Archive for running

Is It Possible You’re Dehydrated?

 

I'm coming at you today with a short piece on all things hydration. (I know what you're thinking, not another article about water and how much I should drink!) ūüôā

In all seriousness, I decided to write this up today for one primary reason: despite the plethora of information and research on this topic, I still find that more than a few athletes end up coming up short with their water intake during training and racing, and it often dramatically (and negatively) impacts how they feel and perform.

So with the introduction of Timothy Noake's book "Waterlogged," a few years ago, or this article published last August in the New York Times, the message that is being sent out to endurance athletes is clear:

They'd have us believe (I'm paraphrasing) it's a myth to think the average person needs to drink eight, 8 oz glasses of water daily. As for the endurance athlete out there training in a variety of conditions, your risk of drinking TOO much water is actually much greater than is being dehydrated.

But are these statements 100% true, for every one of us?

I would argue that no, they're not.

Your hydration needs are largely determined by the temperature and humidity where you live and train, and your acclimation to those conditions. When it is very hot and humid, your hydration needs rise, often dramatically.

As a coach, I find that many of the athletes I work with fail to meet their minimum hydration needs during their regular day in, day out training sessions, especially when it comes to the hottest training days of the year. (Like right now!)

For what it's worth, I also find that sometimes the biggest mistake an endurance athlete makes is not adjusting their hydration "plan" based upon the conditions on the day. For example, let's say race day turns out much colder and windier than you were expecting or that you trained in. Don't make the mistake of taking in the same amount of water as you did during your very hot training days.

The Conservation Mindset

  • Do you typically head out on "only" a 45 minute or 1 hour run without water, thinking you don't need it or can catch up later?
  • What about a 3 or 5 hour bike ride with only 3 or 4 bottles of water?

One of the problems that often arises, is when we venture out into a run or bike ride carrying a limited number of water bottles (and therefore, fluid). Because many abhore stopping at a store and can often get caught failing to plan ahead, the result is what I call a "conservation" mindset during that training session that says, "you'd better meter out that water because it's all you have."

I've experienced this myself a few times, and with others that I work with. This kind of thinking can set you up for dehydration. Bottom line, during hot weather training, you must drink enough water to meet your needs, without fear of running "out."

Avoid trying to "catch up" by simply taking enough water along or planning ahead and taking the time to place bottles out at distant locations where you may be passing by to have enough to cover your basic needs.

Your Fascial (Water) Net

We are all familiar with how water is truly essential for basic functioning - for life itself. But what most athletes aren't as familiar with is how much your hydration levels impact how easily, efficiently, and fast you are able to run (or perform any other activity).

What do I mean?

A bouncing water balloon mirrors how our fascial net, combined with adequate hydration, helps us move forward!

A bouncing water balloon mirrors how our fascial net, combined with adequate hydration levels, helps us move forward!

Think of a water balloon. (Check out the slow motion video by clicking on the image to the left!). When you run, your body is a lot like this balloon filled with water.

The skin of the balloon is just like the fascial net that surrounds and supports your internal organs, soft tissue, muscles, and bones. What is important to know is, most of the elasticity that moves you forward comes largely from that fascial net, NOT other tissues.

 

Fascia is a water filled membrane. To use an analogy, when you dehydrate even slightly, your fascia and fascial system begin to act more like dried out (dehydrated!) beef jerky, and less like juicy, succulent prime rib. When you're dehydrated (even the tiniest bit) that fascial net can no longer help you bounce along (again, think of that water balloon).

9d6401e2-69ae-4fec-b05a-b7d841d180e8With increasing water losses, you're required to muscle every step. Similarly, that fascial net provides much of your overall stability. Your balance, coordination, and ultimately your speed, suffer.

Drink To Thirst?

In this podcast I did with Dr. Tamera Hew, one of the world's leading researchers and experts on hyponetremia (low blood sodium), she recommended drinking according to your thirst. (**If you haven't listened to this great interview loaded with golden nuggets related to hydration and hyponetremia, and you have a "thirst" for knowledge, go listen HERE!)

There's no doubt that this basic recommendation is a good one. The problem can be, based upon my experience as a coach, that quite a few of us are NOT as in tune with our thirst as we might hope, especially as the hours add up, and fatigue and energy challenges increase.

This is one reason why it's imperative to have a basic plan of attack in place that is based upon the conditions and your own practice and experience.

  • Start with a basic plan for 25-35 oz of water per hour and adjust accordingly depending upon conditions!
  • When it is very hot or you're not fully acclimated to the environment you're in, you'll need more. When it's cooler, you'll need less. Be flexible with your plan and adjust as you go.
  • Consider performing a sweat test on yourself to find out your own individual needs depending upon environmental conditions.
  • Go listen to that podcast I did with Dr. Hew, she rocks!
  • Learn about YOUR body and your needs as you train, and then listen to it! ūüôā

Happy trails!
~Coach Al

PS: If you'd like to receive more information and tips right in your inbox, click HERE to sign up and I'll be in touch!

