Archive for Run Form

048: Listener Questions: Becoming a Better Runner, Swim Training and More! [Podcast]

Download_iTunes

Play
 

 

Team PURSUIT triathlete Megan Pennington, on her way to the OVERALL WIN at the Litchfield Hills Triathlon!

Team PURSUIT triathlete Megan Pennington, on her way to the OVERALL WIN at the Litchfield Hills Triathlon!

Today we dig into some great questions sent in to us from listeners.  The first has to do with becoming a BETTER runner, something nearly every triathlete and pure runner has thought about at one time or another (or a few thousand times!) :)

Whether it’s right here in our Pursuit Athletic Performance lab during a gait analysis, or out on the trail or road OR over a beer at the local pub, we always relish the opportunity to talk to anyone about running.  (Anyone who knows Coach, KNOWS how much he can talk, talk, and talk some more about this topic!). No apologies necessary though – running has been a passion of Coach Al’s since first running “Boston” in 1983.

Every so often though, a conversation with a frustrated triathlete turns to a sort of self depricating exchange where they end up telling us (trying to convince us, or themselves, perhaps?) why they CAN’T be as good a runner as they really would “like” to be.  Whether this self-doubt stems from a long period of training struggle or chronic running-related injury, the bottom line is that most triathletes have much more running ability inside of them waiting to get out than they realize! They just don’t know how to GET it out!  In the podcast, we offer some real and practical suggestions to take your running to a new level.

In case you’re one of those who is impatient and curious and can’t wait to listen, here are some hints:

  1. No! It isn’t necessarily about planking, more of it, or doing it differently.
  2. No, it won’t necessarily be “easy.”  While we offer some practical suggestions that you CAN implement tomorrow in your training, the truth is that it generally takes a long time to “get good” as a runner, all things being equal.

Also, we jump in on some questions about all things swim training for the triathlete.

  • Is it REALLY worthwhile to spend time doing kicking sets if I am racing in a wetsuit and generally never kick in a race?
  • Why is the coach writing “hypoxic” sets for us anyway? Is it really valuable, and if so, why?
  • And more!

Thanks for joining us! Make it a great day!

~Coach Al and Dr. Strecker

047: An Interview With Dr. Kevin Kirby, DPM [Podcast]

Download_iTunes

Play
 

 

Dr. Kevin Kirby, DPM

Dr. Kevin Kirby, DPM

Today we’re pleased to have Dr. Kevin Kirby, DPM as a guest on our podcast. Dr. Kirby has been a practicing podiatrist since graduating from the California College of Podiatric Medicine in 1983.

Dr. Kirby has authored or co-authored 26 articles in peer-reviewed journals, has authored or co-authored five book chapters, and has authored four books on foot and lower extremity biomechanics and orthosis therapy, three of which have been translated into Spanish language editions. He has invented numerous techniques and tests used by podiatrists around the world, and has lectured internationally on 33 separate occasions in China, Spain, Belgium, New Zealand, Australia, England, Dominican Republic and Canada over the past 23 years on foot and lower extremity biomechanics, foot orthoses, and sports medicine. He has also lectured extensively throughout the United States. He was also a national caliber elite level runner in his younger years, so he knows what it is like to train hard and run fast. The bottom line: this gentleman knows his stuff!

Coach Al: I met Dr. Kirby at the “Medicine and Science in Ultra Endurance Sports” conference on June 24/25  in Squaw Valley, CA., in the week leading up to the Western States 100 Endurance Run. In the conference Dr. Kirby presented on “Minimalist Running and Footstrike Patterns,” a topic he’s lectured on many times around the world.  (If you missed our podcast with the Western Statess 100 womans 2nd place finisher, Larisa Dannis, you can listen here.)

In this podcast, we enjoyed discussing so many things very important to runners, such as:

  • Is there a “best” shoe for every runner?
  • What does the research say about footstrike patterns for runners? Is there an optimal or preferred footstrike?
  • How does running speed impact footstrike?
  • What has been learned in a lifetime of running, and nearly 30 years as a practicing podiatrist?
  • How can we discern between true experts who can and will give us sound science-based advice, vs. the self proclaimed experts found on many websites?
  • And more, including some great practical tips and advice for runners of every age and ability level.

More: In 2010, Dr. Kirby was asked by Runner’s World magazine editor, Amby Burfoot, to participate in a “Barefoot vs. Shod” debate in Runner’s World. That article can still be read online here.

On his website, kirbypodiatry.com, you will find a plethora of published articles and papers, as well as video links to a lecture series on barefoot vs. shod running. We definitely recommend you check these articles and videos out – the page is truly a treasure trove of interesting reading for anyone interested in running biomechanics.

