Archive for Ask Coach Al

What is Your Preference?

 

I've always found it fascinating how certain things end up developing a huge following, often becoming so popular they almost develop into cult status. In the fitness world there's a million examples, and no better example than when it comes to building strength.

KippingWhether it's body-building vs. powerlifting, barbells / dumbbells vs. kettlebells, or fat-loss vs. crossfit, it's not uncommon to see everything from mild bantering to flat-out arguments flying on twitter and FB between these groups of believers, each out to prove THEIR approach is the right way.

What often starts out as a "new," cool way to get stronger, ends up becoming an entirely new belief system...with hard-core disciples that proudly proclaim their allegiance on a cool (and often expensive) t-shirt. Confirmation bias and passion make for a powerful mix!

However.....as anyone who knows me well will vouch, I tend to think differently than most. I guess you could say I have sought refuge in being unattached.

To me, functional vs. isolation, dumbbell vs. kettlebell - none of this really exists. (The term "muscle confusion" made popular by P90x doesn't exist either, but that's a topic for another email!) ūüôā

What does? It's simple: Get strong training, a.k.a. strong person training.

How about something even simpler? Movement training.

Every tool has pros and cons. For example, bands are convenient and can be taken anywhere. Kettlebells are amazingly versatile, and barbells are cool because you can add lots of weight in small increments.

And bodyweight training might be the very best because after all, if you can't control and move your own body against resistance, what right do you have picking up an object to increase your strength?

(In my Get STRONG-Blast FAT group coaching program which is going on right now, I'm teaching bodyweight training nearly exclusively, primarily because it is so quick, simple, safe, and effective!)

The bottom line? Use the equipment (or no equipment at all) that matches your skill and experience level and best serves the purpose. For me the purpose is simple: to develop "real" strength and improve my overall health.

So yes, I will admit that the kettlebell definitely IS one of my OWN preferred tools for strength building and that's one reason why I am leading a Kettlebell Training for Triathletes workshop from 11am to 12pm, at the TRI-MANIA Summit and Expo on Saturday, March 19th, at Boston University's Fit-Rec Center in Boston!

TriMania adYou DON'T have to be a triathlete to come out and join in!

In fact, check out this note (to the left) from FB, left by a trail-runner who admitted not wanting to do a tri anytime soon, but just wants to learn some good form!

Whatever system or method you choose, my advice is to ensure it is BOTH safe and effective. If it is both of these, then it's probably a good choice.

So what is YOUR preferred mode for getting stronger?


Don't forget - Saturday, March 19th, at Boston University's Fit-Rec Center in Boston - Kettlebell Training for Triathletes workshop from 11am to 12pm.

CLICK HERE to go to the registration page. It's only 20 bucks, and should be lots of fun (with some great learning too!). If you've got questions about the workshop or simply want to get in touch, email me at: coachal@coachal.com

There is NO Tomorrow.

 

Hi Everyone...Happy 2016!

Ok, so in my humble opinion, today's post is important - I hope you can take a minute to read it. It's important for one simple reason - because as the subject line says, there is no tomorrow. 

Now that might sound extreme or fatalistic, but ya know (and as you'll learn as you read further), when it comes to setting goals, taking care of those "niggling" injuries (that seem to get worse as we get older), and being able to do the things that make us smile (like run!), I've learned that the only path that works long term, is to take action like there is NO tomorrow.

Now... before I tell you what kind of action I recommend you take, let me ask you a question:

Do you usually begin the new year with a "plunge" on New Year's Day? You know, the kind of ocean "plunge" where you strip down to your trunks and jump feet first into icy-cold water, with a bunch of other crazy fun-loving friends? ūüôā

New Year's Day PlungeI think I did my first official New Year's Day "plunge" around 1985. I haven't done it every year since, because I'm not a big fan of streaks; it seems whenever I get any kind of streak going, I inevitably end up doing something my intuition tells me isn't smart. ūüôā But from that first time in 1985, I thought it was a great way to start the year anew.

...lots of laughing at myself and others, yelping and general carrying on like kids! I love the feeling of "drowning" those mistakes from the past year and looking forward optimistically! (The pic on the left is me getting rid of my socks before jumping in!)

So as is typical when I do plunge, I joined up with some friends for some mountain biking, and then with a run group that slow jogged from the John J. Kelley statue in downtown Mystic, Connecticut, all the way to the shoreline a few miles down the road.

So how does this all relate to what I want to share with you today?

As it happened, because so many folks from all over the area showed up to jog and then plunge, I bumped into a bunch of guys I had trained with, raced against, and become good friends with over the last 30+ years.

It was great to catch up, but honestly, what really blew me away was how few of them are actually running anymore. I mean, seriously, I met up with three different guys who were there to plunge, but told me that for all intents and purposes, their running days are over.

Not surprising to me, chronic knee and hip injuries that left a permanent mark on the joints seemed to be the prevailing theme.

I was saddened because in all three instances, we had a conversation about their injuries some time over the last few years. I told them what I thought they should do, and offered to help.

Listen, there's a truism in our business of helping athletes avoid injury and extend their athletic "lives" and it is this: See me now or see me later, but at some point, you are going to see me.

When it comes to protecting your body and making sure you can run for as long as you would like (how about for as long as you live), there is no tomorrow.

Check out Apollo in the video below - no one says it better. Believe it!

No Tomorrow

 

The ONLY path for anyone who wants to be proactive and make sure they are doing all they can to age gracefully, is to get to the heart of how they're "moving" and determine definitively where they're unstable, weak, imbalanced, or asymmetrical. Until that happens, it is only a matter of time.

So, because I want to help YOU, for a very limited time only (4 days-this opportunity is gone at the end of the day on Friday!) and for a limited number of runners (only 5), I am offering YOU a solution!

