As many of you are well aware, the core of our mission at Pursuit Athletic Performance is to get each individual athlete the FASTEST they can be, performing to their ultimate potential with far less risk of injury. So, how do we do that? In addition to smart, progressive training, we train each athlete to be as functionally strong, stable, and mobile in the way they, personally, need to be. Hand-in-hand with that goal, is our work re-educating athletes about the importance of strength training as it relates to PERFORMANCE ENHANCEMENT. And, believe me, it does relate.
In this audio post I talk about strength training and its value. Here are just two reasons why this issue is important to understand:
1. If you are muscularly balanced,stable, and functionally strong you will be far more durable, be much more resistant to fatigue, leak less energy, and be able to create power and speed. You absolutely will BE FASTER as a result—AND be more durable and able to resist fatigue.
2. If you take the time to understand and learn, you will execute a strength program more precisely, be more committed, and enjoy the process more!
I think there is lots of valuable learning here. Hope you find it helpful, and let me know if you have any questions.
Renowned movement experts (our own) Coach Al Lyman and James Wilson of Mountain Bike Training Systems present an outstanding talk about the fundamental importance of becoming a strong, mobile, and stable athlete in order to reach one’s full performance potential in sports as diverse as running, triathlon, and mountain biking. This podcast is loaded with information and inspiration for ALL athletes, no matter your sport. Coach Al and James give you the no-nonsense truth about what it takes to excel to the best of your personal ability. A few of the topics they touch on are:
Why functional strength matters greatly in activities normally viewed as endurance sports
Training the miles is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of unleashing ultimate performance
Why “just train more” is just plain wrong
Why “strength training” is a misnomer, and what it really is
How training outside of your sport manifests itself in your sport
Training as a lifetime endeavor — longevity vs. short-term gains
Our downloadable podcast is below. Direct download here. Enjoy!
Coach Al Lyman, CSCS, FMS, HKC
Coach Al Lyman, CSCS, FMS, HKC is the co-founder of Pursuit Athletic Performance, a movement-based sport training company. He is a nationally-recognized coach of endurance athletes from novice to elite, since 1999. He coaches the reigning 45-49 Age-Group Ironman World Champion and course record holder, Lisbeth Kenyon. As an athlete, Coach Al is a 25-time marathon finisher with a personal best of 2:39 at the Boston Marathon, and a nine-time Ironman Triathlon finisher, including three finishes at the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii.
James Wilson is an author and professional mountain bike coach dedicated to using “strength training” to help athletes climb better, descend faster and “basically dominate all aspects of mountain biking.” He trains all levels of cyclists including world cup mountain bike racers. He writes for Decline Magazine, and has built a following for his writing and his training program from coast to coast.
Coach Al here with a race day pep talk! I am always very confident about my athlete’s preparation going into races. They toe the line ready to have a great day.
I always like to leave them with some important thoughts that I know, if they apply them, will help them on race day. These are skills we work on every day in training. I hope these words of advice will help you to have the best race you’re capable of and that you’ll enjoy it more as well!
1. STAY IN THE MOMENT, BE TASK ORIENTED, AND EXECUTE. A great race only happens if you keep your emotions in check AND remain present where you ARE at any moment in time from the minute you wake to the second you cross the line. Being task oriented keeps your mind focused, not allowing it to move ahead to something in the future, or spiral backwards to something which is past. BE IN THE MOMENT. Execution means doing the things you need to, when you need to, to ensure the best chance for success.
2. EXPECT DIFFICULTIES TO COME AND BE READY TO DEAL WITH THEM IN A POSITIVE WAY. In a race like Ironman or in any race that you will feel challenged to complete, it isn’t a question of IF things will go wrong or become difficult, it is only a matter of when. That is racing! So, expect it, and decide ahead of time how YOU are going to deal with those difficulties. Decide in advance that your response is going to be POSITIVE. Every single challenge can be framed as having a positive element, if you decide it is so, and allow yourself to see it that way.
3. BE MENTALLY STRONG AND PHYSICALLY STRONG when it matters most. Every athlete out there on the race course is “tough” during the early and middle stages. Few, however, are truly mentally strong and resilient when it gets really difficult in the late stages of the competition. Decide you’re going to dig deep and have NO REGRETS. Be strong.
4. YOU ARE IN CONTROL OF YOUR THOUGHTS– act accordingly. You are in complete control of what you do, how you think, and how you react to what happens out there. Make a choice to respond positively, to THINK positively, and to believe in yourself. Have that powerful tool at the ready when it gets most difficult or challenging.
Be great and enjoy every moment of elation, suffering, and boredom. Walk away with pure joy!
