Archive for Racing

036: Listener Questions! Last Minute Marathon Tips! [Podcast]

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Coach Al at mile 13 of the 1988 Boston Marathon

Coach Al at mile 13 of the 1988 Boston Marathon

 

In today’s podcast, Coach Al goes solo to tackle a couple of listener questions, as well as sharing some “last minute” tips for marathoners everywhere, including those toeing the line this coming Monday for the 118th running of the Boston Marathon.

Among the topics discussed…

* What causes the burning sensation you get in your legs when you train?

* What causes cramping?

* Should you run the day before the marathon or take it completely off?

* What’s the biggest mistake most marathoners make?

* When should I return to running after the marathon?

* And tips on including speed work if you’re training for an ultra.

* And much more!

Best of luck to all of the Boston Marathon runners and especially to those TEAM HOLE IN THE WALL runners! Have a great race!

                                                                                  All the best,

                                                                                  ~Coach Al

 

Boston Marathon Race Week: Old Habits Die Hard!

“Mistakes are the portals for discovery.”  - James Joyce
“There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order to things.” – Niccolo Machiavelli
“The obstacle is the path.”  - Zen aphorism 


This year’s Boston Marathon, which will be held next Monday April 21, will be among the most significant and historic in that race’s storied history, in part because of the bombing events from last year’s race. Today’s post isn’t about the bombing or about THE Boston Marathon per se.  It is about the fact that when it comes to LONG RUNS prior to a marathon, Ironman, or some other long distance race or run, old habits sure die hard.  

What’s the old habit I’m referring to? Running your last long run 3 or even 2 weeks out from race day.   

Its amazing to me that in this day and age, with all we’ve learned about how our body functions best, the idea of doing a “longer” run within 3 and even 2 weeks prior to a marathon is still very prevalent out there in the running community. As the title of this post states, old habits (like being afraid of doing any strength training, or counting mileage as the primary predictor of performance!) die HARD!    

So When Should You Do Your Last Long Run? 

I was first exposed to research about the amount of time it actually takes for deep cellular tissue (muscle) damage to heal (from training) around 1990.  That’s 24 years ago. One study, conducted at Harvard at that time, showed that tissue remained significantly damaged even after 4 or 5 weeks of “recovery” after that “long” run.

After learning about that study and then discussing these concepts with our former podcast guest and running expert Owen Anderson, PhD (who at that time was the editor of Running Research News) I decided to adjust my own training to reflect that longer taper period prior to race day. I immediately felt the benefits of it with my first 2:40 marathon in 1991.  To that point, I’d been able to run a 2:50, but with this new approach to tapering, I ran a full 10 minutes faster and felt better on race day.  I don’t necessarily credit that taper and distance between the last long run and race day as the sole reason for the 10 minute drop, but I do believe it was a huge factor.

Without a doubt, I am convinced that a huge percentage of the runners who are running marathons in this day and age, and in fact many of those lining up in Boston next Monday, toe the line with “still damaged” muscle cells from a longer run, too close to race day.  Maybe its me, but it always made sense that if I wanted to have an opportunity to run my best on race day, that my legs needed to be healed from what I had done to them in training. That might sound like a simple concept, but again, old habits die hard.

Keep in mind as you think about this, that a “long” run can mean different things to different runners. Someone running 90 miles per week can run longer, relatively speaking, than can someone who can only handle 30 miles per week. But in my opinion, even on an elite level, a lot of the country’s best marathoners are still running too long, too close to race day, even with their lofty weekly mileage totals. I’ve employed this taper strategy or some variation there of, with every person I’ve coached since I began coaching, and as I mentioned, used it myself since the early 1990s.

Obviously, doing this requires that you do GET IN those longer runs early enough in your preparation. But even if you fall short in either the number or length of those longer runs, trying to “squeeze in” one last long run too close to race day, ensures that you will toe the line with less than 100% of your capability that day, and that’s a shame. The best chance any of us have to run our best “on the day,” is to show up 100% healthy and healed and motivated to do well, with a solid strategy in place.  The key words are “100% healthy.” If you’re not, even with the best training and highest levels of motivation, you will very likely do less well than you might otherwise be capable.

