Archive for functional strength

Which Is It: Strength Or Endurance?


I received this email question the other day from a reader of the blog:

"I keep having this argument with a friend of mine who is an ultra-runner and believes endurance is a lot more important than strength. Our goals are the same, to live an active life and also do some racing. I strength train 3 times a week, he runs 6 times a week and does a little bit of circuit-type weights once a week. We each think the other one is doing it wrong. What do you think, Coach?"

Can you relate at all? Without a doubt, different types of athletes love to debate this question. To get to the answer, let's start by defining these two abilities and then let's consider some questions.

Strength is the ability to produce force and to overcome. Endurance is the ability to resist fatigue, persist, and endure stress for a long period of time.

So, quiz time...Who do YOU think will be more successful in these instances, the athlete who trains primarily for strength or the athlete who trains primarily for endurance?

  • Which triathlete will finish the swim leg of a triathlon with greater ease, and therefore have a better chance for a faster race finish?
  • Which cyclist will have an easier time climbing that really steep hill?
  • Which trail runner or mountain biker will more easily and confidently navigate those gnarly obstacles on the trail or that steep downhill?
  • Which runner or triathlete will be the most successful approaching the very last stage of their race?

The answer is simple: endurance is only possible to the extent that one is stronger than the task at hand, be it the chaotic conditions in the open water or the steep hill you’re trying to climb on your bike, or the gnarly uphill or downhill you're approaching on the trail.

Think of it this way: Carrying 150 pounds up a hill will be an easy act of endurance for the person who has the strength to carry 300 pounds, but an impossible task for a person who can only carry 75 pounds.

It's also 100% certain that the person who has the strength to lift 300 pounds at least once will have no trouble lifting 100 pounds many times over. On the flip side, there’s no guarantee that a person who can lift 100 pounds many times over will be able to lift 300 pounds even once.

  • The stronger we are, the easier everything else becomes; weakness inhibits everything we do and makes everything harder.
  • Resisting fatigue isn't simply about enduring, it is also about your body's ability to handle and absorb shock from impact and contact, as well as repetitive motion.
  • We lose strength as a "natural" and unfortunate by-product of aging, which in turn leads to less endurance and stamina.
  • Strength is a skill. Better skills improve efficiency, which in turn improves endurance.
  • When we increase our strength, in the process we've increased all of our capacities.

Strength is the foundation upon which everything else is built. Increasing strength also increases endurance, but not the other way aroundStrength prevails.

So how'd you do on the quiz? Do these thoughts and concepts apply to your sport?

Please let me know what you think. Happy trails!

~Coach Al

PS: There are many ways to get stronger and not all of them are sustainable or productive long term. I've got a plethora of future articles and smart offerings planned to help YOU get and stay strong, with the ultimate goal of keeping you healthy and improving your performance. Stay tuned!

You Need To Strengthen Your Glute Medius!


...Or DO you?

So listen, has a sports medicine professional, personal trainer or coach ever told you that your glute medius (or minimus) is weak, or that you need to strengthen it? Or, that this muscle "weakness" is the real reason you're injured?

If you've heard either of the above, my sincerest advice to you is stop what you're doing and get away from that person as fast as you can.

You might think that's a fairly harsh recommendation, but in my opinion, they are dead wrong.

Amazingly, when various "experts" should know better, I continue to see frequent references to this myth of glute medius "weakness" in a host of different places, online and off. I continue to hear supposed "experts" discuss the importance of that muscle.

In the video below, my partner Dr. Kurt Strecker tells it even straighter, calling the advice to strengthen the glute medius, "complete crap."  

My hope is that today's straight talk has spiked your curiosity to learn more. If it has, take a few minutes to watch, look, and listen.

Yes, it is 3 1/2 minutes long which I know might be too long according to today's typically short attention spans...but trust me, you won't be sorry you took the time to WATCH IT.  It is time to set the record straight.

Happy trails!

~Coach Al


It ISN’T About The Plan.


Recently, at a race where I was volunteering, I was chatting with a fellow runner. A week earlier he had finished his second 100-mile ultra.  He was feeling very good about having finished, and why not? Much like finishing an Ironman, getting to the FINISH line at a race of that magnitude is awesome and always worth celebrating! Despite his glow at having finished, I sensed there was something else bugging him...