In the podcast, we talk about a video Dr. Kirby used in his presentation at the conference, comparing footstrike from the elite male leaders at the 2010 Boston Marathon.  You can see that video hereOf the six elite runners in the video, 3 are rearfoot strikers and 3 are midfoot strikers.

Dr. Kirby recently wrote an article titled “Emerging Evidence on Footstrike Patterns in Running,” published in Podiatry Today magazine. This article does a great job of summarizing some of the research references we discuss on the podcast. 

Also, if you haven’t yet downloaded our own FREE e-book titled “Baby Steps: A Runner’s Guide to Feet, Shoes, and Dating,” you can do that here.

Lastly, we’d like to convey our sincere thanks to Dr. Kirby (and to you!) for joining us for this great podcast. Happy Trails!

~Coach Al and Dr. Strecker

Variety Is Greatly Overrated. Here’s Why! (Including TIPS On How To Progress!)

Despite what some believe, strength is NOT the goal with the movement training we do. Strength is a symptom ….a symptom of moving well.  In a similar vein, speed training is not the optimal path toward improving our fitness.  Improved fitness leads to improved speed potential. Speed is a product of moving well and improved fitness.  

~Coach Al


Strength isn't the goal! Strength is only a symptom of moving well!

Strength isn’t the goal! Strength is only a symptom of moving well!

Here at Pursuit Athletic Performance, Kurt and I believe the true value and benefit to movement based strength training resides in digging DEEPER into the basic skill and integration of  a movement.

In this day and age, with athletes becoming bored so easily and instant gratification being so prevalent in every phase of our life and culture, digging deeper into a movement vs. moving “on” from the movement is often difficult (and even frustrating) for the individual athlete to fully embrace.  We seem to frequently fall victim to the mindset of always looking for the next “great” exercise, the next great “tip,” or how we can blast on to the more “advanced” stuff, thinking its a magic bullet to the success we seek.

Whether or not you like it, the truth is that the devil is in the details and the magic to optimal progression and exploding your potential is in true mastery of the basics and fundamentals.  This single concept, while easy to read, might be the most challenging for the average person to accept and embrace, but it IS the key to long term, meaningful success.

So, yes, variety is greatly overrated.  To reiterate, once the shiny newness of an exercise wears off and you’re “bored” with it because it’s not “new” anymore, you’re forced to get deeper into it, or bail out and just move on to something else “new” and “exciting.”  I’d argue the best choice is the former, not the latter. 

Of course, that being said, there are a great many ways to enhance the quality (and thus results) of the training you are doing, rather than to change exercises.  For example:

1. Use a slower rep speed. 

  1. It’s common for folks to move in and out of movements quickly.
  2. It’s common to see folks come out of the bottom of a movement quickly, rather than “owning” that bottom portion.
  3. Use a count of 4 – 1 – 3 seconds: 4 seconds lowering – 1 second pause at the bottom – 3 seconds raising.
  4. Removing the ‘elastic’ or rebound component to better own each phase of the movement.

2. Decrease your leverage. 

  1. Think about the HUGE difference in difficulty between a double arm push-up with a wide arm position, and a single arm push-up! Huge difference in leverage.
  2. On the topic of stability, a tiny difference in how wide your arms or knees are really changes how difficult the exercise is to do well!

3. Improve your focus and tension! 

  1. Where’s the hard in your exercise coming from?
  • From inside of you? Posture, breathing, focus?
  • Or is it coming from OUTside of you?  Are you thinking a different exercise, or more weight (outside of you) will automatically make you stronger? Not going to happen.
  • We need to consciously PRODUCE that tension, even when moving a relatively small amount of weight.
  • Focus, tension management, radiation of tension throughout!
  • “Intensity” and “strength” isn’t just about moving more weight. Its about bringing a certain level of whole-body tension and focus into every movement.
  • In RKC/HKC circles as well as in power lifting circles, there’s a saying: “If you make your lighter weights feel heavier, your heavier weights will feel lighter.” Practice the focus and tension skills with lighter resistance, you’ll get more benefit from every movement you do!

Happy Trails!

~Coach Al

We Are All An Experiment of One: Find Out What YOU Need The Most and Then Get It Done!

TEAM Pursuit Athletes at the 2013 Timberman Half Ironman triathlon!

TEAM Pursuit Athletes at the 2013 Timberman Half Ironman triathlon!

