Archive for Pursuit Athletic Performance Announcements

060: MORE on Mindsets for Optimal Performance with Stanford Researcher, Omid Fotuhi [Podcast]

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Dr. Omid Fotuhi

Dr. Omid Fotuhi

Hey everyone! Coach Al here.

Today I am once again honored and pleased to welcome back onto the podcast, Dr. Omid Fotuhi, runner, triathlete, and project manager for the Stanford University Interventions Lab. It has been almost a year since we last had Omid on the podcast; I've personally been anxious to get him back on so we all could continue to learn from him and his research team.

Without a doubt, that first podcast we did together (Episode 58, which you can listen to by going HERE) was one of our most popular ever.

In Part 1 of our chat (Part 2 coming soon), we discussed what he's learned about how we all can better use the power of our mind to explode our potential!  Such as...

  • The important interplay between our own belief systems and effective goal setting.
  • The three types of goals / goal setting, and how they work individually and collectively to empower us to greater achievement and self actualization.
  • Fixed and growth mindsets: Which is more likely to lead to reaching one's potential?
  • The most effective strategies for reaching beyond our fears and achieving more than we ever thought we could!
  • And much more!

Thanks everyone for joining us and tuning in, we appreciate it. I am already looking forward to sharing Part 2 of our discussion soon!

Happy Trails!

~Coach Al 

059: “Slipped Away,” with Special Guests Jean Mellano and Ron Hurtado [Podcast]

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SteveT

I'm honored to have two special guests on the podcast today: Jean Mellano, author of the memoir Slipped Away, and veteran, founding member, and executive director of the Airborne TriTeam, Ron Hurtado.

Some background: I first met Steve Tarpinian in 1996 after deciding to attend his "Swim Power" clinic at the Nassau County Aquatic Center in Long Island, NY.

I was hoping to learn how to overcome my fear of the water and how to swim. If you're thinking that's not exactly an easy task for a 36-year-old having experienced a near drowning as a 10-year-old kid, you'd be right.

I arrived as a anxious newbie, wondering what the day would bring. When I left at the end of the day, I had made a friend for life and also come to know one of the best teachers, coaches and men I'll ever know.

Sadly, on March 15, 2015, that great teacher, coach, mentor...lost his war on depression, and took his own life.

SlippedAwayFast forward a short time later, Steve's soulmate and partner of 35 years, Jean Mellano, after reading all of the heartfelt remembrences of Steve on the popular Slowtwitch.com forum, decided to write a memoir to honor Steve's legacy and bring more awareness to mental illness, specifically depression.  She titled it Slipped Away.

In Jean's words,"there is still so much stigma and embarassment attached to depression, which further adds to the suffering of those afflicted. Mental illness is where Tuberculosis, HIV/AIDs, and cancer were many years ago in terms of no one wanting to talk about it."   

In today's podcast, Ron, Jean and I discuss many things including Steve's legacy, such as:

  • Why and how the book, Slipped Away, came to be.
  • Project9linea Long Island based non-profit organization that supports veterans suffering from PTSD and depression, and which receives the majority of the proceeds from the sale of the book.
  • The Airborne TriTeam, another Long Island based non-profit organization started by Ron, specifically created for mentally and physically challenged war veterans. The team has a unique and strong connection to Steve and his legacy.
  • What we can all do to help those suffering from PTSD and other forms of mental illness.
Depression is like an iceberg...

Depression is like an iceberg...

In Jean's words: "To many people who knew him, Steve had it all and appeared to be on top of the world. Hindsight is 20/20; we now know things weren't always as they seemed. In many instances, people who suffer from depression and mental illness hide it very well.  If someone close to you has a pattern of "going dark" (not returning phone calls or emails, etc.), it could be more than just them being busy or forgetful.  When this happens too often, perhaps a little more compassion and understanding for that person may be in order."   

Jean believes Steve's true legacy and how he should be remembered isn't as a great coach, race-director or athlete who took his own life, but rather, as a human being who did his very best to make people feel good about themselves and who inspired them to accomplish things they never thought they could do.  I couldn't agree more.

Thank you Jean and Ron, and everyone who joined to listen in to this podcast.

To learn even more about the memoir and about Steve, or to purchase a copy, visit the website HERE.  It's also available on Amazon.  You might also want to visit the Slipped Away Facebook page HERE.

~Coach Al 

PS: Jean wrote a wonderful article for the online magazine, The Mighty. In it she shares some of what she has learned about grief since Steve's passing. I highly recommend it.