As we talked, I began to understand why he was frowning. He acknowledged that yes, he really struggled during the race - his finish time was far slower than he was capable of. The primary reason, he felt, was an injury that had plagued him for most of the winter and spring, which prevented him from training as he had hoped or wanted.

His mood seemed to lift as he excitedly told me that in order to rectify things, he had already begun work on developing what he felt would be his perfect training week.  With a childlike grin, he described this "new" training routine as having the ideal blend of hill work, speed work, and long runs.

I chuckled to myself as I listened because I wasn't surprised. This was the same old blah-blah BS from a recently injured runner who, while well intentioned, was on the completely wrong path.

I said something to myself I often say in these situations: he simply doesn't know what he doesn't know.  

Now don't get me wrong. This is a smart guy who has been running for only a few years, and it is clear he has talent. Unfortunately, he's unknowingly missing THE most important elements which will help him truly reach his potential.  And he's not looking in the right places to get the answers he needs either. Training plans don't cause injury, nor do they lead directly to success. Both injury and success are essentially up to us.

What he doesn't know that I DO...and what I want to share with you today, is the secret to reaching your potential has very little to do with "the plan."  In fact, it has everything to do with the "little things" that most athletes don't pay much attention to.   

Honestly, of the dozens of things I speak about daily with the athletes I coach, depending upon their experience and where they are on their training journey, only a small percentage have to do with "the plan."

So, what are those "little things" that this runner might want to consider beyond obvious (to me) things like patience, recovery, daily nutrition, mindfulness, focus, and life balance/stress, to name a few?

Perhaps the most important is movement quality.

What do I mean?

Why not start by learning what the root-cause of the injury was. Only then can you get rid of it once and for all.   

Many athletes and sports medicine professionals alike mistakenly believe that rest cures all. That's just wrong. Just because you rest, the root-cause doesn't magically disappear.

Many struggle chronically with the same recurring injury, often from one year to the next, because they never learn the root-cause! That's just dumb.

It was clear this runner had no clue as to the root-cause of his injury. Here's some of what he should have considered:

  • Has he lacked muscle balance, appropriate mobility/flexibility, or core stability?
  • Had prior injuries set his body on a path of increasing compensation which ultimately led to this injury?
  • What about his foot mechanics - is he wearing the most appropriate running shoe for his unique needs?
  • Did he simply need to be functionally stronger in order to handle the training load?

My advice to him, had he asked me (he didn't), would have been to start by resisting the urge to only treat the symptoms. Instead, get smarter and learn what the cause actually is.

So here's the deal folks: Yes, a well-conceived, progressive, personalized training plan is an important part of an overall training program, but it is not the most important part.

When some of the important elements mentioned above, including arguably THE most important (movement quality) are in place and are monitored carefully and regularly, THEN and only then, is it time to worry about "the plan." But not before.

Live and learn.

Happy Trails!

~Coach Al

Why Do So Many Runners Get Injured?


Hey Everyone! Coach Al here. So, are you ready for an awful and shocking truth? 70% of all runners will be injured this year. 7 out of 10. That's nearly three fourths of all runners, including triathletes. 3/4ths! And for many of those folks, the injury they experience will be devastating and frustrating beyond words. The statistics are crazy and shocking, and also sad. It honestly doesn't have to be that way.

WHY do so many runners get injured? There are many reasons, but let's start with the simple fact that running is just plain HARD on your body. For example, have you ever stopped to think that when you run ONE mile, you do the equivalent of approximately 1500 one-leg-squat jumps? That's just ONE mile. Working against the forces of gravity and ground reaction, your body had better be resilient, strong and mobile enough to hold up as the miles add up. And most bodies aren't. Especially those just starting out hoping to use running to lose weight or get fit.

Through no fault of your own, triathletes and runners have not been told the full story of what it takes to stay healthy and become faster too. The marketing machine surrounding shoe sales and races (get your latest cool colors or latch onto the latest fad: minimalist anyone?) diverts the average runner's attention. Add that together with uninformed trainers and coaches who don't know any better, and what you have is what you have.

So what's the real story? And most importantly, what can YOU do about it?

