Archive for Mobility

The Truth About Staying Young

 

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

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

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

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

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

Simply put, what we most lose is mobility. 

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

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

Losing speed? Take the brakes off...

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

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

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

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

 

Click on the image to see the video

Click on the image to see the video

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

Do you want that bad enough?

Happy trails!
~Coach Al

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

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

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

So what to do next?

Follow my guidance on the video and get started NOW.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Rock Your Wall!

 

I hope your Tuesday has started off great!

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

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

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

Your body is a lot like a house...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what's YOUR story?

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

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

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

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

Your body and your fitness are the exact same thing

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

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

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

Happy trails!
~Coach Al

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

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

One Quarter of an Inch!

 

When asked what he thought was man’s greatest invention, Albert Einstein didn't reply the wheel, the lever, or for that matter, anything else you might expect, he replied, "compound interest.” Do you remember when you first learned about this seemingly magical way to earn money, faster and more easily?

What if I told you there was a way to "get rich" as a runner, by taking advantage of the same basic principles as those that make compound interest "man's greatest invention?" What I'm really talking about here is the ability to "compound" SPEED gains,  with no extra heart-beats required.

Well, there IS a way, and it's actually quite simple. Here's the deal:

If you add 1/4 inch to your stride length naturally, without forcing it artificially, you will be running about 10-seconds per mile faster at the same intensity.

Don't believe me?

Ever counted how many strides you take in a mile?

Depending upon your speed and intensity, it's about 1500.

If you were to get one-quarter inch more length out of each of those 1500 strides, you'd cover about 40 to 50 feet more at the same intensity.  That's another way of saying you're going to run about 10-seconds per mile faster.

How hard would you have to train to get 10-seconds per-mile improvement?

Imagine a 30-second improvement in your 5k finish time without having to do a single hard run workout! In a marathon, you could instantly improve by as much as 5-minutes or more depending upon your speed, just by adding 1/4" to your stride length! (Add more than 1/4" and you get even faster!)

The catch is, you can't just reach out further to grab more ground with your legs. Doing that would result in some overstriding and might get you injured. Not good.

So how do you get that extra 1/4" the right way?

By improving your stability, mobility and strength, that's how.

Even just a bit more hip mobility  = greater (and easier) range of motion, more elastic recoil and a longer, more powerful stride, naturally. (Did you know that 50% of the energy that propels you forward during the running stride comes from elastic and reactive “energy-return” of your muscles?).

Similarly, a more stable and stronger core and hips = LESS time spent in contact with the ground and LESS energy leaks, making each stride more efficient and powerful.

Sure, achieving either of these improvements will take some effort, but....the way I look at it, any improvement we can make that doesn't require more gut-busting track or tempo sessions, is worth exploring, don't you think?

Happy trails!

~Coach Al

PS:  And then there's the law of the Aggregation of Marginal Gains. I absolutely love the way James Clear writes about this amazingly similar strategy for improvement in his blog. Powerful stuff!

PSS: If you're a triathlete, imagine making similar kinds of gains as a swimmer. I'll be writing more about that in a future post.

Are You A Porsche Or A Cadillac?

 

Anyone who knows me well, knows I'm a car nut. I've always loved classics and muscle cars, and I love to go fast. So when I have the chance to draw an analogy between cars and running, how could I not speed ahead with it?

So here's the deal for today: To run faster than ever OR to finally get rid of that injury you've been nursing, you must think of your body as a spring on a car's suspension.

The optimal amount of springiness is NOT a Porsche. They're tight - firm - stiff, where you feel every bump in the road.

But, it is NOT a Cadillac either. They're soft and loose, bottoming out on every pothole.

Either scenario leaves you battling injury, recovering poorly, and running slower than you'd like!

Similarly, the answer to ANY question about flexibility, mobility, and stiffness for a runner is simply this: you want enough, but NOT TOO much.  

Don't be a Caddy OR a Porsche. To be a better runner, you'll need to find the appropriate amount of springiness and balance between the two.

Happy trails and have a great weekend!

~Coach Al

PS: do you love Yoga? The answer to that question might tell you which kind of car you are, and also where to focus your energy in order to improve.

