This little piggy…hurts! We know how it is. Feet can often be a source of big trouble for runners. Here is a direct download link for Baby Steps: A Runners Guide to Feet, Shoes and Dating, our free (somewhat humorous) guide to your feet, how they work, and how to–finally–pick the running shoe that’s right for YOU.
Orthotics? We cover that. Dating? Well, really, not so much!
Here’s an excerpt:
Pick up any running or triathlon magazine and you won’t read too many pages before a bold advertisement displays the shoes you really need if you truly want to be your best. Some claim to make you faster or prevent injury, others tout the benefits of “running more naturally.” One thing’s for sure, all of them look cool. And they come in the flashiest colors. And there’s some (paid) uber-athlete sporting said (complimentary) foot gear. You know the one. She just posted a new course record at IM Antarctica. She is sweaty and sexy and appears to have been chiseled from a solid block of marble. Not some cheap, domestic marble, mind you, the expensive Italian kind.
You, too, could look like this, race like this and maybe even get a date on Friday night if you wore these shoes.
Then we get serious, and take you on a tour of your foot function, foot form, and mechanics, leading you to figure out how to pick the right running shoe. Hit us up with comments or questions here in the blog or on our Facebook page. Enjoy and let us know what you think!
Let’s talk today about fast athletes. They are the speediest competitors who wow many of us with their superior athletic performances–triathletes who race Ironman in 10 hours or less, runners who break 40 minutes in a local 10K, and marathoners who complete the distance in well under 3 hours. These athletes are gifted, no doubt. Much of that gift lies in winning a genetic lottery that endowed them with a Mack truck like engine that is often housed in a Volkswagen body.
In my work as a coach and as a movement and strength expert, I look at these fast competitors a little differently. And I have some questions. The first among them is…
Where is the speed coming from?
What do I mean?
If a very fast athlete is relying solely on their genetic gift of being able to consume tons of oxygen and race very quickly because of that engine, but they ARE NOT MOVING WELL, are not strong, and present with some level of dysfunction and compensation, I contend they are NOT PERFORMING AT THEIR ULTIMATE POTENTIAL.
That’s right. If a nine hour Ironman finisher comes into out gait analysis lab and presents with dysfunction and compensation in their movement patterns, has little demonstrable functional strength, I say that same athlete can go A LOT FASTER. I would bet they could go 8:30, maybe even faster! But without a frame that is truly functionally strong and built under the umbrella of quality movement, the chassis of this gifted athlete will absolutely break down. Top performers often compensate better and can perform with dysfunction for longer than athletes with fewer natural gifts, but injury is in the offing. Once the chassis is in pieces, the athlete’s enormous engine will no longer be able to apply the same force to the ground or the pedal stroke. When that inevitably happens, what you see is those fast times ebb, plateaus begin to set in, and predictable injuries start to creep in, first as a minor “tweak” or niggle, and soon as outright pain. Longevity in the sport rapidly declines. Athletes of all abilities seem to accept this as inevitable and normal. It is neither.
By contrast, if an athlete with a much smaller engine and much less innate natural speed and talent moves well and stays on top of that quality movement to eliminate dysfunction and compensation while becoming more functionally strong, stable, and balanced, that athlete can get better and better over the track of many years. The fast athlete can do the same, but often feel they are already at the pointy edge of their ability when, in fact, there is room for continued significant improvement.
Of course there is a limit to how fast any athlete can go. Improvement is never infinite. But I believe most athletes, even the most gifted among us, sell themselves short. At the end of the day, what I ask to myself is, how much faster can that athlete be?
So to all athletes–including the fastest among us–I say this…
Take the time to learn what it takes to unlock true speed and powerful performance. You can begin your study with our free ebook, Unleash Your Potential 101. Invest in a gait analysis by a reputable provider, then commit to their prescription for better movement quality and functional strength development. Understand worn out, destructive training paradigms. Find a coach who will properly design progressive, challenging, and effective training–but with a focus on health, durability, and results over the long term.
By taking the steps outlined above ANY athlete–whether Kona bound or at the back of the pack–can experience the thrill of athletic triumph far longer than they ever dreamed possible.
Coach Al here with a post inspired by a conversation a couple of my athletes were having regarding nutrition. Their talk began as a lament about how confusing it is to navigate all the conflicting information about how to eat well and fuel for performance.