In order to be able to run as fast and as long as you would like to and remain injury-free while doing it, your running body must be BOTH strong and flexible. Think about this fact: approximately 50% of the energy that propels you forward during the running stride comes from elastic and reactive “energy-return” of your muscles! While you’re taking that in, think about this: at the same time that certain muscles are required to be elastic and reactive, others need to be very stiff and strong, to prevent your body turning into a wet-noodle as your feet hit the ground!

Muscles tense and lengthen and release and stretch (helping to facilitate rotation around your joints while doing all of that!) as they prepare to store energy and absorb outside impact forces and turn that stored energy into forward propulsion. There’s a lot more going on during the stride than you could ever imagine!

And while all of these things are happen within each of our bodies while we run, they happen at different rates of speed and relaxation and ease for each of us. We are, at once the same, and yet very different.

Some of us need more STRENGTH and STIFFNESS in our “chain,” while others need more FLEXIBILITY and ELASTICITY and MOBILITY.  We each have our own “limiters” and weaknesses which may be making us either more prone to injury, or limiting our speed and endurance potential.

So given all of that, do YOU know what your weakness is?

For example…

  • Are you prone to calf injuries because your calves are forced to absorb impact forces due to “too tight” hips?
  • Do you lean back on downhills and “hurt,” suffering from painful quadriceps during those downhills because your quads are too weak to absorb those impact forces and prevent your body from collapsing against the forces of gravity?
  • Are you still landing out in front of your center of mass, even though you know you shouldn’t, because your hams and glutes are not “reactive” enough (too slow) and weak to contract quickly, getting your feet UNDER your hips as you touch down?
  • Does your low back hurt during the late stages of your longer runs or rides because its trying to do the work your butt should be doing?
  • Is your stride short and choppy because your hip flexors are so tight they can’t release to allow your pelvis to rotate forward so that your legs can extend behind you as you drive horizontally forward with each stride?

These are the questions and issues we ALL need to consider, and for each of us, it is different. If you take the time to listen to your body and consider what YOUR weakness or limiters are, then you’ll be able to address it and as a result, improve and run to your true potential!

The answers you are seeking are not always found through “harder” training. Sometimes the answers come when we listen within.  Sometimes things like YOGA or revisiting the BASICS and FUNDAMENTALS, are the path to exploding our true potential, rather than another hard track session.

Our unique Pursuit Athletic Performance “Gait Analysis” system was designed to help us help YOU, learn what it is that YOU need the most! To learn more, go here to learn more about our analysis packages.

Check out our testimonials page here to learn more about the success stories of so many athletes who learned what THEY needed to do to truly explode their potential!

Happy Trails!

~Coach Al

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

Download_iTunes

Play
 

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

030: Trueform Runner: A Remarkable Tool For Honing Your Running Technique [Podcast]

Download_iTunes

Play
 

Trueform1

Trueform Runners in action!

If you’ve listened to our podcast or visited us at the gait lab, you know that we believe running form is a product of your mobility & flexibility, strength & stability, biomechanics, and what the brain tells the body to do.  In fact, in most cases, we reduce the emphasis on technique in the beginning of an athlete’s journey with us to focus on restoring balance to the frame.  Once that mission is accomplished (or is at least a work well in progress) we feel that is the time to start to develop and improve running form.

Today on the podcast we had the great pleasure of sitting down with Brian Weinstein and Jeff Vernon, founders of Samsara Fitness and creators of the Trueform Runner. The Trueform Runner is a non-powered treadmill whose deck is curved up a bit at either end.  It’s quite simple in design, and it is truly a revolutionary training tool.  Coach Al and I have recently had the opportunity to spend some time on one of these machines and experiment a bit.  In the gait lab when we work with athletes on running technique, the first concepts we introduce are proper posture and appropriate cadence.  I can tell you without hesitation that these two things might well be the Trueform Runner’s strong suit.  It provides immediate feedback to the user, increases activation of the posterior chain (that would be the butt!) and it’s quite a lot of fun to play with!  We’re very excited to be doing some research using a Trueform Runner in the coming months, and we’ll share what we learn with you along the way.

Many thanks to Jeff and Brian for joining us today!  We really enjoyed having them in the lab, and we hope you enjoy the podcast.

~Doc

027: Does Running With a Forward Lean Help Efficiency? Does Your Bike Pedal Fit Matter? We Answer [Podcast]

Download_iTunes

Play

Forward_LeanHi Everyone!

Today on the podcast we discuss two things.

First, the foot-pedal interface is an important part of a bike fit, yet it is frequently overlooked.   When this is executed correctly, it can improve power and reduce injury.