That solution is our unique Pursuit Athletic Performance Virtual Gait Analysis at $100 off the normal price of $299.00. That's right, $100.00 off!

4 days only; 5 athletes only. Will one of them be you?

 

The Virtual Gait Analysis Is For You IF:

  • You're tired of nagging pain and you're frustrated that you can't run as you'd like to.
  • You want answers NOW on what to do to finally resolve the issue forever.
  • You aren't lazy, and are willing to do the work that is required, once you know WHAT to do and HOW to do it.
  • You love life and want to keep running for as long as you're alive!
  • You're a nice person.

The Virtual Gait Analysis Is NOT For You IF:

  • You don't think you need any help determining the cause of the injury. You know it all and might even have the certification to prove it! ūüôā
  • You a) got advice from a running friend, or b) now have a foam roller you can use, or c) believe running with pain is the price you have to pay to be "good."
  • You believe with a little rest, you'll be good to go.
  • You believe the answer is to run more miles!
  • You're not a nice person.

 

How Does Our Virtual Gait Analysis Work?

  1. Go HERE and hit the "Get A Virtual Gait Analysis" Button. During check out, USE THIS COUPON: VGA100 to get $100.00 off of the normal $299.00 price, but ONLY if you act immediately because it goes away after 5 have been purchased! Coupon code: VGA100
  2. After you complete the purchase, you'll receive an instant downloadable PDF with detailed instructions on every single step you need to take, which includes submitting pictures and video to us. It is an easy-to-follow process that works!
  3. We will be in contact with you to help you through every step of the process of submitting what we need to conduct the analysis, should you need us.
  4. We then take all of the information provided and conduct the analysis in our labs.
  5. When we are done (normally about 4-5 days from the time you have submitted ALL of the information to us), we set up a SKYPE video call with you at a mutually convenient time, where we review everything we learned with you. At that time we will answer any questions you may have. Also included is a complete VGA report that includes a detailed, individualized exercise prescription for addressing YOUR specific issues, as well as all supporting pictures and documentation.
  6. And then, because you NEED TO KNOW what to do to fix your issue (and how to do it!), we will give you instant access to our website and all of the instructional videos and documents. You'll know WHAT to do, HOW to do it, and will be able to contact us should you have any questions along the way!

It's time to stop the insanity.

I want to help YOU! However, I can only help if you take action NOW!

You ARE worth the time, expense and effort. Let me help you return to the healthy, vibrant, happy runner you want to be!

Happy trails!
~Coach Al

PS: Still not sure, or doubt some of what I've said? Why not jump onto our Pursuit Facebook Group and ask any question you'd like of the athletes that are there. They'll give you the straight scoop! It is an open group, so just ask to come in. You can post any question on our company Facebook page HERE also.

PSS: Still doubt it works? Why not speak with any other athlete who has gone through it. Reply to this email and I'll give you contact information.

PSSS: Remember, for 4 days ONLY and for 5 runners ONLY! $100 off!! No exceptions! Act now! This is gone by the end of the week!

 

FIVE Years – 22 Minutes

 

Hi Everyone...Coach Al here. I hope you had a good Christmas holiday!

I've got an important message for you today, one that is hopeful and empowering and will help you be happier and better in 2016!

But first, I'm ramping up my plans for a new GET STRONG - BLAST FAT coaching group in January, so I wanted to let you know in case you're interested. This will be my second go-round. The first group has been awesome, so I can't wait to get a new group going and get those who REALLY want to get strong and lean, on their way in 2016! Interested in learning more? CLICK HERE.

So back to today's message. On October 7th, I was at an Entrepreneur Magazine conference in NYC and had the good fortune of hearing some great presentations including one by writer, James Clear. (His articles on behavioral psychology, habit formation, and performance improvement are awesome - check them out!)

Mr. Clear has developed quite a following online because of his often profound and always concise writing.

James Clear articleHe wrote an article recently entitled "You're Not Good Enough To Be Disappointed."

The article resonated with me and with many others, including some colleagues in the coaching community and some smart introspective athletes I coach. If you missed it, click on the image to the left and read it.

I get frustrated, but that's just me.

The article from Mr. Clear reminded me that one of the things that has always frustrated me, whether it was teaching percussion privately back in the day, or today as a coach, is how quickly people get impatient or discouraged whenever something is "hard" for them, or when they don't get instant results from a little bit of training or work.

I'm also frustrated whenever athletes want to brush over the learning process (essential to improvement and growth, and for me, FUN), so that that they can get to the "really" good stuff, whatever that is.

Now if that sounds harsh or hits home and makes you a bit uncomfortable to read, then you have a choice. You can close the page and check out for now, or you can keep reading and see if there's something here that's worth thinking about. I hope you keep reading.

Now listen, this ISN'T about me, it's about you. I'm here to help you get better.

But at the same time, I have to be honest...

Like every one of you, when I think about how a thing might help me, I go back and relate it to my own experiences. In this case, for me it's my development as a runner. So let's start there:

I ran my first Boston marathon in 1983 as an unofficial runner (aka "back of the packer"), finishing in around 4-hours. The picture you see is from that day, hanging out with some friends right before the start. What an amazing day it was!

I finished, absolutely IN LOVE with running AND with the Boston Marathon. I wanted to come back as a qualified runner, not one that jumped in the back and ran as a scab.

So, I made a huge decision that day, vowing NOT to run another marathon until I was ready to run fast enough to qualify. (No small feat since the men's open qualifying time then was 2:50!).

Four years went by.

Injuries, miles, a lot of reading and study and research, more injuries, and dozens of road races and track sessions later, the time arrived when I believed I was ready to give qualifying a shot. I signed up for the Marine Corp Marathon as my first "official" marathon. Luckily for me, the qualifying standard had been lowered from 2:50 to 3 hours! My 3:01:20 that day in 1987, starting behind 11,000 runners, got me in.

