This little piggy…hurts! We know how it is. Feet can often be a source of big trouble for runners. Here is a direct download link for Baby Steps: A Runners Guide to Feet, Shoes and Dating, our free (somewhat humorous) guide to your feet, how they work, and how to–finally–pick the running shoe that’s right for YOU.
Orthotics? We cover that. Dating? Well, really, not so much!
Here’s an excerpt:
Pick up any running or triathlon magazine and you won’t read too many pages before a bold advertisement displays the shoes you really need if you truly want to be your best. Some claim to make you faster or prevent injury, others tout the benefits of “running more naturally.” One thing’s for sure, all of them look cool. And they come in the flashiest colors. And there’s some (paid) uber-athlete sporting said (complimentary) foot gear. You know the one. She just posted a new course record at IM Antarctica. She is sweaty and sexy and appears to have been chiseled from a solid block of marble. Not some cheap, domestic marble, mind you, the expensive Italian kind.
You, too, could look like this, race like this and maybe even get a date on Friday night if you wore these shoes.
Then we get serious, and take you on a tour of your foot function, foot form, and mechanics, leading you to figure out how to pick the right running shoe. Hit us up with comments or questions here in the blog or on our Facebook page. Enjoy and let us know what you think!
I’ve received a few questions recently from triathletes, runners, and cyclists about racing, and how to approach those efforts. It’s a good time to review some basics about prioritizing races, how to approach each event, and how to think about your goals, and determine your focus.
Get back to me with any questions, and I’ll be happy to go more in depth on any issues you may have.
Race season is ON!
Get our FREE 29-page ebook, Unleash Your Full Potential 101! Like us on Facebook, and be registered to win a free Virtual Gait Analysis (VGA) AND receive 15% off any gait analysis package! Drawing for the VGA to be held in early June. Not on Facebook? No problem! Get your download and register to win here!
One of our great clients, Glen Elliot, does a terrific job explaining the frustration most runners face when trying to improve their form. He tried to work on every cue in the book while running–cadence, land on forefoot, good posture, etc.–and came to the conclusion, “this just isn’t working.” A few weeks after his gait analysis and subsequent training with us, Glen returns to the lab for a tune up. What you will hear is his “lightbulb moment.”
Great job, Glen! You are really fitting together all the pieces of the puzzle!
I think you will find interesting a current situation I am working through with one of the triathletes I coach. He is having a crisis in confidence about his run preparedness for Ironman Coeur d’Alene coming up in June. This athlete has been at the triathlon game for a while, but–like so many of you–has experienced repetitive cycles of running injury. Before we started working together, he had not been able to run with any consistency–or at all–for a year.
His current injury cycle came on the heels of his last round of Ironman training two years ago. He trained for that race with a mass coaching program that strongly stresses the “train more” philosophy with punishing levels of intensity day in and day out, week in and week out. And while this program touts it is “the way” to train for faster race times, in the end it robbed this athlete (and many others) of ANY ability to train or race at all.
As a long-time and experienced coach, I know one thing for sure–the “just train more” message is very seductive to triathletes. In a very real way, the mindset of “just train more” or “no pain, no gain” pervades much of our sport, and is almost like a drug. Many of us joke about it, but the fact is it seems to tap into a primal need to test ourselves and prove we can handle pain and not wilt under pressure. Once we drink that Kool Aid, it’s hard to turn back. Many don’t know any other way once exposed to it, and are often led further down the path by coaches who flat out don’t know what they are doing. The bottom line is, my triathlete’s concerns about run preparedness come from old, worn out training tapes replaying in his head. He has been duped into believing that you need to do week upon grueling week of long, hard running in order to be “ready” to run a marathon off of the bike.
That’s simply not true. Not on any level.
Here’s what is true–and this is where athletes find the place of phenomenal power, authentic fulfillment, and, yes, truly outstanding race day results.
IF you are functionally strong, TRULY healthy, and are building run and overall fitness steadily throughout training, that creates the conditions for an outstanding race. Then you must SHOW UP on race day, be TRULY healthy and rested, race smart, and be mentally ready to go after it. Put the two pieces together and it is then that you have the best opportunity for a GREAT race, especially off the bike–which is where it matters the most. Sounds too simple, and not “hard enough”?
Any coach can react to an athlete’s nervousness and write an overly aggressive run “build” phase. I always tell my athletes the easiest thing I can do is write harder plans. After all, I only have to type! Many knucklehead coaches, however, take pride in making stuff “hard” because their own egos are their biggest concern, not the athlete’s health and well being. As a responsible and experienced coach, I know that when an athlete returns to running after injury, the first few weeks absolutely DRIVE what happens, good or bad, with all the run training to follow for this race, this season–and beyond!