Second, we answer the question about whether running with a forward lean improves efficiency. This questions leads to a rich discussion of running form. To quote Coach Al, unless you build and integrate the qualities that make for strong, efficient running on the inside, “you can lean forward all day long and all you’re gonna get is a mess.” We dive in.

018: The Secret To Running Technique No One Is Telling You (Podcast)

Download_iTunes

Play

Hey Everyone!

Want to know the secret to running technique no one is telling you? (Hint: It has nothing to do with shoes or drills.)

Boston_MenWhen it comes to running, we tend to put the cart before the horse. Browse the web and you’re sure to find plenty of coaches and trainers eager to help you improve your running form. And there’s certainly no shortage of shoe companies who will tell you that their shoes are, in fact, the magic bullet you’ve been looking for.

Strap on a pair of those babies and you’ll run faster and injury-free.

Um, not so much.

The truth is, our running technique is a product of the way we move.

It is the sum total of our flexibility, mobility, strength, stability and biomechanics. We see evidence of this in our Fast Lab everyday. When athletes restore balance in muscle length, achieve appropriate mobility in the joints, and develop strong, stable cores, the way in which they run is transformed.

Small tweaks can be made to things like posture, cadence and arm carriage, but these are not central. They are the “frosting on the cake.” A particular shoe or the latest method can neither create core stability nor compensate for short hip flexors.

The way that we run is derived from the inside out, not the outside in.

To ignore this is to invite injury and deny yourself your true potential.

Don’t settle for broken and slow. Choose healthy and fast!

Helping YOU 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.

NOTE! If you review our podcast on iTunes you could win TWO MONTHS FREE on our training team! Click here for details, register below.

Click here to subscribe via RSS (non-iTunes feed)

We’re on Stitcher Radio too!

015: Ben Greenfield, Coach Al, and Dr. Strecker Take On Minimalist Running Shoes (Podcast)

Download_iTunes

Play

Hi Everyone! 

Here’s a simple but often overlooked fact:

Ben Greenfield, Pursuit Athletic Performance Podcast

Triathlon Coach Ben Greenfield

Each one of us is unique.

We each have a unique history and lifestyle. As runners, we all have unique foot mechanics, unique training and racing histories, and unique running goals for the future.
Why is it then that so many experts in the running world say there’s one approach, or one shoe, that is good for EVERY single person?

That’s just not true.

What is true? Try these two statements:

1. There is NO SINGLE running shoe or approach to running that is perfect for EVERY SINGLE runner on the planet.

2. There IS appropriate foot wear for every single runner on the planet.

When I am scouring the research, or reading a book, or checking out an online journal and find that a professional in the field states that every single person should do “this” or do “that,” it instantly raises a red flag.

For me, given my passion about and on the topic of running, red flags fly frequently regarding pat, undiscriminating recommendations about running shoes.

Use this shoe…or go without shoes…

My problem with this advice comes in when the experts promote the idea that what is good for some runners is good for ALL. At Pursuit Athletic Performance, our mission is to make sure runners get the straight scoop on what is ultimately going to be best for them, as individuals. If you want to say it is my agenda to try and set the record straight on what I believe are MYTHS, then so be it, I accept that freely.

Fast forward…

On September 15th, I read a blog post written by well-known and highly-respected triathlon coach, Ben Greenfield. You can find Ben Greenfield Fitness here. I know Ben, having met him at a USA Triathlon Coaching Conference in Colorado Springs some years ago, and again at the Ironman World Championships in Kona last year. I have a great deal of respect for Ben, and know he speaks to a vast audience.

I was really taken aback, however, when I read the opening sentence to his blog post “Barefoot Running Is Healthy, Ancestral And Good For Your Feet – But Is There Such A Thing As Minimalist Cycling Shoes?” The sentence reads:

As you may have heard, there are a ton of benefits you get when you switch to minimalist running shoes or go barefoot……instead of constantly making your feet weak by protecting them with a bubble of built-up, fancy footwear. But is there a natural, ancestral way of treating your feet when you’re riding a bike? Or are cyclists and triathletes doomed?

My first reaction to this statement was quick and simple: He’s flat out wrong here.

Ben then goes on to recommend the potential benefits of a custom made cycling shoe made by a company called Rocket 7. I see that as a contradiction. Isn’t having a bike shoe custom made really having a version of an “orthotic” made for your feet? Yes, in fact, it is.

To me, custom shoes are a far cry from “minimalist cycling.” and it presents a contradiction. On the one hand, Ben is promoting that it is better to go “natural” for running (and cycling as well based upon the title of the post). Yet, he recommends the potential benefits of what, in essence, is a custom made foot-bed for a shoe that is ATTACHED to the bike pedal.

