Archive for Ironman

049: Coach Al visits with Triathlete Rachel Beckmann, Ironman Coeur d’Alene 30-34 Age Group Winner [Podcast]

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Rachel on the run in Kona!

Rachel on the run in Kona 2013, sporting her signature trucker hat!

Today I’m really pleased to welcome on to our podcast the winner of the women’s 30-34 Age-Group at Ironman Coeur d’Alene, Rachel Beckmann.

Rachel is an active duty commisioned officer in the U.S. Coast Guard presently stationed in Alexandria Virginia. Amazingly, I managed to catch her not moving for a few minutes while she was out in Las Vegas on vacation visiting family (AND training for the 2014 Ironman World Championships in Kona).  This woman doesn’t stop and sit still for too long so I feel really fortunate to get her on our podcast.

Rachel and I go way back to her days as a cadet at the Coast Guard Academy. (I was also at the Academy playing percussion as a member of the U.S. Coast Guard Band).

In the time we spent together as coach/athlete, I really learned so much from her. Honestly, I still had so much to learn about coaching (and still do) and I think she was too young to really see it!  :)  I also learned about her relentless work ethic and inner drive to succeed, and that she is truly as intelligent, fun-loving, kind hearted and just wonderful to be around, as anyone you will ever meet.

Rachel has blossomed from that enthusiastic young collegiate newbie into a full-blown Ironman age-group champion, who has certainly learned a thing or three on her path to multiple Ironman finishes and numerous overall race wins.

In today’s podcast, she looks back on the journey and shares some thoughts on the fun she’s had, the difficulties, what she’s learned, and what it’s like to live life as a young female officer serving our country while also pursuing her “personal-best” in the sport.

Among the topics we discuss on today’s podcast:

  • How did her childhood, as well as her experiences as a female cadet at a military academy impact her development as a triathlete?
  • How does she balance her career as a Coast Guard officer with her triathlon lifestyle? What has she learned that could help YOU?
"Rach" knows how to keep it FUN and can rock the mountain bike too!

Rachel knows how to keep training FUN, and can really rock the mountain bike too!

 

  • What are her most important training, racing, and life “secrets to success?”
  • What about the challenges she faced during this year’s Ironman Coeur d’Alene. How did she respond that ultimately lead to her age-group win?
  • What are the two or three things she thinks are the most important, to both have more fun and achieve greater success? (You won’t want to miss these!)
  • And so much more!
Rachel and Coach Al catching up on one of her recent visits to Connecticut

Rachel and Coach Al catching up on one of her recent visits to Connecticut

Thanks for joining me Rachel, I enjoyed our chat!  Make it a great day everybody!

~Coach Al

Don’t Whine. Don’t Complain. Don’t Make Excuses: Life Lessons From Two Great Coaches.

An old cherokee told his grandson, “My son, there is a battle between two wolves inside us all. One is Evil. It is anger, greed, jealousy, resentment, inferiority, lies, and ego. The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope,  humility, kindness, emptathy, and truth.”  The boy thought about it, and asked, “Grandfather, which wolf wins?”  The old man quietly replied, “The one you feed.” ~author unknown

Your complaints, your whining, your victim mentality, your drama, and all of your excuses, have NEVER gotten you even a single step closer to your dreams or goals. Let go of your nonsense. Let go of your DELUSION that you DESERVE better, and go EARN it. ~ Dr. Steve Maraboli

I’m going to make a change, for once in my life. Its gonna feel real good, gonna make a difference, gonna make it right…That’s why I want you to know, I’m starting with the man in the mirror. I’m asking him to change his ways. And no message coulda been any clearer, if you want to make the world a better place, then look at yourself and make a change. ~  Singer Michael Jackson, from “The Man In The Mirror.

“I am responsible. Although I may not be able to prevent the worst from happening, I am responsible for my attitude toward the inevitable misfortunes that darken life. Bad things do happen; how I respond to them defines my character and the quality of my life. I can choose to sit in perpetual sadness, immobilized by the gravity of my loss, or I can choose to rise from the pain and treasure the most precious gift I have – life itself.”  ~Walter Anderson 


Advice John Wooden's dad gave to him upon graduation from grade school.

Advice John Wooden’s dad gave to him upon graduation from grade school.

Its been one of those weeks when it seems that its just a little harder to “fight the good fight.” Hey, I know we all have our own pile, right? I’m not alone.

