Archive for Authentic Movement

Learn to Relax Your Mind and Body for Faster, More Effective Training (and Racing!)

“We are shaped by our thoughts. We become what we think.”  -  Buddha
“If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.” –  Amit Ray

 

Coach Al relaxing his mind during the run at Ironman Lake Placid!

Coach Al relaxing his mind during the run at Ironman Lake Placid!

Have you ever stopped to notice how relaxed and smooth the best endurance athletes in the world look when they are competing?  When we swim, bike, and run, we are continually moving between a state of relaxation and tension both physically AND mentally. While we obviously need tension at times, if you are gritting your teeth and trying to force and fight through a workout or race, you may be severely lessening the potential benefit AND enjoyment you would have derived from that session, AND you might end up going slower as well. What the elite athletes who are silky-smooth and relaxed know is that:

When your body’s natural rhythm and timing are altered, less fluid and less efficient movements use up precious energy reserves and increase the risk of cramping and even injury.

  • The best chance for a true “breakthrough” performance can only happen if our focus is on being more relaxed, rather than trying to fight through and force more power from our legs!
  • Taking at least one session each week in each sport where you practice and refine skill and technique will lead to more relaxed, more efficient sport specific movements.
  • Your ability to completely relax your body AND mind, while simultaneously moving at the fastest possible speed, is a very important determinant of how successful you will be in your most important events!

What does it mean to relax the mind?

According to Joann Dahlkoetter, Ph.D., well-known author and expert on mental training for athletes, “relaxation is an experience. It’s a state of physical and mental stillness characterized by the absence of tension and anxiety.”[1] In addition, studies and anecdotal reports from elite level cyclists and other endurance athletes consistently say one related key to faster training and racing is learning to stay “in the moment” at all times, emptying the mind of left-brain thinking, analyzing and judging.

In my own practical experience as an endurance athlete, when I am able to really focus on staying task oriented and being “in the moment,” emptying my mind of anxious thoughts and judgments, I instantly feel a mental and physical response that allows me to relax more fully. What results is that I am able to breathe more deeply from my lower abdomen, NOT from my chest, which in turn lowers my heart rate and any additional tension I might be feeling.  This makes it easier to move through a greater range of motion and helps me pick up my pace even further without an increase in heart rate or in RPE. I know that with nothing more than my enhanced focus and breathing, I am able to immediately change the way I feel and the way I perform!

Try relaxing as HARD as you seem to be working:

As an experiment, in your next “quality” workout, try relaxing as HARD as you are working! Pay attention to your breath. Gritting your teeth with all of the resulting tension in your face is wasted energy and won’t help you go faster.  Forcing it may end up resulting in cramping, inefficient and uncoordinated movements, poor breathing mechanics, poor pacing, and might even lead to overtraining and injury. Instead, introduce a new dimension of relaxing your mind and body “harder” while training and racing.

Tips to help quiet your left-brain and relax your mind and muscles:  

  • Your left brain wants to constantly judge and criticize you.  STOP IT by using “thought replacement” strategies that in turn will enhance relaxation.  The instant you experience a negative thought or criticism, replace it with a positive one.
  • Use KEY “power” words such as calm, focus, smooth, patience, effortless, or winner to re-center and stay focused in the present.
  • Use deep focused breathing to key into how your body is feeling.  Learn to detect subtle changes in muscle tension levels that will help you relax muscles not needed for a particular movement.

Without a doubt, learning to relax your body, calm your mind, and conserve energy while swimming, riding, or running, and throughout the day (how tightly do you grip the steering wheel in your car?) will enhance your quality of sleep, accelerate your recovery, recharge your mind, and enhance your performance and enjoyment.  Take these strategies and integrate them into your daily training and I guarantee you’ll see instant benefits in every phase of your life!

~Coach Al

 

[1] Dahlkoetter, Ph.D., Joann, Your Performing Edge, Pulgas Ridge Press, 2002., pg. 53

034: Is “Minimalist” The Best Way To Train? [Podcast]

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PAP Podcasts Videos Triathlon TrainingOn just about a daily basis, Kurt and I get questions about what we feel are the optimal ways to train if you’re an endurance athlete. Do we believe higher volume training is a necessary component for success over long distances, or do we believe “minimalist” training is the way to go. What we preach and believe is born from a variety of factors: first and foremost, our personal experience gleaned from many years of trial and error, scientific study and research, and our daily work with athletes of every ability level and from every walk of life. What results is a company philosophy and belief system grounded in three things.

