Archive for life balance

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

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Dr. Omid Fotuhi

Dr. Omid Fotuhi

Hey everyone! Coach Al here.

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Trails!

~Coach Al 

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

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SteveT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Depression is like an iceberg...

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

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

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

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

~Coach Al 

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

Rock Your Wall!

 

I hope your Tuesday has started off great!

I sent out an note to our email friends last week that included a reference to a fun Will Smith video. In the email, I shared my SSQ and how important it is to review this past season before moving on to the upcoming season. If you missed that email, here's a link so you can read it in your browser. Check it out - it's VERY cool!

That email got me thinking about something else Will said that I absolutely love, and that is central to my coaching philosophy. One reason I love it so much? It's one of those quotes that isn't just about training, it has as much value for life in general.

I love the analogy of building a wall when it comes to how we should build our fitness, don't you?

Your body is a lot like a house...

It also reminds me of an analogy my partner, Dr. Strecker, refers to when discussing how we need to build our OWN "athletic" foundation. He says,"if you're driving down the road and you see a house that is leaning off to the side with a crumbling foundation, you sure wouldn't want to buy that house, would you? One big gust of wind and the house might blow right over."

Even though you and I would desperately LIKE to be able to, we can't build true ironman, marathon, or ultra-running fitness by just saying it, OR by taking it ALL in one bite. Just as Will said, we need to start by laying that brick, one at a time, as perfectly as we can, day after day after day.

If we do it right, soon we'll have that great foundation - one that is stable and straight and strong and that will support OUR "house" in any kind of wind, or more specifically, as the weeks, months, and miles add up!

Which brings me to the main message in today's email:

Any smart season-long training plan and progression BEGINS by:

  1. Restoring health and balance and fundamental movement quality, and then...
  2. Establishing a solid foundation that will support all the training that is to come. 

At Pursuit Athletic Performance, we call this first training phase, Restoration and Foundation.

So what's YOUR story?

During this time period, it's about learning as much as you can about your body - it's about self-discovery, from a movement point of view - learning your "story" as an athlete. That might sound unattainable, but I can't express just how important it is!

Try on some of these questions to get to the heart of who you are as an athlete:

  • Where are you tight? Why?
  • Where are you weak? Why?
  • Are you often sick? If so, why?
  • Do you struggle frequently with nagging pain or injuries? If so, why?
  • Are you a strong, fatigue-resistant swimmer or a weak, slow swimmer? If you're a weaker swimmer, why?
  • Are you a strong cyclist who can climb with ease, or do you struggle to push a larger gear? If you struggle to push that larger gear, why?
  • Are you a strong, durable runner or are you injury prone? If you're not durable, then why?
  • When you get tired out on the race course or during long training sessions, do you struggle to maintain efficient form?

Now if your house is about to blow over in the wind, or if that foundation is crumbling and starting to show some cracks, the color of your window shades doesn't matter very much, ya know?

Your body and your fitness are the exact same thing

Get started NOW. Answer the questions and take action, and you'll be on your way to building the biggest, baddest, greatest, fitness "wall" that has ever been built!  It won't happen any other way.

(One more thing, if you haven't yet checked out this blog series "Learn How You Move" we did a while back, take a look - it'll be worth your time, trust me).

As always, if you have questions, leave a comment of email me directly and let me know. I'm here to help.

Happy trails!
~Coach Al

PS: If you aren't one of our email friends, you're missing out. We share a lot of awesome discounts and training information, so sign up if you haven't. Click HERE and as a bonus, you'll get instant access to my 5 TIPS for upgrading your off season NOW!

PSS: I almost forgot to mention, I just had two coaching slots open up for working with me one on one. If you're interested in learning more, reply to this email and I'll get you some information and a questionnaire. Rock on!

Should You Take A Break?