Sometimes life’s challenges step right up and hit us in the gut.  Sometimes people you trust and care for end up striking back at you, and what results is a struggle to regain your belief in the inherent goodness in people. Sometimes it seems that every time you look around, bad things are happening to good people.  My dad once told me that “life ISN’T fair, and not to expect it to be.” The ole man was right!  :)

 

I was watching a taped ESPYS show on the sports network ESPN the other night.  It was being replayed from 2009. Just when I least expected to be inspired and pulled out of a little doldrum I was in, up to the microphone steps now deceased Northern State basketball head coach, Don Meyer.   Meyer was being presented with the “Jimmy V Perseverence Award.”   Coach Meyer was the recipient of many other awards while he was still alive, and is the subject of a book, “How Lucky You Can Be” written by ESPN’s Buster Olney.  (If you don’t know who “Jimmy V” is, google his name right now and read).

Coach Meyer’s personal story is well known among college basketball fans and sports fans alike.  He retired in 2010 as the winningest men’s college basketball coach ever, compiling a record of 923 wins, and 324 losses. (The record was later surpassed by Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski in 2011). But coach Meyer’s record of basketball excellence doesn’t tell the story of this man, who never coached above the Division II level, yet had an impact on the his sport and the people in it, on a truly global scale.

As coach Meyer walked to the microphone, his personal saga played out on the big projection screen behind him.

It is September 5, 2008.  He is involved in a terrible car crash in which he suffers terrible injuries, including one that ended in a loss of one of his legs.  But that’s not the worst of it. During the emergency surgery after the crash, doctors discovered cancer in his liver and intestines.  Amazingly, in an interview during his recovery from surgery, he said “”What’s great about this is I would not have known about the cancer had I not had the wreck. God has blessed me with the one thing we all need, which is truth. I can now fight with all of my ability.”

The very next day after being released from the hospital, he was at school coaching from his wheelchair.

As I sat there listening to his speech upon accepting the Jimmy V award, I couldn’t help but feel a bit like a jerk, for how I was feeling at the moment I turned on the TV. I thought I had had a rough time – personal and business difficulties, and other things, seemed almost overwhelming.

537280e611665.imageAs Coach Meyer spoke straight from the heart, looking with gut-wrenching honesty into the eyes of every person in the room, he recalled visiting with legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden after the crash. Coach Wooden shared with him a card that had some advice HIS father had given to him upon his graduation from grade school.

It has stuck with me virtually every minute since.

It said, “dont whine, don’t complain, and don’t make excuses.”

Coach Meyer went on to tell the story of him showing up every day for rehab in the clinic, looking around the room at all of the people struggling and suffering, trying to heal and improve, and all the while, remembering and reiterating those powerful words to himself: Don’t whine-don’t complain-don’t make excuses.

Coach Meyer’s words really hit me hard; they shocked me back into that reality that often happens when we hear of someone else having what seems like such hard luck or bad fortune.

When bad things happen to good people, it often helps us realize what WE have to be grateful for – the blessings in our life – it helps us to prioritize and remember what is TRULY important – and helps us see that while life ISN’T always fair, it is good.  

Yes, its easy to allow a feeling of entitlement to occasionally creep into our mindset or to feel sorry for ourselves when something “bad” happens, when the harsh reality is, any discomfort or difficulty we find ourselves staring at is usually brought on by our own choices and decisions, however hard that might be to accept sometimes.

Can we learn from the mistakes we have made so we don’t repeat them?  Can we truly be grateful for the blessings in our life and share that attitude of gratitude with the world on a daily basis? Can we wake up every day ready to re-commit to living the ideals put forth by John Wooden and his dad?

As I look at the man in the mirror and re-examine my own life and my attitude toward it, what am I trying to say with this blog today?

  • If you’re an athlete and have made the choice to walk into a gym, or to train and race, don’t whine or complain about how hard the training is or how tough the race may be. You are choosing to do this. Getting out of your comfort zone and “suffering” on some level to achieve is what it takes to GROW and to reach your ultimate potential.
  • More to the point, I can say with total confidence that suffering through any pain or discomfort is a privilege and a blessing… that so many who aren’t so fortunate, only wish they could do.  To be able to train and race is not something we’re all entitled to! Cherish the opportunities!  Make the most of them, every day, and in every way.
  • Be HONEST with yourself and be willing to accept honesty from others. If someone IS being truly honest with you, it means they care about you. Its the liars you have to worry about.
  • If you, like me, have made mistakes in your life be it personal or in business, suck it up and stop whining and realize that sometimes life teaches us hard lessons. We need to LEARN from those lessons and soldier on!  Don’t give up or give in.
  • Have the courage and strength to accept that the choices you’ve made and don’t look back. Look forward.
  • Please join me and starting today, strive each and every day to be thankful for every blessing in your life; commit to doing the most you can with every minute of your life!
  • Don’t stop learning, don’t stop growing, don’t stop reaching, don’t stop challenging yourself, and don’t whine, don’t complain, and don’t make excuses.