1. We believe in training for the betterment of the body (and mind), not to their detriment.

2. We should learn how to establish, develop, and own quality movement first

3. Each of us is unique. We all have individual natural attributes, goals and dreams, and likes and dislikes.  

My own background is a testament to what I personally believe and what I have lived: I ran my marathon PR of 2:39:37 at Boston on a low weekly average of 45miles of running, with a great deal of supplemental stability and strength training added to the mix.  That being said, there ARE a great many factors that go into what might be the best approach for you.   In today’s podcast, we discuss a variety of factors that might help you determine the best path.

  • Intensity and volume represent an inverse relationship: when one goes up, the other should go down, right?
  • What kind of experience do you have as an athlete? Do you have the requisite aerobic “plumbing” necessary for success as an endurance athlete?
  • If you are imbalanced or moving poorly, will a higher intensity minimalist type training program increase your risk of injury?
  • The scientific evidence is irrefutable: Intensity is the prime driver for improving fitness! But its a risk – reward equation. Is higher intensity worth the increased risk of injury?
  • Does your age matter?
  • Amateur athletes training and racing for fun and to enhance the quality of their lives are generally very busy people with many responsibilities that go beyond “just” training. What impact should this have on how you decide to train?
  • What about YOUR unique tendencies? Do you love to run or ride for hours on end, or is a 1 hour session about your limit?
  • And much more…

We hope you enjoy our podcast on this fun and interesting topic.

~Coach Al

030: Trueform Runner: A Remarkable Tool For Honing Your Running Technique [Podcast]

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Trueform1

Trueform Runners in action!

If you’ve listened to our podcast or visited us at the gait lab, you know that we believe running form is a product of your mobility & flexibility, strength & stability, biomechanics, and what the brain tells the body to do.  In fact, in most cases, we reduce the emphasis on technique in the beginning of an athlete’s journey with us to focus on restoring balance to the frame.  Once that mission is accomplished (or is at least a work well in progress) we feel that is the time to start to develop and improve running form.

Today on the podcast we had the great pleasure of sitting down with Brian Weinstein and Jeff Vernon, founders of Samsara Fitness and creators of the Trueform Runner. The Trueform Runner is a non-powered treadmill whose deck is curved up a bit at either end.  It’s quite simple in design, and it is truly a revolutionary training tool.  Coach Al and I have recently had the opportunity to spend some time on one of these machines and experiment a bit.  In the gait lab when we work with athletes on running technique, the first concepts we introduce are proper posture and appropriate cadence.  I can tell you without hesitation that these two things might well be the Trueform Runner’s strong suit.  It provides immediate feedback to the user, increases activation of the posterior chain (that would be the butt!) and it’s quite a lot of fun to play with!  We’re very excited to be doing some research using a Trueform Runner in the coming months, and we’ll share what we learn with you along the way.

Many thanks to Jeff and Brian for joining us today!  We really enjoyed having them in the lab, and we hope you enjoy the podcast.

~Doc

Coach Al : Secret #2 – 4 Secrets To Help YOU Explode Your Ultimate Potential (with triathlete Susan Ford)

Secret #2: Seek Clarity and Conviction – Choose Wisely

“Life is fired at us point blank and we must choose. ” – Ortega
“We can have anything we choose, but not everything we want. Our appetites will always exceed our grasp.”  – Philip Humbert

I wake every day affirming that what I do on this day is a choice. Some days it doesn’t exactly feel like it :), but I know this is true. At the same time, I also affirm that what I DON’T do is also a choice.  Every single day, every one of us chooses to do (and think) certain things and not others. And there in lies the challenge: one of the traps we can all fall into is the belief that “we can choose to have it all.” I don’t think that is true, at least not all at the same time.

In order to reach your ultimate potential as an athlete, you must decide that is what you want, and then make clear choices that point you toward that goal. 

There’s something unique about this day and age we live in that leads many of us to believe we can “have it all.” I often speak with athletes who send themselves off in many directions at the same time. For example, in addition to training for ironman, they might also be starting a new job, raising a young family, buying a new home, or working on their Masters! Yes, these folks are super type-A high achievers with the commensurate commitment to make it all happen. But the truth is, doing all of these things well and reaching our true potential on the race course too, is fool’s gold.