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.

Today It’s About THE SWIM! You In?

 

I'm sure you gathered from the subject line that the topic today is swimming, specifically for triathletes. If you're a triathlete and the subject interests you, cool, keep reading. If not, no worries we'll connect next time around.

So, I've been chatting a bit recently about swimming and getting faster, with a lady I've coached for, um, about 6 years. She's smart and experienced, and pretty darn "good," if you consider being a course record holder AND winning your age-group at the Ironman World Championships in Kona FOUR times, good. 🙂

Our conversation, which included a little friendly bantering, got me thinking...

...Most triathletes struggle to get faster in the water. The question is, why?

 

There are a lot of options and a ton of information available online if a triathlete wants to become a faster swimmer. The problem is, non of the "experts" agree on the best approach. Read enough and you'll hear the secret is the right drill, until you read the article that says drilling is a waste of time.

The volume debate always gets the conversation heated up! Swim more? Swim less? Swim with a band and paddles or no, get rid of the "toys" if you want to improve. There's just not much agreement. Not coincidently, there's also a healthy debate right now in a slew of online forums and among coaches on the topic.

While I haven't counted, it seems to me there's enough websites, coaches, clinics, swim programs, instructional DVDs, AND opinions....to fill a very large ocean (no pun intended). 🙂

So if it's not a lack of information, resources, or expert opinions, then what's the real reason for such widespread struggle?

Something is clearly missing.

Well-known tri-coach Joel Filliol, in an article entitled "The Top 20 Rules For Faster Triathlon Swimming," and on a recent podcast episode he did with coach Paulo Sousa, makes the argument that triathletes waste time drilling...that drilling doesn't work. According to them both, conditioning trumps technique. To quote Sousa, "working on your fitness works on technique," while the "opposite is not true."

A slightly different viewpoint comes from internationally-renowned swim coach and triathlete (and one of my own mentors), Haydn Wooley of Future Dreams Swimming in New Zealand, who is well known for stating that "technique sets the upper limit to how far your fitness will take you."

After literally beginning my own swimming journey by learning to overcome a fear of the water and taking my first swimming lesson as a 36 year old, 20 years ago, I've come to discover there are a lot ways to skin a cat, or to put it the way a Swede would, "Alla sätt är bra utom de dåliga" which means... "all methods are good except the bad ones."  🙂

So let me ask: If you want to get faster, should you attend a clinic or get your hands on an instructional DVD and start drilling in an effort to improve your skills? OR, should you simply increase your volume and frequency, just swim your ass off, and just tweak your stroke as you go?

 

Duh! We're all different.  

 

Triathletes the world over come from so many different backgrounds. It's always seemed somewhat counterintuitive to me to think that any ONE approach is the right one for every triathlete. 

Hell...there's some percentage of those who line up at the starting line of a triathlon who are so freaked out about being in the open water, thoughts of anything except how to survive and cope with the panic, are completely forgotten. (Who gives a crap about technique when you're nearly drowning!) 🙂

So what do you think?

For me and the athletes I work with, we begin with this simple mantra: Commit to never taking another bad stroke. 

Of course, you and I know that making sure every stroke we take is absolutely "perfect," just isn't possible, right?

 

How we learn: experimentation, repetition, imagery, exaggeration 

When it comes to learning a new skill or trying to improve upon our existing skills, all of the current science says that for most of us, experimenting - dancing on the edge of our abilities, going "too" far and slipping and falling only to get back up and try again, are universal concepts that hold true.

"Chunking" skills into small bits, seeing a picture or image in your mind's eye of how a skill should ideally be performed and then trying to replicate it, and even exaggerating the opposite of what you're trying to do, also seem to have merit.

We also know that grooving a skill is easy, but changing that groove is hard. Really hard.

 

Which is why it's SO difficult to change after having taken thousands (millions?) of, shall we say, less than "perfect" strokes.

 

Conditioning or technique, which is more important?  

 

Coaches Filliol and Sousa have a point: There's very little chance a triathlete looking to get faster is going to achieve it by mindlessly practicing and "perfecting" drills. Clinics too, are often a big waste of time, without the essential followup work, repetition, and effort required to change.

And while I wouldn't agree completely with Sousa and his belief that conditioning trumps technique, a lack of "enough" conditioning to practice effectively hurts many triathletes who are trying to get faster. Why? Fatigue erodes our ability to concentrate and hold on to good form.