As Charles R. Swindoll said, “Words can never adequately convey the incredible impact of our attitudes toward life. The longer I live the more convinced I become that life is 10 percent what happens to us and 90 percent how we respond to it.”  Make it a great day!

~Coach Al 

045: Butter, Brains, and Better Health and Performance! [Podcast]

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Avocado

Today’s podcast is positively packed with powerful pearls of wisdom that are applicable in team sports, triathlon and life!  Coach Al and Dr. Strecker start off with a discussion of the role of fats in the diet on the heels of the TIME magazine article entitled, “Eat Butter.”  And while fats are often vilified, they play an important part in good nutrition.  Just wander through any grocery store and you’re sure to see product packages boldly emblazoned with the words “LOW FAT” or “FAT FREE!”  We have been programmed to believe that fat is the root of all dietary evil, yet a close look at the hard evidence reveals that this is not the case.

Great training involves more than just good nutrition, of course, and mental preparation is one key to success that can’t be overlooked.  In sport, at work and in life, stuff happens.  That much is certain.  It may be a bad call by a ref, a flat tire on your bike, or an obnoxious driver on the freeway that challenges us, but how we react defines who we are and what we’ll accomplish.  Let’s face it, spending the rest of the day obsessing about the truck driver who cut you off only detracts from your productivity and peace of mind.

Sit back, relax, eat an avocado, and listen in as Coach and Doc take you on a little journey filled with good fats and happy people.  :-)

Thanks for joining us on the podcast! Happy Trails!

~Coach Al and Dr. Strecker

044: More Listener Questions: Comparing Ourselves To Others; The Psychology Of Suffering [Podcast]

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Doc Strecker pushing toward the finish!

In today’s podcast, I jump right into some great questions posed to us by some listeners. As we’ve said before, we really appreciate it when you contact us and ask great questions – keep them coming!

Comparing Ourselves to Others:  We all know and understand that each of us is, and will always be, on an athletic and personal  journey unique to us. Most of us are very comfortable accepting the idea that some athletes might be “ahead” of us on their journey, while others are of course, at a starting point that might be thought of as “behind” us.  Now I suspect that as you’re reading that sentence, you might be thinking, “aren’t you emphasizing comparing ourselves to others by phrasing it that way?”  Yes, and that’s the point. Comparing ourselves to others is rarely ever a good thing, although the nature of competition inevitably puts us smack dab right in the middle of comparisons.

A listener sent in a great question, asking what strategies she could use to not fall into the trap of constantly comparing herself  to other athletes, especially if the athlete that she’s comparing herself to is, in her viewpoint, stronger or faster than she is. To use her words, “sometimes I find that when I hear of others doing more, or progressing faster, my first reaction is that I SUCK.”  That’s a common reaction in our worst moments, so I felt it was a good topic to discuss on the podcast.

The Psychology of Suffering: Training hard and learning how to handle discomfort is certainly a key to improving as an endurance athlete.  A listener wrote in with a great question on the topic. Here it is:

“Yes, I know in my heart that to perform at my best, I need to suck it up when it starts getting hard, whether its in a race or in a workout.  How do I effectively control that voice in my head that is telling me to slow down or go easier? Or just quit?  Also, how often do I need to “go to the well” and suffer in order to learn better how to do it? The weather also always hinders me from accomplishing what I want to, or plan to. I find it easy to use weather as an excuse to do less than my best. How do I over come that?”

I jump in with my thoughts on the matter – important stuff if you DO want to reach your ultimate potential!

Thanks for joining me on the podcast! Happy Trails!

~Coach Al 

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 

Variety Is Greatly Overrated. Here’s Why! (Including TIPS On How To Progress!)

Despite what some believe, strength is NOT the goal with the movement training we do. Strength is a symptom ….a symptom of moving well.  In a similar vein, speed training is not the optimal path toward improving our fitness.  Improved fitness leads to improved speed potential. Speed is a product of moving well and improved fitness.  