Each of us must choose. We must all decide for ourselves what we want to achieve, and then seek clarity and conviction and a singular focus toward that end.

 The problem some have when they read this, hear me speak about it, or glance at Susan’s life from afar, is that they think that they are different. They don’t want to give up certain other aspects of their life while pursuing their racing goals. They “like” dabbling in and pursuing many things all at once.  Some say that racing fast isn’t their only goal. Others believe driving themselves into a hole of deep exhaustion from having so many irons in the fire is something to be proud of. As a society, we love to pat ourselves on the back for being able to “do it all!”

Trying to “do it all” leads to mediocrity.  Hey, if you’re ok with your race results and your overall progression as an athlete, then read no further. However, if you are truly committed to being the best athlete you can be and seeing what you are truly capable of, like Susan is, you’ll have to make THAT your focus and make some sacrifices in other areas of your life, at least for a period of time.

  • Susan narrowed her focus.  She makes sacrifices in other areas of her life in order to be on this journey.
  • She has built up systems including a support group of friends and family, and has created and nurtures an environment that supports this singular focus.

As many have said, ultimately the “winner” is the person who is most happy with their choices. I believe (as I bet Susan does), that happiness comes directly from having clarity.  To quote Philip Humbert, “happiness comes from deciding who we are, what we value, and how we will spend our lives, and that comes from taking time to think clearly, make smart choices, and plan wisely.”

Susan is living life in her own way, according to her values. In this day and age, we often fall into the trap of working harder, doing and buying more, yet not finding the happiness we had hoped to. What we would all benefit from is what Susan has done: choose wisely, create clarity, and live life on our own terms to its fullest.

In the end, each of us is required to accept responsibility for the choices we make and the path we follow. We can’t have it all. What we can have is whatever we choose!

Who knows what lies ahead? Follow YOUR path with clarity and focus and be the very best you can be!

Look for secret #3 soon. Enjoy!

~Coach Al

Coach Al : 4 Secrets To Help YOU Explode Your Ultimate Potential (with triathlete Susan Ford)

4 Secrets To Help You Explode Your Ultimate Potential!

(with Pursuit Athletic Performance triathlete, Susan Ford)

“Short cuts make long delays.”  – J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship Of The Ring
“It is not the table – it is the spoon.”  – unknown
Triathlete Susan Ford

Triathlete Susan Ford

 

In four installments over the next few days, I’m going to share with you powerful secrets to help you explode your potential. Today my focus is secret #1. Over the next few days, I will share the remaining three secrets. The inspiration to share these with you comes from one of my coached triathletes and good friends, Tennessean Susan Ford (pictured left).

Listen to this: In 2013 at the age of 48, Susan set a new PR at the 5k, 10k, half marathon, half ironman, marathon, AND ironman distance!  Just this past weekend (now 49 years old), she ran the Cummins Falls half marathon in Jackson County TN, and not only set a new PR (on an extremely challenging and very hilly course), she won the women’s OVERALL title. And that isn’t all. She finished 4th overall among both women AND men, was a mere 17 seconds behind the 3rd place male, and only 6 minutes behind the overall men’s winner! At age 48. Wow.

I can tell you, this is a vastly different experience than any she has ever had in the past. Susan not only hasn’t always won races, going back she often didn’t even finish in the top half of the field. In fact, she has spent many years struggling at the middle of the pack, in various stages of injury and plateau, always wondering whether she’d ever be able to train and race the way she really WANTED to.

When we began working together about five years ago, I had no idea how good she could be (I never know that with anyone I coach – how could I?), but I DID know she had a very long arduous road ahead of her to reach her true ultimate potential (whatever that might be). She was fragile and not moving well, she wasn’t very wise or experienced as an endurance athlete, and was clearly training way over her head.  She had mastered the art of masking minor injury on a daily basis, and routinely dealt with so many aches and pains that I was concerned about her ability to continue to train and race long term. We’ve had many interesting conversations over the time we have worked together about how she doesn’t have the proto-typical endurance athlete’s body (tall, long legged, wirey) or that she never seemed to be blessed with as much natural talent as some other athletes (can any of you relate to that?).  What she clearly had (among many other things which I will share with you in this four-part series), was a strong work ethic and dogged determination.

