Archive for Authentic Movement

Four TIPS For The Aging Endurance Athlete (Hint: Yes, You Can Still Keep Playing!)

Coach Al (showing his back-side) at a Pisgah Mountain 50k aid station. Keeping it young!

Coach Al (showing his back-side) at a Pisgah Mountain 50k trail race aid station. Keeping it young!

Some of the readers of this blog know I raced this past weekend at the Pisgah Mountain 50k trail race up in New Hampshire (I finished 2nd  in my age-group and 26th overall), and will again be racing THIS coming weekend, tackling the very challenging Vermont 50 mountain bike race.  These events are just a small sample of what I’ve got planned for myself over the next few months and into 2015!

Today, more than ever, athletes are performing at a high level well into their 50s, 60s, and beyond! How are they doing it?  How do I (a nearly 55 year-old endurance athlete/coach with 35+ years of training and racing in the legs) maintain the ability to keep “playing” even as I’m aging well into my 50s?

To help YOU maintain the ability to keep playing, here are FOUR tips for the aging athlete. These could be YOUR secrets to success! (I’ve learned much of this through trial and error – take advantage of my mistakes and get started now).

  1. Maintain Your Mobility and Flexibility: The single thing we lose most as we age is the ability for our joints to move FREELY. Freedom of movement is what we associate with being young, isn’t it? Flexibility is related and is also something we lose as we age. Mobility and flexibility suffer as the miles pile up, too, so if you’ve been running or training for a few years, its likely you’ve lost some of that freedom of movement.

When you lose mobility:

  • Your body loses its ability to absorb pounding and attenuate forces that work on it while you’re moving, such as gravity and ground reaction.
  • Your stride shortens and you feel every “bump” in the road that much more.
  • You enjoy your training less because it becomes more of a struggle to do simple things such as bend over or step up.
  • Your risk of injury sky rockets!

To avoid these, first seek to find out where you’re tight or imbalanced, and then get started on a specific targeted program to address these restrictions.  This is absolutely your #1 priority as you get older.

A Helpful Video: One common area of unwanted tightness as we age is in our hamstrings.  Hamstring tightness can develop for a number of different reasons (including dysfunction of the glute region or extreme tightness of the hip flexor region). However, very often it develops simply from the overall loss of flexiblity as we age (or from too much sitting in a chair!).

Try this effective and safe movement (stretch) for the hamstrings demonstrated by our own Doc Strecker.

 

(To learn more about WHY mobility is so vital to your success, listen to Doc Strecker and I discuss the importance of this element of human movement!)

  1. Get Stronger: Like mobility, strength (as well as the pre-requisite to developing true functional strength, which is basic core stability) often decline as we age and the miles pile up. Along with staying mobile, the key to maintaining YOUR ability to play comes down to getting stronger!

Many athletes aren’t familiar with the difference between strength and stability. Its important for sure, and something you will want to KNOW as you age. To learn more, check out this blog post we did on the topic.

So what is the best way to get stronger?

There are as many programs and exercises as there are stars in the sky, or so it would seem. I like to keep things simple at first, by going straight at bodyweight exercises. After all, what is better than a pull up or push up to develop trunk strength? Not too much!

(If you’re unable to do a single pull up, start by doing “hangs” and then doing “negatives” as part of your progression!)

Whether it’s a kettlebell, floor based exercises, suspension training, or simply lifting and moving rocks or flipping tires, the best path to optimal strength development and good health is to start with simpler, more foundational movements and progress to more complex as you improve and gain strength.

One last thing: don’t get INJURED trying to get stronger. That happens all too often. Start at a smart level, and progress intelligently.

  1. Get Massage: With increasing age (and more miles along with chronic injuries) come the development of micro trauma in the muscle, which leads to the development of scar tissue and a loss of elasticity. Scar tissue, which forms in response to that micro trauma and tearing of the muscle fiber, reduces elasticity and leads to weaker and shorter, more injury prone muscle.

One key to overcoming the long term negative impact of scar tissue development (and keeping muscle healthy and young), is massage, from a qualified competent massage therapist of course.

Yes, your foam roller used routinely, can help.  But your foam roller can’t do the same things the sensitive and educated human hands of a qualified professional can, digging deeply into the muscle to strip it down and help the tissue remodel. Massage can literally be THE secret for the aging athlete whose goal it is to maintain healthy tissue.

(One additional tip about massage: In my experience, if you have been battling injury or know you have a significant amount of scar tissue or have lost flexibility, getting massage only occasionally won’t do the trick.  You need to commit to successive sessions where the same therapist can work progressively to restore tissue health. With repeated sessions, the therapist will learn more about your body and be able to address YOUR specific issues more effectively).