It ISN’T About The Plan.

 

Recently, at a race where I was volunteering, I was chatting with a fellow runner. A week earlier he had finished his second 100-mile ultra.  He was feeling very good about having finished, and why not? Much like finishing an Ironman, getting to the FINISH line at a race of that magnitude is awesome and always worth celebrating! Despite his glow at having finished, I sensed there was something else bugging him...

As we talked, I began to understand why he was frowning. He acknowledged that yes, he really struggled during the race - his finish time was far slower than he was capable of. The primary reason, he felt, was an injury that had plagued him for most of the winter and spring, which prevented him from training as he had hoped or wanted.

His mood seemed to lift as he excitedly told me that in order to rectify things, he had already begun work on developing what he felt would be his perfect training week.  With a childlike grin, he described this "new" training routine as having the ideal blend of hill work, speed work, and long runs.

I chuckled to myself as I listened because I wasn't surprised. This was the same old blah-blah BS from a recently injured runner who, while well intentioned, was on the completely wrong path.

I said something to myself I often say in these situations: he simply doesn't know what he doesn't know.  

Now don't get me wrong. This is a smart guy who has been running for only a few years, and it is clear he has talent. Unfortunately, he's unknowingly missing THE most important elements which will help him truly reach his potential.  And he's not looking in the right places to get the answers he needs either. Training plans don't cause injury, nor do they lead directly to success. Both injury and success are essentially up to us.

What he doesn't know that I DO...and what I want to share with you today, is the secret to reaching your potential has very little to do with "the plan."  In fact, it has everything to do with the "little things" that most athletes don't pay much attention to.   

Honestly, of the dozens of things I speak about daily with the athletes I coach, depending upon their experience and where they are on their training journey, only a small percentage have to do with "the plan."

So, what are those "little things" that this runner might want to consider beyond obvious (to me) things like patience, recovery, daily nutrition, mindfulness, focus, and life balance/stress, to name a few?

Perhaps the most important is movement quality.

What do I mean?

Why not start by learning what the root-cause of the injury was. Only then can you get rid of it once and for all.   

Many athletes and sports medicine professionals alike mistakenly believe that rest cures all. That's just wrong. Just because you rest, the root-cause doesn't magically disappear.

Many struggle chronically with the same recurring injury, often from one year to the next, because they never learn the root-cause! That's just dumb.

It was clear this runner had no clue as to the root-cause of his injury. Here's some of what he should have considered:

  • Has he lacked muscle balance, appropriate mobility/flexibility, or core stability?
  • Had prior injuries set his body on a path of increasing compensation which ultimately led to this injury?
  • What about his foot mechanics - is he wearing the most appropriate running shoe for his unique needs?
  • Did he simply need to be functionally stronger in order to handle the training load?

My advice to him, had he asked me (he didn't), would have been to start by resisting the urge to only treat the symptoms. Instead, get smarter and learn what the cause actually is.

So here's the deal folks: Yes, a well-conceived, progressive, personalized training plan is an important part of an overall training program, but it is not the most important part.

When some of the important elements mentioned above, including arguably THE most important (movement quality) are in place and are monitored carefully and regularly, THEN and only then, is it time to worry about "the plan." But not before.

Live and learn.

Happy Trails!

~Coach Al

What Is Your Margin Of Error?

Whether we like it or not, when it comes to things like movement quality (mobility, flexibility, stability), running shoe choice, and training volume or intensity, to name a few, each of us has our own "margin of error."

That margin tends to lessen as we get older, as the miles pile up, or if we'd had a previous injury.

What does it mean for you?

According to Merriam-Webster, the definition I'm referring to is: If you have little or no margin for / of error, it means that you need to be very careful not to make mistakes. If you have a greater margin for/of error, you can be less careful.

The principles are the same for everyone. Violate one of those principles, and you'll end up injured, sick, or over-trained. And frustrated.

One lesson I learned the hard way and am often reminded of, is...

...it's when we feel most bulletproof and resilient that we are, in fact, most vulnerable.