Fast forward to today. Susan’s amazing success that now has her at the TOP of her Age Group in any race she enters, speaks to just how FAR someone can go when they put the right resources and abilities together and don’t give up or give in.

The path Susan has followed to reach this point is SO powerful that I felt I had to share her secrets to success, not from her viewpoint, but rather, from my perspective as her coach.  She isn’t the only athlete I work with who achieves this level of success or who embraces these four secrets. However, what I will share with you is what separates Susan from many others trying to find their path toward fulfilling their ultimate potential and happiness.

Look for the next three installments of this series over the next few days. I hope you find them helpful. Trust me, this is no B.S.

What I will share with you HAS THE POWER to explode both your results AND your enjoyment of the sport. These secrets can change your life!

 Secret #1:

The Devil Is In The Details.

I could probably re-phrase this secret to there are no short cuts – no easy way. Regardless, this arguably overused cliche, “the devil is in the details,” conveys what is at the very center of this secret for exploding your potential.

Every one of us has heard this idiom at one time or another.  It simply means that if you overlook certain things in a plan or scheme, having overlooked those things might cause problems later on. What I’m talking about isn’t just having a desire to be better or willingness to “work harder,” or even more efficiently. The difference between just going through the motions (or approaching something “mostly” correctly) vs. really focusing and zeroing in on detail is absolutely huge and can’t be overstated.

To reach your true potential, you must embrace every detail associated with your development.  Here are just a few examples:

  • Seeking to perfectly execute any exercise or training session that is programmed.
  • Learning from errors and planning ahead to avoid repeating them.
  • Planning ahead in your daily schedule to ensure you’re not rushing through any aspect of your training and preparation.
  • Taking time to evaluate (or have someone else evaluate) your movement quality on a regular basis.
  • Videotaping yourself to objectively assess what you’re doing routinely.
  • Not rushing through warm up or cool down.
  • Getting enough sleep, eating optimally, and reducing daily stress.
  • Consistently and accurately keeping a training diary for appropriate reflection and monitoring.
  • Communicating clearly and consistently with those mentors who are guiding you.

And what’s more, being truly detail oriented and not looking for short cuts goes way beyond the routine items mentioned here, and in fact, speaks to more holistic and ultimately profound concepts.  For example:   

  • Have you made a conscious choice (after thoughtful deliberation) to completely embrace the training philosophy that you follow? With 100% commitment to the process?  
  • Do you take 100% responsibility for your choices and actions, and approach every aspect of your training to the very best of your ability?
  • Do you haphazardly follow your training program (hitting “most” of the details) or do you execute it to the best of your ability, as closely as you can to how it is laid out for you?
  • Do you see the value in the very subtle difference between doing things “mostly” correct, vs. as correct as is possible for you on that day?
  • Do you take the time to learn about the philosophy behind the training system you follow, or are you content to just have “a plan” and wing it?
  • Do you embrace the mundane grind that is an inevitable part of long term mastery of a skill or ability?
  • Do you pick and choose from a variety of methodologies, thinking you have the expertise to know what is the best mix for you, or do you make a conscious choice to follow a certain path and then stay true to that path?

From day 1, Susan has worked hard to more fully embrace the philosophy of training and the detail presented to her, and then she put 100% of her energy into making the most of that philosophy on a daily basis.  She sees the training laid out in front of her and never looks for a way to make it easier for herself.  She has never changed something on her own believing she knew better than I did when I programmed it for her.

Picture a great artist toiling over tiny detail in a painting, a superb violinist carefully tuning their instrument, or a surgeon carefully washing their hands prior to going into the operating room. Like Susan, they all know the devil truly is in the details.

The greatest thing of all is that the same approach to detail that leads to mastery and improvement is also the thing that will enhance your enjoyment of the process itself AND lead to better long term growth and improvement!

Look for secret #2 soon. Make it a detail oriented day! Enjoy!

~Coach Al

028: Training and Life Balance: Have We Lost The Personal Connection? [Podcast]

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Coach Al with today's guest author and team member, Olvia Syptak

Coach Al with today’s guest, PAP Triathlon team member, Olivia Syptak

 

Training and Life Balance:

Have We Lost The Personal Connection?

Hi Everyone!