 

Can you "change" in a single practice session?

 

The images on the left are from a 1 on 1 coaching session I did with a woman I coach. She made some dramatic improvements in a very short period of time, as you can clearly see when comparing the "before" clip on the left, with the "after" clip on the right.

In the image on the left, she is pressing down on the water (not an effective way to "catch") and is also overloading her shoulder.

The image on the right shows a much more effective "catch." It's no surprise that her "lat" (the large back muscle you see inside the yellow circle) is literally exploding as she sets up her pull.

(A picture, or in this case video, is worth a thousand words and it doesn't lie. Which is one reason why this athlete was able to change on the spot - AND why I never go to the pool to coach without my underwater camera). 🙂

So what's the bottom line?

It's simple, really: There is NO single approach that will guarantee success for everyone.

Yes, there ARE universal concepts that apply to just about everybody. Things like...

  1. Attentive repetition: Over and over and over. Working in the sweet spot on the edge of your capability. Relentless. Remember Malcolm Gladwell's book Outliers and 10,000 hours?
  2. Interweaving and chunking: Do it, then take a break, then do it again.
  3. "Deep" practice: fully engaged in the process, instead of focused solely on an outcome.
  4. Being mindful: fully present in the moment.

Are YOU doing what YOU need to do, to improve?

 

I think coach Filliol was on target when he hinted that those with solid technique who aren't getting faster are simply not working hard enough. For those folks, lengthening the "main" sets and getting in more volume are key. For example, even with solid technique, expecting substantial improvement on a dose of 1 or 2 hours per week of swim training just isn't realistic.

Conversely, it's also true that some triathletes have very little understanding of the difference between effectively "catching" water...and "catching" a head cold. 🙂 For those folks, a deeper commitment to learning more, to be better equipped to decipher the difference between good and bad swimming and information is where to start.

And there are also some, that are so lacking in the necessary flexibility in the shoulders and back, any attempt to swim "correctly" will result in nothing but a whole lotta frustration.

Have we come to any conclusions as to why so many struggle?

 

One thing I believe we have learned, is that too many athletes waste valuable time and energy working in the wrong way and using the exact opposite ideal approach. Or they simply do not KNOW what the ideal approach is!

The real answer to our question is simple, but not necessarily easy:

Find out what the optimal approach is for YOU, and then... work relentlessly and mindfully with dogged determination. Take advantage of regular, objective feedback from someone you trust to help review and assess your progress, and then take what you learn, "tweak it" where you need to, and get back to work.       

So let me ask you a question....

Do you know what the best approach is for you?

Do you care?

If you DO, then maybe you would be interested in working with me in a small group coaching format. CLICK HERE to let me know you're interested in learning more about what I have planned.

Within this group coaching program, I will...

  1. help you learn the OPTIMAL approach to getting faster.
  2. program AND guide your practices and training.
  3. review your video and offer specific guidance on how to improve.
  4. work directly with YOU to find the best ways for you to get faster.

If this sounds interesting, know right up front that it won't be "easy" -  you'll have to work hard AND you're going to have to be accountable.

There aren't any real swimming #hacks. (I wish there were!)  Real improvements will come from commitment, hard work, and us working together as a TEAM. So, if you aren't willing to hold up your end, don't waste your time OR mine.

Here's WHY you might want to jump in and take advantage of this opportunity:

  • You want to finish near the front of your AG instead of at the back.
  • You've been swimming for years but still go slow compared to your training partners.
  • You want to look forward to the swim portion of the races you do, rather than dread them.
  • You get out of the water at your races, tired and hardly ready to attack the bike and run.
  • Your shoulders are sometimes sore, or worse, downright painful after your swims.
  • You're tired of going to the pool over and over, and never getting faster!!
  • You believe having some guidance and feedback from someone who has walked the walk would help you and save a lot of trial and error.

If any of the above bullets resonate with you, CLICK HERE to let me know you're interested. There is no commitment required right now, I'm simply assessing whether there is enough interest to run the group.

Do you REALLY want to improve? No Bulls**t. I'm very serious about this. If this speaks to you, CLICK HERE.

Happy laps!

~Coach Al

PS: Speaking of groups, I mentioned to you earlier about the group kettlebell training - I've had some really great interest in it. There's still time to get in on this but don't wait too long, January will be here before you know it! If you're interested in learning more, CLICK HERE.  

