Archive for Running

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 

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It Is Time To Take Action: How To Diagnose Your Running Injury

Marathoner_Knee_Brace_med

If you "google" any common (or even the most UNcommon) running injury, you'll get page upon page of information on how to self diagnose your injury. As you start to read through the articles and pages you find, very often a calm will come over you; you're finally finding the information to the problem and hopefully a cure is around the next page, right?

Well, in my experience of over 30 years as a coach and athlete, I've learned that unfortunately, self diagnosis is hardly ever truly accurate, and most importantly, rarely ever results in a CURE for the root cause of the issue that's causing your pain.

When you're injured, the SITE of the pain is rarely the SOURCE of the pain. And the root cause of an injury is often quite simple and foundational in nature.

TIME, MONEY, AND FRUSTRATION

 If you've read this far, chances are this topic is resonating with you. Keep reading!

Let me ask you this question: How many courses of physical therapy have you gone through to fix an injury in a specific area only to have it crop up again? We hear that story from athletes from every sport, young and old, every day. Here's how it often plays out in a vexing triad of money, time, and confusion.

Let's say an athlete has recurring bouts of Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS). Here's a calculation of the costs:

3 bouts of ITBS x 12 weeks of physical therapy + 2 x-rays + 4 pairs of different running shoes + 2 knee braces + 1 MRI = $1,318.20 = a whole lot of TIME, MONEY, AND FRUSTRATION!

The athlete is often left asking, "Why isn't this injury completely better? Why is it always coming back?"

I repeat: in the absence of direct trauma, the site of the pain is rarely the site of the problem. In typical treatment, the sole focus is on a single area of injury, with exercises selected to rehab only that isolated area. In contrast, looking at injury through the lens that a whole body gait analysis reveals, pain is a glaring indicator of serious problems in your overall movement quality. These compensations MUST be addressed and treated from a whole body perspective.

If you're frustrated and ready to finally resolve your injury issues, start TODAY with our FREE VIDEO INJURY PREVENTION SERIES.   Click HERE.

There is absolutely no cost to you. All you will receive is real and valuable information that works!

It IS finally time to fix the problem once and for all, isn't it?

All the best,

~Coach Al

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Triathlon in 2015: The Challenge of Changing Beliefs and Perceptions

Coach Al on the run at the 2004 Hawaii Ironman World Championship

Coach Al on the run at the 2004 Hawaii Ironman World Championship

Hey Everyone. Coach Al here. Thanks for joining me today.

I want to to share with you today some thoughts on the challenge of changing beliefs and perceptions in athletes. It's a view from my side of the fence, the perspective of a long-time coach who has dedicated many, many years, not only to studying movement and the powerful roles strength, stability, mobility, and flexibility play in unlocking ultimate athletic potential, but simply put, on what it takes to stay healthy and go FAST on the race course.

Let's start with this: Are the bullets below, true or false?

  • Pain in the joints or muscles when training is normal.
  • Being "tough" and training through pain or injury is sometimes necessary, and should be considered a source of pride.
  • Strength training is a luxury, and not really "necessary" for runners or triathletes.
  • Stretching has not been proven to be beneficial, so why do it?
  • Stretching has been proven to be beneficial.  However, to receive the benefits and remain healthy from stretching, one must stretch the whole body.
  • The way to get faster and improve future performance potential is to focus on continually increasing volume and intensity.
  • The way we move ultimately has no bearing on training or performance.

There is no doubt that some of you reading the statements above think many, or all of them, might be "true." In fact, from my point of view--and the view of renowned athletic movement experts--NONE of them are true. They are but a few examples of harmful and erroneous notions that have deep roots in the minds of many athletes, even in 2015!

At Pursuit Athletic Performance, we face the challenge of helping athletes discard commonly-held beliefs about training that are injurious and destructive. We ask athletes to open their minds, and let go of outdated and disproved ideas about what it takes to excel in sport.

Our message is a simple one, and it is this:

If you want to perform better, get faster, avoid or recover from injury, have longevity in sport, and have a healthier quality of life you must FIRST restore or develop MUSCULAR BALANCE, and THEN GET MOBILE, STABLE AND STRONG. Period. You MUST make your body MOVE like a champion athlete. That quality movement MUST COME FIRST before serious sport-specific training can then take you to the zenith of your potential.