Coach Al here. For today’s podcast, we welcome a NEW guest, Pursuit Athletic Performance Triathlon team member, Olivia Syptak. Olivia is a Denver, Colorado based life-coach who works with clients to develop the fullest, happiest life possible—on the race course, at home, at work, and at play. She is an accomplished triathlete and trail runner who emphasizes what she’s overcome in training and racing over finish times and rankings. Welcome Olivia!

I had the good fortune to spend some time a few weeks ago with Olivia while I was in Colorado for a conference. What an awesome visit it was! Among other things, Olivia and I discovered our mutual desire to seek a deeper process-oriented, personal connection between who we are as people, and our goals and the training we do to achieve those goals. In today’s podcast, Olivia joins us for a fun and enlightening discussion on this important topic.

Here are some thoughts Olivia wanted to share on the topic:  “We high achieving, goal driven age group triathletes have a tendency to struggle with allowing ourselves to sink into, accept, and identify with the training and development process itself. Our tendency to focus on goal finish times, bike splits, even transition times all the way through the training cycle seems to cause us to lose a personal connection to the process of our growth and long term success.

Many of you likely can relate to the intoxicating rush of fear and nervous excitement you felt just as a result of signing up for that first big race. You can also probably attest to feeling immense personal satisfaction at various times during the buildup to your event. With each week you may have run farther or faster than you had previously thought you could, or that you were feeling stronger and more comfortable in the pool. Those intense, very personal feelings of confidence and pride felt with each small gain demonstrate that we have the capacity to derive real joy of achievement from the process steps themselves independent of their contribution to the long term objective.

Somewhere along the way though, as we gain experience and results in subsequent events, something shifts. We lose touch with the benefits–mental and physical–of the process components. Each workout becomes an opportunity to measure ourselves against our previous workouts. We become obsessed with data to divine some manner of proof that we are tracking to beat our previous PR. We then share training progress with friends, training partners, or all of Facebook. The process focus becomes lost.

As a result, what started out as a very personal and intrinsic goal to push one’s physical limits or to satisfy an inner desire for achievement somehow becomes very public. Our drive then becomes distorted. Before we know it we are unwittingly focused on things that may not actually meet our true objective. We are no longer in touch with what we are doing and the genuine or pure intent for doing it. Instead, that which is most readily observed externally and publicly reigns.

While big, aggressive goals are incredible motivators, they have a way of burying process goals if we let them. Yet it is often in those forgotten personal, process goals where our greatest potential may lie.

Take some time this week to think about your intent. What steps can you take to refocus at a personal level with the training process? Would it be possible to set yourself free from a distant expected outcome in favor of focus on near term goals that you might achieve and celebrate every day? What can you focus on today, in this moment rather than in the future?

Consider targeting form improvements in your strength routine, greater awareness of your nutritional needs immediately after a hard run, or better balance in the water. Seemingly little goals like this that grow from your personal drive for excellence could lead to more satisfying training and in the end more impressive performance in that next big race.”

We hope you enjoy the discussion. We look forward to having Olivia on board to contribute to our blog and podcast in the future!

~Coach Al

Fast Racing and Personal Fulfillment: Are You Ready to Learn What It Takes?

Coach Al Lyman, Pursuit Athletic Performance, Discusses Brick Run in Triathlon Training

Coach Al Lyman, CSCS, FMS, HKC

Musings from Coach Al

Hello Everyone!

It is my opinion that the work we do at Pursuit Athletic Performance (PAP) likely requires a paradigm shift for our athletes. Before we begin to talk about training plans with clients, we reeducate our athletes on the importance and ultimate power behind “authentic movement.” Restoring authentic movement through balanced mobility, stability, and strength is the basis of what we do. From where I sit, each and every athlete, no matter what the ability, should–no, must–approach their training from this fundamentally powerful place.

I cannot drive home forcefully enough how authentic movement and balance in the body results in better quality training, phenomenal recovery, better overall health, and faster racing! Balance, as we talk about it at PAP, is not standing on one leg or exercising on a BOSU ball. Rather, it is an holistic balance of muscle length, mobility, stability, and strength. Our sports, coupled with our lifestyles–sitting, driving, computers work, etc.–create imbalances in the body. These imbalances lead to compensation and dysfunction, and, ultimately, to injury. Make no mistake, dysfunctional movement patterns diminish performance, extend the time needed to recover from training and racing, and absolutely shorten an athlete’s lifespan in sport. As we age, it certainly negatively impacts quality of life as a whole.

