Archive for Dr. Kurt Strecker

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

Pursuit Athletic Performance Announces Grand Opening and Open House

The grand opening and open house will celebrate our relocation and expansion to the new Pursuit Training Center on the top of Inspiration Lane!


On the heels of our recently held “Team Pursuit” open house (see all of the pictures below from that awesome event!), all of us at Pursuit Athletic Performance are excited to announce our upcoming open house and grand opening of the Pursuit Training Center on Wednesday, November 12 from 6pm to 8pm.

All are invited to meet the staff and tour our 7,000 square-foot state-of-the-art facility located at 8 Inspiration Lane in Chester, Conn. As many of you know, we were previously located in a smaller space in Old Saybrook, Conn.

We are very excited about our expansion which allows us the opportunity to bring kids’ injury prevention boot-camp classes, adult fitness classes, yoga, strength and conditioning, and our unique advanced gait analysis process, to the entire Middlesex county region.

Join us and check out some of our unique equipment designed to help you get stronger and faster, including the awesome TrueForm Runner non-motorized treadmills, Vasa Swim Ergometers, and our own special Computrainer studio, appropriately nicknamed the “pain cave.”

If you are unable to join us for this open house on November 12th, feel free to stop in any time and tour the space. We hope to see you soon!

Happy Training!

-Coach and Doc

 

 

 

 

 

 

Four TIPS For The Aging Endurance Athlete (Hint: Yes, You Can Still Keep Playing!)

Coach Al (showing his back-side) at a Pisgah Mountain 50k aid station. Keeping it young!

Coach Al (showing his back-side) at a Pisgah Mountain 50k trail race aid station. Keeping it young!

Some of the readers of this blog know I raced this past weekend at the Pisgah Mountain 50k trail race up in New Hampshire (I finished 2nd  in my age-group and 26th overall), and will again be racing THIS coming weekend, tackling the very challenging Vermont 50 mountain bike race.  These events are just a small sample of what I’ve got planned for myself over the next few months and into 2015!

Today, more than ever, athletes are performing at a high level well into their 50s, 60s, and beyond! How are they doing it?  How do I (a nearly 55 year-old endurance athlete/coach with 35+ years of training and racing in the legs) maintain the ability to keep “playing” even as I’m aging well into my 50s?

To help YOU maintain the ability to keep playing, here are FOUR tips for the aging athlete. These could be YOUR secrets to success! (I’ve learned much of this through trial and error – take advantage of my mistakes and get started now).

  1. Maintain Your Mobility and Flexibility: The single thing we lose most as we age is the ability for our joints to move FREELY. Freedom of movement is what we associate with being young, isn’t it? Flexibility is related and is also something we lose as we age. Mobility and flexibility suffer as the miles pile up, too, so if you’ve been running or training for a few years, its likely you’ve lost some of that freedom of movement.

When you lose mobility:

  • Your body loses its ability to absorb pounding and attenuate forces that work on it while you’re moving, such as gravity and ground reaction.
  • Your stride shortens and you feel every “bump” in the road that much more.
  • You enjoy your training less because it becomes more of a struggle to do simple things such as bend over or step up.
  • Your risk of injury sky rockets!

To avoid these, first seek to find out where you’re tight or imbalanced, and then get started on a specific targeted program to address these restrictions.  This is absolutely your #1 priority as you get older.

A Helpful Video: One common area of unwanted tightness as we age is in our hamstrings.  Hamstring tightness can develop for a number of different reasons (including dysfunction of the glute region or extreme tightness of the hip flexor region). However, very often it develops simply from the overall loss of flexiblity as we age (or from too much sitting in a chair!).

Try this effective and safe movement (stretch) for the hamstrings demonstrated by our own Doc Strecker.

 

(To learn more about WHY mobility is so vital to your success, listen to Doc Strecker and I discuss the importance of this element of human movement!)

  1. Get Stronger: Like mobility, strength (as well as the pre-requisite to developing true functional strength, which is basic core stability) often decline as we age and the miles pile up. Along with staying mobile, the key to maintaining YOUR ability to play comes down to getting stronger!

Many athletes aren’t familiar with the difference between strength and stability. Its important for sure, and something you will want to KNOW as you age. To learn more, check out this blog post we did on the topic.