Recovery is such an important topic for endurance athletes. I am very careful with the athletes I coach to be sure they not only work hard to achieve their goals, but that they also learn to recover well from hard training sessions and racing. Part of the training I prescribe includes regular and ongoing personalized functional strength work in order for my athletes to work from a body that is durable and resilient. This is immensely important to not only reaching athletic potential, BUT also to essential to proper recovery. My athletes, I’m happy to say, race regularly, reach incredible goals, AND come back to train and race year after year.
This audio is a general conversation about issues relating to recovery. I talk about stress in its many forms–training, nutritional, adrenal, etc.–and how all of it impacts the ability to recover. Does diminished soreness mean you are recovered from that long race? With so many of you gearing up for your A races of the season, it’s a good time to revisit issues related to this important topic.
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I think you will find interesting a current situation I am working through with one of the triathletes I coach. He is having a crisis in confidence about his run preparedness for Ironman Coeur d’Alene coming up in June. This athlete has been at the triathlon game for a while, but–like so many of you–has experienced repetitive cycles of running injury. Before we started working together, he had not been able to run with any consistency–or at all–for a year.
His current injury cycle came on the heels of his last round of Ironman training two years ago. He trained for that race with a mass coaching program that strongly stresses the “train more” philosophy with punishing levels of intensity day in and day out, week in and week out. And while this program touts it is “the way” to train for faster race times, in the end it robbed this athlete (and many others) of ANY ability to train or race at all.
As a long-time and experienced coach, I know one thing for sure–the “just train more” message is very seductive to triathletes. In a very real way, the mindset of “just train more” or “no pain, no gain” pervades much of our sport, and is almost like a drug. Many of us joke about it, but the fact is it seems to tap into a primal need to test ourselves and prove we can handle pain and not wilt under pressure. Once we drink that Kool Aid, it’s hard to turn back. Many don’t know any other way once exposed to it, and are often led further down the path by coaches who flat out don’t know what they are doing. The bottom line is, my triathlete’s concerns about run preparedness come from old, worn out training tapes replaying in his head. He has been duped into believing that you need to do week upon grueling week of long, hard running in order to be “ready” to run a marathon off of the bike.
That’s simply not true. Not on any level.
Here’s what is true–and this is where athletes find the place of phenomenal power, authentic fulfillment, and, yes, truly outstanding race day results.
IF you are functionally strong, TRULY healthy, and are building run and overall fitness steadily throughout training, that creates the conditions for an outstanding race. Then you must SHOW UP on race day, be TRULY healthy and rested, race smart, and be mentally ready to go after it. Put the two pieces together and it is then that you have the best opportunity for a GREAT race, especially off the bike–which is where it matters the most. Sounds too simple, and not “hard enough”?
Any coach can react to an athlete’s nervousness and write an overly aggressive run “build” phase. I always tell my athletes the easiest thing I can do is write harder plans. After all, I only have to type! Many knucklehead coaches, however, take pride in making stuff “hard” because their own egos are their biggest concern, not the athlete’s health and well being. As a responsible and experienced coach, I know that when an athlete returns to running after injury, the first few weeks absolutely DRIVE what happens, good or bad, with all the run training to follow for this race, this season–and beyond!
For example, if my triathlete is running slightly beyond his true functional capability due to an aggressive build designed to “get him there,” odds are he will fall back into old dysfunctional and compensated movement patterns. Remember, it is those same patterns that created injury in the first place. Also, he will be building TIREDNESS, instead of true run FITNESS. That means as he gets closer to the race, he will be thinking and believing he’s ready to race, when, in truth, he has been moving backwards on a number of levels–not the least of which is inching closer to re-injury.
I can guarantee that if my triathlete is FULLY PRESENT on race day with strong mental fortitude and toughness, AND a completely healthy, rested and ready body, he will surprise the heck out of himself with a run to be proud of–and a run that reflects his true potential. And the beauty is, this Ironman will be the start–NOT the end–of a training period. By ensuring true run health, athletes find a deep well of resiliency they never thought they had. They are able to dig deeper and find a resolve they always thought had to come through “force,” and a “train-more-and-suck-it-up” philosophy. Truly healthy athletes RECOVER, and come back to train and race year after year. Instead of beating the body to a pulp, Ironman becomes the beginning of a long period of steady improvement in strength, durability, and speed.
Most importantly, finishing this Ironman healthily and well will allow my triathlete to MANIFEST the power of the accomplishment in his everyday life, not simply adopt a persona. His personal reasons for undertaking the challenge will be with him with every breath he takes after the race. It’s what Mark Allen referred to as a “raw reality.” My triathlete will be authentically healthy, authentically athletic, authentically positive. He will be an IRONMAN, in the truest sense of what finishing the distance is supposed to mean. He will live it, and in his own mind, he will know he did it right.