For example, if my triathlete is running slightly beyond his true functional capability due to an aggressive build designed to “get him there,” odds are he will fall back into old dysfunctional and compensated movement patterns. Remember, it is those same patterns that created injury in the first place. Also, he will be building TIREDNESS, instead of true run FITNESS. That means as he gets closer to the race, he will be thinking and believing he’s ready to race, when, in truth, he has been moving backwards on a number of levels–not the least of which is inching closer to re-injury.
I can guarantee that if my triathlete is FULLY PRESENT on race day with strong mental fortitude and toughness, AND a completely healthy, rested and ready body, he will surprise the heck out of himself with a run to be proud of–and a run that reflects his true potential. And the beauty is, this Ironman will be the start–NOT the end–of a training period. By ensuring true run health, athletes find a deep well of resiliency they never thought they had. They are able to dig deeper and find a resolve they always thought had to come through “force,” and a “train-more-and-suck-it-up” philosophy. Truly healthy athletes RECOVER, and come back to train and race year after year. Instead of beating the body to a pulp, Ironman becomes the beginning of a long period of steady improvement in strength, durability, and speed.
Most importantly, finishing this Ironman healthily and well will allow my triathlete to MANIFEST the power of the accomplishment in his everyday life, not simply adopt a persona. His personal reasons for undertaking the challenge will be with him with every breath he takes after the race. It’s what Mark Allen referred to as a “raw reality.” My triathlete will be authentically healthy, authentically athletic, authentically positive. He will be an IRONMAN, in the truest sense of what finishing the distance is supposed to mean. He will live it, and in his own mind, he will know he did it right.
I wish this same sense of peace, accomplishment, and good health for every single triathlete I coach. It is the place where true fulfillment and satisfaction are born. Believe it, and make the decision to BE IT.
A few days ago, a discussion began in the USA Triathlon coaches group about running stride rate and cadence. Below is the original question that started the thread. Based on my work as a movement expert, it was clear I have a very different perspective than the other responses offered, and I would like to share my point of view.
Fellow Coaches, I’m a new USAT Level 1 Coach. I am currently working on running with a 90+ cadence. I understand the lean at the ankles to increase speed. How does one stay in the RPE 3-4 (Zone 2) while keeping a 90 cadence? Before taking this to my clients, I’m trying it and it is a bit exhausting. Is there a period of getting used to it that one must go through? Any drills to help with this? Is this tied to run durability? Thanks.
I’d like to offer a different viewpoint from the responses so far.
Stride rate is not simply a function of some kind of conscious decision or choice on the part of the runner to move their legs faster–especially if the runner actually WANTS to run faster AND be more efficient as a result of that faster stride.
Stride rate is a function of applied force to the ground. It is Newton’s third law of physics in action (Issac, not the shoes). That is, stability and strength are the determinants of ground contact time (GCT), and shortened ground contact time results in a faster stride rate (SR), all things being equal.
The same is largely true in cycling. As noted physiologist and coach Allen Lim said with respect to Lance Armstrong pedaling at very high cadence compared to his competitors, “a fast spin isn’t a technique for producing power. It is the result of having power.” Words to remember.
A runner who is more stable through the lumbar spine/pelvic girdle, and whose entire body is more functionally strong, will have less energy leakage when the foot comes into contact with the ground, thus shortening the GCT and facilitating a faster SR. The analogy I often use in our Gait Analysis Lab is what I call the “bouncy ball effect.” If I take a bouncy ball and throw it at the ground, it will bounce back up at a speed directly proportional to how hard I throw it. If I throw it “harder” and have it hit the ground with more force, it bounces up FASTER, and goes farther as a result. Our body is the same way. Note that I said our body–NOT our legs, or our core, or our feet, OR our shoes! We run with our entire body, not just the feet or the legs.
In my work, I help runners understand that if their stride rate is well below 90 cycles per minute (and especially if they present with a tendency to over stride), they will benefit from GRADUALLY and progressively increasing that rate to 90 cycles or faster. (Leg length is a factor in determining any “optimal” rate, obviously). I remind them that since they are not striding quickly, a progressive, gradual increase over the course of a few weeks will likely cause a spike in heart rate due to the change in a neuromuscular habit. They are not efficient yet at the higher SR. They are also moving larger muscles more quickly, which tends to increase HR as well. As they become more efficient at the higher SR, heart rate usually comes back down to the normal range.
So, the bottom line is this….
“Thinking” and “trying” to change to a higher SR won’t result in a FASTER or more powerful runner UNLESS that runner is ALSO working to get stronger and more stable at the same time. Stability and strength come first, right after appropriate mobility.
When I coach runners on increasing SR, I also teach them that their ability to stride faster–and to RUN FASTER and be more efficient–comes from building the proper combination of stability, mobility, and strength. When those appropriate levels are built, THEN I add the “frosting on the cake”–form changes and drills.
