Archive for Run Form

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

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

Would You Benefit From More Hip Mobility?

“If your mobility is compromised enough to make you compensate, the sensory input that you have to your reflexive behavior is askew—you have an overload of information or an underload of information. Either way, you’re not receiving the information you need. If sensory information is not converted to perception and perception is not converted to action, you’re not going to get better without embracing the idea of changing mobility.”
          – Gray Cook, from his presentation entitled Continuums

Hi Everyone!  Coach Al here. As a coach who works with runners and triathletes of every ability level, all who want to be stronger, better, and faster, I KNOW for them to be their best, mobility must come first. It must come before strength work, before speed work or interval work, and before very long runs. 

Without appropriate mobility in the right places in the body, an athlete will be at much higher risk of injury AND won’t perform to their true potential.

Restricted mobility in the hips and ankles means that athlete can’t attentuate gravity or ground reaction forces. As a result, their calves or legs or low-back must step in and compensate, often resulting in pain, injury, and frustration. There’s also the issue of poor economy or efficiency resulting from that restricted freedom of movement. To put it another way, that athlete simply has to work harder (higher heart rate, more effort, and thus more fatigue and less endurance) at any effort level to produce the same relative speed or power.

IF YOU are short on mobility in the right places, you’re very likely much closer to injury than you realize, AND you’re slower and less efficient than you could be also.

Here’s a short 2-minute video that I hope helps you get a bit more freedom of movement from your hips and ankles. Enjoy!

~Coach Al

 

 

 

 

Would You Like To Improve Your Running Technique?

“You ain’t gonna learn what you don’t wanna know.” – Jerry Garcia

“Should I ‘sta’ or should I ‘mo’? – The Clash


Here at Pursuit Athletic Performance, we believe there is a RIGHT or optimal path to improving your running technique, and there is also a less optimal way to improve.

The right path leads to lots of smiles and continual progress. The wrong path leads to injury and frustration.

Dr. Melissa Welby shows us the optimal path.

What is it? Start with these, just as SHE has done.

  1. Find out where you’re weak and likely to injure yourself as you build running mileage. What is your true movement quality? Are you imbalanced?
  2. Based on what you learn, get started immediately on building a true foundation of stability and strength so that your body is able to handle the repetitive stress inherent in running.
  3. Restore balance where its lacking. Do you need MORE mobility / flexibility work, OR…more stability / strength work?  Who are you?
  4. Build your running mileage and speed smartly and progressively while you also build strength and resiliency.
  5. Once you’re stable and strong and balanced, refine your running technique and form with a tool like the non-motorized Trueform Runner! With the Trueform, you can’t go along for the ride. YOU do the work and make the running happen.

Running technique work is FROSTING on the cake. The cake, is your core and hip stability and overall strength!

So if the above is the optimal path, what is the wrong path?

  1. Starting a progressive running program without knowing anything about your weaknesses or strengths or movement quality.
  2. Building your running mileage believing (mistakenly) that the key to improving is simply about running more mileage.
  3. Ignoring the pain that starts to develop in your hips, low back, feet or legs.
  4. Not only ignoring, but running through that pain.
  5. Listening to clueless coaches or training partners who tell you that to fix the pain, you need to change your shoes or simply run more mileage.

When you build a strong foundation, address weaknesses and fix them, and THEN progress in a smart way culminating with technique and form work on a GREAT technique tool like the Trueform Runner (just as Melissa is doing!), you CAN truly have your cake and eat it too!  Who’s hungry? 

  • No pain from injury.
  • No frustration as your program starts and then stops (due to injury).
  • More smiles, fun, fitness, and speed!

What are you waiting for?

 

 

 

 

What’s A Trueform Runner? Watch and Find Out!

A bunch of athletes have asked us point blank:

“Why did you choose the Trueform Runner as the official run trainer for Pursuit Athletic Performance?

What ARE the real DIFFERENCES between it and any other treadmill?”

We threw this short video together to tell you about this amazing non-motorized treadmill,

now occupying space in our brand NEW Pursuit Athletic Performance Training Center. Check it out!

 

 

Runners: Are You Injured? Here’s the Secret Solution You Need!

Don't train through injury and don't think wishing it away will solve your problem!

Don’t train through injury and don’t think wishing it away will solve your problem!

And what IS that secret solution?

(Drum Roll Please………)

The “secret solution” is THE TRUTH….

…..which is something you probably don’t want to hear.  I get it.

Listen up: if you’re injured, you’ve got a real problem.  No, it isn’t life or death…..but because you love to run, it’s a real problem.

And the solution to your problem ISN’T as easy as just “resting and letting it heal.” 

Yes, the words, “I’ll just rest it and let it heal” is, without a doubt, the most common strategic response I hear from injured runners, on how they will solve their injury woes.