So let me ask, would you or any of your friends take four years, F-O-U-R years... to train and improve, between their first and second marathons?

(Many runners and triathletes are so anxious and impatient, they sign up for their second marathon (or ironman) before the ink is dry on the finisher certificate from the first, without considering what it really will take to improve!).

 

FIVE YEARS - 22 minutes.

My first "official" Boston (and 2nd official marathon) followed in April, 1988. The image to the left and below is from that race. (Gotta love the fancy painters hat, right?) ūüôā

1988 Boston Marathon

I will admit that when it came to training, my entire focus as a runner was on one thing: How I could run the marathon faster, and the Boston Marathon in particular.

So it was more racing, more injuries, more humbling mistakes and "learning" opportunities. Hell, the things I write about and share today with the athletes I work with, I learned the hard way over those years and the ones that followed.

I trained for 5 years before running the 2:39 at Boston in 1992 that stands today as my PR for the distance.

5 years to improve by 22 minutes.

F-I-V-E years. Twenty-two minutes.

Have you or any of your friends worked relentlessly for 5 straight years, with a laser beam focus on one race, one distance?

Some of the athletes I've worked with look back and like to say I have more talent than they do. I don't believe that. (Do you remember this? "I Don't Care How Talented You Are,")

I have no more talent than you do, but as soon as I crossed the line in Boston in 1983, I knew what I wanted - I LOVED training with a very specific goal. And I LOVE the process. I always have, and I'm sure it comes in part from my life as a musician.

If you're going to reach your true potential, you have to be willing to listen, learn, and work really hard for as long as it takes. And you have to try to avoid being frustrated, mad, or disappointed. It's that simple.

As James Clear (and Dan John) pointed out, the fact is, you haven't worked long enough to be disappointed, frustrated, or discouraged.

It's time to embrace the process and enjoy the journey, my friends.

Just keep learning and working hard. Every day's a new day.

Happy trails!
~Coach Al

PS: 2016 is almost here. What is going to change for you? Do you have goals and a plan in hand to finally get leaner and stronger? If you want REAL change and want to get leaner and stronger in 2016, CLICK HERE to learn more about the next GET STRONG-BLAST FAT group coaching to be starting soon.

Who Wouldn’t Like To Run Faster Off Of The Bike?

 

"The truth isn't always popular, but it's always the truth."  - unknown


I've got some important (and very different) stuff to share with you today, and I know, because you're busy you may not want to stop what you're doing to read this.

But listen, if you want to KNOW how you can train differently and smarter on the bike, AND learn how to run FASTER off of it (no it isn't about the same old blah blah, brick runs, etc.), then ya gotta keep reading!

Trust me, my advice is NOT going to be the same-old, same-old. It will probably rankle a few folks, too. Especially some of the "experts" out there that are reading.So to get to the heart of what I want to share today, I have to start with a story about swimming. It's a true story.

(I know, I know...I said I was going to help you ride and run faster, and I am!  But...you need a little context - and this story will provide it. Keep reading!)

A few years ago I was sitting around with some swim coaches at an ASCA conference. The topics at the table revolved around two things: the iconic swim coach, James "Doc" Counsilman (who is well known for coaching Mark Spitz, winner of 7 golds at the 72 Olympics), and the "S" curve in swimming. 

Now, I don't know if you're a swimmer or not, but if you are, I'm sure you're familiar with the "S" curve pulling path. This "S" curve is what many coaches believe is the "ideal path" for your hand to follow during the pull phase of the stroke.  Shaped like the letter S, this pulling path has become well known as one hallmark of a fast swimmer.

Apparently all the hoopla about this "S" curve began with Counsilman and Spitz. The story goes, the coach was watching Spitz swim and noticed this "S" curve in his stroke. Since Spitz was swimming faster than anyone else in the world, Counsilman (always the innovator), came to the conclusion that the secret to his speed might be this curve. 

So Counsilman figured, if it was good enough for Spitz, it should be good enough for everyone, and proceeded to instruct every swimmer he coached to start putting this "S" curve into their strokes. What began as a simple way to make his swimmers faster, soon became gospel in the swimming world.

Simply put, many believed that to swim fast, you needed to have an "S" curve in your pull.

 

Which came first, the chicken or the egg?  

What I'm talking about here is CAUSE and EFFECT, so the chicken/egg analogy may not really work. But it is sort of a funny cartoon, don't you think? ¬†ūüôā

Anyway, an odd thing happened as Counsilman's swimmers started adding this "S" curve consciously - something he didn't anticipate.

Despite imploring his swimmers to "S" more, not only did most of them not get any faster, some actually started swimming slower.

What was going on?

To answer that question, let's go back to Spitz for a moment.

Is it possible that the "S" curve emerged as a natural byproduct of both his training and his body's intuitive understanding of how best to create more lift (and thus increase pulling power)?

Based on my own experience, I'd have to say the answer is an absolute, YES.

Spitz, like most great swimmers, could "grip" and hold on to the water, making the water more "solid" as his arm traveled past his rotating body.

He didn't consciously try to create that letter S.

It happened as a function of what his body did naturally, AND what he learned via tens of thousands of hours of mindful, consistent swimming.
  

Should you scrape mud off of your cycling shoes?   

I'm betting a very similar kind of story could be told when it comes to riding a bike efficiently and powerfully.  And THEN..running efficiently AND fast after the ride.

How so you ask?

Have you heard that popular advice, made famous by legendary cyclist Greg Lemond, to "pedal like you're scraping mud off of the bottom of your shoe"?

Like Counsilman's advice to articially integrate an "S" curve, trying to artificially change how you pedal a bike is not going to help you, and it may even HURT you.