In a nutshell, movement quality is the story, that's what.  (Keep reading, trust me, you need to know this!)

How your body moves and functions is the alpha and the omega of your ultimate athletic potential. Movement quality is the difference between an athlete who rocks it year after year, able to perform at peak potential vs. an athlete stuck in plateaus of sub-par performance or, worse, deals with vicious cycles of injury.

As gait analysis experts, we can use our knowledge of this incredibly powerful tool to provide a clear way to explain what you need to know, what you need to examine, and why you need to fix your imbalances.

Most people think gait analysis is:

a) only about how you walk or run

b) only about your feet and your shoes

c) something you get done in a running shoe store

Many think gait analysis is all about--and ONLY about--someone looking at you as you walk or run while evaluating your feet and your shoes.


A sample BEFORE / AFTER video analysis taken in our Pursuit Athletic Performance "Fast" Lab

How many of you have done the following? A clerk in your local running store watches you jog, and suggests a pair of shoes that are more stable, or more neutral, or more cushioned, or are the type that "forces" you to land midfoot. Voila! Your biomechanical problems are solved. This is what most people know--and have come to accept--as gait analysis.

We are here to tell you that a shoe store gait analysis is about as far from the real deal as you can get. In fact, true gait analysis is not a generic exercise, but is a scientifically-based and technically precise process. It is highly individualized, and reveals much about how you will hold up to training and, ultimately, perform.

When conducting a gait analysis, the feet are only one small piece of your biomechanical puzzle.

What happens at the feet is merely a part of a holistic, whole body, integrated MOVEMENT pattern. Running, like most other whole body activities (such as swimming or playing many field sports), is essentially a unique way of moving. When we analyze a client statically, dynamically, and then running on the treadmill during a gait analysis, it serves to provide a unique, personal movement "map." That "map" reveals the programming of everything happening within the body--from kinesthetic awareness and habit, to individual levels of mobility, stability, flexibility, and functional strength. The analysis of all of these different elements taken together is what creates a complete picture of a person's gait.

In essence, what we do isn't "gait" analysis at all, it is true "movement" analysis. Gait analysis uncovers precisely how YOUR body is moving.

Every activity, even standing still, represents a unique movement pattern. That pattern is bred from your habits and lifestyle, as well as your body's mobility, stability, flexibility and strength. Every action you take--running stride, pedal stroke, swim stroke, etc.--represents a unique movement pattern. If your movement patterns include compensations (and they likely do), we can pinpoint the areas in the body where these losses of efficiency, or compensation, originate.

Where athletes get into trouble is when major compensation, which often leads to true dysfunction, continues for extended periods of time.

What typically happens is this....

Compensations in the body lead to imbalances and instability around joints. The larger prime movers (hamstrings, glutes, quads, etc.) are often forced to help create stability or on the flip side, become less active, and end up contributing less than their fair share of the work in moving us around.

The smaller/tiny stabilizers are forced to step in (compensate) and do the work of the larger, more powerful prime movers. The stabilizers are taxed day in and day out, mile after mile. Over time they end up, in a word, fried. Shredded. The wear and tear on the stabilizers greatly compromises recovery and your ability to train consistently.

In short, this scenario is an injury waiting to happen. We see it over and over again.

Discovering the inefficiencies and compensation unique to YOU is the power of what true gait analysis can reveal. Once uncovered, you can then begin to address inefficient and costly "energy leaks" that rob you of power and free speed (*the speed you get without having to pay a "price" to get it!).

We can't say it enough--improper, unbalanced movement limits your ultimate potential and puts you at an exponentially-increased risk of injury.

In short, gait analysis is about YOU, and your personal and very unique way of moving. Unless the underlying causes of your dysfunctional movement patterns are addressed, your patterns won't change, and, thus, the risk of injury won't improve. Gait analysis is about looking at your entire body as a holistic organism--a single amazing unit.

It goes far beyond an untrained eye watching you jog in a pair of sneakers.

So what to do?

First, to learn more about what you can do NOW to avoid or recover from injury, check out our series on how to SOLVE the three most common running injuries NOW! 

Want to learn more about our state-of-the-art Virtual Gait Analysis , to see if it might be right for you? Click here. You won't be disappointed, that's for sure.