058: Mindsets for Optimal Performance with Stanford Researcher, Omid Fotuhi [Podcast]

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Dr. Omid Fotuhi

Dr. Omid Fotuhi

Today I am really psyched to welcome onto the podcast, Dr. Omid Fotuhi, triathlete and project manager for the Stanford University Interventions Lab. I truly believe the topics we discuss on the podcast today will have a profound impact on anyone listening in. The group of researchers led by Dr. Fotuhi are doing absolutely state-of-the-art research on mindset and performance!

Dr. Fotuhi and his colleagues at the Interventions Lab describe their research as "focused on identifying psychological barriers that impede performance and well-being, and leveraging those insights to create theory-driven interventions that target those barriers." Here's a link to a short video that provides a brief look at the work they do.

In this podcast, Dr. Fotuhi shares his experience and research on topics such as:

  • What are some of the most common patterns of beliefs and thoughts that we all have, and how do those correlate with our performance?
  • Do seemingly inconsequential events have an impact on how we see ourselves and therefore how we perform in races?
  • How is our own motivation to train and race to our ultimate potential impacted by how we see ourselves and the world?
  • Having a fixed or growth mindset: Which is more likely to lead to reaching one's potential?
  • What can we do to improve our ability to persist in the face of adversity, to experience less negativity and perform better at our races?
  • And much more!

I personally found our discussion incredibly valuable, especially from a coaching perspective. I learned a lot and encourage everyone to listen in. This is powerful stuff!

Happy Trails!

~Coach Al 

057: All Things Trail Running with Ethan Veneklasen and Deborah Livingston [Podcast]

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UltraRunnerPodcast co-host, Ethan Veneklasen

UltraRunnerPodcast co-host, Ethan Veneklasen

Deb and Coach Al, at their Cedar Lake Trail Camp and Retreat this past weekend!

Deb and Coach Al, at their Cedar Lake Trail Camp and Retreat this past weekend!

Today I am excited to welcome Ethan Veneklasen and Debbie Livingston to the podcast. Without a doubt, this was one of my favorite podcasts to date!

I had the opportunity to connect with Ethan after this year's Miwok 100k. All three of us were there to race. Miwok is one of those old classic races in the ultra-running world. Held on May 2nd in the Marin Headlands outside of San Francisco, Debbie and Ethan ran a little bit of the course together that day.

Ethan is one of those great guys who seems to know everyone in the ultra-running world! Besides being a co-host of the ever popular ultra runner podcast (over 150k downloads per month!), he's also a Hoka One One and VFuel ambassador.

As for "Deb," anyone who listens to this podcast knows who she is.  Mom and wife, elite ultra-runner, coach, yoga teacher and steward of all things mother-nature and the environment, she was last on the podcast with me when we visited with James Varner and the Trail Running Film Festival back in February.

In June of last year, I did an interview with Debbie for the podcast. It's a fantastic chat where she shares some of her secrets to success, as well as discussing those things (like trail running, ultra-running, caring for the environment, her family) that are most important to her! She's one of the best!

In this podcast, we have a really informative and fun discussion on topics such as:

  • How far the unique sport of ultra-running has come in such a short period of time.
  • Why they feel trail running is special, unique, and so very different from road running.
  • Their "story" and some of the important things that have changed their lives and brought them to this point in time. Ethan has a unique one - you can read more about it here.
  • Miwok 100k: This was Ethan's 2nd try, after a DNF last year. Debbie ended up as 4th woman! What makes this race so amazing and special?!
  • Tips for those who want to get started in the sport. You CAN do it! 🙂
  • And much more!

I'd like both of them for joining me today. I sincerely hope you enjoy the chat and are inspired to get out there and hit the trails! All the best!

~Coach Al 

Are You Doing The Right Race Specific Training?

 

Now that spring has arrived here in the northeast (snow flurries yesterday not withstanding!), it is time for you to start looking closely at the specific demands of your upcoming races.

A smart training progression does build from more general fitness elements, to very specific race demands. Preparing in the right way can make the difference between a disappointing finish or a new PR!

 

 

Have a great weekend everyone!
~Coach Al


ps: do you have questions on how YOU could better prepare for your upcoming events? Ping me on our Facebook page.

pss: don't forget our upcoming Trail Camp and Retreat with Debbie Livingston! There are still a few spots left.

cedarlakecamp

 

056: Visiting with Podiatrist Rebecca Rushton [Podcast]

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Rebecca Rushton BSC, author of the Advanced Guide to Blister Prevention

Rebecca Rushton, BSc, author of the Advanced Guide to Blister Prevention

Today I am pleased to welcome podiatrist Rebecca Rushton of Esperance Podiatry in Esperance, Australia, to the podcast. Without a doubt, Rebecca is one of the world's foremost experts on blisters!