And that "hurt" might not be limited to riding, but could also negatively impact how you run OFF of the bike. And increase your risk of injury, too.

In fact, I'm here to tell you that for the most part, ANY drill, tool, or technique that you've read about or heard was designed to improve your pedaling technique, is probably a complete waste of your time. 

How about Spin-Scan on a Computrainer? Or those fancy charts that show you exactly where you should apply pressure to the pedal as you go around? All of it, a waste of your time.

...except for one, that is.

One, very different and important, approach.

That one approach is the topic of a 12-minute video I prepared for you, that you've GOT to watch.

Authentic Cycling Video is here.So when it comes to riding faster,

I have to ask...Do the best cyclists have a great "spin" because they consciously "scrape mud" at the bottom of the pedal stroke?

Or (like Spitz in the water), are their pedal strokes and nervous systems more finely tuned and coordinated because of natural ability and perhaps more importantly, thousands of hours in the saddle?

Whenever we start incorporating something into our training because we heard the pros do it, or our friends said they read it in a book or online in a forum, OR we think we can outsmart our nervous system with "better" technology (such as clipless pedal systems), bad things can happen.

That was true for Counsilman's swimmers, it is true despite LeMond's advice, and it's true for running and just about every other activity, too.

There are a few other "truisms" that can be gleaned from all of this, such as...

  • getting faster isn't just about training "hard," it has a¬†lot more to do with our nervous system than most realize.
  • mountain bikers, I think, have known a lot of this for a while. They 'get it.'
  • all of us are¬†learning more every day - no¬†one has all of the answers.

As for how ALL of this specifically impacts YOUR running off of the bike...well you'll have to watch and listen to the video for the answer to that.

When you do, please let me know what you think, ok?

Happy trails!
~Coach Al 

PS: A few minutes into the video, I refer to an article I wrote for Active.com, called: What Kenyans Can Teach Us About Running Economy and Efficiency.  To read it, CLICK HERE.

PSS: Just so y'all know, I have tremendous respect and admiration for Greg Lemond, a true champion and legendary cyclist. My belief is that at one time, he probably made an observation and drew a conclusion from it.  I've done that many times and am always learning. I've also changed my mind on things as a result of having a better understanding of "cause and effect" with certain things.

Today It’s About THE SWIM! You In?

 

I'm sure you gathered from the subject line that the topic today is swimming, specifically for triathletes. If you're a triathlete and the subject interests you, cool, keep reading. If not, no worries we'll connect next time around.

So, I've been chatting a bit recently about swimming and getting faster, with a¬†lady I've coached for, um,¬†about 6 years. She's smart and experienced, and pretty darn "good," if you consider being a course record holder AND winning your age-group at the Ironman World Championships in Kona¬†FOUR¬†times, good.¬†ūüôā

Our conversation, which included a little friendly bantering, got me thinking...

...Most triathletes struggle to get faster in the water. The question is, why?

 

There are a lot of options and a ton of information available online if a triathlete wants to become a faster swimmer. The problem is, non of the "experts" agree on the best approach. Read enough and you'll hear the secret is the right drill, until you read the article that says drilling is a waste of time.

The volume debate always gets the conversation heated up! Swim more? Swim less? Swim with a band and paddles or no, get rid of the "toys" if you want to improve. There's just not much agreement. Not coincidently, there's also a healthy debate right now in a slew of online forums and among coaches on the topic.

While I¬†haven't counted, it seems to me there's enough¬†websites, coaches, clinics, swim programs,¬†instructional DVDs, AND opinions....to fill a very¬†large ocean¬†(no pun intended). ūüôā

So if it's not a lack of information, resources, or expert opinions, then what's the real reason for such widespread struggle?

Something is clearly missing.

Well-known tri-coach Joel Filliol, in an article entitled "The Top 20 Rules For Faster Triathlon Swimming," and on a recent podcast episode he did with coach Paulo Sousa, makes the argument that triathletes waste time drilling...that drilling doesn't work. According to them both, conditioning trumps technique. To quote Sousa, "working on your fitness works on technique," while the "opposite is not true."

A slightly different viewpoint comes from internationally-renowned swim coach and triathlete (and one of my own mentors), Haydn Wooley of Future Dreams Swimming in New Zealand, who is well known for stating that "technique sets the upper limit to how far your fitness will take you."

After literally beginning my own swimming journey by learning to¬†overcome a fear of the water and taking my first swimming lesson¬†as a 36 year old, 20 years ago, I've come to discover there are a¬†lot¬†ways to skin a cat, or to put it the way a Swede would, "Alla s√§tt √§r bra utom de d√•liga" which means... "all methods are good except the bad ones." ¬†ūüôā

So let me ask: If you want to get faster, should you attend a clinic or get your hands on an instructional DVD and start drilling in an effort to improve your skills? OR, should you simply increase your volume and frequency, just swim your ass off, and just tweak your stroke as you go?

 

Duh! We're all different.  

 

Triathletes the world over come from so many different backgrounds. It's always seemed somewhat counterintuitive to me to think that any ONE approach is the right one for every triathlete. 

Hell...there's¬†some percentage of those who line up at the starting line of a triathlon¬†who are so freaked out about being in the open water, thoughts of anything except how to survive and cope¬†with the panic, are¬†completely forgotten. (Who gives a crap about technique when you're nearly drowning!) ūüôā

So what do you think?

For me and the athletes I work with, we begin with this simple mantra: Commit to never taking another bad stroke. 

Of course, you and I know that making sure every stroke we take is absolutely "perfect," just isn't possible, right?

 

How we learn: experimentation, repetition, imagery, exaggeration 

When it comes to learning a new skill or trying to improve upon our existing skills, all of the current science says that for most of us, experimenting - dancing on the edge of our abilities, going "too" far and slipping and falling only to get back up and try again, are universal concepts that hold true.