This philosophy is also the foundation of the way I coach. Discovering dysfunctional movement, and working to rid the body of compensations and restore balance is what I first do with any and every athlete I coach, whether it be Lisbeth Kenyon, 3x consecutive Ironman age group world championship, or Debbie Livingston, women’s champion at the Grindstone 100 ultra run, to a pure novice. My coaching philosophy is based upon restoring authentic movement and building a base of balanced strength from the ground up so that athletes can train and race to their true potential.

You simply cannot train and race to your ultimate best with a body that is unbalanced and broken.

Cultivating speed and outstanding personal performance is what we expect all our athletes to be able to achieve–and they do. By rebuilding the athlete’s body from the inside out– so that it is injury resistant and able to withstand more training load, and teaching them how to properly recover and maintain optimal health–we create the perfect confluence where fulfillment in sport and personal happiness is greatly enhanced. When this holistic balance is attained–and I see the power of it in my athletes every day–it is the most fulfilling and rewarding aspect of my coaching.

I hope this explains where I focus my efforts as a coach, and how dedicated I remain to outstanding results for my athletes–on the race course and in their daily lives. It may take a bit of relearning on the part of some athletes–the paradigm shift we talked about earlier–but it is a place of true power in our lives and outstanding performance on the race course.

Training for an Ironman? Read This

Coach Al Lyman, Pursuit Athletic Performance, Discusses Brick Run in Triathlon Training

Coach Al Lyman, CSCS, FMS, HKC

I think you will find interesting a current situation I am working through with one of the triathletes I coach. He is having a crisis in confidence about his run preparedness for Ironman Coeur d’Alene coming up in June. This athlete has been at the triathlon game for a while, but–like so many of you–has experienced repetitive cycles of running injury. Before we started working together, he had not been able to run with any consistency–or at all–for a year.

His current injury cycle came on the heels of his last round of Ironman training two years ago. He trained for that race with a mass coaching program that strongly stresses the “train more” philosophy with punishing levels of intensity day in and day out, week in and week out. And while this program touts it is “the way” to train for faster race times, in the end it robbed this athlete (and many others) of ANY ability to train or race at all.

As a long-time and experienced coach, I know one thing for sure–the “just train more” message is very seductive to triathletes. In a very real way, the mindset of “just train more” or “no pain, no gain” pervades much of our sport, and is almost like a drug. Many of us joke about it, but the fact is it seems to tap into a primal need to test ourselves and prove we can handle pain and not wilt under pressure. Once we drink that Kool Aid, it’s hard to turn back. Many don’t know any other way once exposed to it, and are often led further down the path by coaches who flat out don’t know what they are doing. The bottom line is, my triathlete’s concerns about run preparedness come from old, worn out training tapes replaying in his head. He has been duped into believing that you need to do week upon grueling week of long, hard running in order to be “ready” to run a marathon off of the bike.

That’s simply not true. Not on any level.

Here’s what is true–and this is where athletes find the place of phenomenal power, authentic fulfillment, and, yes, truly outstanding race day results.

IF you are functionally strong, TRULY healthy, and are building run and overall fitness steadily throughout training, that creates the conditions for an outstanding race. Then you must SHOW UP on race day, be TRULY healthy and rested, race smart, and be mentally ready to go after it. Put the two pieces together and it is then that you have the best opportunity for a GREAT race, especially off the bike–which is where it matters the most. Sounds too simple, and not “hard enough”?

Any coach can react to an athlete’s nervousness and write an overly aggressive run “build” phase. I always tell my athletes the easiest thing I can do is write harder plans. After all, I only have to type! Many knucklehead coaches, however, take pride in making stuff “hard” because their own egos are their biggest concern, not the athlete’s health and well being. As a responsible and experienced coach, I know that when an athlete returns to running after injury, the first few weeks absolutely DRIVE what happens, good or bad, with all the run training to follow for this race, this season–and beyond!

For example, if my triathlete is running slightly beyond his true functional capability due to an aggressive build designed to “get him there,” odds are he will fall back into old dysfunctional and compensated movement patterns. Remember, it is those same patterns that created injury in the first place. Also, he will be building TIREDNESS, instead of true run FITNESS. That means as he gets closer to the race, he will be thinking and believing he’s ready to race, when, in truth, he has been moving backwards on a number of levels–not the least of which is inching closer to re-injury.