Now if you've never struggled with a blister, then the information she has to share might not seem all that important. I believe however, that at some point in the future, each and every runner or endurance athlete will experience a blister, and probably at the worst possible time. What we can all learn from Rebecca could make the difference between a painful struggle to the finish line, or busting a new PR with a smile.

Some of the things we discuss in this podcast:

  • What are the most pervasive myths surrounding blisters? There are plenty!
  • What's the difference between rubbing and shearing and why does it matter?
  • Are certain folks more prone to blisters?
  • What about shoe fit and lacing options?
  • Do lubricants like vaseline or powders work to reduce blister risk, or are you actually making things worse by using them? (Hint: I unfortunately discovered this during my last race, a 50 mile trail race in Florida a little over two weeks ago! Not good). 🙂
  • And much more!

Rebecca has created a terrific FREE online resource called The Advanced Guide to Blister Prevention. If you want one single resource that will be your go-to for all things blisters, this is definitely it.

For more resources from Rebecca on how to take the mystery out of blisters, go to her website.

I'd like to thank Rebecca for joining me today. I sincerely hope this short 25 minute podcast makes a difference for someone out there who, at some point in the future will be able to avoid a blister, rather than struggle with one. Happy Trails everyone!

~Coach Al 

Do Your Calves Ever Cramp When Swimming? Here’s Why!

1794548_678702325506808_505115595_nThere's nothing like a painful calf cramp to ruin an otherwise enjoyable swim, ya know? 🙁  They seem to happen at the worst times and very often, they'll happen in our most important races. Frustrating!

So what's going on? Why do so many triathletes struggle with this issue during swimming?

Ridding yourself of the cramping calves will often lead to exactly what you want when you swim, which is a nice compact kicking motion which is both streamlined and also relaxed.

Here's a question I received from one of our athletes, that might sound familiar?:

"Sometimes I get a cramp in one of my calves while swimming. It can happen in the beginning, middle, or near the end of a workout, and only occasionally - not every time I swim. It may happen just after pushing off the wall, or it may start in the middle of a lap. I don't feel like I'm kicking very hard when I'm swimming. It has never happened in a race, just while training in a pool. I figure I swallow enough pool water during my swims that hydration shouldn't be the issue. Any suggestions on how to prevent them?"

Calf cramps while swimming can be quite common actually, especially for triathletes in particular...and there's a very good reason why....and its got nothing to do with hydration or electrolytes....

The reasons usually come from two things:

1. Trying to point the toes during kicking, which is active "plantar flexion" and creates tension in the calves. DON'T do this!* DO NOT try to point the toes while you kick.

2. The other thing which is somewhat related, is that there is OFTEN simply too much TENSION in the lower legs, period. [Remember what a cramp is: its simply a "hyper"chronic contraction of a muscle. That is, activity within the muscle (tension) is heightened and rises to the point where the contraction hits overdrive - and then, bingo, cramp!]

Why all that tension? (this relates to why it happens to triathletes more than swimmers).

You're running, and with all of that running is more tension in the calves, simply because they're so active during running (and walking), etc.

What can add to the tension is the often colder temperatures you'll find in some competitive pools. With colder temps, tension rises. (which is why I love jacuzzis!) 

So, what to do?** Two things:

1. First, the most important thing: RELAX YOUR FEET AND LEGS.

The term I use to describe how to kick correctly (while reducing the risk of cramping in the process) is FLOPPY ANKLES. *

More: Really good "kickers" have very mobile,*floppy ankles. In fact, great backstrokers can lie on their backs on the floor and easily touch their toes to the floor as they point their ankle. Most triathletes can't come close to doing that. Limited ankle mobility means tension when kicking.

So what we must do as we are swimming down the lane: think and visualize FLOPPY ANKLES. That's right, just let the feet just flop at the ankle. Relax and release them completely.

As you relax your feet and JUST LET THEM FLOP, you'll reduce all of that tension in the calves that leads to cramping.

Now, of course, relaxing the feet and letting them flop, DOES NOT give you permission to also flop your knees or relax them.

