• “My cousin lost 10 kilos in three months! I’m going to lose 20 kilos this year.”
  • “My father passed away from emphysema at the age of 63. For the sake of my family, I will quit smoking this year.”
  • “I want to go to and win a medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics!”

Big goals can inspire. And we see the new year as a chance to wipe the slate of our past efforts clean, and commit to significant resolutions with vigor and determination. But even if initially inspired by them, big goals can seem overwhelming, and thus can demotivate to the point of surrender.

Very often, the key to achieving a big goal is to break it down into smaller, more concrete, more manageable goals.

You don’t develop a killer serve by just practicing your serve 100 times a day. You break down the mechanics of the serve and practice with a conscious effort to ensure the key parts of the serve are repeated accurately. That means you need to understand what the key components of a good serve are, and ideally you need to have someone observe you so you can get immediate feedback. Over time you will likely see great results.

Bob Schul didn’t become America’s first Olympic gold medal winner in the 5,000 meters by just running every day. He followed the disciplinary approach of coach Mihaly Igloi, who taught him that the interval approach. Schul’s typical day was filled with mini-goals of – for example, ten 200-meter sprints, followed by a 400-meter easy jog, followed by eight 100-meter sprints, then twelve 160-meter runs. Schul didn’t become an Olympian overnight, but he worked on his mini goals every day, and actually, during his training, every minute.

Here’s a great article from Forbes Magazine called “Why Thinking Small is The Secret to Big Success“. It focuses on this idea of chunking, and that you don’t achieve your big goals because “you’re not thinking small enough.”

  1. Decide what you want
  2. Proclaim your dream to your friends and family
  3. Set a deadline
  4. Break down the goal into smaller steps
  5. Identify someone who’s accomplished a similar goal and model their attitude and belief system
  6. Believe it’s possible
  7. Take massive action
  8. Repeat steps 6 & 7 every day

For so many of us, when we set New Year’s Resolutions, or aspire to some great goal, we do the first three steps. But we often don’t take a project management attitude to our dreams. While we may imagine what the final, wonderful end state looks like, we don’t break it down into mini-goals, identify the key actions that other actions are dependent on, and set milestone deadlines. We don’t because that level of thinking and planning is likely a muscle not often exercised. But exercise it we must. Find a friend or a coach to help you think it through.

Just remember what Al Pacino said in the locker room, when he gave his inspirational pep talk to a demoralized American football team in the 1999 Oliver Stone film, Any Given Sunday. He told the team that coming back to win would be monumental, but that they shouldn’t focus on the big goal of trying to win. They should instead stay in the moment, focus on the inches in front of them. Football, like life, he told them, is about moving forward, inch by inch.

You find out life is just a game of inches. So is football. Because in either game, life or football, the margin for error is so small. I mean, one half step too late or too early you don’t quite make it. One half second too slow or too fast and you don’t quite catch it. The inches we need are everywhere around us. They are in ever break of the game every minute, every second.

On this team, we fight for that inch. On this team, we tear ourselves, and everyone around us to pieces for that inch. We CLAW with our finger nails for that inch. Cause we know when we add up all those inches that’s going to make the fucking difference between WINNING and LOSING between LIVING and DYING.

2016 Bob Schul Invitational

When Bob Schul, a member of the US Air Force met Hungarian coach, Mihaly Igloi for the first time, Schul was familiar with Igloi’s challenging training regimen. But he was not prepared for it. Schul was on a limited two-week assignment in San Jose so he could train under Igloi. In order to maximize his time, Schul and Igloi decided they would do two a days, training in the morning and then again in the afternoon.

The first day, Schul was assigned to Laszlo Tabori, a world recorder holder in the 1500, and like Igloi, a Hungarian who defected after the Soviet Union ended a bloody rebellion by sending troops into Hungary. Thus Tabori was the man who introduced Schul to a level of interval training that for many would be considered punishing. Tabori, who resented having to babysit a newcomer, never told Schul how far they were going to run or how many times, which left Schul unclear when to save and use up energy.

At the end of his first morning session under Igloi’s training techniques, Schul returned to the house he was staying at and collapsed on the floor. Another runner staying at the house was Joe Douglas, who would go on to coach Carl Lewis at the Santa Monica Track Club. According to Schul, in his autobiography, In The Long Run, Douglas was heading out the door.

“Igloi a little rough on you this morning?” he asked between mouthfuls of cereal.

“I’ve never worked so hard in my life.” I wearily answered. “Will it be this hard every day?”

Joe looked up from the table and a smile crossed his face. “No,” he said. “Somedays will be much harder.” With that he took his last bite and headed out the door.