"Chunking" skills into small bits, seeing a picture or image in your mind's eye of how a skill should ideally be performed and then trying to replicate it, and even exaggerating the opposite of what you're trying to do, also seem to have merit.

We also know that grooving a skill is easy, but changing that groove is hard. Really hard.

 

Which is why it's SO difficult to change after having taken thousands (millions?) of, shall we say, less than "perfect" strokes.

 

Conditioning or technique, which is more important?  

 

Coaches Filliol and Sousa have a point: There's very little chance a triathlete looking to get faster is going to achieve it by mindlessly practicing and "perfecting" drills. Clinics too, are often a big waste of time, without the essential followup work, repetition, and effort required to change.

And while I wouldn't agree completely with Sousa and his belief that conditioning trumps technique, a lack of "enough" conditioning to practice effectively hurts many triathletes who are trying to get faster. Why? Fatigue erodes our ability to concentrate and hold on to good form.

 

Can you "change" in a single practice session?

 

The images on the left are from a 1 on 1 coaching session I did with a woman I coach. She made some dramatic improvements in a very short period of time, as you can clearly see when comparing the "before" clip on the left, with the "after" clip on the right.

In the image on the left, she is pressing down on the water (not an effective way to "catch") and is also overloading her shoulder.

The image on the right shows a much more effective "catch." It's no surprise that her "lat" (the large back muscle you see inside the yellow circle) is literally exploding as she sets up her pull.

(A picture, or in this case¬†video, is worth a thousand words¬†and it¬†doesn't lie. Which is one reason why this athlete¬†was able to change on the spot¬†- AND¬†why I never go to the pool to coach without my underwater camera). ūüôā

So what's the bottom line?

It's simple, really: There is NO single approach that will guarantee success for everyone.

Yes, there ARE universal concepts that apply to just about everybody. Things like...

  1. Attentive repetition: Over and over and over. Working in the sweet spot on the edge of your capability. Relentless. Remember Malcolm Gladwell's book Outliers and 10,000 hours?
  2. Interweaving and chunking: Do it, then take a break, then do it again.
  3. "Deep" practice: fully engaged in the process, instead of focused solely on an outcome.
  4. Being mindful: fully present in the moment.

Are YOU doing what YOU need to do, to improve?

 

I think coach Filliol was on target when he hinted that those with solid technique who aren't getting faster are simply not working hard enough. For those folks, lengthening the "main" sets and getting in more volume are key. For example, even with solid technique, expecting substantial improvement on a dose of 1 or 2 hours per week of swim training just isn't realistic.

Conversely, it's¬†also true that some triathletes have very little understanding of the difference between effectively¬†"catching" water...and "catching"¬†a head cold. ūüôā For those folks, a¬†deeper commitment to learning more, to be better equipped to¬†decipher¬†the difference between good and bad swimming and information¬†is where to start.

And there are also some, that are so lacking in the necessary flexibility in the shoulders and back, any attempt to swim "correctly" will result in nothing but a whole lotta frustration.

Have we come to any conclusions as to why so many struggle?

 

One thing I believe we have learned, is that too many athletes waste valuable time and energy working in the wrong way and using the exact opposite ideal approach. Or they simply do not KNOW what the ideal approach is!

The real answer to our question is simple, but not necessarily easy:

Find out what the optimal approach is for YOU, and then... work relentlessly and mindfully with dogged determination. Take advantage of regular, objective feedback from someone you trust to help review and assess your progress, and then take what you learn, "tweak it" where you need to, and get back to work.       

So let me ask you a question....

Do you know what the best approach is for you?

Do you care?

If you DO, then maybe you would be interested in working with me in a small group coaching format. CLICK HERE to let me know you're interested in learning more about what I have planned.

Within this group coaching program, I will...

  1. help you learn the OPTIMAL approach to getting faster.
  2. program AND guide your practices and training.
  3. review your video and offer specific guidance on how to improve.
  4. work directly with YOU to find the best ways for you to get faster.

If this sounds interesting, know right up front that it won't be "easy" -  you'll have to work hard AND you're going to have to be accountable.

There aren't any real swimming #hacks. (I wish there were!)  Real improvements will come from commitment, hard work, and us working together as a TEAM. So, if you aren't willing to hold up your end, don't waste your time OR mine.

Here's WHY you might want to jump in and take advantage of this opportunity:

  • You want to finish near the front of your AG instead of at¬†the back.
  • You've been swimming for years but still go slow compared to your training partners.
  • You want to look forward to the swim portion of the races you do, rather than dread them.
  • You get out of the water at your races, tired and hardly ready to attack the bike and run.
  • Your shoulders are sometimes sore, or worse, downright painful after¬†your swims.
  • You're¬†tired of going to the pool over and over, and never getting faster!!
  • You believe having some guidance and feedback from someone who has walked the walk would help you and save a lot of trial and error.

If any of the above bullets resonate with you, CLICK HERE to let me know you're interested. There is no commitment required right now, I'm simply assessing whether there is enough interest to run the group.

Do you REALLY want to improve? No Bulls**t. I'm very serious about this. If this speaks to you, CLICK HERE.

Happy laps!

~Coach Al

PS: Speaking of groups, I mentioned to you earlier about the group kettlebell training - I've had some really great interest in it. There's still time to get in on this but don't wait too long, January will be here before you know it! If you're interested in learning more, CLICK HERE.  

The Truth About Staying Young

 

If there's one thing that came through loud and clear from a survey I sent out a few weeks ago to the athletes on our email list, it's that a lot of runners and triathletes are worried about losing fitness and their ability to "play" as they get older. They're worried about injury, too, particularly aging related injury.  Reading some of the responses made me think of that old saying, "Father Time always wins." UGH.

Do these worries ever trickle into your head and keep you up at night?