~Coach Al


Strength isn't the goal! Strength is only a symptom of moving well!

Strength isn’t the goal! Strength is only a symptom of moving well!

Here at Pursuit Athletic Performance, Kurt and I believe the true value and benefit to movement based strength training resides in digging DEEPER into the basic skill and integration of  a movement.

In this day and age, with athletes becoming bored so easily and instant gratification being so prevalent in every phase of our life and culture, digging deeper into a movement vs. moving “on” from the movement is often difficult (and even frustrating) for the individual athlete to fully embrace.  We seem to frequently fall victim to the mindset of always looking for the next “great” exercise, the next great “tip,” or how we can blast on to the more “advanced” stuff, thinking its a magic bullet to the success we seek.

Whether or not you like it, the truth is that the devil is in the details and the magic to optimal progression and exploding your potential is in true mastery of the basics and fundamentals.  This single concept, while easy to read, might be the most challenging for the average person to accept and embrace, but it IS the key to long term, meaningful success.

So, yes, variety is greatly overrated.  To reiterate, once the shiny newness of an exercise wears off and you’re “bored” with it because it’s not “new” anymore, you’re forced to get deeper into it, or bail out and just move on to something else “new” and “exciting.”  I’d argue the best choice is the former, not the latter. 

Of course, that being said, there are a great many ways to enhance the quality (and thus results) of the training you are doing, rather than to change exercises.  For example:

1. Use a slower rep speed. 

  1. It’s common for folks to move in and out of movements quickly.
  2. It’s common to see folks come out of the bottom of a movement quickly, rather than “owning” that bottom portion.
  3. Use a count of 4 – 1 – 3 seconds: 4 seconds lowering – 1 second pause at the bottom – 3 seconds raising.
  4. Removing the ‘elastic’ or rebound component to better own each phase of the movement.

2. Decrease your leverage. 

  1. Think about the HUGE difference in difficulty between a double arm push-up with a wide arm position, and a single arm push-up! Huge difference in leverage.
  2. On the topic of stability, a tiny difference in how wide your arms or knees are really changes how difficult the exercise is to do well!

3. Improve your focus and tension! 

  1. Where’s the hard in your exercise coming from?
  • From inside of you? Posture, breathing, focus?
  • Or is it coming from OUTside of you?  Are you thinking a different exercise, or more weight (outside of you) will automatically make you stronger? Not going to happen.
  • We need to consciously PRODUCE that tension, even when moving a relatively small amount of weight.
  • Focus, tension management, radiation of tension throughout!
  • “Intensity” and “strength” isn’t just about moving more weight. Its about bringing a certain level of whole-body tension and focus into every movement.
  • In RKC/HKC circles as well as in power lifting circles, there’s a saying: “If you make your lighter weights feel heavier, your heavier weights will feel lighter.” Practice the focus and tension skills with lighter resistance, you’ll get more benefit from every movement you do!

Happy Trails!

~Coach Al

We Are All An Experiment of One: Find Out What YOU Need The Most and Then Get It Done!

TEAM Pursuit Athletes at the 2013 Timberman Half Ironman triathlon!

TEAM Pursuit Athletes at the 2013 Timberman Half Ironman triathlon!

In order to be able to run as fast and as long as you would like to and remain injury-free while doing it, your running body must be BOTH strong and flexible. Think about this fact: approximately 50% of the energy that propels you forward during the running stride comes from elastic and reactive “energy-return” of your muscles! While you’re taking that in, think about this: at the same time that certain muscles are required to be elastic and reactive, others need to be very stiff and strong, to prevent your body turning into a wet-noodle as your feet hit the ground!

Muscles tense and lengthen and release and stretch (helping to facilitate rotation around your joints while doing all of that!) as they prepare to store energy and absorb outside impact forces and turn that stored energy into forward propulsion. There’s a lot more going on during the stride than you could ever imagine!

And while all of these things are happen within each of our bodies while we run, they happen at different rates of speed and relaxation and ease for each of us. We are, at once the same, and yet very different.

Some of us need more STRENGTH and STIFFNESS in our “chain,” while others need more FLEXIBILITY and ELASTICITY and MOBILITY.  We each have our own “limiters” and weaknesses which may be making us either more prone to injury, or limiting our speed and endurance potential.

