Archive for coach al

060: MORE on Mindsets for Optimal Performance with Stanford Researcher, Omid Fotuhi [Podcast]




Dr. Omid Fotuhi

Dr. Omid Fotuhi

Hey everyone! Coach Al here.

Today I am once again honored and pleased to welcome back onto the podcast, Dr. Omid Fotuhi, runner, triathlete, and project manager for the Stanford University Interventions Lab. It has been almost a year since we last had Omid on the podcast; I've personally been anxious to get him back on so we all could continue to learn from him and his research team.

Without a doubt, that first podcast we did together (Episode 58, which you can listen to by going HERE) was one of our most popular ever.

In Part 1 of our chat (Part 2 coming soon), we discussed what he's learned about how we all can better use the power of our mind to explode our potential!  Such as...

  • The important interplay between our own belief systems and effective goal setting.
  • The three types of goals / goal setting, and how they work individually and collectively to empower us to greater achievement and self actualization.
  • Fixed and growth mindsets: Which is more likely to lead to reaching one's potential?
  • The most effective strategies for reaching beyond our fears and achieving more than we ever thought we could!
  • And much more!

Thanks everyone for joining us and tuning in, we appreciate it. I am already looking forward to sharing Part 2 of our discussion soon!

Happy Trails!

~Coach Al 

059: “Slipped Away,” with Special Guests Jean Mellano and Ron Hurtado [Podcast]




I'm honored to have two special guests on the podcast today: Jean Mellano, author of the memoir Slipped Away, and veteran, founding member, and executive director of the Airborne TriTeam, Ron Hurtado.

Some background: I first met Steve Tarpinian in 1996 after deciding to attend his "Swim Power" clinic at the Nassau County Aquatic Center in Long Island, NY.

I was hoping to learn how to overcome my fear of the water and how to swim. If you're thinking that's not exactly an easy task for a 36-year-old having experienced a near drowning as a 10-year-old kid, you'd be right.

I arrived as a anxious newbie, wondering what the day would bring. When I left at the end of the day, I had made a friend for life and also come to know one of the best teachers, coaches and men I'll ever know.

Sadly, on March 15, 2015, that great teacher, coach, mentor...lost his war on depression, and took his own life.

SlippedAwayFast forward a short time later, Steve's soulmate and partner of 35 years, Jean Mellano, after reading all of the heartfelt remembrences of Steve on the popular forum, decided to write a memoir to honor Steve's legacy and bring more awareness to mental illness, specifically depression.  She titled it Slipped Away.

In Jean's words,"there is still so much stigma and embarassment attached to depression, which further adds to the suffering of those afflicted. Mental illness is where Tuberculosis, HIV/AIDs, and cancer were many years ago in terms of no one wanting to talk about it."   

In today's podcast, Ron, Jean and I discuss many things including Steve's legacy, such as:

  • Why and how the book, Slipped Away, came to be.
  • Project9linea Long Island based non-profit organization that supports veterans suffering from PTSD and depression, and which receives the majority of the proceeds from the sale of the book.
  • The Airborne TriTeam, another Long Island based non-profit organization started by Ron, specifically created for mentally and physically challenged war veterans. The team has a unique and strong connection to Steve and his legacy.
  • What we can all do to help those suffering from PTSD and other forms of mental illness.
Depression is like an iceberg...

Depression is like an iceberg...

In Jean's words: "To many people who knew him, Steve had it all and appeared to be on top of the world. Hindsight is 20/20; we now know things weren't always as they seemed. In many instances, people who suffer from depression and mental illness hide it very well.  If someone close to you has a pattern of "going dark" (not returning phone calls or emails, etc.), it could be more than just them being busy or forgetful.  When this happens too often, perhaps a little more compassion and understanding for that person may be in order."   

Jean believes Steve's true legacy and how he should be remembered isn't as a great coach, race-director or athlete who took his own life, but rather, as a human being who did his very best to make people feel good about themselves and who inspired them to accomplish things they never thought they could do.  I couldn't agree more.

Thank you Jean and Ron, and everyone who joined to listen in to this podcast.

To learn even more about the memoir and about Steve, or to purchase a copy, visit the website HERE.  It's also available on Amazon.  You might also want to visit the Slipped Away Facebook page HERE.