Why Do Runners Continue To Run Long Too Close To Race Day?

Big Confidence Boost?: At first glance that close-to-race-day long run seems like a smart idea. Many runners believe they need to prove to themselves that they can go the distance on race day, and what better way to show you’re ready than to knock off a 20-miler just a couple of weeks before you go to the starting line! What a great shot in the arm to your confidence, right? Wrong.

It might sound logical to lay one last long run down to boost confidence, but that would be a mistake, and the reason is simple: You need recovery after your long runs.

Many runners dismiss the amount of pounding we put our bodies through running those miles. As I often say here in our Lab, a mile of running is the equvalent of 1500 one-leg squat jumps! That’s a lot of repetitive trauma.

In an article Owen wrote in RRN some years ago, he referenced research conducted by Dutch exercise scientists with a group of marathon runners. “About two thirds had significant signs of muscle injury on the morning of the race, before they had run just one mile of the marathon!” According to the study, “the reason for this muscular mayhem, for the most part, was the long running the Dutch had carried out during the month before the race. The Dutch-athletes’ muscles were totally non-recovered on race day.” The Dutch researchers found that training runs with durations longer than 15 kilometers (~ 9.3 miles) were the ones which seemed to produce the greatest amount of muscle damage. Below 15K, little muscle damage accrued.  (The reason why I started back then, making 9-10mile runs my longest within four weeks of the race).

The BIG Myth.

The biggest myth that exists out there among runners getting ready for the marathon is that a long gap between the last long run and the actual marathon will make our body “forget” how to run long.  Going a full four weeks without a true “long” run, will cause our body to lose its ability to efficiently cover the distance, right?  Not so much! The truth is that provided you’ve done the necessary periodic long runs prior to that 4 week period and built to a distance of 20-22 miles on average, your body will not “forget” how to complete the distance on race day.   

In fact, if you approach your training in the right way, you can use this long-run-free four-week period to truly boost fitness and be more prepared than ever for a great race day! As your muscles heal and recovery progresses, you can…

  • step up the intensity of your training, allowing you to do more of the kinds of training sessions which will have a direct impact on marathon readiness. Those are sessions focusing on lifting vV02max, running economy, and threshold.
  • focus more time and energy on your overall fitness, specific mobility and flexibility needs, and topping off your running specific strength.

Most runners are so used to running on battered and bruised legs and being exhausted, that they never actually FEEL what it feels like to run on legs that are recovered and 100% healthy. What a shame!

The Bottom Line?

A smart marathon or long distance run training plan is one that builds fitness progressively and THEN ALLOWS for adequate recovery prior to race day. Many typical race training plans I see on the internet or written by other “experts” often leave out this critical recovery aspect, having runners run long 2 or 3 weeks out from race day. As a result, the runners following those plans or trusting that guidance end up toeing the line with damaged muscles, even though they “believe” they are 100% ready to have the best race possible.  If you’re reading this thinking “that guy is an expert running coach,” or “my fast friend does it this way,” stop and think for a moment.

Simply put, 3 weeks isn’t enough time for healing for the majority of runners, and 2 weeks is flat out absurd under normal circumstances. The exception might be if your weekly mileage totals are over 80 to 100 per week.  If your weekly mileage is below those numbers, you’ll be very smart to leave at least 4 weeks from the last long run you do until race day. Train smart in this way, and you’ll feel better and run faster as a result!

~Coach Al 

035: Open Water Swimming with Alcatraz Legend Gary Emich [Podcast]

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Elite open water swimmer and coach, Gary Emich

Elite open water swimmer and coach, Gary Emich

Today we’re stoked to have Alcatraz swimming legend and triathlon coach, Gary Emich, on our podcast. Gary is most well known for having completed over 1000 Alcatraz swims (without a wetsuit!) and for a host of other impressive open water swimming accomplishments. 