Vulnerable to something as frustrating as an injury or tweak at the worst possible time (such as right before an important race), or worse, long lasting irreparable damage to our body...

Do YOU KNOW what your margin of error is?

~Coach Al

 

Are Running Drills A Waste of Time?

Keep Calm and Get Your Learn OnHi Everyone. Coach Al here. I often get questions from our team members and others about which running drills are best for improving form as well as "fixing" running gait issues. Today I decided to share one of those questions and my response to it.

Now I'm sure the title of this blog post caught your eye, right? On the topic of running drills, are they really a waste of time?  Keep reading to learn more. Here's the question I received:

"I saw my functional movement guru recently; he was really impressed with all my hard work and how well I've progressed since he saw me last. Gave a thumbs up to all the exercises and the return to running program as well, and made one small suggestion that made a lot of sense to me, so I wanted to run it by you guys. He asked if I was doing any running drills...and I replied, no, not really. He related it to my swimming- how I've taken such a big chunk of my swim time to retrain my movement patterns with my swim, and since I am returning to running, yes I am strengthening weaknesses, but he felt quite strongly I should be incorporating more drills to unlearn poor movement patterns. Retrain my brain so to speak. And this made total sense to me- I know I have been doing exercises that strengthen the muscles I should be using when I run, but the brain also plays a large part in how we move too, and I thought the drills suggestion was awesome. BUT- I have no run coach, and not sure where to go from here. Can you help?"

These are really good questions and I'm sure, many of you have heard this kind of recommendation before. So here's my response....


First, you ARE already doing "drills" with the exercises you are practicing and progressing (such as the basic glute-bridge and others), you just may not be "thinking" of those movements as running drills.

Most people don't think of a basic bridge (and the variations including one-leg versions) as a running drill. But it is. It's a hip extension pattern that mimics what happens when you run. Done correctly and progressively, the movement strengthens the body to run stronger, better, and faster. Isn't that what a drill is supposed to do?

My point in presenting the bridge as a "running drill" is this: Traditional running drills are highly dynamic. Bounding or A-Skip/B-Skip - these are movements that are very challenging to do well. If the foundation (and the basic skills designed to build that foundation) aren't solid and well established, especially combined with a lack of the required strength to absorb the loads inherent in running (resulting in loads equaling 3 to 4x our body weight from the affect of gravity and ground reaction, and up to 1500 or so foot strikes in every mile), then no amount of even more complex or "traditional" drill work is going to FIX the lack of a strong foundation or the lack of those basic foundational skills.

Start at the beginning, and master that beginning before moving on to something more complex. After all, if you were a math student, wouldn't you expect to learn basic math and algebra efore moving on to calculus?


Two Popular "Schools of Running": What's The Deal?

Some run coaches and other supposed "experts" (including those runners who consider themselves to be the experts) often suggest to others, who may not have learned how to extend their hips with their butts correctly (as with the basic bridge), or learned how to stabilize their core, or even perform a perfect 1-leg squat for that matter, to do complex drills like A-Skip, or B-Skip, or some other "typical" running drill.

Chi Running and The Pose Method represent two "schools" of running form that also offer lots of drills, designed to "teach" the body how to run efficiently and effectively.

Are the drills sometimes fun to do and learn?* Yes. Do they "teach" you how to run well? By well, I mean, with appropriate stability, balance, coordination, applying powerful forces into the ground efficiently and effectively.

The answer is a resounding NO.

The reason is simple: the drills, just like running, are made up of very complex movement patterns involving LOTS of moving parts and our entire nervous system.

Something we frequently discuss with athletes here in our Pursuit Athletic Performance Fast Lab  relates to this very point, which is conscious control of running. What do I mean?

Let's start with a question that is worth considering honestly: Can you consciously control what your entire body is doing when you are running? Other than basic posture, arm carriage (which would change as soon as you stopped thinking about it), stride rate to some degree, and where you're looking, the answer is NO, you can not.

Core stability, hip and ankle mobility, foot mechanics, ground contact time, over striding, etc., are ALL things which largely HAPPEN FROM THE INSIDE OUT, NOT THE OUTSIDE IN!

The take home here is clear: drills can be learned, yes. But will they change what happens on the INSIDE?