In fact, what I've found works best is if you keep that knee straight and at the same time, flop the ankles, you'll get exactly what you're looking for, which is a nice compact kicking motion which is both streamlined and also relaxed.

When I say "straight knee," I am really saying to keep it straight - locked out. What will most likely happen is that your knees won't actually "lock," but they will bend less....which is a good thing.

From my experience videotaping dozens of triathletes: those with the worst kicks will bend their knees a LOT, and their ankles a little. That looks ugly on video.

Great kicking comes primarily from floppy ankles. Just check any backstroker (where kicking makes up a great majority of their propulsion).

2. Second, and really importantly: make sure you keep those calves stretched out and nice and long. They will tighten up from running and over time, shortness in that area raises risk of running injury, and also leads to increased risk of cramping.

To avoid cramping in the calves while swimming, keep the calves LONG, and relax those feet and think: FLOPPY ANKLES.

And lastly, do all of your swimming in the JACUZZI!

Happy Swimming!

~Coach Al

ps: got additional swimming questions or anything training related? Jump onto our FACEBOOK page and ask away!

Guest Blog from Triathlete Paul Scholz

Team PAP_CLTeam Pursuit Athletic Performance – the virtual key to unlocking anybody and everybody's potential.

I really don't want you to read any further … because I am going to tell you the secrets.

This information will make the competition more intense and allow more people to compete and complete any triathlon or running race in the US.

Let me tell you about our team, our coach/doc combo, my teammates, and my short story.

Team PAP

Our team philosophy is focused around building a solid foundation of Mobility, Flexibility, and Stability before moving on to the Functional Strength and Sport-specific Training.  This very individualized approach to uncovering areas to work on makes the virtual nature of the team and team coaching work very well.

Coach Al Lyman and Doc Kurt Strecker

These two professionals specialize in assessing each individual who contacts them and through a series of questionnaires and on-line discussions, Skype sessions, and/or talking on the phone they help you find your first step. Improvement is about making one step at a time and ensuring that your next step/choice/decision is a good one. Through authentic and honest feedback and individual thought and response they will help every single individual uncover their particular weaknesses and guide you through a process of working on them. A series of small incremental steps can make huge gains in a very short period of time – for anyone and everyone.

Team Pursuit Athletic Performance Members

We all have very different backgrounds, live all over the US and Europe, have different types of jobs, and very different skills.

What we have in common are the following three things:

  1. A passion for sport as a lifelong part of our lives.
  2. A commitment for growing every day, one step at a time.
  3. A need to address some weakness (usually related to running) and/or fear (usually related to the swimming leg).

I don't know how I know these three things to be facts, because honestly I don't really even know my teammates very well. We do communicate through an on-line forum and Facebook and even occasionally race together when we hit them at the same time.

What I do know, is they are true.

Here’s a representative snapshot of our team:

  • We have a nationally ranked elite woman’s ultra-runner, mother of two, and business woman
  • We have a 5 or 6–time (we lost count) female Iroman age-group World Champion who has three small children and she helps run a small business
  • We have first time runners
  • We have first time triathletes
  • We have male and female Ironman and Half-Ironman age groupers who have qualified for and competed in both Ironman and Half-Ironman World Championships
  • We have people who are learning to swim AND nationally ranked former collegiate swimmers
  • We have former competitive bike racers and people who have not ridden a bike since they were a kid

My short story – one example of how Coach Al and Doc Strecker have impacted me:

I found "PAP" in July of 2012, after a physical breakdown while trying to complete Ironman Coeur D'Alene in 2012.  I had done over 120 triathlons over almost 27 years by that point in my career. That next spring I had a 30 minute "PR" in my first half ironman race nine months after starting with PAP.  But this note is not about my story, rather about how Coach Al and Doc have changed my life in triathlon and work.

Life happens to all of us, and my story of transformative change started early on a Sunday morning July 27th 2014, click on the short video story of my journey since then and the impact Al and Kurt have had on my life.

So what I want you to know, is that regardless of whether you live in Timbuktu, Kansas, Maine, Florida, Europe or anywhere else -- or if you want to be world champion, a weekend warrior, compete into your 70's, or just complete a 10K, triathlon of any distance, or an ultra-marathon -- check out the Pursuit Athletic Performance website or contact Coach Al Lyman or Doc Kurt Strecker.

Get started NOW on transforming your racing, training, and your life.

Have a great week everyone!
~Paul Scholz (teammate, triathlete, father, husband, and change agent)