Schul of course got through those two weeks. And a few months later, he was pleasantly surprised to learn that Igloi had moved to the University of Southern California, which was now only an hour away by car, not six. This allowed Schul, as well as Max Truex (Schul’s commanding officer and Rome Olympian) to embark on an even more grueling work/train schedule. As he told me, he “had never trained that hard.”

Mihaly Igloi

Twice a day, and once on Sunday. 5:30 in the morning. Work out for an hour. All speed work. Repeat 100s. repeat 150s. Lots of sprinting. Then we’d go back to the base. Work Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. Go back to the base. We’d stay there Wednesday night. All day Thursday. Friday night through Monday morning. And come back the next night, and return Wednesday morning. And leave to the university Saturday morning.

But for these three years, from the time Schul first met Igloi in May, 1961, to October 1964, Schul employed interval training to get him to world-class levels. In fact, entering the Tokyo Olympics, Bob Schul was so dominant that it was a foregone conclusion in the press that he was going to be the first American to win the 5,000 meters.

But victory and glory would be built on the punishing interval techniques developed and refined by Igloi. And Schul would go on to coach “good athletes who ran well in college and within a short time, six months to a year, had them running at a national level.” He did so using Igloi’s techniques. What would it be like to train under the Schul-Igloi interval training methodology? Below is an excerpt from Schul’s self-published book, “A Training Manual: A Method for Runners From Beginners to Olympic Contenders”, with an example of what a “hard day” of training might look like.

Set Series

  • 10 X 200 meters (fresh); 50-meter walk between each
  • 400-meter easy jog
  • 5 minutes stretching and situps
  • 8 X 100 meters (fresh) alternating 1 forward and 1 backward, with the last two forward
  • 12 X 160 meters 1 fresh, 1 good guild up, 1 good; 40-meter walk between each


6 X 400 meters at specific times depending on the speed of the runner (around 63-64 seconds for faster runners, or 72-82 seconds for slower runners); 180 meter walk between

Set Series

  • 10 X 200 meters (fresh); 50-meter walk between each
  • 400-meter easy jog
  • 5 minutes stretching and situps
  • 8 X 100 meters (fresh) alternating 1 forward and 1 backward, with the last two forward
  • 12 X 160 meters 1 fresh, 1 good guild up, 1 good; 40-meter walk between each


For better athletes:

An additional 8 X 160 meters (fresh); 40-meter walk between

Set Series

  • 10 X 200 meters (fresh); 50-meter walk between each
  • 400-meter easy jog
  • 5 minutes stretching and situps
  • 8 X 100 meters (fresh) alternating 1 forward and 1 backward, with the last two forward
  • 12 X 160 meters 1 fresh, 1 good guild up, 1 good; 40-meter walk between each
  • 9 X 200 meters (2 fresh, 1 good buildup); 50-meter walk between
  • 10 X 100 meter shakeup (very easy, shaking the arms loose to relax the body)

According to Schul, this workout is over 12 miles of actual running and more importantly the heart rate is elevated for about two and a half hours.

Me, I’d rather write about it.


Igloi Glossary:

  • “Fresh”: relaxed state, no or little tension in the shoulders
  • “Good”: shoulders are under tension, while rest of the body is relaxed
  • “Hard”: 7/8 speed and under control


Tragedies in our lives often change our lives, for the better or for the worse.

Olympian great, Bob Schul, at the age of 22 figured his track career was done. His grandfather, whom he adored, had been killed in a car accident. Schul went back to school at Miami University of Ohio near his hometown of West Milton, but could not muster the energy to study and get passing grades, and ended up dropping out.

Schul decided it was time to grow up, so he joined the United States Air Force where he studied electronics. Based in Detroit, Michigan, where the lack of track competitions and cold weather gave little incentive for training, Schul wrote in his autobiography, In the Long Run, that “I figured my running career was finished before it had ever begun.”

But only a few months after his time in the cold at Selfridge Air Force Base, his heart warmed when he saw a notice on a bulletin board asking for applicants to a special Air Force track team that, if good enough, could go to the Olympics in Rome. Schul applied, and after anxious weeks of waiting, he got the word that he was in. It was off to sunny and warm California, where he would be based at Oxnard Air Force Base not far north of LA.

Mihaly Igloi

Mihaly Igloi, was a very good miler for Hungary, and was on the Hungarian team at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. While not a champion miler, he eventually became an effective track coach for the Hungarian army track club, Honved Budapest. In the 1950s, Igloi’s runners were commonly breaking world records in various middle and long distance categories, and were heavily favored to break more records and win medals at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics.