PSS: One last thing: if you end up in a situation in a hot race where you know you're dehydrated, you have to have the confidence in your training and STOP long enough to fix the problem! That might mean a few extra minutes at an aid station, or sitting down to drink a liter of water to fix the issue. Don't assume that you'll be able to still soldier on to the finish. Stop, fix it, then resume, feeling much better and able to maintain your goal race pace as a result!

 

There is NO Tomorrow.

 

Hi Everyone...Happy 2016!

Ok, so in my humble opinion, today's post is important - I hope you can take a minute to read it. It's important for one simple reason - because as the subject line says, there is no tomorrow. 

Now that might sound extreme or fatalistic, but ya know (and as you'll learn as you read further), when it comes to setting goals, taking care of those "niggling" injuries (that seem to get worse as we get older), and being able to do the things that make us smile (like run!), I've learned that the only path that works long term, is to take action like there is NO tomorrow.

Now... before I tell you what kind of action I recommend you take, let me ask you a question:

Do you usually begin the new year with a "plunge" on New Year's Day? You know, the kind of ocean "plunge" where you strip down to your trunks and jump feet first into icy-cold water, with a bunch of other crazy fun-loving friends? ūüôā

New Year's Day PlungeI think I did my first official New Year's Day "plunge" around 1985. I haven't done it every year since, because I'm not a big fan of streaks; it seems whenever I get any kind of streak going, I inevitably end up doing something my intuition tells me isn't smart. ūüôā But from that first time in 1985, I thought it was a great way to start the year anew.

...lots of laughing at myself and others, yelping and general carrying on like kids! I love the feeling of "drowning" those mistakes from the past year and looking forward optimistically! (The pic on the left is me getting rid of my socks before jumping in!)

So as is typical when I do plunge, I joined up with some friends for some mountain biking, and then with a run group that slow jogged from the John J. Kelley statue in downtown Mystic, Connecticut, all the way to the shoreline a few miles down the road.

So how does this all relate to what I want to share with you today?

As it happened, because so many folks from all over the area showed up to jog and then plunge, I bumped into a bunch of guys I had trained with, raced against, and become good friends with over the last 30+ years.

It was great to catch up, but honestly, what really blew me away was how few of them are actually running anymore. I mean, seriously, I met up with three different guys who were there to plunge, but told me that for all intents and purposes, their running days are over.

Not surprising to me, chronic knee and hip injuries that left a permanent mark on the joints seemed to be the prevailing theme.

I was saddened because in all three instances, we had a conversation about their injuries some time over the last few years. I told them what I thought they should do, and offered to help.

Listen, there's a truism in our business of helping athletes avoid injury and extend their athletic "lives" and it is this: See me now or see me later, but at some point, you are going to see me.

When it comes to protecting your body and making sure you can run for as long as you would like (how about for as long as you live), there is no tomorrow.

Check out Apollo in the video below - no one says it better. Believe it!

No Tomorrow

 

The ONLY path for anyone who wants to be proactive and make sure they are doing all they can to age gracefully, is to get to the heart of how they're "moving" and determine definitively where they're unstable, weak, imbalanced, or asymmetrical. Until that happens, it is only a matter of time.

So, because I want to help YOU, for a very limited time only (4 days-this opportunity is gone at the end of the day on Friday!) and for a limited number of runners (only 5), I am offering YOU a solution!

That solution is our unique Pursuit Athletic Performance Virtual Gait Analysis at $100 off the normal price of $299.00. That's right, $100.00 off!

4 days only; 5 athletes only. Will one of them be you?

 

The Virtual Gait Analysis Is For You IF:

  • You're tired of nagging pain and you're frustrated that you can't run as you'd like to.
  • You want answers NOW on what to do to finally resolve the issue forever.
  • You aren't lazy, and are willing to do the work that is required, once you know WHAT to do and HOW to do it.
  • You love life and want to keep running for as long as you're alive!
  • You're a nice person.

The Virtual Gait Analysis Is NOT For You IF:

  • You don't think you need any help determining the cause of the injury. You know it all and might even have the certification to prove it! ūüôā
  • You a) got advice from a running friend, or b) now have a foam roller you can use, or c) believe running with pain is the price you have to pay to be "good."
  • You believe with a little rest, you'll be good to go.
  • You believe the answer is to run more miles!
  • You're not a nice person.

 

How Does Our Virtual Gait Analysis Work?