Gary is a Certified Level 1 USA Triathlon Coach specializing in open water swimming and a Certified Level 2 ASCA Coach.  He is co-host and co-producer of the DVD “Lane Lines to Shore Lines:  Your Complete Guide to Open Water Swimming” and co-author of “Open Water Swimming:  Lessons from Alcatraz.”  And, from 1998 through 2009 he was the race director for the “Alcatraz Challenge Aquathlon & Swim.” His open water swimming CV includes the Amazon River replete with piranhas; Peru’s Lake Titicaca; Scotland’s legendary Loch Ness; the Hellespont (a swim from Europe to Asia); and the 20km Rottnest swim at the age of 58.  Relay crossings include the English Channel (2000 and 2011), Catalina, Santa Barbara, Monterey Bay, the Bay of Naples (Italy) and the Strait of Gibraltar as well as relay circumnavigations of Manhattan, Key West and Pennock Island in Ketchikan Alaska.

 

On today’s podcast, Gary and I chat about all things open water swimming related including…

  • Navigation and sighting: What’s the impact of poor sighting? Tips and drills on how to improve this critical skill
  • Wind, waves and current and how to deal most effectively with these challenges
  • How training in the pool can cheat you
  • Safety considerations for swimming in the open water
  • Race starts and finishes
  • Goggles: what are the most important considerations for open water swimming?
  • Triangulation: what is it, and how can it help you in the open water?
  • Are you a bilateral breather?  Is it a worthwhile skill to develop?
  • And much more!

Thanks for joining us! Make your next open water swim a great one!

~Coach Al

ps: Here’s a neat funny which I know you’ll enjoy!

Fraz

Get Out! (Of Your Comfort Zone That Is)

 A dream is your creative vision for your life in the future. You must break out of your current comfort zone and become comfortable with the unfamiliar and the unknown. ~ Denis Waitley

One can choose to go back toward safety or forward toward growth. Growth must be chosen again and again; fear must be overcome again and again~Abraham Maslow


Life Begins Outside Of Your Comfort Zone!

Life Begins Outside Of Your Comfort Zone!

Throughout everyday life, each of us has certain physical and psychological  “comfort zones” that influence who we are and how we act.  Perhaps you follow the same routine when you wake up in the morning, or drive the same route to your job each day.  Similarly, from a training standpoint, do you tend to migrate toward the same pace, intensity, or routine, day in and day out, because it is “comfortable”?  I thought so!  :)

Physical comfort zones are usually easy to identify.  For example, if you have recently trained at or around 8 minutes per mile during your long aerobic runs and suddenly increase that pace to 6 minutes per mile, you will quickly step outside of your comfort zone.  Running at 6 minute pace quickly elevates your heart rate and perceived effort, immediately putting you outside your comfort zone! 

Psychological comfort zones can be a bit harder to quantify, but here’s an example. I think we can all agree that for most of us, talking one on one to a friend or two is usually not that tough.  But, stand up in a room in front of a live audience and try to give a speech while everyone is staring at you is a lot more difficult, and perhaps way outside of the comfort zone for many of us!

A KEY TO PERSONAL GROWTH AND SUCCESS

 In my opinion, one key that can unlock the potential for greater personal growth and success in many of life’s endeavors is the willingness to step outside of comfort zones.   If you’re going to reach your potential as an athlete, as you execute your training program you must resist the temptation to always do the same thing, in effect resorting back to that which is “comfortable” for you.  After all, it feels absolutely fantastic when we do finally step outside and as a result, experience some success!  Remember what it was like when you were nervous about asking someone out for a date? For most of us, this was well outside our comfort zones, yet how great did it feel when they said, “Yes!”  From a training standpoint, do you remember ever focusing your time and energy on developing a certain skill or technique?  Do you remember how good it felt when you realized you were getting BETTER at that activity because you did things a bit differently?  Far too often we train and perform activities the way we always have, staying with what is comfortable for us.  Routinely doing things the same old way (training pace, intensity, route, focus, etc.) prevents us from growing and improving.  We like to be comfortable!  Resist it, reach out, expand your horizons, and take some risks!  Improve!