In my opinion, there is nothing remotely “minimalist” about being clipped into a bike pedal with high-end bike shoes, let alone taking it one step further and using a custom made foot bed.

I decided to reply to the post.

In my response, I told Ben that while I enjoy his blog, and very often learn some new things while reading, this comment: “there are a ton of benefits you get when you switch to minimalist running shoes,” was in my opinion, wrong.

He replied a bit shocked at my candor, and said: “that was blunt! What part was wrong would you say?”
I took the opportunity to open a discussion, and you can read my extensive and somewhat technical reply here. To Ben’s credit he was interested in what I had to say (no surprise really — he has a very open mind). Since we seemed to have a disagreement on what I feel is a very important topic, I asked Ben if he would like to join me in a podcast to discuss the issue in more depth for the benefit of our listeners. Let’s talk about it, put our perspective out there for all to hear, and let the listeners make up their own minds about what they believe.

I really appreciate Ben’s willingness to come onto our podcast to discuss this important topic. In truth, we were not very far apart at all. In the end, I believe that is a good thing.

Thank you, Ben, for sharing your time. This information will certainly help de-mystify the topic and provide a solid foundation for a better understanding of the unique nature of our feet and the shoes we decide to put on them.

Coach Al

NOTE– If you are interested in reading the full text of my reply to Ben’s blog post, you can find it here. It’s quite technical, but very thorough for those of you who would like to go deeper into the issue of minimalist shoes. Thanks to my partner, Dr. Kurt Strecker, for contributing some important information in the response.

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.

NOTE! If you review our podcast on iTunes you could win TWO MONTHS FREE on our training team! Click here for details, register below.

Click here to subscribe via RSS (non-iTunes feed)

We’re on Stitcher Radio too!

Running: Forward Knee Drive–Why It Is Essential, How To Get It

Forward knee driveIn our triathlon team forums, we have been discussing the issue of forward knee drive in running. It is, in fact, an important element of great running. Once you understand what forward knee drive is, I bet you will instantly create a picture in your mind of what that looks like. Every elite runner has it, and we’ve all seen it. It’s worth taking the time to read through this post and understand what forward knee drive is, and how to create it in your own running.

Forward driving knee is an action of the knee that is, in fact, very much a PASSIVE reactionary movement/response to the amount of force being applied to the ground during the mid-stance phase of the stride. It is very much like the “bouncy ball” analogy I use a lot with runners and triathletes we train. That is, the harder I throw a bouncy ball to the ground, the faster that ball comes back at you, and the higher into the air it will go. Your body is the exact same way.

So, my point here is simply this: the STRONGER you are, the more force you are able to apply to the ground with each foot strike during that mid-stance phase. Assuming adequate length in the calf (and, thus, dorsiflexion of the foot), the tissues along the backside of your body will then be able to create a big STRETCH. This stretch results in that leg swinging forward very rapidly and, assuming appropriate mobility of the hips and good strong glutes (resulting in a more neutral pelvic position), the knee will continue to drive forward…..in what, to reiterate, is a largely passive response to the action of applying that force.

Reading through this, what I hope you’re getting, is that there are a number of factors and elements that need to be in place, and are important, in order for all of this to happen as it should.

You must have the following:

  • Muscular balance. This balance creates better pelvic position and appropriate strength/length around the key joints, especially the hip and ankle.
  • Appropriate mobility of the hips and ankle, and length in the calf.
  • STRONG GLUTES and posterior chain as a whole, which is responsible for improved force production into the ground.

All of the elements above are engaged at a higher level as speed increases. In other words, at slower rates of speed, there is less overall dynamic application of force and loads, thus less evidence of these elements in action. To put it more simply….a “survival” shuffle has been called this for a reason….with slow running comes more of a shuffle, vs. a very fast running action.

There are even more elements in place beyond these I’ve mentioned, especially when considering the holistic elements of fascia and the nervous system.

My goal here ISN’T to complicate this at all! My goal is, simply, to say that all of you …

You MUST focus first on GETTING FUNCTIONALLY STRONGER, and then focus on learning how to gradually run FASTER. If you do those two things and stay the course, the knee drive will HAPPEN passively, WITHOUT YOU having to consciously think about it or control it.

There are drills to help with these skills also, but they are “frosting” on the cake, not the cake itself.

The cake is:

  • strength, strength, strength
  • balance in the body
  • appropriate mobility of the key joints
  • patience and persistence in learning, or “re-learning” how to run fast!

Questions? Fire away!

~Coach Al