One thing I know for certain: movement patterns filled with compensations lead to dysfunction, and dysfunction absolutely destroys the potential to train and race fast. I have dedicated my coaching career to helping athletes learn this life-altering truth, and break free from perceptions that undermine their true abilities and push attainable goals out of reach. It's not easy to change or upend the beliefs most consider gospel. It demands a paradigm shift. Some get it, some don't.

IF YOU ARE BATTLING injury and want to finally turn things around for you can have your best season ever, why not begin anew and start by checking out our new VIDEO series on avoiding and recovering from the most common running injuries. You won't be disapointed, that is for sure!

If you are not injured and want to stay that way, or you're a seasoned triathlete but frustrated because you aren't improving or getting faster, then get in touch with us and we will show you how to achieve your dreams!

Got questions? Fire away on Facebook or email me directly at coachal@pursuitfitness.com.

Have a great day!

~Coach Al

 

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Why Do So Many Runners Get Injured?

Capsule_Truth

Hey Everyone! Coach Al here. So, are you ready for an awful and shocking truth? 70% of all runners will be injured this year. 7 out of 10. That's nearly three fourths of all runners, including triathletes. 3/4ths! And for many of those folks, the injury they experience will be devastating and frustrating beyond words. The statistics are crazy and shocking, and also sad. It honestly doesn't have to be that way.

WHY do so many runners get injured? There are many reasons, but let's start with the simple fact that running is just plain HARD on your body. For example, have you ever stopped to think that when you run ONE mile, you do the equivalent of approximately 1500 one-leg-squat jumps? That's just ONE mile. Working against the forces of gravity and ground reaction, your body had better be resilient, strong and mobile enough to hold up as the miles add up. And most bodies aren't. Especially those just starting out hoping to use running to lose weight or get fit.

Through no fault of your own, triathletes and runners have not been told the full story of what it takes to stay healthy and become faster too. The marketing machine surrounding shoe sales and races (get your latest cool colors or latch onto the latest fad: minimalist anyone?) diverts the average runner's attention. Add that together with uninformed trainers and coaches who don't know any better, and what you have is what you have.

So what's the real story? And most importantly, what can YOU do about it?

In a nutshell, movement quality is the story, that's what.  (Keep reading, trust me, you need to know this!)

How your body moves and functions is the alpha and the omega of your ultimate athletic potential. Movement quality is the difference between an athlete who rocks it year after year, able to perform at peak potential vs. an athlete stuck in plateaus of sub-par performance or, worse, deals with vicious cycles of injury.

As gait analysis experts, we can use our knowledge of this incredibly powerful tool to provide a clear way to explain what you need to know, what you need to examine, and why you need to fix your imbalances.

Most people think gait analysis is:

a) only about how you walk or run

b) only about your feet and your shoes

c) something you get done in a running shoe store

Many think gait analysis is all about--and ONLY about--someone looking at you as you walk or run while evaluating your feet and your shoes.

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A sample BEFORE / AFTER video analysis taken in our Pursuit Athletic Performance "Fast" Lab

How many of you have done the following? A clerk in your local running store watches you jog, and suggests a pair of shoes that are more stable, or more neutral, or more cushioned, or are the type that "forces" you to land midfoot. Voila! Your biomechanical problems are solved. This is what most people know--and have come to accept--as gait analysis.

We are here to tell you that a shoe store gait analysis is about as far from the real deal as you can get. In fact, true gait analysis is not a generic exercise, but is a scientifically-based and technically precise process. It is highly individualized, and reveals much about how you will hold up to training and, ultimately, perform.

When conducting a gait analysis, the feet are only one small piece of your biomechanical puzzle.

What happens at the feet is merely a part of a holistic, whole body, integrated MOVEMENT pattern. Running, like most other whole body activities (such as swimming or playing many field sports), is essentially a unique way of moving. When we analyze a client statically, dynamically, and then running on the treadmill during a gait analysis, it serves to provide a unique, personal movement "map." That "map" reveals the programming of everything happening within the body--from kinesthetic awareness and habit, to individual levels of mobility, stability, flexibility, and functional strength. The analysis of all of these different elements taken together is what creates a complete picture of a person's gait.

In essence, what we do isn't "gait" analysis at all, it is true "movement" analysis. Gait analysis uncovers precisely how YOUR body is moving.

Every activity, even standing still, represents a unique movement pattern. That pattern is bred from your habits and lifestyle, as well as your body's mobility, stability, flexibility and strength. Every action you take--running stride, pedal stroke, swim stroke, etc.--represents a unique movement pattern. If your movement patterns include compensations (and they likely do), we can pinpoint the areas in the body where these losses of efficiency, or compensation, originate.