If you have any questions at all on the above, hit us up on Facebook or drop us an email at:

All the best!

~Coach Al


Stuck In Injury? Now Is The Time To Do Something About It!

Woman and men running during sunset

It is now mid-February. Whether or not it feels like it (can you say 70+ inches of snow and counting, if you live in the northeast!), spring is right around the corner, and with it, the events you have planned that you are also HOPING will make you feel good about yourself AND about the year 2015, when looking back on it.

The problem for many, especially those who have had success in the past, is allowing their EGO (along with some wishing and hoping) to get in the way of forward progress.

Why do we allow our own "confirmation bias" or our need to always be "right" to drag us down and keep us stuck in a place of injury, plateau, or worse?

If you can't get out of your own way long enough to leave behind the wishful thinking and see things (even for a brief moment) for how they REALLY are, then you know what? You will reap exactly what you sow. You will remain stuck in a place where injury or poor performance becomes your new normal.

If I've learned anything over the years, it is how important it remains to embrace humility. I have also learned that I NEED to get out of my own way and reach out to others with a beginner's mindset, so that I may move fully forward and reach my greatest personal potential! Not always easy, incredibly important and powerful.

Why not join me and a long list of others and finally put the injury and plateau bug behind you!

Check out our NEW INJURY PREVENTION series and get started now addressing those issues, so 2015 turns out the way you hope it will!

All my best,

~Coach Al

Are Running Drills A Waste of Time?

Keep Calm and Get Your Learn OnHi Everyone. Coach Al here. I often get questions from our team members and others about which running drills are best for improving form as well as "fixing" running gait issues. Today I decided to share one of those questions and my response to it.

Now I'm sure the title of this blog post caught your eye, right? On the topic of running drills, are they really a waste of time?  Keep reading to learn more. Here's the question I received:

"I saw my functional movement guru recently; he was really impressed with all my hard work and how well I've progressed since he saw me last. Gave a thumbs up to all the exercises and the return to running program as well, and made one small suggestion that made a lot of sense to me, so I wanted to run it by you guys. He asked if I was doing any running drills...and I replied, no, not really. He related it to my swimming- how I've taken such a big chunk of my swim time to retrain my movement patterns with my swim, and since I am returning to running, yes I am strengthening weaknesses, but he felt quite strongly I should be incorporating more drills to unlearn poor movement patterns. Retrain my brain so to speak. And this made total sense to me- I know I have been doing exercises that strengthen the muscles I should be using when I run, but the brain also plays a large part in how we move too, and I thought the drills suggestion was awesome. BUT- I have no run coach, and not sure where to go from here. Can you help?"

These are really good questions and I'm sure, many of you have heard this kind of recommendation before. So here's my response....

First, you ARE already doing "drills" with the exercises you are practicing and progressing (such as the basic glute-bridge and others), you just may not be "thinking" of those movements as running drills.

Most people don't think of a basic bridge (and the variations including one-leg versions) as a running drill. But it is. It's a hip extension pattern that mimics what happens when you run. Done correctly and progressively, the movement strengthens the body to run stronger, better, and faster. Isn't that what a drill is supposed to do?

My point in presenting the bridge as a "running drill" is this: Traditional running drills are highly dynamic. Bounding or A-Skip/B-Skip - these are movements that are very challenging to do well. If the foundation (and the basic skills designed to build that foundation) aren't solid and well established, especially combined with a lack of the required strength to absorb the loads inherent in running (resulting in loads equaling 3 to 4x our body weight from the affect of gravity and ground reaction, and up to 1500 or so foot strikes in every mile), then no amount of even more complex or "traditional" drill work is going to FIX the lack of a strong foundation or the lack of those basic foundational skills.

Start at the beginning, and master that beginning before moving on to something more complex. After all, if you were a math student, wouldn't you expect to learn basic math and algebra efore moving on to calculus?

Two Popular "Schools of Running": What's The Deal?

Some run coaches and other supposed "experts" (including those runners who consider themselves to be the experts) often suggest to others, who may not have learned how to extend their hips with their butts correctly (as with the basic bridge), or learned how to stabilize their core, or even perform a perfect 1-leg squat for that matter, to do complex drills like A-Skip, or B-Skip, or some other "typical" running drill.

