Archive for Off Season

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

 

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Which came first, the chicken or the egg?  

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

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

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

What was going on?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Should you scrape mud off of your cycling shoes?   

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

How so you ask?

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

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

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

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

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

...except for one, that is.

One, very different and important, approach.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy trails!
~Coach Al 

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

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

Rock Your Wall!

 

I hope your Tuesday has started off great!

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

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

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

Your body is a lot like a house...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what's YOUR story?

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

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

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

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

Your body and your fitness are the exact same thing

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

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

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

Happy trails!
~Coach Al

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

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

Should You Take A Break?

 

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

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

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

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

It depends...

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

Consistency matters...

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

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

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

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

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

 

Plan for recovery year round...

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

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

Happy trails!
~Coach Al

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

 

 

3 TIPS to Jumpstart YOUR Running This Fall!

Deb-Trails For A Cure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy trails!

~Coach Al 

013: Off-Season Training: System Reboot to Prepare For Your Best Season EVER! (Podcast)

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Off-Season TrainingCoach Al and Dr. Kurt Strecker here to encourage you to do a system reboot to prepare for your best racing ever!

How to do a full system reboot, you may ask?

Through specific, precise, and directed off-season training.

In this podcast we explain why the keys to your race results--and your ability to stay injury free-- may very well lie in your off season preparations.

Here are some important points about what the reboot entails, and a few things you need to do:

  • Let any injured tissues you have heal
  • Assess mobility, flexibility and movement quality
  • Address weaknesses
  • Train the nervous system and mindfully practice skills (hint: never take another bad swim stroke!)

Hit us up with any questions here in the comments or on Facebook!

Helping YOU to Be GREAT!

Coach Al and Kurt

We hope you enjoy our podcasts and find them useful for your training and racing. Any questions? Hit us up in the comments, or on Facebook. Let us know of any topics you would like us to cover too.

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Dr. Kurt Strecker: The Off Season’s #1 Goal? Get Healthy!

Hi Folks!

Dr. Kurt Strecker, Pursuit Athletic Performance

Dr. Kurt Strecker

Now is the time of year when many endurance athletes are busy planning their upcoming seasons. It's fun and exciting to plan races and set challenging goals. Coach Al is busy building new plans, and together we're strategizing ways to serve you all better, especially here at our NEW Pursuit Training Center! Lots of exciting stuff coming up!

The challenge is that so many of you are struggling to stay injury free or to recover from an injury.  THIS IS THE TIME of year when it is smart to rid yourself of injuries once and for all, and ensure the upcoming season is jam packed with fun, satisfying, and fullfilling race experiences!

Yes that's right, your #1 goal this off season is?????

You have to get healthy!

Doc has some words of advice on the topic. Listen in!