Archive for Ask Coach Al

The TrueForm Runner: Part 1 – Sherrington’s Law In Action

TrueForm Runners lining the front window at the Pursuit Training Center

TrueForm Runners lining the front window at the Pursuit Training Center

As many of you know, we are fortunate to have five TrueForm Runners (non-motorized treadmills made by Samsara Fitness) in our Pursuit Training Center (PTC). If you haven’t listened to our original podcast about the TrueForm (with the owners of Samsara Fitness) you can find it here.

In the next few months we are planning a series of articles on what we’re learning from using the TrueForms (running on them ourselves and coaching with them in a variety of our classes and 1 on 1 personal training). Most importantly, we’ll also share how using on a TrueForm Runner could help YOU improve (perhaps even more than you thought was possible!).

While today’s first-in-a-series article revolves around running on the TrueForm, the discussion will center on the nervous system: how it works and how integration, timing (and the Chinese philosophy of yin-yang) can powerfully (and positively!) impact your running speed, strength AND endurance. We will also examine how the TrueForm Runner can help you “connect the dots” and put it all together.

Note: the concepts we will discuss now and in the future will be born out of our experience and should be of great value to you, whether you have a TrueForm Runner to run on or not. We hope however, that should you have the chance to run on one that you jump at the opportunity.

In the time that the TrueForm Runners have been in our facility, I’ve probably spent more time running on them than any other person.  I have also coached some individual runners through a “rebuild” of their running using the TrueForm Runner as it was truly intended, NOT as a treadmill per se, but as a run trainer.  I’m also teaching an ongoing class at the PTC using the TrueForm which focuses on speed development and on learning and refining sprint mechanics.

What am I (and others who have used the TrueForm Runners) learning?

The first thing anyone who runs on the TrueForm for the first time may learn is getting the belt to even move so they CAN run on it can be difficult, especially if they have had a history of injury and are not moving well. It is really eye opening to see someone struggle; the look of shock, dismay and even a tiny bit of embarrassment on a person’s face is priceless. The fact is, the reasons for this struggle are virtually all nervous-system related.

(In the past, we’ve written frequently on our blog about the fact that running is a neural activity, and that running well truly has an important skill component to it. If you haven’t listened to our podcast with running expert Owen Anderson, Ph.D on this very topic, check it out here.)

So when someone experiences difficulty running on the TrueForm, what is actually happening? The answer to that question is what this first in a series of articles is all about.

To begin, let me first ask a question: Have you ever watched a highly accomplished elite runner and noticed how fluidly he or she seems to run, or how they seem to be able to effortlessly fly through the air bounding from one leg to another?

Stop for a moment and picture in your mind’s eye, a race horse in slow-motion rounding a turn at the track, or a dressage horse stepping out like a ballet dancer. Or gaze up at the sky and watch a bird in flight. What about a top-notch symphony orchestra: strings, woodwinds, brass and percussion, all playing perfectly together to create a rich beautiful sound, or a scull with its entire crew perfectly and synchronously propelling the boat at breakneck speed. What you see (or hear) is the near-perfect integration and timing of muscle contraction and relaxation (yin-yang). It is fluid – synchronous – graceful – powerful, like poetry in motion.

This seemingly fluid-like blend is categorized by something a neuroscientist named Sherrington told us about in the early 20th Century – what has become known as Sherrington’s Law of Reciprocal Inhibition or Innervation. You know this simply as one way of describing how a muscle group relaxes as its opposing muscle group is stimulated. For example, imagine you grab a dumbbell and curl it. As you curl the weight, firing the biceps and thus reducing the angle at your elbow, the opposing muscle group, the triceps, are relaxing to allow for this curling movement to occur.

Also known as rhythmic reflexes, the key thing to remember is that the simple act of running is Sherrington’s Law in action. And the act of running well (fast, efficient, powerful) is Sherrington’s Law in action at a very high level! In other words, running requires integrated activation and reciprocal innervation of muscles in order to happen. In effect, this rhythmic reflex which is inherent in compound movements like running, result in a meshing, somewhat like the cogs in a precision instrument or fine watch.

Perhaps the next questions to ask are, do we all “mesh” or blend like a precision instrument when we run? What are the real differences in how each of us puts Sherrington’s Law into action? Most importantly, can we improve our own run coordination and timing? If we could, wouldn’t these changes result in improvements in speed, power and efficiency?

Before we delve into the possible answers to those questions, let’s look a little deeper at the importance of this yin-yang relationship of tension and relaxation and review the concept of Superstiffness.

Athletes experimenting with the TrueForm Runners!

Athletes experimenting with the TrueForm Runners at the Pursuit Training Center

Respected back expert and professor of kinesiology at the University of Waterloo, Dr. Stuart McGill, introduced this concept and has written often about it. I once heard Dr. McGill, in a presentation he gave at a strength and conditioning conference, say that in his work with many different athletes, the single largest difference between the elite and the average, was in the way that an elite athlete is able to tense AND relax at exactly the right time, at a higher level than the average athlete. It would seem that the regular among us seem to be tense when we should be relaxed, and relaxed when we should be tense!