Chi Running and The Pose Method represent two "schools" of running form that also offer lots of drills, designed to "teach" the body how to run efficiently and effectively.

Are the drills sometimes fun to do and learn?* Yes. Do they "teach" you how to run well? By well, I mean, with appropriate stability, balance, coordination, applying powerful forces into the ground efficiently and effectively.

The answer is a resounding NO.

The reason is simple: the drills, just like running, are made up of very complex movement patterns involving LOTS of moving parts and our entire nervous system.

Something we frequently discuss with athletes here in our Pursuit Athletic Performance Fast Lab  relates to this very point, which is conscious control of running. What do I mean?

Let's start with a question that is worth considering honestly: Can you consciously control what your entire body is doing when you are running? Other than basic posture, arm carriage (which would change as soon as you stopped thinking about it), stride rate to some degree, and where you're looking, the answer is NO, you can not.

Core stability, hip and ankle mobility, foot mechanics, ground contact time, over striding, etc., are ALL things which largely HAPPEN FROM THE INSIDE OUT, NOT THE OUTSIDE IN!

The take home here is clear: drills can be learned, yes. But will they change what happens on the INSIDE?

No, as a general rule, they do not.

Now is a good time to pause and for me to make something very clear: I am NOT saying all running drills are bad or that there isn't an appropriate time and place for them - what I am saying is this:

MOST runners who do drills are NOT ready for them, and because of that, they will serve no meaningful purpose, nor will learning them result in meaningful changes to either injury resistance OR speed potential. 

Most running drills DON'T help you "un-learn poor movement patterns" at all, they usually do the reverse! They take "poor" (meaning compensated) patterns and often make them worse.

When you MASTER the basics first, then you may be ready to move on to a host of different "drills" which really challenge the nervous system and improve some aspect of running (I do think the jury is out on this however). The point is, certain drills, if they are going to be beneficial, will only be when learned and worked on in the presence of mastery of the fundamentals, and basics, first.

Swimming and Running: How Are They Different?

Your trainer's comparison between running and swimming is really common, but it's dead wrong.

The two "movements" are very different beyond the obvious factors (being horizontal in the water vs. vertical on land), and thus are learned very differently. As such, the role of drills is very different for each sport. Here's what I mean:

  • Regardless of intensity, swimming and running happen at very different speeds. For example, on average most triathletes take 18 to 20 strokes when swimming freestyle for 25 yds. That's 18 to 20 individual strokes over the course of an average of 20 to 30 seconds. In that same 20 to 30 second time period, the runner has taken 80 to 100 strides. That's a BIG difference in terms of the amount of time and focus you can give to controlling and executing the basic movement pattern. Swimming can be consciously controlled to a MUCH GREATER degree than can running, because it is happening much more slowly. It is less dynamic in terms of time and speed of the movements.
  • While we know swimming freestyle is "complex" (reach, catch, pull, kicking, etc), the truth is that when comparing the "complexity" of the run gait cycle to the freestyle stroke, running is more complex. For example, you could really lie on your stomach in the pool, put one arm out in front of you and keep one arm at your side, and just paddle like you were on a surfboard. And while your entire trunk is involved, your lower body could truly just be stationary and not doing much. It is, in effect, the motion of your arm and back that is largely responsible for swimming freestyle. In contrast, running involves virtually every single soft tissue in your body - its truly holistic and total body! And when you add in the forces acting on our body such as gravity and ground reaction forces, the movement becomes extraordinarily complex, immediately! And there's no way to "slow it down" or make it less complex, unless you do what I alluded to earlier - lie on your back and work on that 1 leg bridge or stand and groove a perfect 1-leg squat.

In summary, because of this complexity difference and the speed of the movements, there's no comparison between the "thoughtful" drills you do in the pool to improve technique and skill, and the run gait cycle. And as such, how we learn and improve upon our skills must be approached differently.

(*If you'd like to learn more about the connection between core stability and swimming, go to our podcast on the topic).

What Determines Your Path: Is it boredom or a need to be entertained while you train? OR is it a genuine pursuit of personal and athletic excellence? 