Where athletes get into trouble is when major compensation, which often leads to true dysfunction, continues for extended periods of time.

What typically happens is this....

Compensations in the body lead to imbalances and instability around joints. The larger prime movers (hamstrings, glutes, quads, etc.) are often forced to help create stability or on the flip side, become less active, and end up contributing less than their fair share of the work in moving us around.

The smaller/tiny stabilizers are forced to step in (compensate) and do the work of the larger, more powerful prime movers. The stabilizers are taxed day in and day out, mile after mile. Over time they end up, in a word, fried. Shredded. The wear and tear on the stabilizers greatly compromises recovery and your ability to train consistently.

In short, this scenario is an injury waiting to happen. We see it over and over again.

Discovering the inefficiencies and compensation unique to YOU is the power of what true gait analysis can reveal. Once uncovered, you can then begin to address inefficient and costly "energy leaks" that rob you of power and free speed (*the speed you get without having to pay a "price" to get it!).

We can't say it enough--improper, unbalanced movement limits your ultimate potential and puts you at an exponentially-increased risk of injury.

In short, gait analysis is about YOU, and your personal and very unique way of moving. Unless the underlying causes of your dysfunctional movement patterns are addressed, your patterns won't change, and, thus, the risk of injury won't improve. Gait analysis is about looking at your entire body as a holistic organism--a single amazing unit.

It goes far beyond an untrained eye watching you jog in a pair of sneakers.

So what to do?

First, to learn more about what you can do NOW to avoid or recover from injury, check out our series on how to SOLVE the three most common running injuries NOW! 

Want to learn more about our state-of-the-art Virtual Gait Analysis , to see if it might be right for you? Click here. You won't be disappointed, that's for sure.

If you have any questions at all on the above, hit us up on Facebook or drop us an email at: info@pursuitathleticperformance.com

All the best!

~Coach Al

 

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TIPS For The “Roadie” Who Wants To Hit The Trail More (And Not Get Hurt Doing It!)

Coach Al with elite ultra-runner, Debbie Livingston

Coach Al with elite ultra-runner (and trail runner extraordinaire), Debbie Livingston

If you are one of the many runners or triathletes who routinely run on the roads because the trail isn't comfortable or intimidates you, or is a place you tend to get hurt or frustrated, read on. I used to feel that way too!

First, anyone who routinely reads our blog knows I'm a big fan of getting OFF the road and onto the trail, even if most of your racing is on the road, and especially at this time of year. (That's YOU, triathlete!)

Getting off-road can drive your run fitness and health up by introducing varied, often hilly terrain that simultaneously strengthens your hips, legs, AND heart. The problem is, the trail (especially a technical rock strewn trail) presents its own series of challenges that often make the intimidation factor even larger.

For instance, do any of these scenarios sound even remotely familiar to you?

  • You've just climbed a steep hill and you're standing at the top, looking straight down the other side at a technical, very steep descent that is littered with rocks, roots and ice-like leaves. You hesitate for a moment, visualizing yourself slipping and falling or going headfirst into a tree. You decide to go for it, taking off slowly, cautiously, nervously tip-toeing, and praying you don't slip and fall or roll your ankle.
  • You're running along and see a very technical rock "scramble" and a stream, and gaze nervously because you aren't sure where to put your feet down OR how you'll possibly avoid rolling your ankle. You decide it's better to be safe rather than sorry so you walk (rather than run) through the scramble, staring down nervously the entire way.
  • You decide to take the advice in this article and venture off-road for your next run. Alas, 10 minutes into the run and you've fallen twice, rolling your ankle. It hurts, you're frustrated (and angry) and immediately look for the nearest exit back to your safe haven - the asphalt!

To help you not only avoid the above scenarios (and many others just like them), here are some TIPS that I've learned the hard way. My mistakes will save you trial and error (and injury I hope), making you a true LOVER of the trail as I am now.