I can guarantee that if my triathlete is FULLY PRESENT on race day with strong mental fortitude and toughness, AND a completely healthy, rested and ready body, he will surprise the heck out of himself with a run to be proud of–and a run that reflects his true potential. And the beauty is, this Ironman will be the start–NOT the end–of a training period. By ensuring true run health, athletes find a deep well of resiliency they never thought they had. They are able to dig deeper and find a resolve they always thought had to come through “force,” and a “train-more-and-suck-it-up” philosophy. Truly healthy athletes RECOVER, and come back to train and race year after year. Instead of beating the body to a pulp, Ironman becomes the beginning of a long period of steady improvement in strength, durability, and speed.

Most importantly, finishing this Ironman healthily and well will allow my triathlete to MANIFEST the power of the accomplishment in his everyday life, not simply adopt a persona. His personal reasons for undertaking the challenge will be with him with every breath he takes after the race. It’s what Mark Allen referred to as a “raw reality.” My triathlete will be authentically healthy, authentically athletic, authentically positive. He will be an IRONMAN, in the truest sense of what finishing the distance is supposed to mean. He will live it, and in his own mind, he will know he did it right.

I wish this same sense of peace, accomplishment, and good health for every single triathlete I coach. It is the place where true fulfillment and satisfaction are born. Believe it, and make the decision to BE IT.

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Brick Runs in Triathlon Training: Critical to Success or a Waste of Time?

Coach Al Lyman, Pursuit Athletic Performance, Discusses Brick Run in Triathlon Training

Coach Al Lyman, CSCS, FMS, HKC

Recently, there has been debate in triathlon circles about the benefit of brick runs. A new school of thought has swept in claiming that running off the bike in training serves no purpose and is of little use. After years of thought on this topic as a coach, and much personal experimentation as an athlete and movement specialist here in our gait analysis lab, here is my perspective on the debate.

In brief, I believe brick runs have great value, but not necessarily for the reasons most people think. In my opinion, the issue of running off the bike should not be presented as a training dilemma or time-saving problem to be solved. Brick runs, in fact, present the opportunity to solve a very important physical MOVEMENT issue for triathletes.

What I know from my work in our gait analysis lab, and confirmed from my own experience, is that it is VERY challenging to get the posterior chain–the glutes, in particular–working properly to be able to run well after cycling. I have personally spent a lot of time practicing and experimenting with ways to trigger better glute activation and involvement before a brick run. I have worked on correct hip flexor stretching, and various dynamic stretching of the entire anterior hip region in order to better activate the posterior chain. I can tell you with certainty that it is very difficult to get the back side of our body going after being on a bike for any length of time. And, to be clear, to run to your potential, your posterior chain–including the glutes–has to not only be firing, but must be strong.

But why do the glutes stubbornly refuse to activate off the bike? It is due to a real physiologic phenomenon known as reciprocal inhibition. Reciprocal inhibition causes the muscles on one side of a joint to relax to accommodate contraction on the other side of that joint. The posture of cycling involves sustained hip flexion, making the hip flexors short and tight. Reciprocal inhibition then causes the hip extensors, especially the gluteus maximus, to shut down markedly. As we discuss further, you will see how brick runs work effectively to counter this phenomenon.

The discoveries I have made in my own training, as well as what I see in the athletes I coach, prove to me that the following elements are absolutely crucial to one’s ability to optimize the run portion of a triathlon:

  • You must first understand how important the glutes are in running. And its NOT enough that your glutes are strong (although they MUST be STRONG), they must also be able to act as the PRIMARY extendor of the hip, which is their role. Sometimes the hamstring or low back, due to compensation, tries to over take the role of the glute. First order of business for you is to eliminate compensation wherever possible so that the glutes are doing their job, and then via a platform of functional strength training, get them strong.
  • You must understand that the glutes work to create hip extension when running to power you down the road. When coming off the bike, the glutes are not doing that job well at all due to reciprocal inhibition. The longer the ride, the greater the inhibition. Therefore…
  • It is imperative to PRACTICE running off the bike frequently to develop a precise, in-tune FEEL of what it takes to get the glutes working effectively. How can you do that?