I wish this same sense of peace, accomplishment, and good health for every single triathlete I coach. It is the place where true fulfillment and satisfaction are born. Believe it, and make the decision to BE IT.
A few days ago, a discussion began in the USA Triathlon coaches group about running stride rate and cadence. Below is the original question that started the thread. Based on my work as a movement expert, it was clear I have a very different perspective than the other responses offered, and I would like to share my point of view.
Fellow Coaches, I’m a new USAT Level 1 Coach. I am currently working on running with a 90+ cadence. I understand the lean at the ankles to increase speed. How does one stay in the RPE 3-4 (Zone 2) while keeping a 90 cadence? Before taking this to my clients, I’m trying it and it is a bit exhausting. Is there a period of getting used to it that one must go through? Any drills to help with this? Is this tied to run durability? Thanks.
I’d like to offer a different viewpoint from the responses so far.
Stride rate is not simply a function of some kind of conscious decision or choice on the part of the runner to move their legs faster–especially if the runner actually WANTS to run faster AND be more efficient as a result of that faster stride.
Stride rate is a function of applied force to the ground. It is Newton’s third law of physics in action (Issac, not the shoes). That is, stability and strength are the determinants of ground contact time (GCT), and shortened ground contact time results in a faster stride rate (SR), all things being equal.
The same is largely true in cycling. As noted physiologist and coach Allen Lim said with respect to Lance Armstrong pedaling at very high cadence compared to his competitors, “a fast spin isn’t a technique for producing power. It is the result of having power.” Words to remember.
A runner who is more stable through the lumbar spine/pelvic girdle, and whose entire body is more functionally strong, will have less energy leakage when the foot comes into contact with the ground, thus shortening the GCT and facilitating a faster SR. The analogy I often use in our Gait Analysis Lab is what I call the “bouncy ball effect.” If I take a bouncy ball and throw it at the ground, it will bounce back up at a speed directly proportional to how hard I throw it. If I throw it “harder” and have it hit the ground with more force, it bounces up FASTER, and goes farther as a result. Our body is the same way. Note that I said our body–NOT our legs, or our core, or our feet, OR our shoes! We run with our entire body, not just the feet or the legs.
In my work, I help runners understand that if their stride rate is well below 90 cycles per minute (and especially if they present with a tendency to over stride), they will benefit from GRADUALLY and progressively increasing that rate to 90 cycles or faster. (Leg length is a factor in determining any “optimal” rate, obviously). I remind them that since they are not striding quickly, a progressive, gradual increase over the course of a few weeks will likely cause a spike in heart rate due to the change in a neuromuscular habit. They are not efficient yet at the higher SR. They are also moving larger muscles more quickly, which tends to increase HR as well. As they become more efficient at the higher SR, heart rate usually comes back down to the normal range.
So, the bottom line is this….
“Thinking” and “trying” to change to a higher SR won’t result in a FASTER or more powerful runner UNLESS that runner is ALSO working to get stronger and more stable at the same time. Stability and strength come first, right after appropriate mobility.
When I coach runners on increasing SR, I also teach them that their ability to stride faster–and to RUN FASTER and be more efficient–comes from building the proper combination of stability, mobility, and strength. When those appropriate levels are built, THEN I add the “frosting on the cake”–form changes and drills.
Very often, when a runner gets stronger and more stable one is surprised to find that very little stride rate “coaching” is actually required! The body is smart. Changes come authentically, from the INSIDE, not the outside.
My advice is to resist the urge to make conscious changes to any arbitrary run mechanic issue, including stride rate or GCT, without FIRST examining the ESSENTIAL issues of pelvic stability and true functional strength. TRUE stability and strength is required of EVERY athlete in any sport who wants to be faster and better. Real and meaningful changes that last–and result in faster running speeds and improved efficiency–always have, and always will, come from the inside.
Coach Al and Dr. Kurt Strecker at Multisport World Boston
We look forward to working we these awesome athletes to uncover the weaknesses, compensations, and instabilities that are holding them back from training and racing to their true potential. The 2012 season just got a whole lot brighter for both of them!
I had a great conversation worth sharing on the issue of core stability and its vital role in swimming. Triathletes, in particular, ask me about this all the time.
In the audio below I discuss what it means to have a stable core, and I explain the purpose of training that stability. Let’s just say that consciously trying to “engage the core” when swimming–or doing any other sport for that matter–is NOT the way to generate power. Rather, it’s all about building core stability as the foundational element of proper and powerful movement that translates across all sports.