When speaking about this concept of Superstiffness in his book, “Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance,” Dr. McGill states:

“Breaking the board by the martial artist requires the skill of compliance (relaxation) to build speed but with rapid super stiffness just at impact. The professional golfer who has a relaxed backswing but rapidly obtains super stiffness at ball impact (followed by an astounding relaxation rate) is the one who achieves the long ball. The one who tries to swing too hard too soon actually decreases speed of movement with inappropriate stiffness. We have measured the creation of “pulses” of muscle force in athletes used to create “shockwaves.” Precise timing, the rate of relaxation, joint buttressing together with all of the principles of Superstiffness are optimized.”

In case we needed to hear from even more experts on the topic of the tension/relaxation curve, well known Soviet sport scientist, Dr. Leonid Matveyev observed “the higher the athlete’s level, the quicker he could relax his muscles.” It has been said that the soviet scientist observed an 800% difference between novice and Olympic level competitors. Without a doubt, there is clearly a very important relationship in elite performance between well-timed tension and relaxation, with mastery of relaxation being a hallmark of an elite athlete.

And what of the TrueForm as it relates to these concepts?

Because the TrueForm is non-motorized, the runner is forced to create and maintain their own momentum. A runner can’t easily compensate (fake) their way to good running form artificially.  As a result, the more coordinated, synchronous and “mesh-like” your running, the more easily and effectively you’ll be able to run on the TrueForm.

For example, as your skill and coordination improve:

  • Your ability to create tension at the right time and in the right place (your leg/foot in mid-stance phase applying force to the belt) improves.
  • Your ability to relax certain parts of your body, such as the leg moving forward through the swing phase of the stride, also improves.
  • Your ability to take full advantage of the elastic component of running (where more than 50% of your forward propulsion in running comes from) also improves. (More about this aspect in a future article).

What is happening as coordination and skill improve is not from conscious thought – it happens unconsciously in the brain and nervous system. (It should also be noted that it is not in the cardiovascular system either, where runners typically look for improvements in fitness).

It is MUCH more about timing and integration, than effort or pure strength, just like the rowers in that scull or the dancing dressage horse. You don’t have to force it, as much as simply (and patiently) allow your nervous system and brain to figure it out – to learn better how to do their thing more efficiently and effectively.

To summarize to this point: The improvements aren’t about a single muscle or body part (no, not even your butt!) What it IS about is everything from your fingertips to your toenails working together as a single, integrated, holistic unit. With repeated practice, the TrueForm can help you and your brain and nervous system, “connect the dots” more completely.

Some of the benefits of a non-motorized treadmill like the TrueForm are:

  • Near perfect application of force into the ground at the exact right time, resulting in a longer more powerful stride.
  • Relaxation of all other parts of your body that aren’t applying that force, resulting in less energy use.
  • Enhanced posture, mobility, and stability with repeated training and practice, resulting is greater resistance to fatigue over the long haul.
  • Yin-yang: the perfect balance of relaxation and tension.

Tension and relaxation in all sports, including and especially running, are the two sides of the performance and durability coin. Tension is force production into the ground: it’s a powerful stride that lifts the body over the ground against the forces of gravity. On the other hand, relaxation is leg speed and endurance. To be the best runner you can be, you need both.

In future articles, I will discuss how we are actually training on and progressing our training on the TrueForm Runners, as well as other movement related components and how they can be enhanced using the TrueForm.  I will also present some strategies on how you can enhance the effects of the TrueForm without actually having one to use. Stay tuned.

Happy Trails!

~Coach Al

 

PS: in order for all of the improvements that have been discussed above to occur completely and to the full satisfaction of the individual runner, the runner also must possess appropriate mobility (ankles and hips), true dynamic core stability, and solid functional strength inside a balanced body. No tool, treadmill (motorized or not) or training protocol can ever substitute for mastery and maintenance of movement quality fundamentals.

Musings From Coach Al: What It Really Takes To Be Successful

What a pity that so many people would rather believe their doubts and doubt their beliefts. Why don’t we just decide to have no doubts, and believe our beliefs! Fear and worry are just the misuse of the creative powers we originally got to dream. –  Jannie Putter

There is more in us than we know. If we can be made to see it, perhaps, for the rest of our lives, we will be unwilling to settle for less. — Kurt Hahn


Coach Al speaking with ultra-runner and coach Debbie Livingston as she runs on the TrueForm Runner

Coach Al speaking with ultra-runner Debbie Livingston as she runs on the TrueForm Runner inside the Pursuit Training Center.

Every day I speak with athletes who are hoping to up their game to a new higher level.  They want more speed, more strength, less injury, and faster finish times. Every so often an athlete will walk into our Pursuit Training Center looking for a quick fix for a chronic injury, or the secrets to getting faster. For those who are willing to learn and work hard, they have found a home to build their “best” possible self. For others who don’t find the quick fix, we often never see them again. At least for the moment, they lack what it takes to truly reach their potential.