It doesn't have to be that way. In fact, although Father Time ultmately wins, I believe that we CAN race him toe for toe until the very late stages of our lives. The key is the right kind of approach to training (and a little bit of luck!).

Ask yourself this question: When it comes to your body, what is the ONE thing you've lost (besides your hair!) ūüôā as you've gotten older?

If you're like me and most others, you'll agree it's the ability to move freely and easily without any kind of restriction...just like you used to when you were a kid.

Simply put, what we most lose is mobility. 

The effects of aging (along with piling up the miles) are tighter, shorter, and stiffer muscles, connective tissue, and joints. What used to be SO easy to do, like squatting down to the floor to pick something up, suddenly and exasperatingly becomes much harder.

That tightness and stiffness makes us much more prone to injury, too. Unfortunately, our body and its tissues become like that cracked and dried out elastic band you took out of your junk drawer that broke as soon as you stretched it.

Losing speed? Take the brakes off...

If your goal is to go FASTER, lost mobility really hurts that too! Think about sticking brake pads on your bike's wheel - makes it a lot harder to pedal and slows you down, doesn't it?

While no one can truly beat Father Time, the secret to staying younger and feeling better as you age, is simple. Not necessarily EASY mind you, but it is simple.

The secret is to HOLD ONTO that youthful mobility (if you have it), or if you've lost it, do what's required to get it back!

To that end, today I'm sharing a video with you that I know is going to help. This video shows you a simple movement that you can use to both assess your present level of mobility as well as how to get back on the path to restoring it, if you've lost it.

 

Click on the image to see the video

Click on the image to see the video

We may not be able to literally turn back the clock...but we don't have to act our age either! We can look AND feel younger than ever if we're willing to commit and do what is required.

Do you want that bad enough?

Happy trails!
~Coach Al

PS: I almost forgot: Here are some important TIPS on how to get the most from using this video and practicing this movement.

Start by asking yourself this important question: Where is your primary limiter?

Are you unable to keep your feet completely and totally flat? Are you able to easily keep your chest up and maintain a nice long spine, or are you hunched forward? Are you fairly comfortable, or the reverse -  just plain unhappy down there?  These are the critical questions to ask, for starters....

So what to do next?

Follow my guidance on the video and get started NOW.

Remember what well known strength coach and mentor, Dan John, and others have said: "if it's important, do it every day."

Here are some tips that reinforce what I share on the video:

  • Do these barefooted, or if foot protection is necessary for you for whatever reason, use minimalist shoes that do not raise your heel.
  • If you're unable to get your feet flat or you're unable to sit up straight, use a light weight to "counter" balance. Use the LIGHTEST weight you can get away with. Start with 10 lbs,¬†20 lbs¬†or 35 lbs.
  • As time goes on, work to reduce the need for the weight. You'll do that by increasing your calf length/ankle mobility, and hip mobility, as well as improving t-spine mobility.
  • You could also place a small book or 2x4 type support under your heels to start off with, if you're unable to achieve good posture without it. Make it your goal to remove the need for it with diligent practice, stretching, and dogged determination!

When you can DEEP SQUAT comfortably and without the aid of any device, you'll see a concurrent improvement in your running comfort, and overall athleticism. You'll feel great!!!

Enjoy, and oh yeah, please send me some pictures of your BEFORE/AFTER progress!!

PSS: If you can do this movement really easily, then mobility isn't YOUR limiter. But stability and strength might be....

 

No One Wants To See How The Sausage Is Made

 

"That which is easy to do, is also easy not to do." - Jim Rohn


If I've become known for one thing more than any other, it's speaking the truth.  No, I'm not always right, but I do care. And because of that, I'm always going to be straight with you and tell it as I see it. Like it or hate it, it's what you get from me.

Now listen, I know that's not popular these days. People don't want to hear the truth, especially when it comes to building that fitness "wall" one brick at a time, or mastering the basics and fundamentals first.

No one wants to see how the sausage is made... 

Folks want cheering and applause, pats on the back, smiles and rah-rah.

Now that's all fine, don't get me wrong.  When it's truly deserved, that is. When it's EARNED.

Are You Bored?

I went to a National Strength and Conditioning Association coach's clinic last weekend. During a panel discussion, a presenter chimed in and said something that did NOT go over well with the group. I found it fascinating.

The guy who spoke up is a successful trainer. He was talking about how he’s recently had to change the way he does things. He said he's been forced to cave-in to the wishes of many of his clients, taking them beyond what they're really ready for at any given point in time. His words: "More of them are now routinely scouring Youtube videos - if I don't give them what they want, they get bored and move on."

All I can say to that is...wow.

No one wants to see how the sausage is made... 

 

Are You Self Sabotaging?

A benefit of having been a long time coach is recognizing trends that are typical for developing athletes, whether they are the novice, weekend warrior, or experienced pro.

One of the most common things I see (is it human nature?) is the tendency to self-sabotage the potential for massive long-term improvement in order to reach short term gain.  

A perfect example is the triathlete who fails to really focus on technique, instead choosing to log more yardage in order to build swim ‚Äúfitness.‚ÄĚ ¬†Once you¬†know you can FINISH¬†the swim leg (especially with the aid of your wetsuit), why not decide to work relentlessly on the one thing that will make the greatest impact on how good you can be? ¬†(Which is skill and technique!)

Whether you're nodding your head in agreement or not, if you're like most, you'll forsake that advice and just go swim, mile upon mile, grooving poor skills and trashing your shoulders in the process.

And if you're like many others, when you finally do decide that your skills are subpar, you’ll be faced with the fact that you’ve now hard-wired that poor form to the point where change is nearly impossible to achieve. 

No one wants to see how the sausage is made...

Want some other examples of how impatient athletes short circuit their potential for massive long term gains?