There is no doubt that nutrition can SEEM complicated with all of the information “out there.” My advice always is to simplify as much as possible. With that thought in mind, let’s let’s look at some of the topics my athletes were confused about and distill things down to the basics.
The basics of good nutrition and healthy eating are simple:
a. Avoid processed, packaged, and sugary foods as much as possible.
b. The great majority of what you eat should be fruits and veggies.
c. Good fats are not only good, they’re great. Has anyone ever asked you how much “fat” you ate today? They should. It is essential to get in good fats.
d. Eat more calories earlier in the day, and less as the days goes on (king, queen, pauper).
e. If you’re an endurance athlete, you NEED carbohydrates! Perhaps as much as 60-70% of calories, mostly from fruits and vegetables.
My thoughts on Paleo? If eating a Paleo diet means you’re eating more fruits and veggies, and less junk and starch, then yes, it is a good thing.
Is Gluten Bad?
If you experiment and eliminate gluten from your diet and you feel better, then it, perhaps, may be “bad” for you. If you consume it on occasion and you don’t notice adverse effects, it is likely perfectly fine for you to eat.
Is Rice Good?
YOU NEED carbs, and rice can be a good source of carbohydrate. Sports physiologist Allen Lim wants the cyclists he works with to be fully glycogen loaded when training, prompting him to recommend a source of concentrated calories from carbs as a staple in the diet. Rice fills that bill perfectly.
It is my personal opinion that it is not normal to drink the milk of another animal. Let me reiterate–that is my point of view. As with gluten, if you eliminate it from your diet and and you feel better, there is your answer. We don’t necessarily NEED dairy to get enough in the way of minerals and protein. Much of our needs for those things can come from fruits and veggies–leafy greens especially.
It’s about balance. In moderate quantities, whole-grain breads can be a good source of carbs. Sometimes we can go overboard and eat way too much carbohydrate in this form. A couple of slices with a sandwich? No harm in that.
In this day and age, athletes have become more aware of their protein intake than ever before. I would venture to say we have been “sold” on the benefits of a high-protein diet, both by the companies selling us protein powders of every description, as well as from the diet companies selling us on the benefits of a low-carbohydrate diet. My opinion is that we may be over doing our intake of protein, and maybe sacrificing the carbohydrates necessary for energy, as well as the good fats necessary for optimal health
Quality proteins, which can be found in many whole foods as part of a balanced healthy diet, should make up no more than about 25% of total daily calories for the typical hard training athlete. Individual needs may vary, of course. Excessive protein intake WILL NOT make you recover faster, or get “ripped” more easily, despite what the bodybuilding world would have you believe. Great recovery from training happens for many reasons, including making sure not to deplete carbohydrate completely (glycogen saturation). Recovery is also greatly enhanced by having a strong, stable body that moves well so you’re not routinely shredding smaller muscles as they try to do the job of larger ones. Sleep is hugely important, as is a smart training progression. All of these things, and more, add up to great recovery. It is not about pounding large amounts of protein powders, seeking the magic bullet for fast results!
It seems clear to me that ANY kind of food that increases inflammation and/or increases the acidity of the body–starches, processed foods, sugars, and “bad” fats–is to be avoided as much as possible.
Keeping It Simple
We could go in depth for days on any one of the topics outlined above. But the purpose of this post is to help you keep it simple, and, therefore, executable in your life. The keys are:
Eat fruits and veggies of all varieties and in copious amounts.
Don’t overdo protein intake at the expense of good carbohydrates.
Get plenty of good fats from nuts, seeds, fish, etc.
Time your meals to limit insulin and maximize fat burning.
Easy? Not always.
Shopping for fresh foods is work, and most quality foods are more expensive. Breaking habits and sticking to a plan, even if you know it is best for you, can be a challenge. Experimenting to find what works best for YOU, is also sometimes a chore.
Is this all worth it in the end?
WITHOUT A SHADOW OF A DOUBT.
In my opinion, we really are what we eat. What we eat matters more than what kind of exercise take part in when considering long term health and longevity.
Hope this helps. Coming soon, I will be posting more in-depth information about the issue of good fats in the diet.
It’s the day before the start of the Badwater Ultramarathon! I’m here in Death Valley to serve as support crew for friend and client Jason Rita who will take on this epic 135-mile beast of a race starting tomorrow.