~Coach Al 

PS: Jean wrote a wonderful article for the online magazine, The Mighty. In it she shares some of what she has learned about grief since Steve's passing. I highly recommend it.

Are You Ready To Break The Cycle?


In response to a recent survey I sent out to some athletes on our mailing list, many told me how frustrated they are with an on again-off again running injury cycle. Quite a few also said they have learned the hard way that when they're injured, they can't train, and when they can't train, they can't improve.

Listen, I hate talking about injuries as much as you and everyone else. Being injured is like that dirty little secret that no one, especially the injured, ever wants to discuss, ya know? Runners lie, wish, hope and hide them, and even try to silently talk themselves out of them. And it doesn't seem to be improving either. I read a prediction recently that 7 out of 10 runners will be injured in the 2016 calender year. Something is seriously wrong here!

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

The truth is, when you're injured, the SITE of the pain is rarely the SOURCE of the pain. So self diagnosis rarely ever works.  In fact, you often end up just treating the symptoms, not CURING the root cause because you don't know what it is!  And the root cause of an injury is often quite simple and foundational in nature.

If you've read this far, chances are this topic is resonating with you, so please keep reading!

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

Let's say an athlete has recurring bouts of Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS). What's the actual cost?

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

"Why isn't this injury gone? Why does it keep coming back?"

If this is you and you're ready to stop treating the symptoms and finally RESOLVE your injury issues, why not start TODAY with my partner, Dr. Kurt Strecker's FREE VIDEO INJURY PREVENTION SERIES.  Click HERE to learn more.

Honestly, I watched him film these videos, and I think they're really good. There is absolutely no cost to you so you've got absolutely nothing to lose, right?  You will receive real and valuable information that actually works.

Are YOU ready to break that cycle?

If I can answer any questions or help in any way, contact me and let me know. I'm listening.

Happy trails!
~Coach Al

PS: In a future post, I'll discuss the biggest error that most runners make when they return from an injury. If YOU are making this mistake, you will very likely see the injury return much sooner than you would like, and that sucks. Stay tuned.

058: Mindsets for Optimal Performance with Stanford Researcher, Omid Fotuhi [Podcast]




Dr. Omid Fotuhi

Dr. Omid Fotuhi

Today I am really psyched to welcome onto the podcast, Dr. Omid Fotuhi, triathlete and project manager for the Stanford University Interventions Lab. I truly believe the topics we discuss on the podcast today will have a profound impact on anyone listening in. The group of researchers led by Dr. Fotuhi are doing absolutely state-of-the-art research on mindset and performance!

Dr. Fotuhi and his colleagues at the Interventions Lab describe their research as "focused on identifying psychological barriers that impede performance and well-being, and leveraging those insights to create theory-driven interventions that target those barriers." Here's a link to a short video that provides a brief look at the work they do.

In this podcast, Dr. Fotuhi shares his experience and research on topics such as:

  • What are some of the most common patterns of beliefs and thoughts that we all have, and how do those correlate with our performance?
  • Do seemingly inconsequential events have an impact on how we see ourselves and therefore how we perform in races?
  • How is our own motivation to train and race to our ultimate potential impacted by how we see ourselves and the world?
  • Having a fixed or growth mindset: Which is more likely to lead to reaching one's potential?
  • What can we do to improve our ability to persist in the face of adversity, to experience less negativity and perform better at our races?
  • And much more!

I personally found our discussion incredibly valuable, especially from a coaching perspective. I learned a lot and encourage everyone to listen in. This is powerful stuff!

Happy Trails!

~Coach Al 

057: All Things Trail Running with Ethan Veneklasen and Deborah Livingston [Podcast]




UltraRunnerPodcast co-host, Ethan Veneklasen

UltraRunnerPodcast co-host, Ethan Veneklasen

Deb and Coach Al, at their Cedar Lake Trail Camp and Retreat this past weekend!

Deb and Coach Al, at their Cedar Lake Trail Camp and Retreat this past weekend!

Today I am excited to welcome Ethan Veneklasen and Debbie Livingston to the podcast. Without a doubt, this was one of my favorite podcasts to date!