  1. Make like a duck: Whenever you approach a technical rocky downhill, try turning your feet outward into a duck-like stance.  Doing this may feel strange at first, but it actually helps improve stability and will reduce the chance of you rolling your ankle. When the dreaded ankle-roll happens, our foot will usually roll laterally, or inward. Turning your feet out will make this much less likely. You'll learn to descend with much more confidence.
  2. Tread lightly: Good trail runners are highly skilled and light on their feet. Through many miles of practice, they've learned how to instantly unweight their feet when stepping onto an unstable surface, or when they can't see what is below the leaves or brush. When running on asphalt we typically don't give any thought to how hard we land. If you take that same approach on the trail, your risk of an ankle sprain increases dramatically. Learn how to instantly and skillfully unweight your foot. Practice it routinely and it will soon become second nature.
  3. Fly like a bird: Runners who usually run on the roads typically keep their arms close to their bodies. However, when you're out on the trail, spreading your arms out wide (picture a bird or an airplane) will help you maintain better balance, improving your ability to move laterally as the trail changes in front of you. Your flow and rhythm will improve, not only helping you to more easily handle whatever the trail might throw your way, but improving the fun factor too!

As you practice more and spend more of your running time on the trail, your skills will improve!  In addition to the above...

  • You'll learn how to confidently gaze farther ahead, rather than looking down.
  • You'll use the rocks you approach on the trail as stepping stones (keeping you out of the stuff you CAN'T see).
  • You'll learn to pick your feet up instead of dragging them along the ground, AND most importantly....
  • You'll learn to relax and enjoy it more!

Now get out there and have at it!

Happy Trails!

~Coach Al


cedarlakecampIf you'd like to learn more skills and increase the fun factor, becoming a better, faster, happier trail runner, click HERE for more information on our upcoming Cedar Lake Trail Running Camp and Retreat from May 29-31, led by Debbie Livingston and Coach Al. It is for all levels and abilities, even newbie trail runners. We'd love to have you join us for the fun, comraderie, and learning!

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From Coach Susan Ford: What DON’T You Want To Do?

Coach Susan Ford

Coach Susan Ford

I've noticed a trend in some people who SAY they want to run or bike faster, and say they are willing to do "anything necessary" to get there.

In their minds, "anything necessary" means doing training sessions that are harder than they've done before, making bigger sacrifices for their training than they had done before, or become "hard core" in some way. They are absolutely ready to do those things.

Yet despite their proclamations, there is a glaring obstacle in their path, which they don't see, and/or aren't willing to address.

For example, I've been approached by another athlete about "speedwork," who is carrying a significant excess of bodyfat. And another with a significant running form issue who wanted to do higher mileage. Neither are willing or able to see what was obvious, and neither are willing to do the one "anything" that IS necessary for them to improve. In their cases, the "hard core" work they needed to do was address diet and get on a true path of improving body composition, and in the other, take time off running to address imbalances and other movement related issues first.

Both continue their paths, doing "anything necessary" for their goals, except the one thing that they could not accept as an essential part of that process.

It makes me wonder if I have similar issues, and what I'm not willing to do.

What am I blind to? What is holding me back from my goals that requires work other than just "hard" training? What am I aware of, but not willing to do?

Food for thought....

~Susan 


Coach Susan Ford lives in Tennesee and coaches runners and triathletes as a Pursuit Athletic Performance coach, in addition to her work as a veterinarian. Her own inspiring journey from an always-injured and frustrated triathlete to one that is strong, durable (and always finishing at the top of her age-group in every race from 5k to ironman) is a remarkable one. To learn more about Susan and her coaching services, go here.

 

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The TrueForm Runner: Part 1 – Sherrington’s Law In Action

TrueForm Runners lining the front window at the Pursuit Training Center

TrueForm Runners lining the front window at the Pursuit Training Center

As many of you know, we are fortunate to have five TrueForm Runners (non-motorized treadmills made by Samsara Fitness) in our Pursuit Training Center (PTC). If you haven't listened to our original podcast about the TrueForm (with the owners of Samsara Fitness) you can find it here.

In the next few months we are planning a series of articles on what we’re learning from using the TrueForms (running on them ourselves and coaching with them in a variety of our classes and 1 on 1 personal training). Most importantly, we’ll also share how using on a TrueForm Runner could help YOU improve (perhaps even more than you thought was possible!).

While today’s first-in-a-series article revolves around running on the TrueForm, the discussion will center on the nervous system: how it works and how integration, timing (and the Chinese philosophy of yin-yang) can powerfully (and positively!) impact your running speed, strength AND endurance. We will also examine how the TrueForm Runner can help you “connect the dots” and put it all together.

Note: the concepts we will discuss now and in the future will be born out of our experience and should be of great value to you, whether you have a TrueForm Runner to run on or not. We hope however, that should you have the chance to run on one that you jump at the opportunity.