 

Shortly after the 2012 London Olympics, there was an article in the Wall Street Journal outlining how some elite marathoners were planning to take an extended complete break from any kind of training after the race. (A complete break...really?). In that article, one of the world's fastest runners, Bernard Lagat, was quoted as believing that "inactivity was one of the reasons for his success." He said he always "takes the time to be lazy."

That doesn't sound like the kind of relentless intensity and focus we would expect from a world class runner, does it?

Does Bernard know something we don't, or is the fact that he is an elite the reason he feels a break is justified?

What is the right approach for the average age-group athlete who has a job and many other demanding responsibilities on top of training?

It depends...

My initial response when an athlete asks me if they should take a break is usually the same: It depends.

Yes, I know that sounds like the classic "side-step," but honestly, there are a lot of factors that each of us need to consider as we decide how to approach this time of year.  We really are all an experiment of one, and the consequences of our choices will have a huge impact on what's to come.

 

Be honest: did you drill yourself into exhaustion or are you truly feeling good?

Recovery and rejuvenation come in many forms and is different for each of us. Stress comes in many forms, too, and depending on our lifestyle, work, and training goals, it can take a huge toll. Some of that stress is good, and some of it isn't so good.

The serious consequences of week-in, week-out, 3 (or 4) sport training for months on end, combined with busy, high stress lifestyles (and too little sleep) is a deep level of fatigue that for many borders on exhaustion, and in some cases, can paradoxically become addictive.

 

Consistency matters...

Even though Bernard Lagat preferred a complete break, I've traditionally believed that for the majority, a simple change from the normal training routine can be a good approach.  At the same time, as I've gotten older I'm reminded that there are few things as important as training consistency, especially as we age.  Like many things training related, there's always many viewpoints.

  • Is a "complete" break from training the best approach for short and long term mental and physical rejuvenation? If so, how "complete" is complete?
  • Could a simpler primarily unstructured approach be best, where we just go "how we feel?"
  • Is it better to turn to other activities that aren't typical for us in order to maintain some "fitness" while getting away from the sports we most often train in?
  • If we take a break, do we risk losing hard-earned fitness gains that will be difficult to regain?

Deciding in which direction to go and discussing these aspects can often generate as many questions as answers! Here are some additional things to consider as you ponder whether a break is the right choice for you...

  1. If all else fails, trust your intuition. If your gut feeling is you "need" that break, you probably do!
  2. If you have been nursing an injury, STOP now and do what is needed to determine the root cause. NOW is the ideal time to resolve injuries once and for all.
  3. The harder and longer your races, the greater the likelihood you'll benefit from some extended recovery and rejuvenation.
  4. The older you are, the smaller the margin of error you may have for taking complete time off.  To put it another way, as we age, we need more than ever to keep moving. Don't "stop" and rest just for the sake of it.
  5. The best "break" may simply be a change in training routine. For example, if you are usually on your tri-bike, put that away and get on your mountain bike or cruiser instead. If you're usually running on the roads, get off road and onto a trail. Ease off on the pace and re-establish your aerobic base at a conversational training intensity. If in doubt, try a relaxing hike, ski, roller-blade, or simply sleep in!
  6. If you're like many and could use to improve skills in some areas, now might be the perfect time. Lower intensity, and technique focused!

Whether YOU need a complete break from structured training or not depends upon you - how healthy and durable you are, what you've done over the recent past, and what your upcoming goals are.

 

Plan for recovery year round...

Planning regular periods for recovery throughout the year is arguably more important, especially as one training phase builds to the next.

Whether you're an elite (like Bernard), a weekend warrior, or a competitive age-grouper, if you've recently established some training consistency and feel mentally energized and motivated, AND you aren't carrying deep fatigue from a long season of racing and training, there is absolutely no reason to stop now simply because of the calender.

Happy trails!
~Coach Al

PS: In a series of future posts, I'm going to lay out my philosophy for how to build fitness progressively in the off season. Stay tuned.