I had the opportunity to connect with Ethan after this year's Miwok 100k. All three of us were there to race. Miwok is one of those old classic races in the ultra-running world. Held on May 2nd in the Marin Headlands outside of San Francisco, Debbie and Ethan ran a little bit of the course together that day.

Ethan is one of those great guys who seems to know everyone in the ultra-running world! Besides being a co-host of the ever popular ultra runner podcast (over 150k downloads per month!), he's also a Hoka One One and VFuel ambassador.

As for "Deb," anyone who listens to this podcast knows who she is.  Mom and wife, elite ultra-runner, coach, yoga teacher and steward of all things mother-nature and the environment, she was last on the podcast with me when we visited with James Varner and the Trail Running Film Festival back in February.

In June of last year, I did an interview with Debbie for the podcast. It's a fantastic chat where she shares some of her secrets to success, as well as discussing those things (like trail running, ultra-running, caring for the environment, her family) that are most important to her! She's one of the best!

In this podcast, we have a really informative and fun discussion on topics such as:

  • How far the unique sport of ultra-running has come in such a short period of time.
  • Why they feel trail running is special, unique, and so very different from road running.
  • Their "story" and some of the important things that have changed their lives and brought them to this point in time. Ethan has a unique one - you can read more about it here.
  • Miwok 100k: This was Ethan's 2nd try, after a DNF last year. Debbie ended up as 4th woman! What makes this race so amazing and special?!
  • Tips for those who want to get started in the sport. You CAN do it! 🙂
  • And much more!

I'd like both of them for joining me today. I sincerely hope you enjoy the chat and are inspired to get out there and hit the trails! All the best!

~Coach Al 

056: Visiting with Podiatrist Rebecca Rushton [Podcast]




Rebecca Rushton BSC, author of the Advanced Guide to Blister Prevention

Rebecca Rushton, BSc, author of the Advanced Guide to Blister Prevention

Today I am pleased to welcome podiatrist Rebecca Rushton of Esperance Podiatry in Esperance, Australia, to the podcast. Without a doubt, Rebecca is one of the world's foremost experts on blisters!

Now if you've never struggled with a blister, then the information she has to share might not seem all that important. I believe however, that at some point in the future, each and every runner or endurance athlete will experience a blister, and probably at the worst possible time. What we can all learn from Rebecca could make the difference between a painful struggle to the finish line, or busting a new PR with a smile.

Some of the things we discuss in this podcast:

  • What are the most pervasive myths surrounding blisters? There are plenty!
  • What's the difference between rubbing and shearing and why does it matter?
  • Are certain folks more prone to blisters?
  • What about shoe fit and lacing options?
  • Do lubricants like vaseline or powders work to reduce blister risk, or are you actually making things worse by using them? (Hint: I unfortunately discovered this during my last race, a 50 mile trail race in Florida a little over two weeks ago! Not good). 🙂
  • And much more!

Rebecca has created a terrific FREE online resource called The Advanced Guide to Blister Prevention. If you want one single resource that will be your go-to for all things blisters, this is definitely it.

For more resources from Rebecca on how to take the mystery out of blisters, go to her website.

I'd like to thank Rebecca for joining me today. I sincerely hope this short 25 minute podcast makes a difference for someone out there who, at some point in the future will be able to avoid a blister, rather than struggle with one. Happy Trails everyone!

~Coach Al 

Do Your Calves Ever Cramp When Swimming? Here’s Why!

1794548_678702325506808_505115595_nThere's nothing like a painful calf cramp to ruin an otherwise enjoyable swim, ya know? 🙁  They seem to happen at the worst times and very often, they'll happen in our most important races. Frustrating!

So what's going on? Why do so many triathletes struggle with this issue during swimming?

Ridding yourself of the cramping calves will often lead to exactly what you want when you swim, which is a nice compact kicking motion which is both streamlined and also relaxed.

Here's a question I received from one of our athletes, that might sound familiar?:

"Sometimes I get a cramp in one of my calves while swimming. It can happen in the beginning, middle, or near the end of a workout, and only occasionally - not every time I swim. It may happen just after pushing off the wall, or it may start in the middle of a lap. I don't feel like I'm kicking very hard when I'm swimming. It has never happened in a race, just while training in a pool. I figure I swallow enough pool water during my swims that hydration shouldn't be the issue. Any suggestions on how to prevent them?"

