Takes Aim at London Olympic Gold in 2012
When U.S. track athlete Leroy Dixon lines up for a dash at history during the 2012 Olympic Games, a nation will stand at the ready to cheer him on. What they may not realize is that this elite-level sprinter - standing on the world's biggest athletic stage aiming for his enviable moment of golden glory - at one point wasn't even the fastest runner in his own house.
"I started running track and field in fifth grade," recalls the 28-year-old Indiana native. "I used to race my sister in the street and she was real fast at the time. She used to always beat me when we raced, and I really wanted to win. So finally, when I was able to beat her, I just took to it and started running with a purpose."
The rest, as they say, is history. Dixon was a 2005 NCAA All-American in track and field. He finished top six in the highly competitive 2007 AT&T USA Outdoor Championships 100-meter event. He was the anchor on a 4x100 meter relay team at the 2007 World Outdoor Championships that won gold. His personal best in the 100 meters stands at 10.02 seconds, a mark he set at the 2008 Olympic Trials. He was also part of the 4x100 relay team that lost the chance at gold on a mishandled baton handoff between teammates Darvis Patton and Tyson Gay.
It's that near-miss opportunity that drives him on as he readies for his next shot at gold, the 2012 Olympics in London. Recently, Dixon took a break from his training in Los Angeles to talk to ProSource about running, working out, and eating to stay in elite-level condition as he takes aim at this year's racing season and beyond.
ProSource: What first drew you to the track? Who or what was the inspiration to run competitively?
Dixon: My father was the one who inspired me. I didn't really want to play sports - I wanted to play outside with my friends, play video games, ride my bike, things like that. My dad got me to play organized baseball, football, basketball and track. Once I tried track, I loved it. It's what I was born to do!
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ProSource: What physical and mental attributes must an athlete possess to be a successful short-distance runner?
Dixon: You need to be in shape, and be focused mentally and emotionally. It takes a lot of hard work, dedication and, of course, it goes without saying but I will - speed.
ProSource: What do you like most about being a professional runner?
Dixon:The opportunities that have come my way doing what I love to do. Not too many people my age can say they have traveled the world.
ProSource: What's the most challenging aspect?
Dixon:The discipline it takes to accomplish being great at what you do.
ProSource: What does your training program consist of on a daily basis?
Dixon: I start out in the weight room early in the day, then I move to the track. On Monday, Wednesday and Friday I do upper body exercises, including the bench press, dumbbell work, pulldowns and other back exercises, triceps, biceps and abs. Tuesday and Thursday I hit the lower body, including squats, power cleans, leg curls, leg extensions, calf raises and again, abs. The core is so important when you're doing explosive athletic activity.
ProSource: Many people would imagine you key in a lot on your legs, but does upper-body strength play an important role for you as well?
Dixon: Yes, because your legs do what your arms do. So having that upper-body strength will allow your arms to move stronger and faster. A lot of aspiring runners may neglect the upper body, but that's a mistake they should correct if they want to keep moving up to the next level of competition.
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ProSource: Overall, what's the most important weight training exercise for a world-class sprinter?
Dixon: Two words: power cleans. As a runner, you must absolutely include them in your workouts. They help you build full-body power and explosiveness.
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Dixon: I like Supreme Protein bars as a substitute to eating breakfast in the morning. Also, I used to never eat before running, but in 2009 I started eating a Supreme Protein bar beforehand, and I found that my runs got a little easier. Before it took me awhile to get in gear, but once I eat the Supreme Protein bar it gets me going. They give me energy and taste great.
ProSource: Do you have any pre-race rituals?
Dixon: Nothing elaborate. I just make sure I get into a zone mentally. I like to find a secluded spot to say my prayers before every race.
ProSource: What are your goals for the 2012 Olympics?
Dixon:Simple - to win gold and represent for my country!
ProSource: What are your plans after the 2012 Games?
Dixon: I would actually like to launch my own training center for aspiring athletes. I'd also like to hopefully continue running competitively - I feel like I'll have more to give to the sport beyond 2012.
ProSource: One more question, a "what if" scenario. If you could compete and be a champion in an Olympic sport other than any track and field events, which would you pick?
Dixon: Honestly? Boxing. I like individual sports, and boxing is similar to track in the sense of training and getting ready for events. You have to be in it physically, mentally and emotionally in order to succeed.