 

 

I Don’t Care How “Talented” You Are…

 

We know that each of us is born with our own natural talent and physiological gifts. When it comes to the sports we love like swimming, biking, and running, some are more naturally gifted, having either that huge aerobic "engine" or that powerful and graceful athleticism, or both.

If you're one of those with that big "motor," winning races or your age-group relatively easily, or you're an "adapter," (someone who seems to get faster and faster despite doing relatively little training), I say...good for you.

But honestly, what really excites me as a coach is seeing the athlete who might not necessarily possess those natural gifts, but who combines a long term view and a willingness to work hard, with a relentless pursuit of the smartest training path, often achieving far more than they ever believed was possible.

While winning is great, "achieving" can mean something different and even more profound. Want two examples?

  • How about an athlete who through hard fought experience and humility, finally learns to embrace the process of evolving into the enlightened person and athlete they never knew existed within?
  • Or the person who is able to train gracefully into their 60s, 70s and beyond in their sports of choice (not just the sports they were forced into because of chronic injury)?

I believe that these smart and fortunate few are happier people, experiencing a deeper fullfillment and satisfaction, exploding whatever self-limiting beliefs exist into smithereens!

You know, none of us really ever knows just how good we can become...yet so many of us jump at the first opportunity to place limits upon ourselves. I think it's a sort of "safety net," designed to "make sure" we never disappoint ourselves.

These self-limiting beliefs are not exclusive to the average among us, either. The "adapters" suffer from them too.

For example, earlier this year I had the opportunity to meet an elite ultra-runner. After carefully examining his training routine, despite the fact that he's won some big races, I am convinced he hasn't come anywhere close to his ultimate potential. (Time will tell whether he sees it the same way).

The point is, whatever your level of participation in your chosen sport (novice, elite or somewhere in between), regardless of how much natural talent you might have, it's possible you're achieving far LESS than you are truly capable of.  From my point of view as a coach, that really sucks.

So let me ask you point blank: could it be that your self-limiting beliefs (or a confirmation bias), and not the level of talent you might have, is what's really holding you back?

Happy trails!

~Coach Al

Do You Ever Ask Yourself These Questions?

 

As a coach, people sometimes think I have all the answers...

I don't.

No one does.

The truth is, in order to be successful, sometimes the athlete needs to look in the mirror and ask themselves some questions...

...so let me ask YOU....have you asked yourself any of these questions?


* What can I do better?

* What "tools" do I need to have in my "toolbox" that I DON'T have right now, in order to have my best chance for success on race day?

* What specific challenges does my "A" priority race-course(s) present to me, that I am not yet ready to meet and conquer?

* Am I being honest with myself about my weaknesses and my strengths, and am I addressing them as honestly as I can?

* Am I taking time each day and each succeeding week, to learn and to master skills, accepting and understanding that until I become more skilled and smarter in my training, my opportunities for improvement will be limited?

* Am I remembering to think long term (vs short term) about my overall growth as an athlete and person, with respect to race planning and day to day training?

Am I relaxing when I need to, tensing when I need to, and prioritizing training as I need to?

* Am I staying in the moment, doing my best in each rep, set, and training session, knowing that this might be the single biggest factor to improving over the long term?

* And....most importantly...am I enjoying this journey as fully as I should be and need to be, in order to truly feel great about myself and the sacrifices I have made, when this season is behind me?


I've given you a lot to think about here. I believe these questions can have a powerful impact on your potential for future success.

As I said, I don't have all the answers. However, I am committed to doing my best to help YOU on your quest toward greatness. Onward!

Happy trails!

~Coach Al

From Olivia: Why Self-Shaming May Be Hurting Your Performance

Pursuit Functional Well-being coach, Olivia Syptak

Now that we’re more than half way through the racing season in North America, I’m seeing tons lots of updates via Facebook, email and the Team Pursuit forums highlighting early and mid-season race experiences. There are the thrills of testing fitness built over the long cold winter and spring, the excitement of crossing the first finish lines of 2015, and more often than not, a personal, self-inflicted public shaming.