  • Building running mileage with the primary goal being¬†an impressive running log, without first identifying imbalances and weaknesses in the body and addressing them head-on.
  • Signing up for long course races (70.3 or 140.6) without first developing a solid foundation of fundamental skills and experience at the shorter distances.
  • Spending $5,000 or more on a state-of-the-art triathlon bike before even¬†owning a road or mountain bike or possessing¬†any basic bike handling skills.

I know, I know..there are a lot of "reasons" why many athletes approach things this way. I've heard most of them.

Some feel they need more confidence to just "complete" the distance. Some are fired up by their newfound enthusiasm for the sport, and think they can jump on the "fast track" to improvements in durability and speed.

I think many take the easy way out by downplaying their own potential for improvement, or sell themselves very short when it comes to how good they can actually be.

No one wants to see how the sausage is made...

No one wants to hear the truth...

So let me ask you, do you REALLY know how good you can be? (Hint: NO, you don't).

Whether you like it or not, the truth is that YOUR greatest possibilities are built upon a solid foundation, AND mastery of the basics and fundamentals. It takes a long time to truly get good, which is one reason why I encourage folks to really embrace the process and enjoy the journey.

So who do you want to be?¬†The athlete logging miles to get some additional "confidence,‚ÄĚ or the one who is willing to pay their dues to achieve true, long term, massive gains in performance potential?

It’s up to you.

Happy trails!
~Coach Al

PS: If you aren't one of our email friends, you're missing out. We share a lot of awesome discounts and training information, so sign up if you haven't. Click HERE and as a bonus, you'll get instant access to my 5 TIPS for upgrading your off season NOW!

Rock Your Wall!

 

I hope your Tuesday has started off great!

I sent out an note to our email friends last week that included a reference to a fun Will Smith video. In the email, I shared my SSQ and how important it is to review this past season before moving on to the upcoming season. If you missed that email, here's a link so you can read it in your browser. Check it out - it's VERY cool!

That email got me thinking about something else Will said that I absolutely love, and that is central to my coaching philosophy. One reason I love it so much? It's one of those quotes that isn't just about training, it has as much value for life in general.

I love the analogy of building a wall when it comes to how we should build our fitness, don't you?

Your body is a lot like a house...

It also reminds me of an analogy my partner, Dr. Strecker, refers to when discussing how we need to build our OWN "athletic" foundation. He says,"if you're driving down the road and you see a house that is leaning off to the side with a crumbling foundation, you sure wouldn't want to buy that house, would you? One big gust of wind and the house might blow right over."

Even though you and I would desperately LIKE to be able to, we can't build true ironman, marathon, or ultra-running fitness by just saying it, OR by taking it ALL in one bite. Just as Will said, we need to start by laying that brick, one at a time, as perfectly as we can, day after day after day.

If we do it right, soon we'll have that great foundation - one that is stable and straight and strong and that will support OUR "house" in any kind of wind, or more specifically, as the weeks, months, and miles add up!

Which brings me to the main message in today's email:

Any smart season-long training plan and progression BEGINS by:

  1. Restoring health and balance and fundamental movement quality, and then...
  2. Establishing a solid foundation that will support all the training that is to come. 

At Pursuit Athletic Performance, we call this first training phase, Restoration and Foundation.

So what's YOUR story?

During this time period, it's about learning as much as you can about your body - it's about self-discovery, from a movement point of view - learning your "story" as an athlete. That might sound unattainable, but I can't express just how important it is!

Try on some of these questions to get to the heart of who you are as an athlete:

  • Where are you tight? Why?
  • Where are you weak? Why?
  • Are you often sick? If so, why?
  • Do you struggle frequently with nagging pain or injuries? If so, why?
  • Are you a strong, fatigue-resistant swimmer or a weak, slow swimmer? If you're a weaker swimmer, why?
  • Are you a strong cyclist who can climb with ease, or do you struggle to push a larger gear? If you struggle to push that larger gear, why?
  • Are you a strong, durable runner or are you injury prone? If you're not durable, then why?
  • When you get tired out on the race course or during long training sessions, do you struggle to maintain efficient form?

Now if your house is about to blow over in the wind, or if that foundation is crumbling and starting to show some cracks, the color of your window shades doesn't matter very much, ya know?

Your body and your fitness are the exact same thing. 

Get started NOW. Answer the questions and take action, and you'll be on your way to building the biggest, baddest, greatest, fitness "wall" that has ever been built!  It won't happen any other way.

(One more thing, if you haven't yet checked out this blog series "Learn How You Move" we did a while back, take a look - it'll be worth your time, trust me).

As always, if you have questions, leave a comment of email me directly and let me know. I'm here to help.

Happy trails!
~Coach Al

PS: If you aren't one of our email friends, you're missing out. We share a lot of awesome discounts and training information, so sign up if you haven't. Click HERE and as a bonus, you'll get instant access to my 5 TIPS for upgrading your off season NOW!

PSS: I almost forgot to mention, I just had two coaching slots open up for working with me one on one. If you're interested in learning more, reply to this email and I'll get you some information and a questionnaire. Rock on!

Should You Take A Break?

 

Shortly after the 2012 London Olympics, there was an article in the Wall Street Journal outlining how some elite marathoners were planning to take an extended complete break from any kind of training after the race. (A complete break...really?). In that article, one of the world's fastest runners, Bernard Lagat, was quoted as believing that "inactivity was one of the reasons for his success." He said he always "takes the time to be lazy."

That doesn't sound like the kind of relentless intensity and focus we would expect from a world class runner, does it?

Does Bernard know something we don't, or is the fact that he is an elite the reason he feels a break is justified?

What is the right approach for the average age-group athlete who has a job and many other demanding responsibilities on top of training?

It depends...

My initial response when an athlete asks me if they should take a break is usually the same: It depends.