Calf cramps while swimming can be quite common actually, especially for triathletes in particular...and there's a very good reason why....and its got nothing to do with hydration or electrolytes....

The reasons usually come from two things:

1. Trying to point the toes during kicking, which is active "plantar flexion" and creates tension in the calves. DON'T do this!* DO NOT try to point the toes while you kick.

2. The other thing which is somewhat related, is that there is OFTEN simply too much TENSION in the lower legs, period. [Remember what a cramp is: its simply a "hyper"chronic contraction of a muscle. That is, activity within the muscle (tension) is heightened and rises to the point where the contraction hits overdrive - and then, bingo, cramp!]

Why all that tension? (this relates to why it happens to triathletes more than swimmers).

You're running, and with all of that running is more tension in the calves, simply because they're so active during running (and walking), etc.

What can add to the tension is the often colder temperatures you'll find in some competitive pools. With colder temps, tension rises. (which is why I love jacuzzis!) 

So, what to do?** Two things:

1. First, the most important thing: RELAX YOUR FEET AND LEGS.

The term I use to describe how to kick correctly (while reducing the risk of cramping in the process) is FLOPPY ANKLES. *

More: Really good "kickers" have very mobile,*floppy ankles. In fact, great backstrokers can lie on their backs on the floor and easily touch their toes to the floor as they point their ankle. Most triathletes can't come close to doing that. Limited ankle mobility means tension when kicking.

So what we must do as we are swimming down the lane: think and visualize FLOPPY ANKLES. That's right, just let the feet just flop at the ankle. Relax and release them completely.

As you relax your feet and JUST LET THEM FLOP, you'll reduce all of that tension in the calves that leads to cramping.

Now, of course, relaxing the feet and letting them flop, DOES NOT give you permission to also flop your knees or relax them.

In fact, what I've found works best is if you keep that knee straight and at the same time, flop the ankles, you'll get exactly what you're looking for, which is a nice compact kicking motion which is both streamlined and also relaxed.

When I say "straight knee," I am really saying to keep it straight - locked out. What will most likely happen is that your knees won't actually "lock," but they will bend less....which is a good thing.

From my experience videotaping dozens of triathletes: those with the worst kicks will bend their knees a LOT, and their ankles a little. That looks ugly on video.

Great kicking comes primarily from floppy ankles. Just check any backstroker (where kicking makes up a great majority of their propulsion).

2. Second, and really importantly: make sure you keep those calves stretched out and nice and long. They will tighten up from running and over time, shortness in that area raises risk of running injury, and also leads to increased risk of cramping.

To avoid cramping in the calves while swimming, keep the calves LONG, and relax those feet and think: FLOPPY ANKLES.

And lastly, do all of your swimming in the JACUZZI!

Happy Swimming!

~Coach Al

ps: got additional swimming questions or anything training related? Jump onto our FACEBOOK page and ask away!

055: Visiting with Troy Anderson of Anderson Training Systems [Podcast]




"Outlaw" Kettlebell coach, Troy Anderson

"Outlaw" Kettlebell coach, Troy Anderson

Today I am pleased to welcome Troy M. Anderson of Anderson Training Systems as a guest on our podcast.

Troy is an RKC Kettlebell Instructor, a DVRT Master Instructor, and most importantly perhaps, is a self described "farm kid driven to spread the good word of the ACCESSIBILITY of kettlebells, sandbags, bodyweight training, and UN-Apologetic Living."

Because I'm a believer in the value of the kettlebell as an awesome training tool to get stronger AND improve movement quality, and because I've had the opportunity to see some of the great work Troy is doing out in his training space in Tempe, Arizona and also online, I thought it would be beneficial to bring him onto the podcast and have him share some of his insights with all of you.

Among the topics we discuss:

  • Strength Training: A plethora of strength related info, such as his philosophy, his favorite training tools and toys, and some of the valuable and hard earned lessons he's learned along the way.
  • Getting leaner: What works and what doesn't to really drop unwanted body fat.
  • Why he looks at training with the kettlebell a bit differently than most trainers (and the benefits which can be gained by taking a different approach).
  • What you can learn from his experience as someone who lifted very heavy weights at one time (the day he lifted the most weight ever, was also the last day he tried to).
  • His passion for making the "bell" and other tools like the sandbag, "accessible" for every person, regardless of age, size, or talent!