No, as a general rule, they do not.

Now is a good time to pause and for me to make something very clear: I am NOT saying all running drills are bad or that there isn't an appropriate time and place for them - what I am saying is this:

MOST runners who do drills are NOT ready for them, and because of that, they will serve no meaningful purpose, nor will learning them result in meaningful changes to either injury resistance OR speed potential. 

Most running drills DON'T help you "un-learn poor movement patterns" at all, they usually do the reverse! They take "poor" (meaning compensated) patterns and often make them worse.

When you MASTER the basics first, then you may be ready to move on to a host of different "drills" which really challenge the nervous system and improve some aspect of running (I do think the jury is out on this however). The point is, certain drills, if they are going to be beneficial, will only be when learned and worked on in the presence of mastery of the fundamentals, and basics, first.


Swimming and Running: How Are They Different?

Your trainer's comparison between running and swimming is really common, but it's dead wrong.

The two "movements" are very different beyond the obvious factors (being horizontal in the water vs. vertical on land), and thus are learned very differently. As such, the role of drills is very different for each sport. Here's what I mean:

  • Regardless of intensity, swimming and running happen at very different speeds. For example, on average most triathletes take 18 to 20 strokes when swimming freestyle for 25 yds. That's 18 to 20 individual strokes over the course of an average of 20 to 30 seconds. In that same 20 to 30 second time period, the runner has taken 80 to 100 strides. That's a BIG difference in terms of the amount of time and focus you can give to controlling and executing the basic movement pattern. Swimming can be consciously controlled to a MUCH GREATER degree than can running, because it is happening much more slowly. It is less dynamic in terms of time and speed of the movements.
  • While we know swimming freestyle is "complex" (reach, catch, pull, kicking, etc), the truth is that when comparing the "complexity" of the run gait cycle to the freestyle stroke, running is more complex. For example, you could really lie on your stomach in the pool, put one arm out in front of you and keep one arm at your side, and just paddle like you were on a surfboard. And while your entire trunk is involved, your lower body could truly just be stationary and not doing much. It is, in effect, the motion of your arm and back that is largely responsible for swimming freestyle. In contrast, running involves virtually every single soft tissue in your body - its truly holistic and total body! And when you add in the forces acting on our body such as gravity and ground reaction forces, the movement becomes extraordinarily complex, immediately! And there's no way to "slow it down" or make it less complex, unless you do what I alluded to earlier - lie on your back and work on that 1 leg bridge or stand and groove a perfect 1-leg squat.

In summary, because of this complexity difference and the speed of the movements, there's no comparison between the "thoughtful" drills you do in the pool to improve technique and skill, and the run gait cycle. And as such, how we learn and improve upon our skills must be approached differently.

(*If you'd like to learn more about the connection between core stability and swimming, go to our podcast on the topic).


What Determines Your Path: Is it boredom or a need to be entertained while you train? OR is it a genuine pursuit of personal and athletic excellence? 

Now at this point you may be asking...."ok, well I've mastered the basics - shouldn't I be ready to tackle A-Skip or B-Skip?"

My response to that is to say this: As I look back, rarely have I ever coached or seen a runner in a clinic or worked with someone in our Pursuit Training Center who had mastered the basics well enough for me to say, "you are not only ready for the most complex drills, but because you're ready, you'll get a ton out of them!" That just hasn't happened very often. Does it happen occasionally? Yes, but not very often.

The reverse however, happens a lot. What is that? A runner who continues to struggle OWNING basic static stability or low level dynamic stability, and who hasn't yet developed powerful glutes and hamstrings to explode their hip extension..."wanting" to learn a new "cool" drill that they THINK, will take the place of good old, patient and persistent hard work.

That is what it comes down to, I think.

Building strength and stability is sometimes boring, and it is very hard work. Drills, on the other hand, are more fun and seem to be more beneficial because of the complex nature of them. And in that lies fools gold, in my opinion.

What's more, our subconscious mind hates for us to engage in "practice," and in mastering the basics! Why? Because there is no "guaranteed" positive outcome. So, we need to be smarter than our subconscious mind and understand that to be the best we can be, we need to:

MASTER THE BASICS and FUNDAMENTALS first.