Yes, I know that sounds like the classic "side-step," but honestly, there are a lot of factors that each of us need to consider as we decide how to approach this time of year.  We really are all an experiment of one, and the consequences of our choices will have a huge impact on what's to come.

 

Be honest: did you drill yourself into exhaustion or are you truly feeling good?

Recovery and rejuvenation come in many forms and is different for each of us. Stress comes in many forms, too, and depending on our lifestyle, work, and training goals, it can take a huge toll. Some of that stress is good, and some of it isn't so good.

The serious consequences of week-in, week-out, 3 (or 4) sport training for months on end, combined with busy, high stress lifestyles (and too little sleep) is a deep level of fatigue that for many borders on exhaustion, and in some cases, can paradoxically become addictive.

 

Consistency matters...

Even though Bernard Lagat preferred a complete break, I've traditionally believed that for the majority, a simple change from the normal training routine can be a good approach.  At the same time, as I've gotten older I'm reminded that there are few things as important as training consistency, especially as we age.  Like many things training related, there's always many viewpoints.

  • Is a "complete" break from training the best approach for short and long term mental and physical rejuvenation? If so, how "complete" is complete?
  • Could a simpler primarily unstructured approach be best, where we just go "how we feel?"
  • Is it better to turn to other activities that aren't typical for us in order to maintain some "fitness" while getting away from the sports we most often train in?
  • If we take a break, do we risk losing hard-earned fitness gains that will be difficult to regain?

Deciding in which direction to go and discussing these aspects can often generate as many questions as answers! Here are some additional things to consider as you ponder whether a break is the right choice for you...

  1. If all else fails, trust your intuition. If your gut feeling is you "need" that break, you probably do!
  2. If you have been nursing an injury, STOP now and do what is needed to determine the root cause. NOW is the ideal time to resolve injuries once and for all.
  3. The harder and longer your races, the greater the likelihood you'll benefit from some extended recovery and rejuvenation.
  4. The older you are, the smaller the margin of error you may have for taking complete time off.  To put it another way, as we age, we need more than ever to keep moving. Don't "stop" and rest just for the sake of it.
  5. The best "break" may simply be a change in training routine. For example, if you are usually on your tri-bike, put that away and get on your mountain bike or cruiser instead. If you're usually running on the roads, get off road and onto a trail. Ease off on the pace and re-establish your aerobic base at a conversational training intensity. If in doubt, try a relaxing hike, ski, roller-blade, or simply sleep in!
  6. If you're like many and could use to improve skills in some areas, now might be the perfect time. Lower intensity, and technique focused!

Whether YOU need a complete break from structured training or not depends upon you - how healthy and durable you are, what you've done over the recent past, and what your upcoming goals are.

 

Plan for recovery year round...

Planning regular periods for recovery throughout the year is arguably more important, especially as one training phase builds to the next.

Whether you're an elite (like Bernard), a weekend warrior, or a competitive age-grouper, if you've recently established some training consistency and feel mentally energized and motivated, AND you aren't carrying deep fatigue from a long season of racing and training, there is absolutely no reason to stop now simply because of the calender.

Happy trails!
~Coach Al

PS: In a series of future posts, I'm going to lay out my philosophy for how to build fitness progressively in the off season. Stay tuned.

 

 

Are You Ready To Break The Cycle?

Marathoner_Knee_Brace_med

In response to a recent survey I sent out to some athletes on our mailing list, many told me how frustrated they are with an on again-off again running injury cycle. Quite a few also said they have learned the hard way that when they're injured, they can't train, and when they can't train, they can't improve.

Listen, I hate talking about injuries as much as you and everyone else. Being injured is like that dirty little secret that no one, especially the injured, ever wants to discuss, ya know? Runners lie, wish, hope and hide them, and even try to silently talk themselves out of them. And it doesn't seem to be improving either. I read a prediction recently that 7 out of 10 runners will be injured in the 2016 calender year. Something is seriously wrong here!

If you "google" any common running injury, you'll get page upon page of information on how to self diagnose your injury. As you start to read through the articles and pages you find, very often a calm will come over you; you're finally finding the information to the problem and hopefully a cure is around the next page, right?

The truth is, when you're injured, the SITE of the pain is rarely the SOURCE of the pain. So self diagnosis rarely ever works.  In fact, you often end up just treating the symptoms, not CURING the root cause because you don't know what it is!  And the root cause of an injury is often quite simple and foundational in nature.

If you've read this far, chances are this topic is resonating with you, so please keep reading!

So let me ask you a question: How many courses of physical therapy have you gone through to fix an injury in a specific area only to have it crop up again? I hear that complaint from athletes in every sport, young and old, every day. Here's how it often plays out in a vexing triad of money, time, and frustration:

Let's say an athlete has recurring bouts of Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS). What's the actual cost?

3 bouts of ITBS x 12 weeks of physical therapy + 2 x-rays + 4 pairs of different running shoes + 2 knee braces + 1 MRI  = a whole lot of TIME, MONEY, AND FRUSTRATION! 

"Why isn't this injury gone? Why does it keep coming back?"

If this is you and you're ready to stop treating the symptoms and finally RESOLVE your injury issues, why not start TODAY with my partner, Dr. Kurt Strecker's FREE VIDEO INJURY PREVENTION SERIES.  Click HERE to learn more.

Honestly, I watched him film these videos, and I think they're really good. There is absolutely no cost to you so you've got absolutely nothing to lose, right?  You will receive real and valuable information that actually works.

Are YOU ready to break that cycle?

If I can answer any questions or help in any way, contact me and let me know. I'm listening.

Happy trails!
~Coach Al

PS: In a future post, I'll discuss the biggest error that most runners make when they return from an injury. If YOU are making this mistake, you will very likely see the injury return much sooner than you would like, and that sucks. Stay tuned.