In the time that the TrueForm Runners have been in our facility, I’ve probably spent more time running on them than any other person.  I have also coached some individual runners through a “rebuild” of their running using the TrueForm Runner as it was truly intended, NOT as a treadmill per se, but as a run trainer.  I’m also teaching an ongoing class at the PTC using the TrueForm which focuses on speed development and on learning and refining sprint mechanics.

What am I (and others who have used the TrueForm Runners) learning?

The first thing anyone who runs on the TrueForm for the first time may learn is getting the belt to even move so they CAN run on it can be difficult, especially if they have had a history of injury and are not moving well. It is really eye opening to see someone struggle; the look of shock, dismay and even a tiny bit of embarrassment on a person’s face is priceless. The fact is, the reasons for this struggle are virtually all nervous-system related.

(In the past, we've written frequently on our blog about the fact that running is a neural activity, and that running well truly has an important skill component to it. If you haven’t listened to our podcast with running expert Owen Anderson, Ph.D on this very topic, check it out here.)

So when someone experiences difficulty running on the TrueForm, what is actually happening? The answer to that question is what this first in a series of articles is all about.

To begin, let me first ask a question: Have you ever watched a highly accomplished elite runner and noticed how fluidly he or she seems to run, or how they seem to be able to effortlessly fly through the air bounding from one leg to another?

Stop for a moment and picture in your mind’s eye, a race horse in slow-motion rounding a turn at the track, or a dressage horse stepping out like a ballet dancer. Or gaze up at the sky and watch a bird in flight. What about a top-notch symphony orchestra: strings, woodwinds, brass and percussion, all playing perfectly together to create a rich beautiful sound, or a scull with its entire crew perfectly and synchronously propelling the boat at breakneck speed. What you see (or hear) is the near-perfect integration and timing of muscle contraction and relaxation (yin-yang). It is fluid – synchronous – graceful – powerful, like poetry in motion.

This seemingly fluid-like blend is categorized by something a neuroscientist named Sherrington told us about in the early 20th Century - what has become known as Sherrington’s Law of Reciprocal Inhibition or Innervation. You know this simply as one way of describing how a muscle group relaxes as its opposing muscle group is stimulated. For example, imagine you grab a dumbbell and curl it. As you curl the weight, firing the biceps and thus reducing the angle at your elbow, the opposing muscle group, the triceps, are relaxing to allow for this curling movement to occur.

Also known as rhythmic reflexes, the key thing to remember is that the simple act of running is Sherrington’s Law in action. And the act of running well (fast, efficient, powerful) is Sherrington’s Law in action at a very high level! In other words, running requires integrated activation and reciprocal innervation of muscles in order to happen. In effect, this rhythmic reflex which is inherent in compound movements like running, result in a meshing, somewhat like the cogs in a precision instrument or fine watch.

Perhaps the next questions to ask are, do we all “mesh” or blend like a precision instrument when we run? What are the real differences in how each of us puts Sherrington’s Law into action? Most importantly, can we improve our own run coordination and timing? If we could, wouldn't these changes result in improvements in speed, power and efficiency?

Before we delve into the possible answers to those questions, let’s look a little deeper at the importance of this yin-yang relationship of tension and relaxation and review the concept of Superstiffness.

Athletes experimenting with the TrueForm Runners!

Athletes experimenting with the TrueForm Runners at the Pursuit Training Center

Respected back expert and professor of kinesiology at the University of Waterloo, Dr. Stuart McGill, introduced this concept and has written often about it. I once heard Dr. McGill, in a presentation he gave at a strength and conditioning conference, say that in his work with many different athletes, the single largest difference between the elite and the average, was in the way that an elite athlete is able to tense AND relax at exactly the right time, at a higher level than the average athlete. It would seem that the regular among us seem to be tense when we should be relaxed, and relaxed when we should be tense!

When speaking about this concept of Superstiffness in his book, “Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance,” Dr. McGill states:

“Breaking the board by the martial artist requires the skill of compliance (relaxation) to build speed but with rapid super stiffness just at impact. The professional golfer who has a relaxed backswing but rapidly obtains super stiffness at ball impact (followed by an astounding relaxation rate) is the one who achieves the long ball. The one who tries to swing too hard too soon actually decreases speed of movement with inappropriate stiffness. We have measured the creation of “pulses” of muscle force in athletes used to create “shockwaves.” Precise timing, the rate of relaxation, joint buttressing together with all of the principles of Superstiffness are optimized.”