In this society in which we now live, it seems that everywhere we look around us, we are encouraged to look for that quick fix, “instant” cure, or some kind of special secret to success. Take a pill, walk into the right gym, or meet the right person, and all of a sudden your life is better and you’re faster and stronger, right?

Wrong. It doesn’t work that way, not now and not ever, despite what you read or who you believe.

The great Jim Rohn once said: “Success is the predictable result of doing the right things, in the right way, at the right time.”

John Gardner once said: “Excellence is doing ordinary things, extraordinarily well.”

Athletes who are able to achieve long-term success and who reach their ultimate potential aren’t born that way, in the same way that most people who are rich didn’t just stumble upon a large plastic bag filled with hundred dollar bills.

Long term success happens to those who embrace the idea that it is a growth process that requires focus, determination, hard work, a little humility, and perhaps most of all, a willingness to do the things you often least want to do.

Emphasis ought to be placed on the humility and willingness to do the things you don’t want to, as in my experience, they very often have a greater impact on long term success than many other factors. Humility means accepting you don’t know-it-all and are willing to listen, hear the truth, and commit to life-long learning. It also means seeing supposed “failures” as not failures at all, but rather, as one more stepping stone that moves you closer to success – and to your ultimate potential.

Here at Pursuit Athletic Performance, we preach fanatically about the importance of doing things in the right way, as Jim Rohn said. My partner Doc Strecker is often heard saying that you can do virtually any exercise 95% correctly and get very little benefit from it.  To get the full benefit of any endeavor, exercise, or training progression, there’s one best way – the right way.

Are you doing the right things, in the right way, at the right time, in your own training?

Are you doing the ordinary things, extraordinarily well?

There’s no substitute for hard work and determination, that is true. It is equally true that there’s is also no substitute for doing the right things, in the right way, at the right time.

  • Skill building: start immediately learning and building proper skills and mechanics, all of which will ultimately set the limit for how far you can raise your fitness level.
  • Fundamentals first: address foundational and fundamental movement quality elements first, before moving on to more advanced fitness oriented exercises and activities.
  • Get out of that injury cycle: fix that chronic injury once and for all so you can get out of constant pain and into a state of growth. (If you’re frustrated and not sure WHAT to do, then contact me and I’ll help you get the results you desire!)
  • Team building: who will help you achieve your ultimate potential? No one does it alone. Build a support team of family, friends, coaches, and training partners, who are healthy, like-minded, patient, life-long learners.
  • As hard as it is sometimes, be willing to take a good look in the mirror: Is it easy? No. Is it worth it? YES. The truth WILL set you free. It is only with honest and objective feedback of where you are, right now, can you truly move forward in a positive way toward meaningful lasting success and happiness.

Our future success and happiness isn’t dictated or limited by our DNA, our parents, where we grew up, or who we know.

Far greater achievement, statisfaction, and fullfillment are available to each and every one of us, regardless of our background, talent level, or gender.

Start with the above quotes and live by them on a daily basis, and you’ll be well on your way to making 2015 your best year ever!

~Coach Al 

 

Minimum Standards: Can You Hit “X” Of Something To Ensure “Y” Result?

Team Pursuit triathletes reviewing some basic skills at our fall 2014 "Re-Set Camp."

Team Pursuit triathletes reviewing some basic skills at our fall 2014 “Re-Set Camp.”

Hi Everyone! Coach Al here.

On the heels of our “Team Pursuit” Re-Set Camp this past weekend, a team member emailed me and asked about some proclamations I had apparently made with regard to minimum standards, that you, as an athlete, ought to be shooting for prior to embarking on hard(er), more challenging training.

When answering the email, I didn’t recall exactly what those minimum standards he was referring to might be, so I responded in the email to him the way that Kurt and I typically do, by saying that the “gold standard” for assessing when any athlete is ready to train hard with little to no obvious risk of injury, is to have 2 degrees or less of lateral pelvic drop at 5k race effort. I wasn’t entirely sure that this response would satisfy or answer this athlete’s question, but as I said, it IS a pretty good minimum standard to aim at.

The athlete responded to me with this: “You had a lot more proclamations than that. It is hard as athletes to know we are hitting that, where knowing a list of accomplishments that support that will be far more productive (plank for X min, 10 pushups, etc).”

I completely understand that knowing on your own how much pelvic drop is occuring at any time is difficult. (To know for certainty, come on in to our gait analysis lab in the Pursuit Training Center, and see what IS actually happening when you run.)

However, from my point of view, while it might be neat and tidy to have a LIST of “x” minimum standards to meet, the truth is that training progression and “readiness” for more progressive, harder, more challenging training, isn’t QUITE as black or white as we might like it to be.

And perhaps more to the point, in my mind, one of the fundamental questions that comes out of this discussion is, how strong or stable is “strong or stable ENOUGH?”

Taken at face value, that is a very iffy question with no real rock solid answer that applies to every person. And its complicated by the fact that it isn’t really pure strength we’re after, its work capacity (and perhaps resilience or resistance to fatigue), as Gray Cook alludes to in this article called: Strength?