If you'd like to read more:

I'd like to convey my sincerest thanks to Troy for joining me today.  Even though most of you reading this are endurance athletes who sometimes can find yourself shying away from big strong dudes like Troy, I know you will learn a great deal, so tune in and enjoy! Happy Trails everyone!

~Coach Al 

054: Presenting The Trail Running Film Festival [Podcast]



Click on the image to see all of the upcoming dates for the Spring 2015 East Coast tour!

Click on the image to see all of the upcoming dates for the Spring 2015 East Coast tour!

In today's Episode 54, we are psyched to welcome race director and trail running junkie, James Varner of Rainshadow Running and The Trail Running Film Festival. Also joining us is our own ultra runner extraordinaire and coach, Debbie Livingston.

The Trail Running Film Festival is coming to the east coast this spring, highlighted by a local showing on Wednesday, March 4th, in Hartford, Conn.  (For tickets to this show and others, as well as more information, go here).

In our conversation with James, we talk about...

  • How the Trail Running Film Festival got started and how the events are structured. (Can you say lots of community, food, fun, and a little beer too? Woo!)
  • Rainshadow Races: Where and what they're all about. As their motto says, "why run anywhere else?"
  • A little bit of history of trail films, and why James and Rainshadow (as well as those of us at Pursuit) are so passionate about sharing these films and bringing them to the world for all to enjoy.
  • Which specific films are featured in the Trail Running Film Festival, as well as additional dates and locations.
  • Practical tips and tricks for those of you who might be new to trail running or would like to learn more and enjoy it more!
  • Our upcoming Pursuit Athletic Performance Cedar Lake Trail Running Camp and Retreat, from Friday, May 29 to Sunday, May 31, 2015.  (Come join us!)

**James ALSO did a podcast with the Ultrarunnerpodcast back in 2014 where he talks about the film festival and other cool topics. To listen to that interview, go here.

**To check out the Trail Running Film Festival on Facebook, go here.

TrailFilmFest2And finally, to learn more about all of the great events in the Pacific Northwest put on by Rainshadow Running, go here.

Safe and happy trails everyone!

~Coach Al 

Triathletes: Swim Technique – The Two MOST Common Mistakes…

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

- Albert Einstein

Coach Al along with elite swim coach and Masters World Champion, Karlyn Pipes

Coach Al along with elite swim coach and Masters World Champion, Karlyn Pipes

Hi Everyone! Coach Al here. I've got a quickie for you today, talking swim technique and common mistakes I see in developing triathletes.

As many of you know, for novices (and even for those who have experience) the swim portion of a triathlon is often THE segment of the race that creates the most amount of anxiety and nervousness. As a result, many triathletes spend countless hours doing drills up and down the pool to improve their technique, hoping that the changes they learn and practice WILL make the swim portion of the race easier come race day.

The problem becomes, what if you're not working on the right skills or worse, grooving less-than-optimal form, in your attempts to improve?

In my experience, there are two mistakes that I see over and over again, that are arguably the most common mistakes. Today I shot a quick video so you can see for yourself.

Ironically, the 2nd mistake I point out is very likely one of the reasons why the 1st mistake is often happening and therefore difficult to correct.

To summarize, if you roll excessively to the side, not much else matters! Why? Because there really is no way you can get into a good catch from an "all-of-the-way-onto-your-side" position, without first returning or rolling back to a more prone position.  And, rather than feeling fast or stable, you may actually feel the exact opposite.

Want to learn more? Check out this great video from Vasa (and elite swim coach Karlyn Pipes) on Better Freestyle Body Rotation. 

And here's another: In this video, Karlyn discusses fingertip orientation. Check it out.

Go other questions? Hit me up on our Pursuit Athletic Performance Facebook page!

Happy Swimming!

~Coach Al

ps: if you'd like to learn more about Karlyn and the services she offers designed to help you improve, go to her website here!

pss: we are HUGE fans of the Vasa Ergometer here at Pursuit Athletic Performance. Very few swim training tools offer a larger bang-for-your-buck than the Vasa. Check them out if you want to take your swim to the next level.