I thought I’d share with all of you an exchange I had on Facebook that drew a bit of interest.
Susan Ford, one of the triathletes I coach, is inspiring in her unending quest to be a better athlete and to achieve her ultimate goal of qualifying for the Ironman Triathlon World Championships in Kona. She posted a question on Facebook, hoping her friends would chime in with wisdom that would help her answer THE dilemma…
I am looking for ways to be better than my best. – Susan Ford
I read through the litany of responses from her friends, and was fascinated to read what had been posted. “Try P90x.” “Dig deeper.” Someone in the same frame of mind wrote amusingly, “Let me know when you find the answer.” At the end of a long string of responses I posted, “Interesting.” Of course, Susan pounced on that asking, “Give me your thoughts, Coach!”
So here are my thoughts, expressed in an open letter on Susan’s timeline, on reaching goals, dreams, and the next level in our “personal best.”
I hope you and your friends find something of value in my comments, as all of us embark on what Joseph Campbell calls the “hero’s journey.” Yes, I did find all the comments quite interesting. Susan, you work very hard, certainly as hard–or harder–than many athletes out there with whom you’re competing for a coveted Hawaii slot.
That being said, allow me to share what I believe works best when striving to attain the ultimate in our personal athletic potential, and what is a fool’s errand. Trying a fad training program that is sold to gullible masses as some kind of magical “workout” designed–not to create better athletes–but to carve a “six pack” so you like yourself when you look in the mirror, is NOT the answer. In fact, a particular exercise, workout, or piece of equipment, ISN’T the answer. “Digging deeper,” and gritting your teeth while you “dig,” in and of itself doesn’t work either, in my humble opinion. What these programs and platitudes offer are empty promises of ways to short circuit the “grind.” The process. And in my experience, that never works, especially not over the long term. Put another way, while it might sound like a great way to show our “toughness” and desire, hollow promises like “just train more” and “push through the pain” simply cause us to be impatient, as we seek easier or “better” ways to achieve our goals.
Unfortunately–or fortunately, depending how you look at it–it takes a long time to get good in the sport of triathlon. We are all unique, and we ALL have our own unique adaptive abilities–and we are not in control of these abilities, as hard as that is to accept sometimes. Rather than pressing on the gas pedal HARDER and driving yourself more, please think about taking a step back and looking for ways to take your foot off the brake instead. Try to find ways to more deeply enjoy the process–the grind–by first, not looking beyond the task at hand. Take your eyes OFF the results you’re seeking, as hard as it is to do, and become completely present in the “now.” Look for additional ways to balance your life away from the sport. Then, what might be the hardest thing of all, ACCEPT that IF you continue to train smart, work hard, recover harder, and stay the course, you will get where you want to go. You absolutely will.
Of course, the “problem” is that we don’t get to hand pick when goals are reached, or when breakthrough races occur. Life isn’t like that. Mental toughness isn’t only about gritting your teeth and hammering more. It is, on the other hand, very much about learning patience, being present, and not looking for any specific result from the process–with one exception, to do as well as you can each day, and then move on. Know, and believe that over time, the process WILL bear the fruit of the work, dedication, trust, and acceptance accorded to it.
It may be clich?, but learn to smell the roses more. Enjoy the grind. Be present. Be completely open to learning every day, about yourself and about the sport. Accept that you CANNOT control the results of what you do, despite your desire to do so. But you can control how you train, and your attitude toward that effort. And while working very hard, and recovering as hard as you work, let go, and let everything else take care of itself.
At the NYC event, we offered Guided Movement Screens, and they were a hit! We will be offering them again in Boston. This 15-minute screen will help you begin to discover what is impeding your performance–where you are leaking speed, or if you have hot-spot areas ripe for injury. It’s only $25 for expo participants ($95 value). Slots went fast in New York, so secure your spot by registering here in advance.
Our very own Coach Al Lyman is presenting the seminar, TRIATHLON TRAINING IN THE 21ST CENTURY: MOVEMENT QUALITY FIRST! at 11 am. In the talk, Coach Al will cover why establishing a foundation of quality “authentic” movement with minimal compensation and dysfunction is essential for long term improvement, injury resistance, and overall health for every single triathlete. Special guest, Ironman World Champion record holder Lisbeth Kenyon will join Al to talk about her own movement issues, and how dealing with the challenges have impacted her training and racing.
Finally, you can also register at the booth to a free on-site or virtual online gait analysis package! As you can see there will be lots going on! We hope to see many of you on Saturday!