I love this quote from the article, where Gray speaks about the phrase he prefers to use when describing strength: work capacity.

He says, and I quote: “Let me simplify work capacity. If we are talking about repetitions: Any repetition with integrity should get you an A or a B on the qualitative strength-grading scale. Any repetition without integrity should get you a D or an F on the strength scale. If you can’t decide on integrity, you are stuck at a C.

How many imperfect reps do you have time to do today? If you don’t have an integrity gauge or a quantity-against-quality gauge, you will never be able to truly value work capacity.”

This is a very powerful concept because it points out that as we move forward on the progression continuum (making things harder, or to do more challenging exercises, or to add more load to our existing exercises), we’re also fighting that constant battle to maintain that movement integrity – to keep the ratio ofquality vs. quantity as it should be. For anyone who has pushed themselves to do more, lift more, run faster, or pedal harder, you KNOW that form starts to deteriorate as fatigue rises. Simply put, the more tired you get, the harder it is to do it well.

So if I were to offer you a simple and straight forward minimum standard of “do X reps and you’ll get Y result,” and you didn’t get that result you were seeking even though you hit that minimum, you’d be looking back at me and wondering why. And likely holding me accountable to it.

This athlete said it’s “hard to know as athletes” where you are and whether you’re hitting what you need to.

I get it.

But what if, in your quest to hit some theoretical “minimum standard,” you gave up quality in favor of quantity to hit the standard?

What if the standard itself ended up having very little to do with YOUR specific issue, or the limiters that are most holding you back from reaching the next level of performance?

The truth is, there are VERY few, engraved-in-stone, “if you do this, then you get that” scenarios within the progressive training process.

And along with that, there are certainly NO guarantees that any athlete is “enough” of anything, especially when that anything has to do with stability, work capacity, or mobility/flexibility.

My suggestions?

  1. Keep trying to be better. Not perfect, just better. 
  2. Embrace the process – immerse yourself in it. It might be cliche’ to say enjoy the journey, but it really IS paramount for long-term success and exploding your true potential. 
  3. Seek solutions within AND outside yourself for your weak links, weak patterns, your imbalances.
  4. Go enthusiastically after those patterns, exercises, or skills that you don’t do quite as easily or quite as well as others. Clean them up!
  5. Always come back to the movement quality basics and fundamentals as your baseline. 

The objective real-time video assessment that we do as a part of our gait analysis really IS THE ONLY way to know for sure, exactly where you are at. Other than that, the process that includes increasing training stress or load, doesn’t always have hard margins and may not even have a finish point. To believe that there are those minimum standards, in order to make it easy to know where you’re at, is really fools gold.

That is NOT to say that you shouldn’t keep trying to be BETTER. That’s really the ultimate goal. Wake every day with a commitment to be better.

WillSmithQuoteKeep laying bricks perfectly, as Will Smith said, and soon you’ll have a wall.

Seek the paths that lead you ultimately toward improved body balance, improved mobility and stability, and work capacity, and then reinforce ALL OF THOSE elements (capabilities) with smart, progressive, patient, persistent training.

And, keep it fun along the way of course!

Happy trails!

~Coach Al

Be Careful WHO You Get Your Running Advice From…

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” – Albert Einstein

“Caveat Emptor” – Latin for let the buyer beware


Hi Everyone! Coach Al here.

Today I’m jumping up onto my soapbox.  I guess I’m a little tired of looking around me (and online as well) at coaches and trainers who call themselves “experts” or who dish out a pile of crappy advice (and who don’t walk the talk) when marketing to unsuspecting potential athletes/clients, and so I just figured it was time to vent a little bit.

And perhaps offer a little advice, too. :)

So if you’re a runner or multi-sport athlete who truly wants to be better, faster and improve consistently, OR a fitness enthusiast who simply wants to be able to work out and stay healthy, read on. If you’re offended by hearing the truth, then stop reading now.

My advice today starts with this: Be very careful about who you’re taking your running (and training) advice from. 

In this day and age, anyone can post a video on youtube and become an “expert.”

Anyone can open a gym or fitness studio and talk about “doing it right,” without really knowing what “right” is or actually doing what they say you should do.

As you move forward and work toward achieving YOUR goals in 2015 and beyond, ask yourself some simple questions:

  • Has the person you’re taking advice from EVER demonstrated the ability to remain injury free while doing progressively more challenging training?

Many coaches and trainers right around you, are injured themselves while they lecture to YOU about what you need to do to stay injury free! Beware of frauds and internet “experts”.

  • Have they demonstrated the ability to train progressively and improve their performance consistently, moving from a novice to a higher level of performance?

Many coaches and trainers out there preach like they’ve “been there and done that,” yet have never ever trained from a novice level to a higher level of performance!  I’m not talking about finishing a half-marathon or marathon, I’m talking about raising performance to a higher level.

If you are going to take advice about how to get faster or stronger, shouldn’t you take it from someone who has actually demonstrated an ability to do it? Beware of a trainer who always has an excuse for their sub-par performance or some reason why they are always satisfied with mediocrity.