That’s right. Shaming. You know what I’m talking about. It tends to show up as something like this:

“It wasn’t the time that I was looking for….” or

“I really blew my run…” or “For all the training I did I should be faster on the bike.”

Every time I read or hear statements like this in someone’s race recap I wonder, what constructive and positive purpose is this serving? I also wonder how much more joy and even how much better we might perform if we could be more supportive of ourselves.

For all that we do as athletes, the long training days, time away from family and friends, the strength training, the soreness, the mental and physical fatigue we carry from week to week, not to mention the sheer logistical puzzle of juggling our athletic lives with our work and family commitments, we need to be supportive and acknowledging of ourselves. Disparaging and judgmental comments detract from that.

Think what statements like the above could be cultivating within your mind and body. What you might be hearing yourself say, over and over, could actually be “I’m not good enough,” “I don’t have what it takes,” or worse, “people are going to judge me anyway, so I better put the judgement on myself first.” Yikes! It would be hard to get up in the morning with that going on, much less rock your best race!

You know that saying that if you want to be loved by others you have to love yourself first? What would your training and racing experience be like if you could apply that idea here?

Try making some simple changes in how you think and talk about the work you put in and your performances. Consider replacing thoughts like “I’m not ready for this race,” or “that run is going to suck” with “I deserve to have a great time out there on course and to enjoy testing my fitness.” Look at opportunities to replace insecurities with confidence in your abilities and will. Rather than thinking things like, “I’m nowhere near as fast as I want to be” opt for something like “I’ve trained thoroughly and with focus to the best of my abilities and I will race to my fullest potential today.”

After races, consider how you might document and share your experience in ways that don’t contain a judgement about yourself. Even if you had a not so great race, simply affirming “I can learn a lot from how the day went” rather than, “it wasn’t the time I wanted” stays focused on your continued development as an athlete instead of creating a judgement about yourself

How you think and talk about your training and racing for yourself and in conversation with others can shape what you experience in the future. This is not dissimilar from how you would deliver praise to a child, student, or employee. Focusing on the behavior and the way you have prepared and on your experience of the event could be much more supportive toward your improvement and continued love of sport.

Adopting a mindset and shifting how you evaluate, think about and talk about yourself as an athlete that is honest, non-judgmental, is not minimizing of the effort you put in could be could just be your performance (and enjoyment!) advantage.

~Olivia

Do Skills Really Matter?

Happy Monday!

So listen, I know you work hard every day, but I have to ask, is all that hard work you are doing, actually working?

For example, do you consider the training you do "practice" with the goal of improving your skills, or do you simply want to get in a "workout"?

Do you consistently and objectively assess your individual skill level in the training and racing you do, and consider how those skills or lack thereof, might be helping or hindering your ability to reach your ultimate potential?

Have you ever considered the idea that your skill-set might be one reason why you're frequently injured, or simply NOT improving as you had hoped?

The fact is, if you're just hammering away every day seeking to improve  your "fitness" with only a superficial regard for skills, the only thing you'll improve is your ability to struggle.

One of my early mentors in swimming was Haydn Wooley from Future Dreams Swimming. Haydn once said something to me that so resonated with me, I made it a central theme in all I do as a coach and athlete: "skill sets the upper limit for how far your fitness will take you."  

Looking back on my years working in a gait analysis lab and studying human movement, I feel confident going even further than Haydn did, and will say that poor skills not only limit fitness growth potential, poor skills also wear out joints, cause compensation and imbalance which inevitably leads to injury, and even sucks some of the joy out of training.

Think about it folks: Virtually every single thing you do as an athlete, physical and mental, is a skill.  Every. Single. Thing.