 WHY ARE COMFORT ZONES “COMFORTABLE”?

There are two major factors that stop most of us from stepping outside our comfort zones more often.  The first is habit.  Simply put, out of habit, we tend to migrate to that which we are familiar with or that gives us a sense of security and safety.  The second and perhaps most significant factor is fear.  Fear of failure. Let’s face it, at one time or another we are all afraid to fail.  But we all know but rarely admit to ourselves, that the real consequences of “failure” are truly inconsequential and never last long.

As athletes, most of the fear we have when we step outside our comfort zone and try something new is all in our head. The fear is a figment of our imagination.  It just never seems that way at the moment of truth!  As an example, all of you triathletes out there, take open water swim starts (which tend to give many first time triathletes a fit).  Be honest, you know you’re not going to drown!  You know that nothing “down there” is going to swim up and get you!  You know everyone in attendance wants you to succeed!  All the other athletes have the same goal as you, to get to the finish line!  Whatever fear you may experience is only in your thoughts, and you control your thoughts, no one else.  Fear limits what we do and who we are, and ultimately, what we can achieve.

COMFORT” ZONE AND “GRAY” ZONE:

IS THERE A CORRELATION?

 Applying these concepts to your training on a consistent basis can be a key to unlocking untapped potential.  However, and this is important, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to always go harder and/or faster!  As an example, getting outside of your comfort zone may mean running, riding, or swimming more slowly on certain training days, when your mind might be telling you that you “should” be going faster.  Or, it may mean doing more drill or skill work in a training session when it might be more “comfortable” if you didn’t include skill/technique work.  In fact, failure to get outside of your training comfort zones relates very much to smartly differentiating pace and intensity in training, something I routinely remind athletes about.

Gray zone training is addictive and easy to succumb to because going “sort of” hard can and often is “comfortable” for many of us.  Think about that. When you’re training “sort of” hard but not REALLY hard (e.g. gray zone), you are in no man’s land. You are much better off either going easier than is “comfortable” for you (aerobic or even easier for recovery), or if your training program calls for it, going much HARDER than is comfortable. In fact, getting the maximum benefit from your training program means being way outside of your comfort zone during hard (quality) training sessions. It means going VERY hard and being VERY uncomfortable!

 THE BOTTOM LINE?

Though it may not always be obvious on a daily basis, consistently getting outside of comfort zones even just a little bit can lead to unbelievable results in your training and racing.  Starting today, have the courage and mental strength to “step out” regularly both physically and psychologically, and I guarantee you’ll get better and faster than ever!  Make it a great day!

~Coach Al 

In Training, Be Purposeful!

“For purposes of action nothing is more useful than narrowness of thought combined with energy of will.”

–Henri Frederic Amiel, 1821-1881, Swiss Philosopher, Poet, Critic

 

“It is a psychological fact that you can influence your environment and thoughts. If you do so consciously and with high purpose, you can change your habits and attitudes for the better.”

 –source unknown

 “Singleness of purpose is one of the chief essentials for success in life, no matter what may be one’s aim.” 

–John D. Rockefeller, 1839-1937, American Industrialist, Philanthropist, Founder Exxon And last but not least!:

“Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary.”

 –Sir Cecil Beaton, 1904-1980, British-born American Photographer

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033: Food: Facts and Falacies [Podcast]

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Pollen quoteWith every passing day, it seems there is a new research study, article from an “expert,” or training partner, telling us we HAVE to eat more of this food or that food, or avoid some kind of food altogether.  The old saying about the pendulum swinging from one extreme to another sure applies when it comes to modern day eating and nutrition. (Many of those “experts” are trying to get you to buy something from them, which doesn’t help!)  