  • Have they worked with others who have been injured or in a long-term cycle of injury and helped them get OUT of that injury cycle to rise to a higher level of performance?

If a trainer or coach IS injured themselves, can they honestly speak to what it takes to remain injury free? (Other than traumatic injury, in nearly every instance the answer is no!)

No, I AM NOT saying a coach has to have gone “fast” to be a good coach, or done the ironman to be considered a triathlete.

What I am saying is that there are way too many frauds out there pretending to be “expert” trainers and coaches, using the internet and unsuspecting consumers to profit.

  • Take a good look at who you’re training with:
    • Are they injured?
    • Are they dismissing things like movement quality and are they recommending you do the same?
    • Are they practicing what they preach?
    • Are they, or have they, demonstrated the ability to do what they say you should do?

Be smart. Caveat emptor.

You’re worth it.

Happy Trails!

~Coach Al

Would You Benefit From More Hip Mobility?

“If your mobility is compromised enough to make you compensate, the sensory input that you have to your reflexive behavior is askew—you have an overload of information or an underload of information. Either way, you’re not receiving the information you need. If sensory information is not converted to perception and perception is not converted to action, you’re not going to get better without embracing the idea of changing mobility.”
          – Gray Cook, from his presentation entitled Continuums

Hi Everyone!  Coach Al here. As a coach who works with runners and triathletes of every ability level, all who want to be stronger, better, and faster, I KNOW for them to be their best, mobility must come first. It must come before strength work, before speed work or interval work, and before very long runs. 

Without appropriate mobility in the right places in the body, an athlete will be at much higher risk of injury AND won’t perform to their true potential.

Restricted mobility in the hips and ankles means that athlete can’t attentuate gravity or ground reaction forces. As a result, their calves or legs or low-back must step in and compensate, often resulting in pain, injury, and frustration. There’s also the issue of poor economy or efficiency resulting from that restricted freedom of movement. To put it another way, that athlete simply has to work harder (higher heart rate, more effort, and thus more fatigue and less endurance) at any effort level to produce the same relative speed or power.

IF YOU are short on mobility in the right places, you’re very likely much closer to injury than you realize, AND you’re slower and less efficient than you could be also.

Here’s a short 2-minute video that I hope helps you get a bit more freedom of movement from your hips and ankles. Enjoy!

~Coach Al

 

 

 

 

3 TIPS to Jumpstart YOUR Running This Fall!

Deb-Trails For A Cure

Team Pursuit Ultra-Runner Deb Livingston, at the start of the “Trails To A Cure” trail race!

Now that FALL is officially here in the northern hemisphere (or so it seems based upon those early morning temps!), its time to talk RUNNING! Fall is truly running weather!  There’s so many great running events and races in the fall, and we get the benefit of having trained all summer, so the cool temps instantly make us more fit and fast!  The fall is also a great time to improve your speed and strength. Train smart this fall and watch out, you may arrive in the spring better and faster than ever. Here’s 3 tips to jumpstart your running this fall:

1. Get your STRIDE RATE UP!  A higher overall stride rate isn’t a magical elixir that will turn you into a faster runner, but it is one element that, especially if you’re striding slowly (plodding?), is key for improving.  One reason is that running is a neural activity. That is, if you are plodding along at 85 or fewer stride cycles per minute, you’re training your nervous system to essentially react slowly, and thus not building some of the foundational skills (remember: nervous system = skills) that will ultimately lead to faster running. ​Striding more quickly will also help you land more under your body and maintain better balance if you run on trails, two important and basic elements to improving as a runner.

(If you haven’t listened to our podcast with running expert and coach, Owen Anderson, Ph D, we discuss this aspect in great detail. Check it out!)

Virtually every runner should have at least a 90 stride-cycles-per-minute rate, which = 180 strides per minute.  ​How do you easily check to see where you are? There’s many ways to do it, but here is one simple way:

While gazing at your watch, count how many times your right foot hits the ground in 30 seconds. Multiply by two, and you have your stride rate cycle for 1 minute.  Multiply that times two and you have the total number of strides you are taking in a minute. The goal is 90 stride cycles per minute, or roughly 180 strides per minute.

2. Get into the HILLS! Flat roads are “fun” and “relaxing” to run on, but unless you are working VERY hard, they aren’t going to help you get faster. (Unless that “flat” is a track, in which case you might be building the things you need there to help you improve. Notice I said “might.”) The way to TRANSFER over the stability and strength you’re developing in your supplemental strength training (you ARE working on your strength, aren’t you?) is to RUN IN THE HILLS!

When I am running in very hilly terrain, I don’t moniter speed or pace as I might on the flats. Assuming you’re not doing hill intervals, the smart approach is to just run, staying near the middle to top of your aerobic zone most of the time, working with the terrain. This fall, challenge yourself to run hills, climbing and descending relentlessly.  You’ll be super glad you did!

One IMPORTANT caveat: If you aren’t moving well or building strength and stability in a smart way, the hills can break you. An injury that comes from running on hilly terrain is a red flag that some OTHER element in your training is lacking, e.g. flexibility, mobility, or basic stability/strength.