So given all of that, do YOU know what your weakness is?

For example…

  • Are you prone to calf injuries because your calves are forced to absorb impact forces due to “too tight” hips?
  • Do you lean back on downhills and “hurt,” suffering from painful quadriceps during those downhills because your quads are too weak to absorb those impact forces and prevent your body from collapsing against the forces of gravity?
  • Are you still landing out in front of your center of mass, even though you know you shouldn’t, because your hams and glutes are not “reactive” enough (too slow) and weak to contract quickly, getting your feet UNDER your hips as you touch down?
  • Does your low back hurt during the late stages of your longer runs or rides because its trying to do the work your butt should be doing?
  • Is your stride short and choppy because your hip flexors are so tight they can’t release to allow your pelvis to rotate forward so that your legs can extend behind you as you drive horizontally forward with each stride?

These are the questions and issues we ALL need to consider, and for each of us, it is different. If you take the time to listen to your body and consider what YOUR weakness or limiters are, then you’ll be able to address it and as a result, improve and run to your true potential!

The answers you are seeking are not always found through “harder” training. Sometimes the answers come when we listen within.  Sometimes things like YOGA or revisiting the BASICS and FUNDAMENTALS, are the path to exploding our true potential, rather than another hard track session.

Our unique Pursuit Athletic Performance “Gait Analysis” system was designed to help us help YOU, learn what it is that YOU need the most! To learn more, go here to learn more about our analysis packages.

Check out our testimonials page here to learn more about the success stories of so many athletes who learned what THEY needed to do to truly explode their potential!

Happy Trails!

~Coach Al

Boston Marathon Race Week: Old Habits Die Hard!

“Mistakes are the portals for discovery.”  - James Joyce
“There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order to things.” – Niccolo Machiavelli
“The obstacle is the path.”  - Zen aphorism 


This year’s Boston Marathon, which will be held next Monday April 21, will be among the most significant and historic in that race’s storied history, in part because of the bombing events from last year’s race. Today’s post isn’t about the bombing or about THE Boston Marathon per se.  It is about the fact that when it comes to LONG RUNS prior to a marathon, Ironman, or some other long distance race or run, old habits sure die hard.  

What’s the old habit I’m referring to? Running your last long run 3 or even 2 weeks out from race day.   

Its amazing to me that in this day and age, with all we’ve learned about how our body functions best, the idea of doing a “longer” run within 3 and even 2 weeks prior to a marathon is still very prevalent out there in the running community. As the title of this post states, old habits (like being afraid of doing any strength training, or counting mileage as the primary predictor of performance!) die HARD!    

So When Should You Do Your Last Long Run? 

I was first exposed to research about the amount of time it actually takes for deep cellular tissue (muscle) damage to heal (from training) around 1990.  That’s 24 years ago. One study, conducted at Harvard at that time, showed that tissue remained significantly damaged even after 4 or 5 weeks of “recovery” after that “long” run.

After learning about that study and then discussing these concepts with our former podcast guest and running expert Owen Anderson, PhD (who at that time was the editor of Running Research News) I decided to adjust my own training to reflect that longer taper period prior to race day. I immediately felt the benefits of it with my first 2:40 marathon in 1991.  To that point, I’d been able to run a 2:50, but with this new approach to tapering, I ran a full 10 minutes faster and felt better on race day.  I don’t necessarily credit that taper and distance between the last long run and race day as the sole reason for the 10 minute drop, but I do believe it was a huge factor.

Without a doubt, I am convinced that a huge percentage of the runners who are running marathons in this day and age, and in fact many of those lining up in Boston next Monday, toe the line with “still damaged” muscle cells from a longer run, too close to race day.  Maybe its me, but it always made sense that if I wanted to have an opportunity to run my best on race day, that my legs needed to be healed from what I had done to them in training. That might sound like a simple concept, but again, old habits die hard.

Keep in mind as you think about this, that a “long” run can mean different things to different runners. Someone running 90 miles per week can run longer, relatively speaking, than can someone who can only handle 30 miles per week. But in my opinion, even on an elite level, a lot of the country’s best marathoners are still running too long, too close to race day, even with their lofty weekly mileage totals. I’ve employed this taper strategy or some variation there of, with every person I’ve coached since I began coaching, and as I mentioned, used it myself since the early 1990s.