Own them. Completely and totally.

When you become super stable and strong and keep improving those elements, and then start training FASTER with the strength you've developed (and keep returning to the basics to ensure you OWN them completely), trust me, you won't be asking what drills you ought to do to get faster and better - IT WILL BE HAPPENING AUTOMATICALLY!

All of the above form the philosophy of training that drives our company and team Pursuit, and of course how I have personally trained as a runner and triathlete:

No one, not even those will great talent, will be successful over the long term, if they attempt to put higher fitness or higher level skills, ON TOP of a basic compensational or dysfunctional movement pattern (or a lack of basic functional balanced strength and length).

So, back to the title of this blog post, no, I don't believe all drills are a waste of time at all. Explosive drill work, just like running form technique work, does have its place!

That place, however, isn't at the beginning nor is it for the great majority of developing runners or triathletes. These things are FROSTING ON THE CAKE.

The thing is, before you apply the FROSTING, you HAVE TO BAKE THE CAKE!

Happy Trails!

~Coach Al 

Meet Our Interns: Caitlyn Kelly

Pursuit Athletic Performance Intern Caitlyn Kelly

Valley Regional student and Pursuit Athletic Performance Intern Caitlyn Kelly Valley

Valley Regional High School in Deep River Connecticut serves the communities of Chester, Deep River and Essex.  Students have the opportunity to get actual hands on experience in potential career paths through the CAPSTONE internship process.

As a result, we here at Pursuit Athletic Performance have been lucky enough to have Caitlyn Kelly join us.  We are excited to have Caitlyn here a couple of times a week.  We asked her to talk about what she hopes to gain from this experience.  See what she had to say!


I first became aware of  Pursuit Athletic Performance when I was seeking treatment for my Plantar Fasciitis foot injury. Here I was taken in graciously by the staff and then treated in an effort to keep me healthy through my strenuous high school soccer season.

As I have always been a fan of overall health and fitness, when thinking about identifying a work site for my internship, the genuine and caring staff of Pursuit Athletic Performance made my choice a no brainer.

While fulfilling my duties here as a student-athlete intern, on a general scale I look to become more knowledgeable about injury prevention and human health, but I am also looking to hone in on particular strength and speed training techniques that can be applied to my sport of choice. While I have been playing soccer almost all of my 18 years, most of the training off the field I have been exposed to has not been targeted to improve my areas of weakness that can make me the stronger, faster, smarter soccer player I look to become. As I am looking to continue my play at a collegiate level, I would like to elevate my current fitness to another level.

To be specific, I would like to learn exercises and tips that strengthen my hips and glutes, allowing for quicker, cleaner cuts and acceleration. I would also like to enhance my core and upper body strength  to have an edge over weaker female competitors.

Though my time interning at Pursuit Athletic Performance is limited, I am looking to make my experience a long term, continued application into my lifestyle as an educated student-athlete.

If YOU would like to learn more about the work I am doing here, would like to get stronger yourself, or have a child who plays sports who you would like to see remain injury free or get faster, come check out the classes and personal training that are available to all ages and ability levels. For a limited time only, we have 2 week trial memberships for ONLY $1. Come join me and check it out!

 

Meet Our Trainers: Zack Kraft-Shinn, Our Yoga Dragon

Pursuit Athletic Performance trainer and teacher, Zack Kraft-Shinn

Pursuit Athletic Performance trainer and teacher, Zack Kraft-Shinn

Here at Pursuit Athletic Performance, we are really proud of the awesome staff of trainers and coaches we have to help YOU improve!

Today we introduce our own "Yoga Dragon," Zack Kraft-Shinn. Zack teaches our very popular kid's bootcamp and kid's yoga, adult yoga and martial arts, and is also a personal trainer.  To learn more about Zack, check out his bio on our site here. 