One last thing: Practice good form when running UP and DOWN. Tall chest and long spine, stiffen the ankle when climbing very steep grades, keep your arm carriage tight when going up (use elbow drive back for power and speed), and use your arms for balancing when descending steep hills.

3. Get OFF road and ONTO the Trail!: We talked about trail running in a recent podcast; how running on the trail vs. the road can really give your running ability a serious BOOST. Of course, there’s much more to be gained by someone who always runs on the road, vs. someone who is already doing some trail running. If you’re a road runner 80-90% of the time, then it IS TIME to get OFF ROAD! So, what are the ways that trail running can positively impact your running ability?

  1. Resistance to injury: The trail is always changing (depending upon how technical it is), so you’re not constantly pounding the same movements or muscles with every stride. Udulating terrain, rocks and roots, etc., force you to constantly adapt and footstrike patterns and balance change and improve. The ground is softer and because of every step being slightly different, your risk of injury from repetitive stress goes down.
  2. Transferring strength: One other fantastic way to improve and transfer that strength you’re building on the floor is to get off road, because dealing with the undulations in terrain as well as the steep UPS and DOWNS, builds incredible strength in the feet, legs and trunk! Take a close look at a true trail runner and what you’ll see is a very strong runner. When you combine the trail with climbing and descending, you have the MAGIC that will build an incredibly resilient and strong runner, who could THEN head out onto the road or track with much better chances of building speed in a powerful way.

Enjoy your running this fall even more by incorporating some of the above suggestions into your program. Get faster and stronger and have more fun!

Happy trails!

~Coach Al 

Are You Addicted To Sugar?

Americans on average consume an incredible amount of sugar.  Studies suggest that the average person consumes over 130 pounds of added sugar (much of it hidden) annually!  Believe it or not, the average endurance athlete isn’t any different when it comes to eating (and relying upon) too much sugar. Yes, it is true that sugar stored as glycogen in your muscles is your body’s preferred first source of fuel for training and racing. And yes, that stored glycogen also DOES fuel higher intensity efforts comparatively speaking.  However, if you want to go FASTER over LONGER distances, while being LEANER and HEALTHIER, your ultimate preferred fuel should be STORED BODY FAT, not sugar. Before you can become that lean and mean, superb fat burning machine you want to be, you need to first reduce how much sugar you’re eating on a daily basis. It really is that simple. The million dollar question becomes, how do you GET OFF the sugar drip, and TURN ON fat burning? Let’s start with some questions first. Do any of these sound familiar?

  • Are you “hungry” first thing in the morning when you wake? (You shouldn’t necessarily be hungry upon wakening, but if you ate late or eat too much sugar, you are sure to wake feeling hungry!)
  • Do you experience cravings throughout the day for sugary foods (or mood swings)?  (A craving isn’t true hunger!)
  • Do you have a hard time stopping once you start eating sweets?
  • Do you find yourself needing something sweet as a “pick me up” during the day? (Blood sugar fluctuations mean your energy ebbs and flows, up and down. The need for a “pick me up” is common as a result).
  • Do you find you need some “calories” during training if you’ve been out for an hour or more? (True endurance is defined as your body’s ability to burn fat as a fuel. You ought to be able to exercise at a moderate intensity for many hours before “needing” additional calories!)

If you answered yes to any of these, you are NOT alone. If you want to get LEANER and stay HEALTHIER (and who doesn’t?), and become a BETTER fat burner, there are two things you MUST do:

1. Get off the sugar drip now: Your health AND your performance would greatly benefit from a firm commitment to completely QUIT sugar for at least two weeks (if not more).  It isn’t just the processed foods containing sugar (soda for example), it is also those natural forms of sugar (honey and maple syrup as an example), as well as all starches which are easily and rapidly converted into sugar.

2. Train to burn fat, not sugar: master your endurance nutrition: Learning how to become a better FAT burner isn’t JUST about reducing your intake of sugar. How you approach your training nutrition and training also plays a role.

To learn what steps you need to take, watch our very popular Spreecast (webinar) called Master Your Endurance Nutrition, where we teach you step by step, everything you need to train better, blast bodyfat and improve your true endurance.

Also, consider our 14-day detox program: The easiest path to getting OFF the sugar drip is to have the nutritional and motivational support we provide with our own 14-day Detox program! Back by popular demand, this unique program from Designs for Health, has been hugely successful for hundreds of athletes just like you! We’re launching it on the 29th.

NOW IS THE TIME to make the changes you need, to be better than ever.

Listen, we all have a love/hate relationship with sugar.  What most people don’t know is that human beings are hard wired (evolution) to eat it.  After all, while sugary foods were in short supply and hard to come by at one time (picture yourself foraging through impossibly thick brush to get some berries or climbing a tree to get to a bee’s nest), sugar is now obviously easily accessible and ubiquitous. Detoxing from sugar and adopting a long-term, low-sugar lifestyle isn’t just important to get leaner and go further and faster, it’s absolutely essential to prevent chronic disease and stay healthy. A high sugar diet…

  • Makes you fat.
  • Promotes inflammation throughout the body.
  • Is closely correlated with every single chronic disease.
  • Speeds up the aging process.
  • Increases your risk of cancer and heart disease.
  • Limits your true endurance and speed.