So what is the best way to get stronger?

There are as many programs and exercises as there are stars in the sky, or so it would seem. I like to keep things simple at first, by going straight at bodyweight exercises. After all, what is better than a pull up or push up to develop trunk strength? Not too much!

(If you’re unable to do a single pull up, start by doing “hangs” and then doing “negatives” as part of your progression!)

Whether it’s a kettlebell, floor based exercises, suspension training, or simply lifting and moving rocks or flipping tires, the best path to optimal strength development and good health is to start with simpler, more foundational movements and progress to more complex as you improve and gain strength.

One last thing: don’t get INJURED trying to get stronger. That happens all too often. Start at a smart level, and progress intelligently.

  1. Get Massage: With increasing age (and more miles along with chronic injuries) come the development of micro trauma in the muscle, which leads to the development of scar tissue and a loss of elasticity. Scar tissue, which forms in response to that micro trauma and tearing of the muscle fiber, reduces elasticity and leads to weaker and shorter, more injury prone muscle.

One key to overcoming the long term negative impact of scar tissue development (and keeping muscle healthy and young), is massage, from a qualified competent massage therapist of course.

Yes, your foam roller used routinely, can help.  But your foam roller can’t do the same things the sensitive and educated human hands of a qualified professional can, digging deeply into the muscle to strip it down and help the tissue remodel. Massage can literally be THE secret for the aging athlete whose goal it is to maintain healthy tissue.

(One additional tip about massage: In my experience, if you have been battling injury or know you have a significant amount of scar tissue or have lost flexibility, getting massage only occasionally won’t do the trick.  You need to commit to successive sessions where the same therapist can work progressively to restore tissue health. With repeated sessions, the therapist will learn more about your body and be able to address YOUR specific issues more effectively).

  1. Get Off Road: When it comes to staying young and fighting father time as a runner or cyclist, nothing beats getting off road! Trails offer variable terrain that challenges the mobility, flexibility and strength you’re working to retain, while also minimizing the repetitive stress that comes from road running and riding.
  • Mountain biking and trail running (and hiking) require very specific skills which keep you young!
    • Glute and hip strength, balance, handling, and leg strength all improve when you ride off road.
    • Agility and balance, elasticity, and leg and hip strength all improve when you run off road.
    • And since every footstrike is different and the surfaces are softer than asphalt, your risk of repetitive injury goes way down!
  • Best of all, you get to PLAY in the woods and keep it fun! Trail running and riding is just plain fun!

Even if you’re not quite as old as I am, you will be sooner than you realize! You’d be smart to start NOW to begin following the recommendations I’ve shared today. The same things that keep you young will also help the younger athlete stay healthier, perform better, and go faster.

 

~Coach Al 

ps: Do you have questions, comments or feedback about these four tips to help you stay younger? Or your own tips to add? Leave your thoughts below or on our FACEBOOK page. 

Come on out to our NEW facility in Chester to check out our new Trueform runners - the BEST treadmill on the planet because YOU have to do the work!

Come to our NEW facility in Chester to check out our Trueform Runners – the BEST treadmill (non-motorized) on the planet for staying younger as a runner, because YOU have to do the work!

053: New Segment: Meet The Team! With Colleen Kelly Alexander and Sean Alexander [Podcast]

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Sean-ColleenIn today’s Episode 53, we are launching a brand NEW segment (recommended to us by many listeners) in which we will interview and feature different members of Team Pursuit Athletic Performance. We’ll call this segment: Meet The Team!    

We’re honored today to have Colleen Kelly Alexander and her husband, Sean Alexander, as podcast guests.

Many of you reading this are familiar with Colleen’s story.  In today’s podcast visit with “Team Alexander,” you’ll meet them in person and learn about:

  • The events of October 8, 2011: What happened to Colleen and how the world changed forever that day.
  • The various first-responders, medical and fire personnel, and so many other “heros” who were vital to Colleen’s survival and recovery….and the hero that she ended up discovering inside of herself.
  • The critical role Sean played in her recovery.
  • The role that Pursuit Athletic Performance has played in their athletic growth and development.
  • Their individual and collective purpose, passion, and focus, as they move forward with an incredible attitude of gratitude.

