, and family. Those who didn’t run are tasked with calling in the reservation. It would be a disaster of epic proportions to see a gaggle of runners show up to an hour wait. We may resort to seeing how our shoes taste. Fortunately today is not the day for this, and we walk very appreciatively to our table – job done for the day. When we leave, it’s only 11:30 am, which leaves a lot of time to kill before Game of Thrones.

Drunk off food and exhaustion, we somehow manage to drive safely home to our puppy, who has no patience for our fatigue. He wants to play! He also needs to pee. A brisk walk around the neighborhood satisfies, however briefly, these desires, and then we all collapse on the couch for some much-deserved naptime. Fading in and out of consciousness for the next couple hours, our batteries slowly recharge enough to give the puppy our full attention. On tap today are his continuing swimming lessons. Endlessly enjoyable for us and extremely tiring for the pup, we play fetch at the Boulder Reservoir for an hour. Active recovery? Yeah, we’ll call it that.

On the way home, we pick up provisions for our other weekend ritual: Sketti Sunday. Aisha and I lucked into this tradition upon moving to Boulder. Through a mess of text messages, dishes are doled out and roles are given to create a spaghetti-inspired potluck. This week, like most weeks, we are on salad duty. Since I made breakfast, Aisha creates a delicious, healthy, colorful kale salad. (I know, so Boulder.)

The crew – plus dogs – converges at whomever’s home is playing host. This week is Emma, at 6:30 pm (this timing is slightly less militaristic, although if you have a key component for dinner, you better not be late). Dinner is served at 7. And since ’tis the season, Game of Thrones viewing begins at 8:00. We watch the episodes on HBO GO to get to bed early – sorry, I’m not sorry. With the show over at 9:00 – and ensuing critiquing and discussion lasting until 9:30 – we saunter home to the siren song of our bed. We start brushing our teeth at 9:45 and I’m asleep by 9:50.

We’ve got another whole iteration of this saga tomorrow, and I must rest. Nine hours from now, it starts again – and the coffee is calling.

In the spotlight

Will Leer

Will Leer

Will Leer is a professional mid-distance track athlete. His personal records include 1:47.69 in the 800m, 3:34.26 in the 1500m, 7:39.38 in the 3000m, and 13:21.55 in the 5000m. In 2013, Leer won two USA Indoor Championship titles, including the mile (3:58.79) and the 3000m (8:07.84). He trains with the Polar M430 and the V800.