Zack is an amazing teacher who is passionate about teaching and sharing his gifts with young and old alike. Zack says, "I believe that knowledge is food for your brain, and as a member of Team Pursuit, my hope is to share weekly motivational and educational thoughts." To that end, enjoy!

shadow-ornament

 

I wanted to start off strong with something “neurologically nutritious”, so I present this for your consideration:  Life's a battle. It's like a daily knife fight. An ever present struggle of balancing will and choice on a hairline edge.

I always ask myself, "How can I bring forth all of my energy to give my genetic gift and serve; while also making sure I take care of myself and my basic needs?” Every day is different. Some days I train more, so on those days I make sure to give myself a little extra time to stretch so my body doesn't break. I eat larger portions those days so my body can stay fueled rather than feed on itself. I make sure to drink extra water those days to aid in the recovery of my torn muscles so that they can repair themselves more efficiently. And I make sure I get adequate rest, which involves much more than just the time I lay my head down.  Just as important is the environment I rest in. Are the lights on? If so I shut them off as that will affect the quality of my rest. I do little things to make sure that when I wake up the following morning at 4am....I jump outta bed healed and ready to attack the day. Ready to read, train my yoga then head off to my first job…to make the morning muffins. (And in case you were wondering...YES…I am the muffin master as well!)

photo 2I know that if I don’t take care of myself, is I start to slip...It's much like taking that cut in the “daily life” knife fight. Yeah, it may not be a big deal right now, but man, I'm gonna feel that later. Say, for instance, I get home at 12:30 am and I’m starving because I forgot to pack a cliff bar or a banana. I open the fridge to see what my options are. There's some lasagna my mom made, a delicious piece of chocolate cake and some leftovers of the mouth-watering sub I got from JAMSS. (Kidding on the last one, I never have any leftovers from JAMSS! The plate is usually licked clean to be perfectly honest!) So I heat up the lasagna and eat it, then wash it down with the cake. Tastes great!  BUT, because I ate right before bed, my body can't heal itself! Instead of focusing on healing, it's using those essential calories to break down all that food. Plus, because my body is so used to breaking down food while in a standing position, it’s now working almost twice as hard to do so lying down. What did I do?  I set myself up for failure. When I wake up, I feel it instantly. Instead of jumping out of bed, it's a slow zombie crawl approach to the day! So instead I make a better choice…understanding that I'm placing want over need, I close the fridge and chug some water.

Making good choices is one thing, but there is another kind of blade that life can use to cut me.  The stuff that I have no control over. The unexpected. The variables I never saw. The family tragedy. The loss of a loved one or a career. The relationships that leave scars or weren’t destined to be a part of my path. But the experienced knife fighter understands that almost always in a knife fight, you’re gonna have to take a minor cut to give a better one. Sometimes losing the opportunity for a new job or some love fantasy we feel would make our lives better or enrich it in some way, is actually a blessing in disguise. From my experience, I know a lot of good is lost looking for something better. By thinking of all I've lost, I miss out on the present. My mind is caught in an endless cycle of despair and should've, would’ve, could’ve scenarios. Because my mind is in pain my body follows. My negative thoughts manifest themselves through discomfort in the body, starting with bad posture.   Because I'm hunched over, looking down, putting unwanted pressure on my neck and lower back...my breathing is then changed. I've created less space in my body for air, my lungs aren't working as cohesively with my heart to pump all those much needed hard working, freshly oxygenated blood cells to the vital organs, muscles etc.photo 1

Luckily, at some point in this process I’ll realize what’s happening. I understand that I'm not present, and I will find my focus by saying a mantra of some kind. (Mantra's are words or groups of words we can say verbally or in our heads to promote clarity.) My favorite is from the Bhagavad Gita. Arjuna is being counselled on the cusp of a battle that will tear the very fabric of reality. Krishna says to Arjuna, "If you bring forth what lies in your inner most self, what you bring forth will save you and it will save a piece of the world. If you do not bring forth what lies in your inner most self, what you do not bring forth will destroy you and it will destroy a piece of the world."