As an athlete, you are probably even more confused trying to figure out the best way to “fuel” for optimal training and racing.  Should you go high-carb low-fat, low-carb high-fat, paleo, vegan, or some mix of all of these? Is there a “secret” food or fuel that will propel you to faster racing and a PR? So many questions, and lots of confusion!  

Our view on eating here at Pursuit Athletic Performance is simple:

We believe a daily diet that leads to optimal health, longevity, and fast racing, is largely about BALANCE and MODERATION, and should be comprised mostly of a variety of whole foods, very few if any processed foods, foods balanced in macro-nutrients, plenty of rich sources of fat (especially good fat), and foods lower on the glycemic index. This quote says it all: “Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food!” There’s a lot of truth to that!


The best way for each of us to eat is largely personal. We all need to find what will work best for us individually. Some do better on higher carbohydrate diets and others feel better on lower carbohydrate diets. If there IS one recommendation we could stand firm on, it is that good daily eating starts with removing unwanted sugar, processed junk foods, and artificial stimulants from our diet, not by adding more stuff, particularly junk.

Eating Well: Our friends at Tri-Hard Sports Conditioning wrote a great article entitled “Eating Well.”  In that piece, they shared these thoughts:  “When was the last time you really enjoyed eating? Do you often rush through meals so you can get to the next thing? Are you preoccupied with whether a food is good for you or not? It’s time to bring the fun back into eating and we’re here to help. Picture this. You’re at the counter chopping up some fresh vegetables you picked up a few days before at your local farmers’ market. Your best friend is rubbing some spices on a few pieces of fish. You can smell the grill heating up as you listen to your favorite music. You share great conversation as you prepare and soon sit down to this delicious meal. You enjoy every bite and feel nourished by the experience. This is eating well! This is in contrast to grabbing something on your way out the door or obsessing over every detail of nutrition. Eating well is a concept that blends “good nutrition” with the simple act of eating great meals with your family and friends. Eating well empowers you to get past means-to-end thinking and returns eating to its rightful place as one of life’s simple pleasures. Rest assured, when you eat well you get all of the benefits of “good nutrition”, and even more, since you are free of the food neuroses that make eating stressful and spoil the fun.”  That’s great advice, don’t you think?  So, in summary, here are some general bullets to guide you.

  • Eat real food, not processed food.
  • Eat amounts appropriate given your training volume and intensity.
  • Avoid seeing food as stress relief or a way to cope emotionally.
  • Everything in moderation.
  • Experiment, keep an open mind, and learn.
  • When it comes to meal timing, experiment to find what works best for you.
  • Keep a diary to learn more about your habits.
  • Begin hydrating when you first wake up by drinking at least 1 full glass of water.
  • Drink as much water as you can reasonably stomach before going to bed.
  • Make good food choices as often as possible, vs. avoiding certain foods.
  • Be flexible each day, and don’t beat yourself up if you make an occasional poor choice.
  • Get the majority of your nutrition from fresh vegetables, whole fruits, and quality lean protein.
  • Limit starch and sugar intake to those time periods during and /or immediately after long rides and runs.
  • Consume a minimum of 3-4 grams a day of Omega-3 fats from fatty fish or a quality supplement.

We hope our chat today on the podcast about all things food and falacies, is helpful. Have a great day everyone and enjoy eating well!

~Coach Al and Dr. Kurt

024: Race Day Nutrition: Plan A Fueling Strategy NOW (Podcast)

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Hi Everyone!

race day nutritionA little early in the year to talk race day nutrition? We don’t think so.  The time to begin planning a fueling strategy is NOW, and in this podcast we review the many facets of how and why.

We walk you through the following:

      • Is there a perfect recipe for training and racing nutrition?
      • Which fueling products are best?
      • Can gut dysbiosis have an impact on general nutrition and/or race day results?
      • How many calories per hour?
      • Liquids vs. solids?
      • Impact of intensity and temperature?
      • What are some guidelines athletes can use in developing a fueling strategy?