  1. Get Off Road: When it comes to staying young and fighting father time as a runner or cyclist, nothing beats getting off road! Trails offer variable terrain that challenges the mobility, flexibility and strength you’re working to retain, while also minimizing the repetitive stress that comes from road running and riding.
  • Mountain biking and trail running (and hiking) require very specific skills which keep you young!
    • Glute and hip strength, balance, handling, and leg strength all improve when you ride off road.
    • Agility and balance, elasticity, and leg and hip strength all improve when you run off road.
    • And since every footstrike is different and the surfaces are softer than asphalt, your risk of repetitive injury goes way down!
  • Best of all, you get to PLAY in the woods and keep it fun! Trail running and riding is just plain fun!

Even if you’re not quite as old as I am, you will be sooner than you realize! You’d be smart to start NOW to begin following the recommendations I’ve shared today. The same things that keep you young will also help the younger athlete stay healthier, perform better, and go faster.

 

~Coach Al 

ps: Do you have questions, comments or feedback about these four tips to help you stay younger? Or your own tips to add? Leave your thoughts below or on our FACEBOOK page. 

Come on out to our NEW facility in Chester to check out our new Trueform runners - the BEST treadmill on the planet because YOU have to do the work!

Come to our NEW facility in Chester to check out our Trueform Runners – the BEST treadmill (non-motorized) on the planet for staying younger as a runner, because YOU have to do the work!

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!

048: Listener Questions: Becoming a Better Runner, Swim Training and More! [Podcast]

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Team PURSUIT triathlete Megan Pennington, on her way to the OVERALL WIN at the Litchfield Hills Triathlon!

Team PURSUIT triathlete Megan Pennington, on her way to the OVERALL WIN at the Litchfield Hills Triathlon!

Today we dig into some great questions sent in to us from listeners.  The first has to do with becoming a BETTER runner, something nearly every triathlete and pure runner has thought about at one time or another (or a few thousand times!) :)

Whether it’s right here in our Pursuit Athletic Performance lab during a gait analysis, or out on the trail or road OR over a beer at the local pub, we always relish the opportunity to talk to anyone about running.  (Anyone who knows Coach, KNOWS how much he can talk, talk, and talk some more about this topic!). No apologies necessary though – running has been a passion of Coach Al’s since first running “Boston” in 1983.

Every so often though, a conversation with a frustrated triathlete turns to a sort of self depricating exchange where they end up telling us (trying to convince us, or themselves, perhaps?) why they CAN’T be as good a runner as they really would “like” to be.  Whether this self-doubt stems from a long period of training struggle or chronic running-related injury, the bottom line is that most triathletes have much more running ability inside of them waiting to get out than they realize! They just don’t know how to GET it out!  In the podcast, we offer some real and practical suggestions to take your running to a new level.

In case you’re one of those who is impatient and curious and can’t wait to listen, here are some hints:

  1. No! It isn’t necessarily about planking, more of it, or doing it differently.
  2. No, it won’t necessarily be “easy.”  While we offer some practical suggestions that you CAN implement tomorrow in your training, the truth is that it generally takes a long time to “get good” as a runner, all things being equal.

Also, we jump in on some questions about all things swim training for the triathlete.

  • Is it REALLY worthwhile to spend time doing kicking sets if I am racing in a wetsuit and generally never kick in a race?
  • Why is the coach writing “hypoxic” sets for us anyway? Is it really valuable, and if so, why?
  • And more!

Thanks for joining us! Make it a great day!

~Coach Al and Dr. Strecker

047: An Interview With Dr. Kevin Kirby, DPM [Podcast]

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Dr. Kevin Kirby, DPM

Dr. Kevin Kirby, DPM

Today we’re pleased to have Dr. Kevin Kirby, DPM as a guest on our podcast. Dr. Kirby has been a practicing podiatrist since graduating from the California College of Podiatric Medicine in 1983.

Dr. Kirby has authored or co-authored 26 articles in peer-reviewed journals, has authored or co-authored five book chapters, and has authored four books on foot and lower extremity biomechanics and orthosis therapy, three of which have been translated into Spanish language editions. He has invented numerous techniques and tests used by podiatrists around the world, and has lectured internationally on 33 separate occasions in China, Spain, Belgium, New Zealand, Australia, England, Dominican Republic and Canada over the past 23 years on foot and lower extremity biomechanics, foot orthoses, and sports medicine. He has also lectured extensively throughout the United States. He was also a national caliber elite level runner in his younger years, so he knows what it is like to train hard and run fast. The bottom line: this gentleman knows his stuff!

Coach Al: I met Dr. Kirby at the “Medicine and Science in Ultra Endurance Sports” conference on June 24/25  in Squaw Valley, CA., in the week leading up to the Western States 100 Endurance Run. In the conference Dr. Kirby presented on “Minimalist Running and Footstrike Patterns,” a topic he’s lectured on many times around the world.  (If you missed our podcast with the Western Statess 100 womans 2nd place finisher, Larisa Dannis, you can listen here.)

In this podcast, we enjoyed discussing so many things very important to runners, such as:

  • Is there a “best” shoe for every runner?
  • What does the research say about footstrike patterns for runners? Is there an optimal or preferred footstrike?
  • How does running speed impact footstrike?
  • What has been learned in a lifetime of running, and nearly 30 years as a practicing podiatrist?
  • How can we discern between true experts who can and will give us sound science-based advice, vs. the self proclaimed experts found on many websites?
  • And more, including some great practical tips and advice for runners of every age and ability level.