Obviously, doing this requires that you do GET IN those longer runs early enough in your preparation. But even if you fall short in either the number or length of those longer runs, trying to “squeeze in” one last long run too close to race day, ensures that you will toe the line with less than 100% of your capability that day, and that’s a shame. The best chance any of us have to run our best “on the day,” is to show up 100% healthy and healed and motivated to do well, with a solid strategy in place.  The key words are “100% healthy.” If you’re not, even with the best training and highest levels of motivation, you will very likely do less well than you might otherwise be capable.

Why Do Runners Continue To Run Long Too Close To Race Day?

Big Confidence Boost?: At first glance that close-to-race-day long run seems like a smart idea. Many runners believe they need to prove to themselves that they can go the distance on race day, and what better way to show you’re ready than to knock off a 20-miler just a couple of weeks before you go to the starting line! What a great shot in the arm to your confidence, right? Wrong.

It might sound logical to lay one last long run down to boost confidence, but that would be a mistake, and the reason is simple: You need recovery after your long runs.

Many runners dismiss the amount of pounding we put our bodies through running those miles. As I often say here in our Lab, a mile of running is the equvalent of 1500 one-leg squat jumps! That’s a lot of repetitive trauma.

In an article Owen wrote in RRN some years ago, he referenced research conducted by Dutch exercise scientists with a group of marathon runners. “About two thirds had significant signs of muscle injury on the morning of the race, before they had run just one mile of the marathon!” According to the study, “the reason for this muscular mayhem, for the most part, was the long running the Dutch had carried out during the month before the race. The Dutch-athletes’ muscles were totally non-recovered on race day.” The Dutch researchers found that training runs with durations longer than 15 kilometers (~ 9.3 miles) were the ones which seemed to produce the greatest amount of muscle damage. Below 15K, little muscle damage accrued.  (The reason why I started back then, making 9-10mile runs my longest within four weeks of the race).

The BIG Myth.

The biggest myth that exists out there among runners getting ready for the marathon is that a long gap between the last long run and the actual marathon will make our body “forget” how to run long.  Going a full four weeks without a true “long” run, will cause our body to lose its ability to efficiently cover the distance, right?  Not so much! The truth is that provided you’ve done the necessary periodic long runs prior to that 4 week period and built to a distance of 20-22 miles on average, your body will not “forget” how to complete the distance on race day.   

In fact, if you approach your training in the right way, you can use this long-run-free four-week period to truly boost fitness and be more prepared than ever for a great race day! As your muscles heal and recovery progresses, you can…

  • step up the intensity of your training, allowing you to do more of the kinds of training sessions which will have a direct impact on marathon readiness. Those are sessions focusing on lifting vV02max, running economy, and threshold.
  • focus more time and energy on your overall fitness, specific mobility and flexibility needs, and topping off your running specific strength.

Most runners are so used to running on battered and bruised legs and being exhausted, that they never actually FEEL what it feels like to run on legs that are recovered and 100% healthy. What a shame!

The Bottom Line?

A smart marathon or long distance run training plan is one that builds fitness progressively and THEN ALLOWS for adequate recovery prior to race day. Many typical race training plans I see on the internet or written by other “experts” often leave out this critical recovery aspect, having runners run long 2 or 3 weeks out from race day. As a result, the runners following those plans or trusting that guidance end up toeing the line with damaged muscles, even though they “believe” they are 100% ready to have the best race possible.  If you’re reading this thinking “that guy is an expert running coach,” or “my fast friend does it this way,” stop and think for a moment.

Simply put, 3 weeks isn’t enough time for healing for the majority of runners, and 2 weeks is flat out absurd under normal circumstances. The exception might be if your weekly mileage totals are over 80 to 100 per week.  If your weekly mileage is below those numbers, you’ll be very smart to leave at least 4 weeks from the last long run you do until race day. Train smart in this way, and you’ll feel better and run faster as a result!

~Coach Al 

Get Out! (Of Your Comfort Zone That Is)

 A dream is your creative vision for your life in the future. You must break out of your current comfort zone and become comfortable with the unfamiliar and the unknown. ~ Denis Waitley

One can choose to go back toward safety or forward toward growth. Growth must be chosen again and again; fear must be overcome again and again~Abraham Maslow


Life Begins Outside Of Your Comfort Zone!

Life Begins Outside Of Your Comfort Zone!