Most of the athletes who read this are way too impatient to take the time, use the brain power, or get the objective feedback that's needed to truly and consistently improve their skill set. Anxious to "get a workout in," they groove bad habits and reinforce less-efficient neural engrams with poor practice. In the process, they teach their body and mind how to struggle a little better, and sadly, limit their ultimate potential for growth.

Now you may say, "I'm not really that good anyway - I am not as talented as those at the front of the race."

To me, that is the worst kind of thinking.

The truth of the matter is, none of us really knows just how good we can become.

Sure, it is safer to tell yourself you "can't be that good," and settle into that more comfortable mediocrity.

For me and for the athletes I work with, I'd much rather choose the path where there are no limits to my potential.

I encourage you to do the same!

Happy Trails!

~Coach Al

ps: in future posts, I'll have more specific tips on improving skills, especially in areas that you never thought were skills! Stay tuned.

pss: Yes, in case you were wondering, Haydn is a GREAT coach. Among the very best in the biz - highly recommended!

What Is Your MOST Important Tool For Recovery?

My short post yesterday on 1 day of scheduled rest each week really got many of you thinking, at least based upon the feedback I received.

(Yes, I love hearing from you, so keep your replies and emails coming!)

As time goes on, I'll share lots more about both recovery and rest. After all, assuming the training is done, isn't recovery the most important element to ensure you improve?

Today I want to get right to it and talk about the ONE most important tool in your arsenal to ensure you recover quickly and effectively.

I'm sure you all have your favorite tool, right?

So, is it your foam roller?

What about regular massage?

How about more sleep or better nutrition?

A secret supplement perhaps?

............

Nope, the MOST important tool isn't ANY of those.  

Sure, a foam roller can help on a peripheral level with superficial myofascial release. And yes, without a doubt sleep is important; we all get too little of it. And massage? I think it's incredibly valuable, especially as you age and the miles pile up (lots more on that in future posts).

As much as you might be in love with your foam roller or your massage therapist, none are your MOST IMPORTANT tool for recovery.

So, I know you're asking.....what is?

The answer is....

YOU.  

That is, it is your own body - how your own body "moves" - it is your individual movement quality.

If you don't think of your own movement quality as a tool for recovery, you're missing out on the most important element to helping you stay young and recover faster!

Simply put:

If you are imbalanced or unstable, you're likely shredding smaller muscles as they attempt to do the work designed for the larger prime movers. 

If you lack the mobility or flexibility you need, you're pushing the end range of muscles and tearing them up, causing excessive micro-trauma with each step or pedal stroke. And you're likely not attenuating ground-reaction-forces or gravity very effectively, increasing the "pounding" you experience with each step you run.

In my experience, the athletes with poor movement quality are in love with their foam roller because they beat themselves up so much in each and every workout! (Not good!)

They also never seem to fully recover or reach their potential, and also tend to end up injured.

Your most important recovery "tool" is you and your own individual movement quality. 

Think about that the next time you're dying to foam roll or wondering why it takes you days to return to quality training after a hard effort.

Or if you're struggling with chronic injury despite using that darn foam roller every day!

Have a great weekend everyone!

~Coach Al

Are You Getting Enough Rest?

So let me ask....

Are you training 7-days a week, thinking that you need to hit-it every day in order to improve?

Do you feel you get enough rest in between training sessions, or that a complete day of rest is only for novices?

Does training every day make you feel "tough"?

If any of the above describes you, beware. Worst case, you may be slowly drilling yourself into a hole that you'll have a difficult time getting out of. Best case, you're probably not recovering enough to be able to put the maximum amount of effort into your most important training sessions, which are ultimately what lifts your fitness to a higher level.

In my book, 1 full rest day each and every week is absolutely mandatory, regardless of your level of experience or what races you may be training for. The mental and physical break can help make your other training days more productive and ultimately help you lift fitness and boost recovery beyond a level it might have other wise been at.  And it might help you stay free from injury too!

Remember, your next training session is only as good as your last recovery.

Happy Trails!

~Coach Al