 

We also talk about the essential importance of teaching your body to burn fat as a primary source of fuel. This is a fundamentally important baseline to establish, and we review specific strategies to make this happen that stretch right into your daily nutrition.

We love to talk this stuff! Questions? Fire them up!

Coach Al and Kurt

As a thank you for listening, if you would like to go deeper into this topic, you can sign up below for our webinar “Smart Training and Racing Nutrition.” It fleshes out in depth all the topics we cover in the podcast. Enjoy!

004: Traveling to A Race? Techniques to Stay Healthy And Race Your Best (Podcast)

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Hello Everyone!

Coach Al Lyman and Dr. Kurt Strecker here discussing the challenges associated with staying healthy while traveling, especially to your races.

Long flights and drives require staying hydrated, maintaining good posture, and taking frequent breaks. Airplanes in particular can be hard on the body, so implementing some easy techniques can make all the difference. Low back and neck supports can be as simple as a strategically placed rolled sweatshirt, and they can minimize the post-travel aches and pains. Once you’ve reached your destination, doing some basic mobility and stability work can help you start your race feeling fresh.

Tune into the full podcast for all the tips and techniques!

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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Coach Al: Three Tips For Your Best Race Ever! (Video)

Hello Everyone and Happy Summer!

Coach Al here with Three Tips For Your Best Race Ever! Let’s take a few minutes to break down the importance of:

1. Training on topography specific to your goal race

2. The role of race simulation

3. PROCESS vs. RESULTS orientation

Enjoy and fire up any questions in the comments or hit us up on Facebook!

Coach Al: Race Day Pep Talk

Coach Al Lyman, gait analysis and functional movement expert, Pursuit Athletic Performance

Coach Al Lyman, CSCS, FMS, HKC

Hello Everyone!

Coach Al here with a race day pep talk! I am always very confident about my athlete’s preparation going into races. They toe the line ready to have a great day.

I always like to leave them with some important thoughts that I know, if they apply them, will help them on race day. These are skills we work on every day in training. I hope these words of advice will help you to have the best race you’re capable of and that you’ll enjoy it more as well!

1. STAY IN THE MOMENT, BE TASK ORIENTED, AND EXECUTE. A great race only happens if you keep your emotions in check AND remain present where you ARE at any moment in time from the minute you wake to the second you cross the line. Being task oriented keeps your mind focused, not allowing it to move ahead to something in the future, or spiral backwards to something which is past. BE IN THE MOMENT. Execution means doing the things you need to, when you need to, to ensure the best chance for success.

2. EXPECT DIFFICULTIES TO COME AND BE READY TO DEAL WITH THEM IN A POSITIVE WAY. In a race like Ironman or in any race that you will feel challenged to complete, it isn’t a question of IF things will go wrong or become difficult, it is only a matter of when. That is racing! So, expect it, and decide ahead of time how YOU are going to deal with those difficulties. Decide in advance that your response is going to be POSITIVE. Every single challenge can be framed as having a positive element, if you decide it is so, and allow yourself to see it that way.

3. BE MENTALLY STRONG AND PHYSICALLY STRONG when it matters most. Every athlete out there on the race course is “tough” during the early and middle stages. Few, however, are truly mentally strong and resilient when it gets really difficult in the late stages of the competition. Decide you’re going to dig deep and have NO REGRETS. Be strong.

4. YOU ARE IN CONTROL OF YOUR THOUGHTS– act accordingly. You are in complete control of what you do, how you think, and how you react to what happens out there. Make a choice to respond positively, to THINK positively, and to believe in yourself. Have that powerful tool at the ready when it gets most difficult or challenging.

Be great and enjoy every moment of elation, suffering, and boredom. Walk away with pure joy!

My best to all of you!

Coach Al