Allowing time for your body to rest and heal is hardly ever a bad idea, but it is foolish to believe (or hope, or pray) that simply resting and taking time away from running is all you need to overcome your injury.  Hardly ever works that way, I’m sorry to say.

There is only one way that works, based on my over 30 years of experience as a runner, triathlete, coach, and running biomechanics expert who’s performed hundreds of gait analysis on injured athletes:

Until you determine the reasons WHY the injury occured, and then address that cause at its root level, your injury will likely return once you resume running. 

The choice is always yours. You can keep beating your head against a wall and living with some level of pain on a daily basis. You can keep throwing money away on race entry fees for races you never end up actually doing. The choice is always yours.

Doc and I are here to help, when you’re finally ready to SOLVE your problem and enjoy running for the rest of your life.

Make it a great day!

~Coach Al 

ps:  The 2nd most common response I hear from injured runners is that they’ll go to see their orthopedic doctor. Really?  Remember my friends, while there are many good orthopedists out there, their primary gig is using sharp toys to cut you.  For many, it isn’t on helping you to address the movement oriented issues that are very likely the cause of the injury.  Think about it!

Breaking News: Pursuit Athletic Performance to Open New Training Facility!

Breaking News:

Pursuit Athletic Performance to open a NEW State-Of-The-Art Training Facility! 

 

Here it is, the exciting news we have been anxiously waiting to share with all of you: Pursuit Athletic Performance is moving into a NEW larger, state-of-the-art training facility! We are growing and expanding!  We are super-psyched and we hope you are too!!

Centrally located in Chester, Connecticut at the top of Inspiration Lane (no, we are not making that up!), this facility (much larger than our present space at nearly 8000 sq ft) will provide more than enough space for:

  • group and individual adult and youth classes and personal training
  • triathlon, running, cycling, AND field sport (soccer, lacrosse) camps and workshops
  • a computrainer bike studio (aka the Pain Cave)
  • an expanded state-of-the-art gait analysis lab
  • treatment areas for chiropractic, massage, and more
  • a kitchen (which will evolve into a cool, fun and relaxing hang out space)
  • and much more!

We are also excited to announce we will be sharing space in our new facility with TrueForm Runner treadmills. We’ll have up to 8 of those amazing non-powered treadmills lining the front glass wall!

Situated so that as you run on them, you’ll be looking out into “inspiration” woods, the TrueForms are a fantastic training tool to enhance your running technique and strength and will be here for you, ready to help you improve and stay motivated with your runnnig during the cold winter months!

Plans are in place to offer a wide array classes for both adults AND kids (think yoga, adult bootcamp/strength and fitness, youth bootcamps, and more), and even winter long weekly INDOOR triathlons! With computrainers for cycling, TrueForm treadmills for running, and Vasa Ergometers for swimming, it’ll be easy!

The pictures below are just a tiny SNEAK PEAK of what is to come.  Construction is ongoing: the lights are still being worked on (which is why you see the glass from the lights hanging), inspirational and motivational “fathead” wall art and photos are being added daily, and much more. Each of the training spaces including mirrors and floors are still to be added. As for the computrainer studio (aka Pain Cave), it is just about ready to go!  We are just a few weeks away from being ready to rock!

We HOPE you’re as excited as we are!  PLEASE tell your friends and EVERYONE you know!

More information and news, including the OFFICIAL GRAND OPENING, will be coming soon!

Make it a great day everyone!  We can’t wait to see you in Chester!

~Coach Al and Dr. Strecker

MORE On Running Biomechanics and Footstrike Patterns…

Dr. Kevin Kirby, DPM

Dr. Kevin Kirby, DPM

We recently had Dr. Kevin Kirby, DPM on our podcast (episode 47) to discuss all things running!

Biomechanics, foot strike patterns, running shoe design and use, barefoot running, and much more are topics we covered. If you missed that podcast you definitely want to check it out. Go here.

Dr. Kirby gave a new lecture on July 30th 2014 entitled: “Running Footstrike: Rearfoot, Midfoot or Forefoot, Which is Best?” 

One of our passions here at Pursuit Athletic Performance is dispelling training MYTHS, especially those that are hurtful to those who don’t know any better. For example, one of our most read blog posts from the past was one we did on the MYTHS associated with “gait analysis,” especially the kind you’ll get in a running shoe store (hint: it isn’t gait analysis at all!). Didn’t read that one? You can find it here.

We also believe it is important to highlight science-based information from true experts when it becomes available. This very recent lecture by Dr. Kirby helps us achieve both.

To view the lecture go here:

Thank you Dr. Kirby.

Make it a great day everyone!

~Coach Al 

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

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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]

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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