Now at this point you may be asking...."ok, well I've mastered the basics - shouldn't I be ready to tackle A-Skip or B-Skip?"

My response to that is to say this: As I look back, rarely have I ever coached or seen a runner in a clinic or worked with someone in our Pursuit Training Center who had mastered the basics well enough for me to say, "you are not only ready for the most complex drills, but because you're ready, you'll get a ton out of them!" That just hasn't happened very often. Does it happen occasionally? Yes, but not very often.

The reverse however, happens a lot. What is that? A runner who continues to struggle OWNING basic static stability or low level dynamic stability, and who hasn't yet developed powerful glutes and hamstrings to explode their hip extension..."wanting" to learn a new "cool" drill that they THINK, will take the place of good old, patient and persistent hard work.

That is what it comes down to, I think.

Building strength and stability is sometimes boring, and it is very hard work. Drills, on the other hand, are more fun and seem to be more beneficial because of the complex nature of them. And in that lies fools gold, in my opinion.

What's more, our subconscious mind hates for us to engage in "practice," and in mastering the basics! Why? Because there is no "guaranteed" positive outcome. So, we need to be smarter than our subconscious mind and understand that to be the best we can be, we need to:


Own them. Completely and totally.

When you become super stable and strong and keep improving those elements, and then start training FASTER with the strength you've developed (and keep returning to the basics to ensure you OWN them completely), trust me, you won't be asking what drills you ought to do to get faster and better - IT WILL BE HAPPENING AUTOMATICALLY!

All of the above form the philosophy of training that drives our company and team Pursuit, and of course how I have personally trained as a runner and triathlete:

No one, not even those will great talent, will be successful over the long term, if they attempt to put higher fitness or higher level skills, ON TOP of a basic compensational or dysfunctional movement pattern (or a lack of basic functional balanced strength and length).

So, back to the title of this blog post, no, I don't believe all drills are a waste of time at all. Explosive drill work, just like running form technique work, does have its place!

That place, however, isn't at the beginning nor is it for the great majority of developing runners or triathletes. These things are FROSTING ON THE CAKE.

The thing is, before you apply the FROSTING, you HAVE TO BAKE THE CAKE!

Happy Trails!

~Coach Al 

From Coach Susan Ford: What DON’T You Want To Do?

Coach Susan Ford

Coach Susan Ford

I've noticed a trend in some people who SAY they want to run or bike faster, and say they are willing to do "anything necessary" to get there.

In their minds, "anything necessary" means doing training sessions that are harder than they've done before, making bigger sacrifices for their training than they had done before, or become "hard core" in some way. They are absolutely ready to do those things.

Yet despite their proclamations, there is a glaring obstacle in their path, which they don't see, and/or aren't willing to address.

For example, I've been approached by another athlete about "speedwork," who is carrying a significant excess of bodyfat. And another with a significant running form issue who wanted to do higher mileage. Neither are willing or able to see what was obvious, and neither are willing to do the one "anything" that IS necessary for them to improve. In their cases, the "hard core" work they needed to do was address diet and get on a true path of improving body composition, and in the other, take time off running to address imbalances and other movement related issues first.

Both continue their paths, doing "anything necessary" for their goals, except the one thing that they could not accept as an essential part of that process.

It makes me wonder if I have similar issues, and what I'm not willing to do.

What am I blind to? What is holding me back from my goals that requires work other than just "hard" training? What am I aware of, but not willing to do?

Food for thought....


Coach Susan Ford lives in Tennesee and coaches runners and triathletes as a Pursuit Athletic Performance coach, in addition to her work as a veterinarian. Her own inspiring journey from an always-injured and frustrated triathlete to one that is strong, durable (and always finishing at the top of her age-group in every race from 5k to ironman) is a remarkable one. To learn more about Susan and her coaching services, go here.


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. 

3 TIPS to Jumpstart YOUR Running This Fall!

Deb-Trails For A Cure

Team Pursuit Ultra-Runner Deb Livingston, at the start of the "Trails To A Cure" trail race!