More: In 2010, Dr. Kirby was asked by Runner’s World magazine editor, Amby Burfoot, to participate in a “Barefoot vs. Shod” debate in Runner’s World. That article can still be read online here.

On his website, kirbypodiatry.com, you will find a plethora of published articles and papers, as well as video links to a lecture series on barefoot vs. shod running. We definitely recommend you check these articles and videos out – the page is truly a treasure trove of interesting reading for anyone interested in running biomechanics.

In the podcast, we talk about a video Dr. Kirby used in his presentation at the conference, comparing footstrike from the elite male leaders at the 2010 Boston Marathon.  You can see that video hereOf the six elite runners in the video, 3 are rearfoot strikers and 3 are midfoot strikers.

Dr. Kirby recently wrote an article titled “Emerging Evidence on Footstrike Patterns in Running,” published in Podiatry Today magazine. This article does a great job of summarizing some of the research references we discuss on the podcast. 

Also, if you haven’t yet downloaded our own FREE e-book titled “Baby Steps: A Runner’s Guide to Feet, Shoes, and Dating,” you can do that here.

Lastly, we’d like to convey our sincere thanks to Dr. Kirby (and to you!) for joining us for this great podcast. Happy Trails!

~Coach Al and Dr. Strecker

041: The ONE Thing! [Podcast]

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Doc Strecker racing at Rev3 Quassy Olympic Distance and having fun!

Doc Strecker racing at Rev3 Quassy Olympic Distance and having fun!

Hi Everyone! Coach Al here. In today’s podcast, Doc and I delve into a topic we feel is SO important for long term success and fulfillment.  It is simply this: what is that ONE thing, that more than anything else, if you experienced a breakthrough in that area, would have the GREATEST impact on your success and happiness?

We are all an experiment of one: For each of us, the answer to that question will be very different, and that’s the point. We all have a unique “one thing.”

Are you getting the sleep you need? Are you able to be mindful and fully present in your daily activities and training? Do you have an eating habit that is holding you back? What about strength, mobility, flexibility, or a specific sport focus?

Are you HAVING FUN in your training and racing (as Doc clearly does!) and finding the right balance?

Identifying OUR own unique one thing, is often the easy part. What’s much harder is actually TAKING ACTION consistently, to truly make addressing that one thing, a priority. And that’s what we’re really talking about here…

Simplifying, and prioritizing as a means to achieving more, going faster, feeling better, and utlimately being happier.

Sounds “simple,” right? :)

Please listen in as we discuss this fun and important topic!  And have a great weekend too!

~Coach Al 

039: More Listener Questions! [Podcast]

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Did someone say running shoes?

Did someone say running shoes?

In today’s podcast, we respond to some listener questions on running shoes. This is always a popular topic for discussion regardless of the circle of athletes you’re in. We sure do LOVE OUR SHOES, don’t we? :)

We get a regular stream of questions on shoes, including the merits of certain brands of shoes, when they should be replaced, and whether it’s a good idea to rotate them. And without a doubt, it seems that from one month to the next, there’s always a “hot” shoe amongst certain groups of athletes.

We’ve talked shoes in previous episodes of the podcast. For those of you who haven’t listened, in this episode we told you how to pick the best shoe for YOU.

In this blog post from March of last year, we offered some tips on which ones you should buy.

And in what has been one of the most frequently listened to podcasts we’ve done to date, in this episode we discuss the merits of minimalist/barefoot running and hash out our differences and similarities with our guest, well known coach/athlete Ben Greenfield.

Join us for today’s talk, where we get into the Altras, Hokas, the weather :), whether to rotate (the shoes), what’s the key to knowing WHAT IS the right shoe for you, and much more!

Join us!

Happy Trails!

~Coach Al and Doc Strecker 

 

 

 

037: More Listener Questions! [Podcast]

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Coach Al and Dr. Strecker

Dr. Strecker and Coach Al Lyman

Today’s podcast brings Coach Al and Doc Strecker back together again to discuss and answer some listener’s questions. (Thank you everyone for sending in your questions – we appreciate it!)

Among the topics we delve into in today’s episode are Crossfit and the merits of supplementation.

* Crossfit is incredibly popular across this land of ours.  So, let’s throw it out there – what are our feelings about the merits of Crossfit?  (You might be surprised to hear what we have to say!)

* Every “expert” out there has an opinion on the merits of taking supplements vs. eating real food only. Should you get all of the nutrients you need from real food, or is a nutrition strategy that includes supplements a smart way to go?  If you do choose to supplement, how do you know which to use? Its hard to know who to trust in this area as so many are selling first, and speaking honestly second. Who do you trust? (We touch on the “Comprehensive Metabolic Profile” test also).

* And more, including what “F-F-F”  is and why it is important.

Have a great weekend everyone!

~Coach Al and Dr. Kurt Strecker

 

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