Badwater is the hardest footrace on the planet. As Jason will face temperatures as high as 125?F, I thought it would be an opportune time to post a few tips to help you in your summer racing. As Jason’s crew, we need to help him handle the fundamental triad needed for racing in the heat–hydration, electrolytes, and calories– or Jason will have no chance of finishing this race. A DNF or poor performance can happen to any of us as we face racing in the summer–even if the heat is not as extreme as what we’ll face in Death Valley. The video below gives you my thoughts and guidance.
We will be posting updates as we can from Badwater to give you an insiders view on such an epic event, and to let you know how Jason is doing. He is dedicating the race to raise funds to help alleviate the effects of “bad water” in Haiti, and we are teaming up to help him do that. You can read about our efforts here.
Signing for now with three keys to successful racing in the heat!
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!
Stability is the basis upon which you develop POWER and SPEED. Without it, you will never be able access your true and ultimate potential. Stability also greatly contributes to lowering your risk of injury.
Do I have you attention now? As a coach and movement expert, I feel passionate that athletes understand what stability is, what it isn’t, and its incredible importance no matter what your sport.
In this short video I review the role of stability in athletic movement so you can begin to understand how essential it is to cultivate it as part of your overall training. Using the split squat exercise as an example, I teach you how to train the movement for STABILITY vs. strength. There is a big difference.
You can read additional posts on the issue of stability here and here. Enjoy, and fire back any questions.
One of our clients, and a triathlete I coach, had a terrific day at Ironman Coeur d’Alene on June 24. Her super finish is all the more sweet when you consider that she came to us last winter a seriously BROKEN athlete. For the previous few years she had followed a training plan that focuses on daily intensity, actively discourages athletes from strength work, and promotes a “just train more” philosophy. Like most athletes, our triathlete did OK for a while on this kind of plan, putting up gains and getting faster.
But then the inevitable kicked in.
Without proper strength, stability, mobility, flexibility to support ANY kind of training–much less the kind of program she was on–our athlete fell apart. She could not absorb the training, she was not recovering, and her times got slower. End result? Injury. (Unfortunately, we see this scenario in our Gait Analysis Lab every day.)
Our triathlete came to us for a gait analysis last winter. Through our findings, we went to work to rebuild her, and then train her hard, but sensibly, for her Ironman. She took our work together seriously. As the months passed her body became functionally strong, durable, and resilient. She was able to train with appropriate intensity, absorb the training, and recover. She made serious gains in power and speed. And as we said, she had a great Ironman race day.
But take a look at how she feels now, only a few days out from the race:
“I have to say that this has been my must amazing post race ever. I was walking and sitting yesterday like it was 2 or 3 days post marathon. Unbelievable. It’s strange, every time I sit or stand I brace myself for pain but it isn’t there. I guess this is what being healthy, balanced, and functionally strong is all about! Essentially pain free post IM. Un-frickin-believable!”
This athlete emailed me to ask WHY she felt so good? Here the reasons, all of which are very obvious to me.
1. She was not remotely injured going into the race.
2. She was and is stronger than she has ever been. Hence, her body was able to deal with the stress of race day much more easily.
3. She was more balanced and more “fit” in a holistic sense, than ever before.
4. For the first time, she went into a race with a training plan that was designed to bring her fitness along smartly, rather than destroy her into injury and poor health submission.
My partner, Dr. Kurt Strecker, and I are thrilled for this client. We know how far she has come from the broken athlete that walked into our Gait Analysis Lab last winter. As her coach, I am thrilled at where she is at this point in time. Now, FOR THE VERY FIRST TIME, she can now unleash and get faster. Why?
Strength, stability, muscular balance, and good health are the basis for a training program designed to get you fast. That’s right, it’s not punishing intensity or the latest-and-greatest secret-sauce training. Movement quality FIRST is the only way to get fast, stay fast, and get faster over time.
It’s like we tell athletes all the time, when your body is working as it should, it will race well AND also recover quickly and completely. It’s how our athletes race again and again, year after year.
We wish every competitor, from Ironman to 5K runner, the same sense of accomplishment and good health our triathlete here is experiencing. She has a heck of a post-Ironman glow, and we are so happy for her
Coach Al here. With race season underway, I thought I’d check in with my recommendation on carbo loading. I’ll start by saying I’m not a fan of the traditional protocols that prescribe a depletion phase followed by a loading phase. That approach has not been been shown to be superior to maintaining or supplementing carb intake without depleting your body.
That being said, there is some good research showing that a “day-before-the-race” strategy–where you REALLY load carbs–can truly help ensure full glycogen saturation. If you’re racing half or full Ironman, or have a long road race, please consider the strategy outlined below.