In case we needed to hear from even more experts on the topic of the tension/relaxation curve, well known Soviet sport scientist, Dr. Leonid Matveyev observed “the higher the athlete’s level, the quicker he could relax his muscles." It has been said that the soviet scientist observed an 800% difference between novice and Olympic level competitors. Without a doubt, there is clearly a very important relationship in elite performance between well-timed tension and relaxation, with mastery of relaxation being a hallmark of an elite athlete.

And what of the TrueForm as it relates to these concepts?

Because the TrueForm is non-motorized, the runner is forced to create and maintain their own momentum. A runner can't easily compensate (fake) their way to good running form artificially.  As a result, the more coordinated, synchronous and “mesh-like” your running, the more easily and effectively you’ll be able to run on the TrueForm.

For example, as your skill and coordination improve:

  • Your ability to create tension at the right time and in the right place (your leg/foot in mid-stance phase applying force to the belt) improves.
  • Your ability to relax certain parts of your body, such as the leg moving forward through the swing phase of the stride, also improves.
  • Your ability to take full advantage of the elastic component of running (where more than 50% of your forward propulsion in running comes from) also improves. (More about this aspect in a future article).

What is happening as coordination and skill improve is not from conscious thought - it happens unconsciously in the brain and nervous system. (It should also be noted that it is not in the cardiovascular system either, where runners typically look for improvements in fitness).

It is MUCH more about timing and integration, than effort or pure strength, just like the rowers in that scull or the dancing dressage horse. You don’t have to force it, as much as simply (and patiently) allow your nervous system and brain to figure it out - to learn better how to do their thing more efficiently and effectively.

To summarize to this point: The improvements aren't about a single muscle or body part (no, not even your butt!) What it IS about is everything from your fingertips to your toenails working together as a single, integrated, holistic unit. With repeated practice, the TrueForm can help you and your brain and nervous system, “connect the dots” more completely.

Some of the benefits of a non-motorized treadmill like the TrueForm are:

  • Near perfect application of force into the ground at the exact right time, resulting in a longer more powerful stride.
  • Relaxation of all other parts of your body that aren't applying that force, resulting in less energy use.
  • Enhanced posture, mobility, and stability with repeated training and practice, resulting is greater resistance to fatigue over the long haul.
  • Yin-yang: the perfect balance of relaxation and tension.

Tension and relaxation in all sports, including and especially running, are the two sides of the performance and durability coin. Tension is force production into the ground: it’s a powerful stride that lifts the body over the ground against the forces of gravity. On the other hand, relaxation is leg speed and endurance. To be the best runner you can be, you need both.

In future articles, I will discuss how we are actually training on and progressing our training on the TrueForm Runners, as well as other movement related components and how they can be enhanced using the TrueForm.  I will also present some strategies on how you can enhance the effects of the TrueForm without actually having one to use. Stay tuned.

Happy Trails!

~Coach Al

 

PS: in order for all of the improvements that have been discussed above to occur completely and to the full satisfaction of the individual runner, the runner also must possess appropriate mobility (ankles and hips), true dynamic core stability, and solid functional strength inside a balanced body. No tool, treadmill (motorized or not) or training protocol can ever substitute for mastery and maintenance of movement quality fundamentals.

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Minimum Standards: Can You Hit “X” Of Something To Ensure “Y” Result?

Team Pursuit triathletes reviewing some basic skills at our fall 2014 "Re-Set Camp."

Team Pursuit triathletes reviewing some basic skills at our fall 2014 "Re-Set Camp."

Hi Everyone! Coach Al here.

On the heels of our "Team Pursuit" Re-Set Camp this past weekend, a team member emailed me and asked about some proclamations I had apparently made with regard to minimum standards, that you, as an athlete, ought to be shooting for prior to embarking on hard(er), more challenging training.

When answering the email, I didn't recall exactly what those minimum standards he was referring to might be, so I responded in the email to him the way that Kurt and I typically do, by saying that the "gold standard" for assessing when any athlete is ready to train hard with little to no obvious risk of injury, is to have 2 degrees or less of lateral pelvic drop at 5k race effort. I wasn't entirely sure that this response would satisfy or answer this athlete's question, but as I said, it IS a pretty good minimum standard to aim at.

The athlete responded to me with this: "You had a lot more proclamations than that. It is hard as athletes to know we are hitting that, where knowing a list of accomplishments that support that will be far more productive (plank for X min, 10 pushups, etc)."

I completely understand that knowing on your own how much pelvic drop is occuring at any time is difficult. (To know for certainty, come on in to our gait analysis lab in the Pursuit Training Center, and see what IS actually happening when you run.)