If you’d like to learn even more about Colleen’s story of SURVIVAL or would like to have Colleen come and speak to your group, you can contact her directly right through her website here.

We’re very honored to have them both as members of our triathlon team, AND also as personal trainers here at Pursuit Athletic Performance.

And we’re pleased to bring them both to you on the podcast. Enjoy!

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Colleen with Coach Al!

~Dr. Strecker, and Coach Al 

052: After Your “A” Race: Euphoria, Letdown, or Somewhere In Between? With Functional Wellbeing Coach, Olivia Syptak [Podcast]

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Pursuit Athletic Performance Functional Wellbeing Coach, Olivia Syptak

Pursuit Athletic Performance Functional Wellbeing Coach, Olivia Syptak

 

If you are like so many endurance athletes everywhere who enjoy toeing the line at a race (be it sprint or iron distance triathlon, running, cycling, or Spartan), it’s quite likely that you have either just completed your “A” priority race for the year or are about to in the next few weeks.

In today’s podcast with Functional Wellbeing Coach Olivia Syptak as our guest, we talk about the vast range of emotion we often face after that “big” A race or event.  We also discuss specific strategies you can employ RIGHT NOW that will help you maintain forward momentum and build on your experience moving forward.

That post-race emotion can range from the immediate euphoria of the finish to the emptiness that can set in in the days that follow, to the depression that can arise in the face of a “DNF” or a result that didn’t align with our target.

Regardless of whether that race was a huge success or a disapointment, the post-race period of time offers the opportunity to spend time with the concepts of awareness (of what we’re feeling at any given time), acceptance and acknowledgment (of those feelings), and recognition (that whatever feelings or thoughts are there, elated or downtrodden, they are all temporary).  At the same time, we will benefit by maintaining and even building and reinforcing a positive and optimistic view that will help us continue to learn and improve.

Thanks for joining us on today’s podcast.  Safe training and happy trails!

~Olivia, Dr. Strecker, and 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

041: The ONE Thing! [Podcast]

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Doc Strecker racing at Rev3 Quassy Olympic Distance and having fun!

Doc Strecker racing at Rev3 Quassy Olympic Distance and having fun!

Hi Everyone! Coach Al here. In today’s podcast, Doc and I delve into a topic we feel is SO important for long term success and fulfillment.  It is simply this: what is that ONE thing, that more than anything else, if you experienced a breakthrough in that area, would have the GREATEST impact on your success and happiness?

We are all an experiment of one: For each of us, the answer to that question will be very different, and that’s the point. We all have a unique “one thing.”

Are you getting the sleep you need? Are you able to be mindful and fully present in your daily activities and training? Do you have an eating habit that is holding you back? What about strength, mobility, flexibility, or a specific sport focus?

Are you HAVING FUN in your training and racing (as Doc clearly does!) and finding the right balance?

Identifying OUR own unique one thing, is often the easy part. What’s much harder is actually TAKING ACTION consistently, to truly make addressing that one thing, a priority. And that’s what we’re really talking about here…

Simplifying, and prioritizing as a means to achieving more, going faster, feeling better, and utlimately being happier.

Sounds “simple,” right? :)

Please listen in as we discuss this fun and important topic!  And have a great weekend too!

~Coach Al 

040: Listener Questions: Downhill Running and Nutrition [Podcast]

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Flatten the course!

Flatten the course!

In today’s podcast, we once again respond to some listener questions. We really appreciate it when you contact us and ask great questions – keep them coming!

Going down: The topic of downhill running, both from a technique perspective and also from a pacing perspective, is often glossed over in favor of the opposite, which is running up. A listener sent in a link to an article titled “Efficient Running Up and Downhill in Triathlon,”  (triathlon.competitor.com and the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport), which discussed some research conducted at the University of Connecticut on competitors at this past October’s Ironman World Championship. Specifically, the researchers looked at how “various types of pacing can effect overall performance.”