If you want to be faster, stronger, leaner and feel younger, you need to get OFF the sugar drip right now.   Get in touch if we can help in any way. And don’t forget our detox program, which could be just the thing you need to break old bad habits and make the permanent changes that will set you on the path that will make 2015 and beyond, the best years of your life!

~Coach Al 

Ps:

How about a DETOX BONUS!? **The first 10 people who read this and sign up for our detox  will get a FREE 20 minute consultation with me, Coach Al, to discuss any training or nutrition related topic they would like! SIGN UP NOW, and get YOUR FREE consult!  Let’s talk training and nutrition!

How to get this special bonus? Easy! 1. Sign up for the detox! 2. Send me an email at info@pursuitathleticperformance.com.  If you’re among the first 10, we’ll schedule our appointment!

DETOX DOUBLE BONUS: **Any one who reads this and sends me an email, we will send you a LINK to our special spreecast entitled LOW CARB, HIGH FAT FUELING: A Better Way?  We did this webinar for our team – it can be yours to view NOW.  Just email!

Runners: Are You Injured? Here’s the Secret Solution You Need!

Don't train through injury and don't think wishing it away will solve your problem!

Don’t train through injury and don’t think wishing it away will solve your problem!

And what IS that secret solution?

(Drum Roll Please………)

The “secret solution” is THE TRUTH….

…..which is something you probably don’t want to hear.  I get it.

Listen up: if you’re injured, you’ve got a real problem.  No, it isn’t life or death…..but because you love to run, it’s a real problem.

And the solution to your problem ISN’T as easy as just “resting and letting it heal.” 

Yes, the words, “I’ll just rest it and let it heal” is, without a doubt, the most common strategic response I hear from injured runners, on how they will solve their injury woes.

Allowing time for your body to rest and heal is hardly ever a bad idea, but it is foolish to believe (or hope, or pray) that simply resting and taking time away from running is all you need to overcome your injury.  Hardly ever works that way, I’m sorry to say.

There is only one way that works, based on my over 30 years of experience as a runner, triathlete, coach, and running biomechanics expert who’s performed hundreds of gait analysis on injured athletes:

Until you determine the reasons WHY the injury occured, and then address that cause at its root level, your injury will likely return once you resume running. 

The choice is always yours. You can keep beating your head against a wall and living with some level of pain on a daily basis. You can keep throwing money away on race entry fees for races you never end up actually doing. The choice is always yours.

Doc and I are here to help, when you’re finally ready to SOLVE your problem and enjoy running for the rest of your life.

Make it a great day!

~Coach Al 

ps:  The 2nd most common response I hear from injured runners is that they’ll go to see their orthopedic doctor. Really?  Remember my friends, while there are many good orthopedists out there, their primary gig is using sharp toys to cut you.  For many, it isn’t on helping you to address the movement oriented issues that are very likely the cause of the injury.  Think about it!

051: Talent, Training and Exploding Your Potential [Podcast]

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Searching For Talents - Recruitment ConceptWhere does talent, in all its many forms, come from? Are we born with our own unique talents or can we develop them over time? And if we can “grow” and develop talent, how does that happen?

Thinking about it a bit differently, does intelligence measured through aptitude tests always correlate with success? Certainly, we all know world-class athletic or musical talent when we see it in another person, don’t we?

If you’re the inquisitive type like we are, you’ve thought about these questions more than once. It is the old “nature vs. nurture” discussion made even more interesting as we learn more from science about how our brains function, and how skills are developed.  Hot best-selling books like Dan Coyle’s “The Talent Code,” and Malcom Gladwell’s “Outliers” offer even more interesting clues.

It isn’t uncommon for endurance athletes to wonder about talent.  When we show up at the local group workout or race, it is hard to avoid comparing ourselves to others and wondering just how much talent we have and what our limits truly are.

Are you one of those who was “fast and strong” from the get-go, OR is it taking more time for you to develop and reach your goals than you would really like it to?

What does it REALLY take to develop a high level of skill, proficiency, and ultimately speed?

What are the true limits of our own potential? Is that potential limited by our innate talent or are our limits, truly “limitless,” IF we are willing to work harder and longer?  How much does stick-to-it-iveness and relentless drive determine our ultimate success?  How good can we really be?

In today’s podcast, we discuss all of those questions and more, including:

  • Different forms of talent; what is nature vs. nurture and its impact on your own growth and development as an athlete.
  • What the latest scientific research says about whether you must be “born with it,” or whether you can develop it.
  • What is the single biggest talent-related factor that prevents most people from realizing their true potential?
  • What is deliberate practice and how might it impact your own talent and development?
  • How YOU might be able to develop your own talent to explode your true potential!
  • And more!