However, from my point of view, while it might be neat and tidy to have a LIST of "x" minimum standards to meet, the truth is that training progression and "readiness" for more progressive, harder, more challenging training, isn't QUITE as black or white as we might like it to be.

And perhaps more to the point, in my mind, one of the fundamental questions that comes out of this discussion is, how strong or stable is "strong or stable ENOUGH?"

Taken at face value, that is a very iffy question with no real rock solid answer that applies to every person. And its complicated by the fact that it isn't really pure strength we're after, its work capacity (and perhaps resilience or resistance to fatigue), as Gray Cook alludes to in this article called: Strength?

I love this quote from the article, where Gray speaks about the phrase he prefers to use when describing strength: work capacity.

He says, and I quote: "Let me simplify work capacity. If we are talking about repetitions: Any repetition with integrity should get you an A or a B on the qualitative strength-grading scale. Any repetition without integrity should get you a D or an F on the strength scale. If you can't decide on integrity, you are stuck at a C.

How many imperfect reps do you have time to do today? If you don't have an integrity gauge or a quantity-against-quality gauge, you will never be able to truly value work capacity."

This is a very powerful concept because it points out that as we move forward on the progression continuum (making things harder, or to do more challenging exercises, or to add more load to our existing exercises), we're also fighting that constant battle to maintain that movement integrity - to keep the ratio ofquality vs. quantity as it should be. For anyone who has pushed themselves to do more, lift more, run faster, or pedal harder, you KNOW that form starts to deteriorate as fatigue rises. Simply put, the more tired you get, the harder it is to do it well.

So if I were to offer you a simple and straight forward minimum standard of "do X reps and you'll get Y result," and you didn't get that result you were seeking even though you hit that minimum, you'd be looking back at me and wondering why. And likely holding me accountable to it.

This athlete said it's "hard to know as athletes" where you are and whether you're hitting what you need to.

I get it.

But what if, in your quest to hit some theoretical "minimum standard," you gave up quality in favor of quantity to hit the standard?

What if the standard itself ended up having very little to do with YOUR specific issue, or the limiters that are most holding you back from reaching the next level of performance?

The truth is, there are VERY few, engraved-in-stone, "if you do this, then you get that" scenarios within the progressive training process.

And along with that, there are certainly NO guarantees that any athlete is "enough" of anything, especially when that anything has to do with stability, work capacity, or mobility/flexibility.

My suggestions?

  1. Keep trying to be better. Not perfect, just better. 
  2. Embrace the process - immerse yourself in it. It might be cliche' to say enjoy the journey, but it really IS paramount for long-term success and exploding your true potential. 
  3. Seek solutions within AND outside yourself for your weak links, weak patterns, your imbalances.
  4. Go enthusiastically after those patterns, exercises, or skills that you don't do quite as easily or quite as well as others. Clean them up!
  5. Always come back to the movement quality basics and fundamentals as your baseline. 

The objective real-time video assessment that we do as a part of our gait analysis really IS THE ONLY way to know for sure, exactly where you are at. Other than that, the process that includes increasing training stress or load, doesn't always have hard margins and may not even have a finish point. To believe that there are those minimum standards, in order to make it easy to know where you're at, is really fools gold.

That is NOT to say that you shouldn't keep trying to be BETTER. That's really the ultimate goal. Wake every day with a commitment to be better.

WillSmithQuoteKeep laying bricks perfectly, as Will Smith said, and soon you'll have a wall.

Seek the paths that lead you ultimately toward improved body balance, improved mobility and stability, and work capacity, and then reinforce ALL OF THOSE elements (capabilities) with smart, progressive, patient, persistent training.

And, keep it fun along the way of course!

Happy trails!

~Coach Al

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Be Careful WHO You Get Your Running Advice From…

"Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result." - Albert Einstein

"Caveat Emptor" - Latin for let the buyer beware


Hi Everyone! Coach Al here.

Today I'm jumping up onto my soapbox.  I guess I'm a little tired of looking around me (and online as well) at coaches and trainers who call themselves "experts" or who dish out a pile of crappy advice (and who don't walk the talk) when marketing to unsuspecting potential athletes/clients, and so I just figured it was time to vent a little bit.

And perhaps offer a little advice, too. :)

So if you're a runner or multi-sport athlete who truly wants to be better, faster and improve consistently, OR a fitness enthusiast who simply wants to be able to work out and stay healthy, read on. If you're offended by hearing the truth, then stop reading now.