The author states, “researchers took a random sampling of Hawaii-qualifying athletes and measured their predicted personal pre-race goal time against their finishing time on race day. Using Timex Ironman Global Trainers and TrainingPeaks software, they analyzed nine segments of the bike course and 11 segments of the run course.  Their goal was to determine whether any of the segments predicted performance, and they were surprised at the results—the downhill portions (on both the bike and run) proved to be most influential on overall time. They found that athletes who maintained faster relative speeds on the downhill sections of the course, and who had smaller changes in heart rate between consecutive up and downhills, were more successful relative to their goal times.” 

How you pace your downhills and uphills in a race is critical, and the research, both anecdoatal and scientific, and practical experience, support this.  In today’s ‘cast, we’ve got lots more to share on this topic!  Its a good one.

Also, a listener wrote in with some questions regarding his nutrition planning as he prepares for the Alcatraz Triathlon next weekend. We believe his questions are common and important, so you’ll want to listen in to hear what they are and our responses.

Please tune in and join us for today’s talk, where we discuss these topics and a few more as well.

Have a great Memorial Day weekend everyone!  Thank you to ALL of the men and women in uniform who, through their selfless service, make enjoying our sports possible.

Happy Trails!

~Coach Al and Doc Strecker 

039: More Listener Questions! [Podcast]

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Did someone say running shoes?

Did someone say running shoes?

In today’s podcast, we respond to some listener questions on running shoes. This is always a popular topic for discussion regardless of the circle of athletes you’re in. We sure do LOVE OUR SHOES, don’t we? :)

We get a regular stream of questions on shoes, including the merits of certain brands of shoes, when they should be replaced, and whether it’s a good idea to rotate them. And without a doubt, it seems that from one month to the next, there’s always a “hot” shoe amongst certain groups of athletes.

We’ve talked shoes in previous episodes of the podcast. For those of you who haven’t listened, in this episode we told you how to pick the best shoe for YOU.

In this blog post from March of last year, we offered some tips on which ones you should buy.

And in what has been one of the most frequently listened to podcasts we’ve done to date, in this episode we discuss the merits of minimalist/barefoot running and hash out our differences and similarities with our guest, well known coach/athlete Ben Greenfield.

Join us for today’s talk, where we get into the Altras, Hokas, the weather :), whether to rotate (the shoes), what’s the key to knowing WHAT IS the right shoe for you, and much more!

Join us!

Happy Trails!

~Coach Al and Doc Strecker 

 

 

 

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

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Elite open water swimmer and coach, Gary Emich

Elite open water swimmer and coach, Gary Emich

Today we’re stoked to have Alcatraz swimming legend and triathlon coach, Gary Emich, on our podcast. Gary is most well known for having completed over 1000 Alcatraz swims (without a wetsuit!) and for a host of other impressive open water swimming accomplishments. 

Gary is a Certified Level 1 USA Triathlon Coach specializing in open water swimming and a Certified Level 2 ASCA Coach.  He is co-host and co-producer of the DVD “Lane Lines to Shore Lines:  Your Complete Guide to Open Water Swimming” and co-author of “Open Water Swimming:  Lessons from Alcatraz.”  And, from 1998 through 2009 he was the race director for the “Alcatraz Challenge Aquathlon & Swim.” His open water swimming CV includes the Amazon River replete with piranhas; Peru’s Lake Titicaca; Scotland’s legendary Loch Ness; the Hellespont (a swim from Europe to Asia); and the 20km Rottnest swim at the age of 58.  Relay crossings include the English Channel (2000 and 2011), Catalina, Santa Barbara, Monterey Bay, the Bay of Naples (Italy) and the Strait of Gibraltar as well as relay circumnavigations of Manhattan, Key West and Pennock Island in Ketchikan Alaska.

 

On today’s podcast, Gary and I chat about all things open water swimming related including…

  • Navigation and sighting: What’s the impact of poor sighting? Tips and drills on how to improve this critical skill
  • Wind, waves and current and how to deal most effectively with these challenges
  • How training in the pool can cheat you
  • Safety considerations for swimming in the open water
  • Race starts and finishes
  • Goggles: what are the most important considerations for open water swimming?
  • Triangulation: what is it, and how can it help you in the open water?
  • Are you a bilateral breather?  Is it a worthwhile skill to develop?
  • And much more!

Thanks for joining us! Make your next open water swim a great one!

~Coach Al

ps: Here’s a neat funny which I know you’ll enjoy!

Fraz