Throughout everyday life, each of us has certain physical and psychological  “comfort zones” that influence who we are and how we act.  Perhaps you follow the same routine when you wake up in the morning, or drive the same route to your job each day.  Similarly, from a training standpoint, do you tend to migrate toward the same pace, intensity, or routine, day in and day out, because it is “comfortable”?  I thought so!  :)

Physical comfort zones are usually easy to identify.  For example, if you have recently trained at or around 8 minutes per mile during your long aerobic runs and suddenly increase that pace to 6 minutes per mile, you will quickly step outside of your comfort zone.  Running at 6 minute pace quickly elevates your heart rate and perceived effort, immediately putting you outside your comfort zone! 

Psychological comfort zones can be a bit harder to quantify, but here’s an example. I think we can all agree that for most of us, talking one on one to a friend or two is usually not that tough.  But, stand up in a room in front of a live audience and try to give a speech while everyone is staring at you is a lot more difficult, and perhaps way outside of the comfort zone for many of us!

A KEY TO PERSONAL GROWTH AND SUCCESS

 In my opinion, one key that can unlock the potential for greater personal growth and success in many of life’s endeavors is the willingness to step outside of comfort zones.   If you’re going to reach your potential as an athlete, as you execute your training program you must resist the temptation to always do the same thing, in effect resorting back to that which is “comfortable” for you.  After all, it feels absolutely fantastic when we do finally step outside and as a result, experience some success!  Remember what it was like when you were nervous about asking someone out for a date? For most of us, this was well outside our comfort zones, yet how great did it feel when they said, “Yes!”  From a training standpoint, do you remember ever focusing your time and energy on developing a certain skill or technique?  Do you remember how good it felt when you realized you were getting BETTER at that activity because you did things a bit differently?  Far too often we train and perform activities the way we always have, staying with what is comfortable for us.  Routinely doing things the same old way (training pace, intensity, route, focus, etc.) prevents us from growing and improving.  We like to be comfortable!  Resist it, reach out, expand your horizons, and take some risks!  Improve!

 WHY ARE COMFORT ZONES “COMFORTABLE”?

There are two major factors that stop most of us from stepping outside our comfort zones more often.  The first is habit.  Simply put, out of habit, we tend to migrate to that which we are familiar with or that gives us a sense of security and safety.  The second and perhaps most significant factor is fear.  Fear of failure. Let’s face it, at one time or another we are all afraid to fail.  But we all know but rarely admit to ourselves, that the real consequences of “failure” are truly inconsequential and never last long.

As athletes, most of the fear we have when we step outside our comfort zone and try something new is all in our head. The fear is a figment of our imagination.  It just never seems that way at the moment of truth!  As an example, all of you triathletes out there, take open water swim starts (which tend to give many first time triathletes a fit).  Be honest, you know you’re not going to drown!  You know that nothing “down there” is going to swim up and get you!  You know everyone in attendance wants you to succeed!  All the other athletes have the same goal as you, to get to the finish line!  Whatever fear you may experience is only in your thoughts, and you control your thoughts, no one else.  Fear limits what we do and who we are, and ultimately, what we can achieve.

COMFORT” ZONE AND “GRAY” ZONE:

IS THERE A CORRELATION?

 Applying these concepts to your training on a consistent basis can be a key to unlocking untapped potential.  However, and this is important, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to always go harder and/or faster!  As an example, getting outside of your comfort zone may mean running, riding, or swimming more slowly on certain training days, when your mind might be telling you that you “should” be going faster.  Or, it may mean doing more drill or skill work in a training session when it might be more “comfortable” if you didn’t include skill/technique work.  In fact, failure to get outside of your training comfort zones relates very much to smartly differentiating pace and intensity in training, something I routinely remind athletes about.

Gray zone training is addictive and easy to succumb to because going “sort of” hard can and often is “comfortable” for many of us.  Think about that. When you’re training “sort of” hard but not REALLY hard (e.g. gray zone), you are in no man’s land. You are much better off either going easier than is “comfortable” for you (aerobic or even easier for recovery), or if your training program calls for it, going much HARDER than is comfortable. In fact, getting the maximum benefit from your training program means being way outside of your comfort zone during hard (quality) training sessions. It means going VERY hard and being VERY uncomfortable!

 THE BOTTOM LINE?

Though it may not always be obvious on a daily basis, consistently getting outside of comfort zones even just a little bit can lead to unbelievable results in your training and racing.  Starting today, have the courage and mental strength to “step out” regularly both physically and psychologically, and I guarantee you’ll get better and faster than ever!  Make it a great day!

~Coach Al