My advice today starts with this: Be very careful about who you're taking your running (and training) advice from. 

In this day and age, anyone can post a video on youtube and become an "expert."

Anyone can open a gym or fitness studio and talk about "doing it right," without really knowing what "right" is or actually doing what they say you should do.

As you move forward and work toward achieving YOUR goals in 2015 and beyond, ask yourself some simple questions:

  • Has the person you're taking advice from EVER demonstrated the ability to remain injury free while doing progressively more challenging training?

Many coaches and trainers right around you, are injured themselves while they lecture to YOU about what you need to do to stay injury free! Beware of frauds and internet "experts".

  • Have they demonstrated the ability to train progressively and improve their performance consistently, moving from a novice to a higher level of performance?

Many coaches and trainers out there preach like they've "been there and done that," yet have never ever trained from a novice level to a higher level of performance!  I'm not talking about finishing a half-marathon or marathon, I'm talking about raising performance to a higher level.

If you are going to take advice about how to get faster or stronger, shouldn't you take it from someone who has actually demonstrated an ability to do it? Beware of a trainer who always has an excuse for their sub-par performance or some reason why they are always satisfied with mediocrity.

  • Have they worked with others who have been injured or in a long-term cycle of injury and helped them get OUT of that injury cycle to rise to a higher level of performance?

If a trainer or coach IS injured themselves, can they honestly speak to what it takes to remain injury free? (Other than traumatic injury, in nearly every instance the answer is no!)

No, I AM NOT saying a coach has to have gone "fast" to be a good coach, or done the ironman to be considered a triathlete.

What I am saying is that there are way too many frauds out there pretending to be "expert" trainers and coaches, using the internet and unsuspecting consumers to profit.

  • Take a good look at who you're training with:
    • Are they injured?
    • Are they dismissing things like movement quality and are they recommending you do the same?
    • Are they practicing what they preach?
    • Are they, or have they, demonstrated the ability to do what they say you should do?

Be smart. Caveat emptor.

You're worth it.

Happy Trails!

~Coach Al

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Clear Your Mind Of Can’t!

Ultra-Runner Larisa Dannis (2nd Woman overall at the 2014 Western States 100) smiling as she rolled into the 100k aid station at Western States!

Ultra-Runner Larisa Dannis (2nd Woman overall at the 2014 Western States 100) smiling widely as she rolled into the 100k aid station at Western States!

Larisa carried this on her as she ran toward the USATF 50-mile road championship (in course record time!)

Larisa carried this on her as she ran toward the USATF 50-mile road championship (in course record time!)

This past weekend, elite ultra-runner and friend Larisa Dannis WON the USATF 50-mile road championship, finishing 5th overall in a course record time of 5:59!

You may remember our podcast with Larisa from a few months ago, after she shocked the ultra-running world with a 2nd place finish at the Western States 100! If you haven't listened to it yet, check it out!

Beyond celebrating Larisa's amazing success with her, what is the real purpose of this blog post?

Larisa carried the note you see a picture of, with the quote from Samuel Johnson, on her while she ran. Despite her obvious and amazing athletic talent, Larisa is just like every one of us in that she battles the same demons who will have her doubt herself or her ability to reach her goals and be successful. The negative inner critic (or whatever else you might want to refer to it as), it is one gargantuan reason why so many of us give up or fall short despite our desire to achieve more - to become more.

Larisa does the work and trains hard, and that is obviously also a huge part of why she has been successful, of course. But as much as that...

...her success speaks directly to her belief that anything really IS possible IF you work hard, don't give up or give in, and BELIEVE IN yourself!

(Our own Colleen Alexander, who is now a personal trainer at our NEW Pursuit Training Center) also has overcome incredible odds to be here today in part, because of that same belief!).

They BOTH have cleared their mind of can't.

They both believe that ANYTHING is truly possible, and that amazing things can happen when we clear our mind of can't.

So read the quote Larisa carried with her.

And again.

And again, as many times as you need.

Every day.

Clear Your Mind of Can't.

If we ALL could embrace this simple statement and make it our own mantra, perhaps we could also see something much greater inside of us than we ever thought was possible.

Thanks Larisa for sharing your gift and the words of Samuel Johnson.

So what's next for her?  How about the World 100k championship in Doha, Qatar at the end of the month.

Best of luck Larisa and happy trails everyone!

Clear your mind of can't.

~Coach Al 

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