Cool, huh?? But hey, no pressure!  J   However, I challenge you! Ask yourself not “HOW can I change the world”, but instead “how AM I changing the world today?" Cause every thought you have manifests itself into reality. Not only actions, every thought you have changes the world!  Choose to be non- judgmental to a passerby. Give a smile, high five or a hug to someone you feel could really use it. (It will usually be met with a rather contagious case of the giggles that in turn leads to an outbreak!) OR GO BIG! Get involved with your local community! Pick up trash, offer help to those in need, sign up for a walk that has a cause that doesn't affect you or anyone you know... It's all good! So please, I encourage you to take care of yourself, because you have to change the world today.... Love, light and happiness, The Yoga Dragon, OSS

Also, special shout out to my two new good friends for helping me in my Pursuit of perfection. Sensei Doc and Shifu Coach. Love you guys!

~Zack
P.s. Special shout out to Mark and Ange at J.A.M.S.S. catering in Old Saybrook, Ct for hooking me up with the sponsorship! I can't thank you enough for all the culinary masterpieces you both make for me daily! Love you guys!

Ps.s. Also huge shout out to my friend and brother Tim Seabre for helping me with my new Yoga Dragon Tukano Gi's! I can’t wait to rock those on a daily basis! Many tribes, one root!

Meet Our Trainers: Christine Kopcha

 

Pursuit Athletic Performance personal trainer, Chris Kopcha

Pursuit Athletic Performance personal trainer, Chris Kopcha

Here at Pursuit Athletic Performance, we are really proud of the awesome staff of trainers and coaches we have to help YOU improve!

Today we introduce Chris Kopcha, who teaches yoga, bootcamp, and fitness classes at our new space in Chester, Connecticut: the Pursuit Training Center.  To learn more about Chris, check out her bio on our site here. 

Chris is passionate about teaching and helping others to get stronger and improve. She hopes YOU will come out and take some of her classes and learn what she and we have to offer first hand.

To that end, Chris shares her thoughts on yoga including TEN REASONS why YOU should join her in her "tree house" for class.


Our "tree house" yoga room at the Pursuit Training Center.

Our "tree house" yoga room at the Pursuit Training Center.

One of the misconceptions of yoga is that it is only for skinny 20-something girls in spandex who can twist themselves into a pretzel. Or vegan hippies that sit around chanting and meditating. While you do find some of these scenarios in yoga studios, yoga is for everyone and the benefits go much farther than being able to tie yourself in a very uncomfortable knot.
1. CORE: We all know that a stable, strong core is important in keeping you injury free. But your core consists of more than just your abs. It includes everything other than your head, arms and legs and incorporates almost every movement in the human body. Yoga works your core in 360 degrees! Flexibility and balance stem from your core.

2. FLEXIBILITY: Who doesn't want to increase their comfortable range of motion? How many people do you know can't reach down to tie their shoes or have a hard time reaching for their seat belt?  Flexibility is one attribute we associate with being and feeling younger.

3. BODY BALANCE: As we move into our later years this is important in keeping us active. Even tasks as simple as walking.....the ability to stand on one foot at a time while propelling yourself forward requires a great deal of balance.

4. TRAINING BALANCE: Every good exercise program needs to include aerobic training, strength work, and stretching! Many athletes tend to hit two out of three of these genres, keeping them from reaching their full potential!

5. SPEED: By learning about your body and how it moves, you can work with what you've got allowing you to become faster.

6. LOW IMPACT: Yoga is it! Which means it's great for seniors and anyone who has joint trouble.

7. LOWERS STRESS: By encouraging relaxation, focusing on your body and breathing, it reduces the effects of stress by lowering blood pressure, heart rate, and improving digestion.

8. THE BREATH: Yoga practice teaches us to take slower, deeper, healthier breaths, improving lung function and increasing the amount of oxygen available to the body.

9. CLEARS THE MIND: Yoga helps us un-clutter our mind. It allows us to be still in a world full of chaos.

10. JUMPSTART A HEALHTHIER YOU: Yoga can be the jump start you need toward a healthier lifestyle. It can be your first step on a path away from unhealthy stress and poor eating habits, toward healthier habits that lead to long term health and happiness.

11. BONUS: And if you are interested, you can ALSO learn some really cool party tricks like headstands, handstands, splits, and arm balances.

These work for me – what about YOU?

Hope to see you in the tree house AND on the mat soon!

~Chris