Now that FALL is officially here in the northern hemisphere (or so it seems based upon those early morning temps!), its time to talk RUNNING! Fall is truly running weather!  There's so many great running events and races in the fall, and we get the benefit of having trained all summer, so the cool temps instantly make us more fit and fast!  The fall is also a great time to improve your speed and strength. Train smart this fall and watch out, you may arrive in the spring better and faster than ever. Here's 3 tips to jumpstart your running this fall:

1. Get your STRIDE RATE UP!  A higher overall stride rate isn't a magical elixir that will turn you into a faster runner, but it is one element that, especially if you're striding slowly (plodding?), is key for improving.  One reason is that running is a neural activity. That is, if you are plodding along at 85 or fewer stride cycles per minute, you're training your nervous system to essentially react slowly, and thus not building some of the foundational skills (remember: nervous system = skills) that will ultimately lead to faster running. ​Striding more quickly will also help you land more under your body and maintain better balance if you run on trails, two important and basic elements to improving as a runner.

(If you haven't listened to our podcast with running expert and coach, Owen Anderson, Ph D, we discuss this aspect in great detail. Check it out!)

Virtually every runner should have at least a 90 stride-cycles-per-minute rate, which = 180 strides per minute.  ​How do you easily check to see where you are? There's many ways to do it, but here is one simple way:

While gazing at your watch, count how many times your right foot hits the ground in 30 seconds. Multiply by two, and you have your stride rate cycle for 1 minute.  Multiply that times two and you have the total number of strides you are taking in a minute. The goal is 90 stride cycles per minute, or roughly 180 strides per minute.

2. Get into the HILLS! Flat roads are "fun" and "relaxing" to run on, but unless you are working VERY hard, they aren't going to help you get faster. (Unless that "flat" is a track, in which case you might be building the things you need there to help you improve. Notice I said "might.") The way to TRANSFER over the stability and strength you're developing in your supplemental strength training (you ARE working on your strength, aren't you?) is to RUN IN THE HILLS!

When I am running in very hilly terrain, I don't moniter speed or pace as I might on the flats. Assuming you're not doing hill intervals, the smart approach is to just run, staying near the middle to top of your aerobic zone most of the time, working with the terrain. This fall, challenge yourself to run hills, climbing and descending relentlessly.  You'll be super glad you did!

One IMPORTANT caveat: If you aren't moving well or building strength and stability in a smart way, the hills can break you. An injury that comes from running on hilly terrain is a red flag that some OTHER element in your training is lacking, e.g. flexibility, mobility, or basic stability/strength.

One last thing: Practice good form when running UP and DOWN. Tall chest and long spine, stiffen the ankle when climbing very steep grades, keep your arm carriage tight when going up (use elbow drive back for power and speed), and use your arms for balancing when descending steep hills.

3. Get OFF road and ONTO the Trail!: We talked about trail running in a recent podcast; how running on the trail vs. the road can really give your running ability a serious BOOST. Of course, there's much more to be gained by someone who always runs on the road, vs. someone who is already doing some trail running. If you're a road runner 80-90% of the time, then it IS TIME to get OFF ROAD! So, what are the ways that trail running can positively impact your running ability?

  1. Resistance to injury: The trail is always changing (depending upon how technical it is), so you're not constantly pounding the same movements or muscles with every stride. Udulating terrain, rocks and roots, etc., force you to constantly adapt and footstrike patterns and balance change and improve. The ground is softer and because of every step being slightly different, your risk of injury from repetitive stress goes down.
  2. Transferring strength: One other fantastic way to improve and transfer that strength you're building on the floor is to get off road, because dealing with the undulations in terrain as well as the steep UPS and DOWNS, builds incredible strength in the feet, legs and trunk! Take a close look at a true trail runner and what you'll see is a very strong runner. When you combine the trail with climbing and descending, you have the MAGIC that will build an incredibly resilient and strong runner, who could THEN head out onto the road or track with much better chances of building speed in a powerful way.

Enjoy your running this fall even more by incorporating some of the above suggestions into your program. Get faster and stronger and have more fun!

Happy trails!

~Coach Al 

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

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

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

And what IS that secret solution?

(Drum Roll Please.........)

The "secret solution" is THE TRUTH....

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

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

And the solution to your problem ISN'T as easy as just "resting and letting it heal." 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Make it a great day!

~Coach Al 

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