? Engage in kinesthetic and proprioceptive awareness when you run. Make thoughtful yet subtle adjustments in run posture, especially early on in the run, and periodically throughout the run. Lead with the hips, not the torso; shoulders down/elbows back; stand tall and lengthen your spine are just some of the cues to use.

? Employ a higher stride rate (at least 90 to 95 stride cycles per minute) and a “shorter” stride to allow for the awareness articulated above and to reduce ground impact forces.

? In your training, every few times you do a brick run, take a few minutes before going out on the run, to moderately and smartly stretch the flexors of the hip. This should be done correctly, from a neutral pelvic position, and done dynamically and with control. Own this movement pattern before running.

? Begin your run out of T2 very conservatively. Allow a few minutes for the body to “find” its correct running form naturally. You want your running to be AUTHENTIC, which is to say driven primarily by the glutes. If you start running too intensely or too fast, it is less likely the run will be glute driven–and the risk of poor performance and injury increase.

? Practice brick runs frequently, BUT combine the running with the proper awareness we discussed. If you do that, the authentic run groove can be established more easily and more quickly.

For the record, I am not saying that frequent brick runs, in and of themselves, fix the inherent problem we are discussing here. If your butt is weak and asleep, then no amount of bricks can change that, and in fact, will only groove poor movement and inefficient running. Running off the bike alone cannot and will not make you a stronger and faster triathlete.

What I am saying is that as a triathlete, you must first understand how crucial an issue this is. The inherent challenges that exist when going from cycling to running ARE NOT about the training effect of bike to run, but are about quality MOVEMENT. Your glutes must be strong, and they must fire in order for you to run well. If you do the work and strengthen the posterior chain, then the last piece of the puzzle is using the brick run often and effectively to groove the transition from strong powerful cycling to strong, powerful fatigue-resistant, injury-resistant running.

In the end, brick runs help you address a MOVEMENT ISSUE crucial to your triathlon success. It is not a “training” issue. And it is a real mistake to view brick runs as unnecessary or expendable,

It is clear to me that coaches who diminish the importance of brick runs simply do not understand physical movement, where true running speed really comes from, the importance of the glutes, and the real impact of reciprocal inhibition. Frequent brick runs, built upon authentic movement and gluteal strength, will lead to better, more efficient, more powerful, more skilled running off the bike.

I believe it is something every triathlete benefits from when approached in the correct way, and with clear intent.

Gluteal Amnesia? Here’s Your Rx

Functional strength training activates the gluteal muscles

Gluteus maximus (Anv?ndare:Chrizz, CC BY-SA 3.0)

“Gluteal amnesia” is a great phrase coined by Stuart McGill, PhD, one of the world’s foremost experts on spine biomechanics. And you know what? Based on the athletes we see coming into our Gait Analysis Lab every day, you probably have it. And it’s not a good thing.

So much of athletic performance depends on the optimal functioning of your butt and all the gluteal muscles–maximus, medius and minimus–in concert with the functional integrity of your hips and pelvis. This is the powerhouse that generates propulsive athletic movement, and when functioning properly, is majorly important in helping to prevent injuries.

“Gluteal amnesia” is particularly detrimental to athletes. Many of us in modern society have lost our ability to engage the butt muscles and hips during exercise due to lifestyles that include a great deal of sitting, driving, being hunched over a computer, etc. When the ability to move correctly and with functional integrity is lost, performance is adversely affected for sure, and the risk of injury rises exponentially.

Functional Integity of the Pelvis & Hips: Gluteal Activation Enhances Athleticism and Injury Prevention, published in Dynamic Chiropractic, is a great article that goes in-depth on the importance of the function of the glutes, hips, and pelvis. It’s worth your time to read it for a deeper understanding of how important the issue is to your athletic performance.

We want to make clear, however, that overcoming “gluteal amnesia” is about more than simply strengthening the glutes. We encourage you to revisit our posts on functional strength training and authentic movement to learn more about the importance of establishing and owning a neutral pelvis, achieving muscular balance, and becoming stable. Getting functionally strong, activating your glutes, and strengthening your hips is far more than just throwing a bunch of exercises at your body, especially if you do them with bad form, or if they’re an incorrect exercise for you. We hope to help you put the pieces together to learn how exceptional athleticism is derived, then have you take action. Conquering overall “functional amnesia” is how to unlock your potential, and become the best athlete you can be.