Plan on a day-before-the-race carbo supplementation regime that includes from 7, up to 10g of carbohydrates, per kg of body weight.
This is more than most of you are used to, that’s for sure! I’m sure it flies in the face of how most of you prefer to eat normally. But, it is especially important to ensure complete and full glycogen saturation prior to race day, and this approach goes a long way to making that happen.
Here’s how you do it, using myself as an example:
I weigh about 160lbs. Taking 10g per kg of bodyweight (70kg), I’d look to ingest ~700g of carbs. Translation, 2800 calories of carbohydrates!
Obviously, I do not recommend you eat 10 bagels to get that amount!!!! You will want and need to use an easily-assimilated liquid carb source in addition to solid foods. And you may want to start that ingestion saturation up to 36 hours beforehand to spread it out a bit more.
What to use? Any of the Hammer long-chain fuels such as Sustained Energy or Perpetuem would work excellently as a way to get in those extra carbs without GI distress. Carbo-Pro is also another fine choice.
I recommend you give this loading strategy a try. If you have a long weekend session coming up, that is a perfect time to test and see how it works for you. Keep in mind that in my example I aim for the higher 10g amount. When crunching these numbers, 7g per kg might be a bit more more reasonable for many athletes–and easier to achieve.
Carbo loading certainly does make a difference in energy levels on race day, especially late in the competition.
Coach Al is not only a renowned movement expert, but also our poet warrior here at Pursuit Athletic Performance. He gave the talk, Triathlon Training for the 21st Century: Movement Quality First at the Boston multisport expo, and we are still receiving outstanding feedback and questions from athletes in attendance that day. We have put the talk together to share with all of you.
Triathlon Training for the 21st Century is Coach Al’s “I Have a Dream” speech. His dream?
That every athlete, whether a triathlete, runner, cyclist, swimmer, gymnast–whatever the sport–will learn how quality movement patterns MUST be in place FIRST in order to unlock full potential.
That seven out of 10 runners won’t be injured every year.
Finishing an Ironman triathlon will not mean creating major health problems like arthritis that last a lifetime.
Athletes learn to train in ways that not only create balance in the body, but balance in their lives. We don’t have to give up our lives in order to achieve our athletic goals and dreams.
That athletes experience finish line euphoria every day of their lives by waking up without aches and pains, ready to train, race, and excel year in and year out.
That workouts you do for your health do not end up sacrificing your health.
These are just some of the deep and probing issues Coach Al explores in this talk. He also takes you inside the physiology of the “deep front line,” an astounding view of the inextricable connectedness of our entire body from the lower extremity, through the torso, and up into the cervical region–the entire core–all of which is impacted by the breath. The deep front line plays a major role in unlocking our overall ability to move properly. There is a lot of learning here about what true athleticism entails.
We know you will learn a great deal when you watch this talk. We think you will be inspired. Our hope is will begin to extricate yourself from the false training messages that bombard us daily, and begin to see that true athleticism, true power and speed isn’t hiding in a box of fancy running shoes. It’s hiding deep within YOU. It’s there ready waiting to be unleashed through “quality movement first.”
Click on the photo above, or click here to access the seminar. Enjoy! And feel free to get back to us with thoughts and questions.
Those of you who work with us know that kettlebells are one of our favorite training tools. Appropriate mobility, true core stability, and functional strength inside a balanced body that is moving authentically is THE KEY TO ATHLETIC SUCCESS, regardless of your sport. Kettlebells are so tremendously powerful in helping create faster, more ballistic, and injury-resistant athletes.
In Kettlebells from the Ground Up, Gray and Brett focus on mastering the incomperable Turkish Get-up. This move provides no better test of your stability and mobility in all planes of motion on both sides of your body. In Kettlebells from the Center, Gray and Brett guide you through perfecting hip-hinge mechanics, essential for the dynamic kettlebell swing. If you are a runner or triathlete, there is no better movement pattern to train than the kettlebell swing. True hip extension where the glute is the ultimate driver of the movement is a crucial movement pattern to own and master. In the video below, I demonstrate both movements for you.
One cannot overstate the impact Gray Cook and Brett Jones have had in the field of human movement and strength training. These two new videos add to the legend and lore of their reputations, and it is my privilege to present my thoughts on them. I will be doing more writing and reviewing of these two DVDs, and will be sure to share them with you as well.