Very often, when a runner gets stronger and more stable one is surprised to find that very little stride rate “coaching” is actually required! The body is smart. Changes come authentically, from the INSIDE, not the outside.
My advice is to resist the urge to make conscious changes to any arbitrary run mechanic issue, including stride rate or GCT, without FIRST examining the ESSENTIAL issues of pelvic stability and true functional strength. TRUE stability and strength is required of EVERY athlete in any sport who wants to be faster and better. Real and meaningful changes that last–and result in faster running speeds and improved efficiency–always have, and always will, come from the inside.
Several years ago, I noticed that my good friend Todd had become a little… er… soft around the middle, for lack of a better description. I was trying to encourage him to get in shape, but it wasn’t until my loving wife, Susan, very kindly told him there was no way he could run a 5-mile race that he decided to take up the challenge. He finished that race and we signed up to do a half marathon that fall. By the following summer, we had both registered for our first half Ironman. Each year since then, Todd and I make it our mission to “drag someone off the couch” and get them exercising.
Our plan is simple: we register our “mark” for the Hartford half marathon and shame them into training. All in good fun. One year it was our high school friend, Dan. Last year it was Todd’s two older brothers, David and Bob. We plodded around the 13.1 mile course in about 2 1/2 hours, I think, but we smiled and laughed and enjoyed every minute of it. The greatest part is that everyone we’ve talked into coming outside to play with us has continued to exercise.
This past St. Paddy’s Day weekend, Todd and I went to Virginia Beach to join David for the Shamrock 2012 Yuengling Marathon. I guess David figured we owed him one. We broke no speed records, and we only got medals because they give them to everyone who finishes. David’s son, Keegan, rode his bike alongside his father the whole way around, just as he had done for all of the longer training runs. At the finish, David hugged Keegan with a tear in his eye and thanked him for being part of his achievement. What better gift could a father and son give each other? A great time was had by all.
The point of my story is this: We all exercise for different reasons. For me, there are many. First, I come from a family with a long history of heart disease, so I want to say healthy for myself, my wife and my kids. Second, I want to set a good example for my kids and make exercise a part of their lives. Finally, I enjoy training with my friends. There’s no better way to stay fit than biking through the hills in Old Lyme, running the beach loop in Old Saybrook, or swimming in Lake N’ski at sunrise with close friends and family. It’s good for the heart, the head and the soul.
Not everyone yearns to be on the podium, but there is something important that the 5-minute-milers and the 15-minute-milers have in common. Whether you compete or participate, train or exercise, race or run, you must move well. 5-K or marathon, sprint tri or Ironman, gardening or Bocce, it makes no difference.
Put plainly, good movement minimizes wear-and-tear on joints, muscles and bones and enables us to do whatever it is we want to do physically without breaking. And don’t be too disappointed if you move a little quicker as well.
Dr. Kurt Strecker here. My blog post today has a direct, lay-it-on-the-line tone. The urgency comes from a deep caring and concern for the athletes we see every day in the lab and in the clinic. Serious injuries are often created when small aches and pains are ignored. Athletes frequently exacerbate problems because they are obsessed with exercise. Creating serious trauma in the name of fitness just makes no sense, yet we see it every day. The real crime is, most of these injuries are actually preventable.
Over the last three weeks, three different runners have come into the lab with knee pain. Here’s the scenario:
All of them continued to run after the initial onset of pain
Not only did they finish the run they were doing when pain first presented, but they ran on subsequent days!
With all three runners, I had clinical suspicion of meniscus tear. Unfortunately, I was correct in all cases:
MRI revealed torn medial menisci in the first two runners
The MRI for the third runner revealed not only a torn medial meniscus, but also included a completely ruptured Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL)
What did all three runners have in common?
An obsessive desire to run
Very poor stability in the frontal plane
THE MADNESS HAS GOT TO STOP!
Exercise is for the benefit of the body, not its detriment! There is no sense whatsoever in building great cardiovascular fitness if it means you may, eventually, lose your ability to simply WALK.
In the case of each of these three runners, their severe injuries were totally PREVENTABLE. What got in the way? Here’s what we heard:
“I have to keep going. I HAVE to run.”
“I signed up for a race. I HAVE to train.”
Really, people? Why are so many of you willing to risk serious and possible long-term damage to your body, AND possibly lose the ability to participate in the sports you profess to love? Actually, what each of these runners signed up for is surgery, rehabilitation, the possibility of no running ever again, and early-onset osteoarthritis.
70% of all runners are injured in a calendar year. 70%! If you are a runner reading this, it is likely you have been one of them. Is it hopeless? Absolutely NOT!
You need to be to be proactive and build a solid frame BEFORE you rev the motor.
You must take preventative measures to develop muscular balance in your chassis to avoid injury.
You must develop proper functional strength, stability, and mobility in order to protect your body to then be able to train effectively.