Thanks for joining us on today’s podcast. We hope you’ll share your reaction after listening to our discussion. Let us know what you think.  Happy Trails!

~Coach Al and Dr. Strecker 


Make it happen! Believe in you!

If you’re going to MAKE IT HAPPEN, you can’t give in or give up too soon! When it gets hard, buckle down and get to work!

Addendum from Coach Al: I have a strong personal belief that MOST people give up too soon, or become complacent at the first sign of a plateau in their quest to improve, and achieve.  And I think that “giving up” is sometimes due to boredom and much of the time, might simply be due to the idea that we’ve reached some level of acceptable skill and then “settle” at that point.

I think writer Mikhail Klassen, said it best in his own take on where talent comes from:

Suppose you wanted to learn how to play the piano. You know that practice is involved. You might practice for a little bit each day, getting better and better. Your initial progress will start to plateau, however, after you’ve reached a modest degree of skill. At this point, you have to make a choice: either continue to “practice” each day, playing the same pieces over and over again, polishing things up a little here and there, doing the same exercises that you’ve already mastered…

-or-

…you can begin deliberate practice. You were probably already doing deliberate practice right when you started. Learning new pieces was hard! Learning difficult scales was boring. Getting the mood and dynamics of a piece right took time. You stopped doing these things once you got reasonably good at them. You stopped practising deliberately.”

 More: In a research paper published in 2009 by K. Anders Ericsson et al, in describing deliberate practice, they say (and I concur):

“In contrast to play, deliberate practice is a highly structured activity, the explicit goal of which is to improve performance. Specific tasks are invented to overcome weaknesses, and performance is carefully monitored to provide cues for ways to improve it further.”

Note the emphasis on “tasks being invented to overcome weaknesses,” or that performance is “carefully monitored.”

These are facets which were an important part of my own development as a musician AND as an athlete and coach. And they are a integral part of our philosophy and mission here at Pursuit Athletic Performance.

My personal “take home” message for all of you who truly want to be the best you can?

  • Never stop learning!
  • Avoid gathering more “information” (especially from internet experts or frauds), but instead, work with true experts who can give you the objective feedback you need, and help you avoid needless trial and error.
  • Never give in or give up, especially when it gets particularly hard!  When you’re bored, or feel you’ve done “enough,” that’s just the time to dig in deeper and keep at it.
  • Keep tweaking, keep challenging, keep reviewing and assessing. Look for ways to blast plateaus and progress to the next level!
  • Surround yourself with like-minded friends and training partners.
  • Be creative and develop ways to keep the fire burning! Motivation and inspiration, in part, comes from digging deeper and learning more. Keep the fire alive!
  • Believe it’s possible, and then do the work that will continually reinforce the belief!

 

Breaking News: Pursuit Athletic Performance to Open New Training Facility!

Breaking News:

Pursuit Athletic Performance to open a NEW State-Of-The-Art Training Facility! 

 

Here it is, the exciting news we have been anxiously waiting to share with all of you: Pursuit Athletic Performance is moving into a NEW larger, state-of-the-art training facility! We are growing and expanding!  We are super-psyched and we hope you are too!!

Centrally located in Chester, Connecticut at the top of Inspiration Lane (no, we are not making that up!), this facility (much larger than our present space at nearly 8000 sq ft) will provide more than enough space for:

  • group and individual adult and youth classes and personal training
  • triathlon, running, cycling, AND field sport (soccer, lacrosse) camps and workshops
  • a computrainer bike studio (aka the Pain Cave)
  • an expanded state-of-the-art gait analysis lab
  • treatment areas for chiropractic, massage, and more
  • a kitchen (which will evolve into a cool, fun and relaxing hang out space)
  • and much more!

We are also excited to announce we will be sharing space in our new facility with TrueForm Runner treadmills. We’ll have up to 8 of those amazing non-powered treadmills lining the front glass wall!

Situated so that as you run on them, you’ll be looking out into “inspiration” woods, the TrueForms are a fantastic training tool to enhance your running technique and strength and will be here for you, ready to help you improve and stay motivated with your runnnig during the cold winter months!

Plans are in place to offer a wide array classes for both adults AND kids (think yoga, adult bootcamp/strength and fitness, youth bootcamps, and more), and even winter long weekly INDOOR triathlons! With computrainers for cycling, TrueForm treadmills for running, and Vasa Ergometers for swimming, it’ll be easy!

The pictures below are just a tiny SNEAK PEAK of what is to come.  Construction is ongoing: the lights are still being worked on (which is why you see the glass from the lights hanging), inspirational and motivational “fathead” wall art and photos are being added daily, and much more. Each of the training spaces including mirrors and floors are still to be added. As for the computrainer studio (aka Pain Cave), it is just about ready to go!  We are just a few weeks away from being ready to rock!

We HOPE you’re as excited as we are!  PLEASE tell your friends and EVERYONE you know!

More information and news, including the OFFICIAL GRAND OPENING, will be coming soon!

Make it a great day everyone!  We can’t wait to see you in Chester!

~Coach Al and Dr. Strecker