But Igloi’s tragedy was a national tragedy. Over a decade prior to the “Prague Spring” in Czechoslovakia and subsequent Soviet invasion in 1968, there was the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, a time when Hungarians revolted against their government and the Soviet puppet policies they lived under. Student protests led to police retaliation, which led to the forming of resistance militia across the country, which led to the Soviet leadership decision to crush the rebellion, which they did. On November 4, 1956, only 18 days prior to the start of the Melbourne Olympics, Soviet forces poured into Budapest. Over 2,500 Hungarians were killed, and over 200,000 fled their homeland.

Igloi and his track team were in Budapest, and saw the chaos of the Soviet invasion, but were fortunate to leave the country and arrive in Melbourne. Understandably, the Hungarians performed poorly at the Games. After the competition, Igloi, and one of his top runners, Laszlo Tabori, made the fateful decision to forgo their return to Hungary and defect to the United States.

Laszlo Tabori

With support from Sports Illustrated, Igloi and Tabori settled into life in the US, finding work in indoor track and meeting promoters, coaches and runners, according to this article in Runners World. Igloi eventually settled into a role as coach at San Joe State University in Northern California.

Max Truex, who finished sixth in the 10,000 meters race at the 1960 Rome Olympics, was in the Air Force. He had been trained by Igloi, who helped Truex to the best finish ever by an American in the 10K. And he happened to be Bob Schul’s commanding officer at Oxnard. Truex recommended that Schul get coached by Igloi. Truex arranged for temporary duty for Airman Schul in San Jose where Igloi was based at the time, so that Schul could train under Igloi in May, 1961.

And thus began a wonderful relationship, one that eventually resulted in Olympic gold.

Track & Field: US-Poland Meet: USA Max Truex in action, crossing finish line to win 5000M race vs Poland at 10th-Anniversary Stadium. Warsaw, Poland 7/30/1961 CREDIT: Neil Leifer (Photo by Neil Leifer /Sports Illustrated/Getty Images) (Set Number: S441 )

Bob Schul


It’s not an uncommon story. The shy or sickly child finds his way through sport. Bob Schul was not born with gregarious social graces, and tended to stick to himself. In the sixth grade, one of his few social interactions was playing tag with his fellow students, where he learned something important. “I found out I could get away and they couldn’t catch me.”

It was a childhood insight that would lead Schul to distance running, to the track team at Miami  University of Ohio, a tutorship under Mihaly Igloi, the legendary track coach from Hungary, and gold medal glory at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Schul would become the first and only American to win the 5,000-meter race in Olympic history.

But first, Schul had to discover himself.

He knew he was a fast runner. But as he developed as an athlete, he and his coaches also learned he was tough, as well as toughminded. Schul addressed students his alma mater in 2014, and told them a couple of stories from his youth that spoke to a powerful internal drive.

In high school, Schul joined the football team – that’s American football, a sport in which you wear heavy padding and helmets and you launch yourself as projectiles into each other. As Schul told me, he was 155 cm tall and weighed only 59 kilos, and his teammates were 70 to 90 kilos heavy. “I had no business playing football.” He said that his high school was small, but his football team was very good, league champs in the previous five or so years.

There he was in a team practice, lined up in a Statue of Liberty, as a right end. The ball was snapped, he came off the line and back to the quarterback who handed him the ball. Schul swept left and tried to turn the corner when a defender crashed into Schul’s right side. Schul staggered to his feet, and likely in today’s game, might have sat down, if not for a play, for the rest of the game. Schul was back in the huddle, and played out the scrimmage, getting hit time and time again by the bigger boys. It was year’s later when talking with university football players that Schul actually had a hip pointer, and that players wore special foam protection for the hip, because “you can’t play with a hip pointer.” But Schul did, taking the punishment.

Bob Schul in high school
After graduating from high school, Schul enrolled at his neighborhood university, Miami of Ohio. He was not there on a scholarship. And in when he started, he was just fortunate to get a job washing dishes in the school dorm. But he was on the track team, and through the years, he worked himself into star status. It was April, 1964, only half a year from the Tokyo Olympics. Miami of Ohio was hosting a dual meet with a track team from Bowling Green State University in Ohio. Schul decided that he would go for it, he would try to break the four-minute mile.

Roger Bannister had already accomplished that milestone, as it were, ten years previously, but no one had ever done it before in Ohio. So when Schul let it be known he was going for it on his home track, the buzz began. First things first, the track was a mess, particularly the inside track which had gotten messy due to the Spring rains. In the days before all-weather tracks, people ran on tracks that were composed of rocks or waste product formed into chunks and broken down more finely. The rain had washed bigger chunks of rock onto the inside track. The excess cinder had to be carted off and the track smoothed before the event. Schul told officials this needed to be done and volunteered to help.

As it turned out, nobody came out to clear the track, so he started doing it himself. He