Finally, you need to continue these productive practices over the long term so that you can train, race, and recover with resiliency year in and year out. It CAN be done!
So how do you do what I’ve outlined above? You can begin your re-education about what true athleticism entails right here by reading our blog and our website. We also invite you to get in touch with us–we can help you put it all together.
My final takeaway is this:
STOP RUNNING THROUGH PAIN! Pain is a signal that something is wrong. LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. You cannot accomplish any goal or fulfill any dream with a body that is unstable, unbalanced, weak, and broken.
I received a great question from a triathlete who watched my previous video post on movement quality vs. sport-specific skills. She clearly understood the points I made in the post, and wanted to know what I thought was THE most important ability to have as an athlete? Every athlete–novice to elite and whether you are a cyclist, triathlete, swimmer, runner, soccer player–CAN perform to their potential by setting the platform and laying the foundation of an singularly important element early in the training. What is that element? It’s outlined for you in the video below.
I really enjoy hearing from all of you. Don’t be shy about posting your comments and continuing the conversation! Thanks!
Pursuit Athletic Performance (PAP) is bringing their clinical gait analysis and sports-movement expertise to Fleet Feet Sports, 1003 Farmington Ave., West Hartford, CT.
Each Wednesday evening, Coach Al Lyman and Dr. Kurt Strecker will offer 90-minute personalized in-depth gait analysis and full-body functional muscle and joint examination for runners who register. Following the analysis, a customized report outlining an athlete’s key limiters will be provided. An exercise prescription will also be developed to build strength and stability, as well as to remove compensations and dysfunctional movements that severely limit running performance. If required, experts from Select Physical Therapy and Fleet Feet store are also available will work with athletes to optimize performance.
More information and registration is available here. The cost for the 90-minute session is $295. As a special thank you, PAP will offer each runner who signs up a $50 Fleet Feet gift certificate to ensure each athlete has the correct shoes and gear.
Said Dr. Kurt Stecker, Certified Chiropractic Sports Physician, “The sporting world has been abuzz with news of ‘functional movement analysis’ and ‘core conditioning’. The movement-based analysis and training we provide at Pursuit Athletic Performance is the same philosophy embraced by professional teams like the Atlanta Falcons and the Indianapolis Colts. Endurance athletes–like runners, cyclists and triathletes–are also discovering the immense benefits that come with training from a foundation of functional strength and stability.”
“It makes no sense to build fitness on top of dysfunction,” continued Coach Al Lyman. “Through our gait analysis and follow-up prescriptive training, you absolutely will run more efficiently, and you will get faster. PAP will help you unlock your full-potential, and your risk of injury will plummet.”
Fleet Feet owner Stephanie Blozy discussed why they created the “Performance Corner,” and entered into the partnership with PAP and Select Therapy. “As we designed the new store, we knew we needed a special space to offer a higher level of movement and injury analysis. We sought to partner with organizations that can bring cutting-edge analysis and performance improvement programs to the store. Pursuit Athletic Performance and Select Physical Therapy are the best practitioners out there.” she said.
Pursuit Athletic Performance was founded by Coach Al Lyman, CSCS, FMS, HKC and Dr. Kurt Strecker, DC, CCSP. Their top-notch reputation in the industry attracts athletes from all over the US and Europe. Most recently, they have worked with elite endurance athletes like Lisbeth Kenyon, three-time Ironman Triathlon age-group World Champion and course record holder, and Debbie Livingston, ultra-distance champion, and winner of the Grindstone 100, the east coast’s most difficult endurance trail run. They can also point to outstanding success with hundreds of age-group athletes at all levels of ability.
The Fleet Feet Sports “Performance Corner” is located at 1003 Farmington Ave.,
West Hartford, CT. 860.233.8077.
Our client, Zach Hurd–an outstanding young man and exceptional athlete–recently signed with the Oakland Raiders! We were so pleased to hear from him through our Facebook page, and learn that he will soon be returning to work with us again, now that his season is over.
Said Zach, Can’t wait to be back in town so we can get started training for the 2012 season. Had a great finish to this years season and I couldn’t have done it without you guys. See you soon!
Zach did amazing work with us here at Pursuit Athletic Performance, and he is a GREAT guy to work with! An NFL offensive lineman, no doubt, has to be strong (now there’s the understatement of the day). But he understands the power of becoming truly functionally strong and balanced in all the right ways to prepare his body for the rigors of professional football.
When Zach first joined the Raiders he told us, “I couldn’t have had the best workout of my life with the Oakland Raiders if it wasn’t for you guys helping me become more explosive and stay lower… With the same methodology, we train runners, triathletes, cyclists and other athletes–of all levels–to excel in their specific sport by helping them regain authentic movement and eliminate compensations, dysfunction, and imbalances. Zach unleashed his true potential, and you can too.
We look forward to helping Zach become an even more powerful, explosive, and agile professional NFL player!