Coaching for life and making every day an adventure

Alpharetta resident Allen McAdams has earned plenty of accolades as an athlete and coach. Most recently, the varsity boys cross country team at The Cottage School in Roswell won its first-ever GISA State Championship under his leadership.

It’s the communication he receives from students years after graduation that provides his proudest moments. When a student calls to say, “I’m standing with my toes in the Pacific Ocean about to compete in the Ironman World Championship triathlon,” or emails, “Here is a photo of my kids – they are running track and cross country,”McAdams knows he has had real, lifelong impact on the well-being of his students and future generations.

“I love seeing youngsters overcoming self-doubt and apprehension and improving themselves not just as athletes, but becoming people with integrity and high honor, great students who are healthy, fit, dependable teammates and citizens,” he says.

Chair of The Cottage School’s social science department chair and head of the cross country and track teams, McAdams trains students in mountain biking, track and field, and cross country. An avid adventure racer for more than 20 years, he also sponsors an outdoor adventure club. He’s been a lifelong athlete and competed throughout school and college. In fact, he still competes, and the adventure race team he is part of recently achieved victory in the USARA Adventure Race National Championship in the Coed Masters Division. In addition to a bachelor’s degree in pre-law, he holds a master’s degree in sports science, is a certified track and cross-country coach, a certified massage therapist and has 27 years of experience coaching endurance athletes.

“Kids need to know that true fitness is a way of life not a seasonal idea,” says McAdams. “It’s about eating, drinking and living cleanly.” He advises that children need to actively use their bodies in different ways at different times to stay fit for a lifetime. “I believe all kids should exercise, that is, have fun and adventure, at least one hour per day.”

McAdams finds that young people today tend to be pushed by various adults in their lives to specialize early in a sport or game, but he has a different idea about fitness.

“I disagree on many levels – debilitating physical, and more importantly, psychological injury or burnout occurs too often in modern America,” he warns. Instead, health and fitness should be sustainable throughout a lifetime. Rather than always being involved with a sport with lots of rules, officials and a focus on winning, he advocates making every day an adventure.

“Cast your mind back to when you were young,” he says. “Remember how you played in unstructured times. Observe kids playing. Observe how creatively and energetically they interact without all the outside influences. They may play a simple game of tag where they go full gas and don’t realize they are ‘training.’” That means kids should have fun adventures every day inside and out of doors.  

For colder weather, McAdams suggests dressing in layers and wearing mittens – they trap more air and insulate better than gloves. Clothing, socks, shoes and hats can be warmed in the dryer before venturing outside, and adventures can take place during the warmest part of the day.

“Take extra time to warm up,” he says. “Go with a group of friends. It won’t seem as harsh with friends while you’re having fun in the cold.” For frigid days, train, exercise or adventure indoors.

After the importance of making fitness fun, McAdams cites training scientifically and systematically for a particular competition or sport as key to success.

“Being efficient and specific in training is important,” he says. “For example, we don’t spend valuable time in cross-country running performing jumping jacks or doing double leg squats because we run over the trails one leg at a time in a forward direction. We are not running like a kangaroo hops with both legs simultaneously.”  

Whether focused on a sport or looking into the next adventure, parents have a vital role to play and can motivate their children to exercise at a young age by playing with them as often as possible. Older kids can participate too. Riding bikes, canoeing, white water rafting, hiking, skiing, skating and other active pursuits offer a healthy way to spend family time.

Of course, diet is a fundamental element to lifelong health. With so many food choices available, teaching kids to eat real food obtained as close to the source as possible will develop positive habits.

“No one can out train a bad diet,” explains McAdams. “We have too many choices with easy access to food constantly. Fundamentally, we need to change most people’s way of thinking about food from living to eat, to eating to live.”

Achieving a fit lifestyle and healthy eating habits can be thwarted by the overuse of “electronic gadgets.” McAdams has a solution for this, too. He considers computers, cell phones and other devices as tools and uses them in the manner he would a hammer or saw.

“Once the job is finished, clean them and put them in their proper place,” he says. “No one sits around with a hammer for hours at a time; neither should they sit around with the latest gizmo for hours at a time!”