  1. Go HERE and hit the "Get A Virtual Gait Analysis" Button. During check out, USE THIS COUPON: VGA100 to get $100.00 off of the normal $299.00 price, but ONLY if you act immediately because it goes away after 5 have been purchased! Coupon code: VGA100
  2. After you complete the purchase, you'll receive an instant downloadable PDF with detailed instructions on every single step you need to take, which includes submitting pictures and video to us. It is an easy-to-follow process that works!
  3. We will be in contact with you to help you through every step of the process of submitting what we need to conduct the analysis, should you need us.
  4. We then take all of the information provided and conduct the analysis in our labs.
  5. When we are done (normally about 4-5 days from the time you have submitted ALL of the information to us), we set up a SKYPE video call with you at a mutually convenient time, where we review everything we learned with you. At that time we will answer any questions you may have. Also included is a complete VGA report that includes a detailed, individualized exercise prescription for addressing YOUR specific issues, as well as all supporting pictures and documentation.
  6. And then, because you NEED TO KNOW what to do to fix your issue (and how to do it!), we will give you instant access to our website and all of the instructional videos and documents. You'll know WHAT to do, HOW to do it, and will be able to contact us should you have any questions along the way!

It's time to stop the insanity.

I want to help YOU! However, I can only help if you take action NOW!

You ARE worth the time, expense and effort. Let me help you return to the healthy, vibrant, happy runner you want to be!

Happy trails!
~Coach Al

PS: Still not sure, or doubt some of what I've said? Why not jump onto our Pursuit Facebook Group and ask any question you'd like of the athletes that are there. They'll give you the straight scoop! It is an open group, so just ask to come in. You can post any question on our company Facebook page HERE also.

PSS: Still doubt it works? Why not speak with any other athlete who has gone through it. Reply to this email and I'll give you contact information.

PSSS: Remember, for 4 days ONLY and for 5 runners ONLY! $100 off!! No exceptions! Act now! This is gone by the end of the week!

 

FIVE Years – 22 Minutes

 

Hi Everyone...Coach Al here. I hope you had a good Christmas holiday!

I've got an important message for you today, one that is hopeful and empowering and will help you be happier and better in 2016!

But first, I'm ramping up my plans for a new GET STRONG - BLAST FAT coaching group in January, so I wanted to let you know in case you're interested. This will be my second go-round. The first group has been awesome, so I can't wait to get a new group going and get those who REALLY want to get strong and lean, on their way in 2016! Interested in learning more? CLICK HERE.

So back to today's message. On October 7th, I was at an Entrepreneur Magazine conference in NYC and had the good fortune of hearing some great presentations including one by writer, James Clear. (His articles on behavioral psychology, habit formation, and performance improvement are awesome - check them out!)

Mr. Clear has developed quite a following online because of his often profound and always concise writing.

James Clear articleHe wrote an article recently entitled "You're Not Good Enough To Be Disappointed."

The article resonated with me and with many others, including some colleagues in the coaching community and some smart introspective athletes I coach. If you missed it, click on the image to the left and read it.

I get frustrated, but that's just me.

The article from Mr. Clear reminded me that one of the things that has always frustrated me, whether it was teaching percussion privately back in the day, or today as a coach, is how quickly people get impatient or discouraged whenever something is "hard" for them, or when they don't get instant results from a little bit of training or work.

I'm also frustrated whenever athletes want to brush over the learning process (essential to improvement and growth, and for me, FUN), so that that they can get to the "really" good stuff, whatever that is.

Now if that sounds harsh or hits home and makes you a bit uncomfortable to read, then you have a choice. You can close the page and check out for now, or you can keep reading and see if there's something here that's worth thinking about. I hope you keep reading.

Now listen, this ISN'T about me, it's about you. I'm here to help you get better.

But at the same time, I have to be honest...

Like every one of you, when I think about how a thing might help me, I go back and relate it to my own experiences. In this case, for me it's my development as a runner. So let's start there:

I ran my first Boston marathon in 1983 as an unofficial runner (aka "back of the packer"), finishing in around 4-hours. The picture you see is from that day, hanging out with some friends right before the start. What an amazing day it was!

I finished, absolutely IN LOVE with running AND with the Boston Marathon. I wanted to come back as a qualified runner, not one that jumped in the back and ran as a scab.

So, I made a huge decision that day, vowing NOT to run another marathon until I was ready to run fast enough to qualify. (No small feat since the men's open qualifying time then was 2:50!).

Four years went by.

Injuries, miles, a lot of reading and study and research, more injuries, and dozens of road races and track sessions later, the time arrived when I believed I was ready to give qualifying a shot. I signed up for the Marine Corp Marathon as my first "official" marathon. Luckily for me, the qualifying standard had been lowered from 2:50 to 3 hours! My 3:01:20 that day in 1987, starting behind 11,000 runners, got me in.

So let me ask, would you or any of your friends take four years, F-O-U-R years... to train and improve, between their first and second marathons?

(Many runners and triathletes are so anxious and impatient, they sign up for their second marathon (or ironman) before the ink is dry on the finisher certificate from the first, without considering what it really will take to improve!).

 

FIVE YEARS - 22 minutes.

My first "official" Boston (and 2nd official marathon) followed in April, 1988. The image to the left and below is from that race. (Gotta love the fancy painters hat, right?) ūüôā

1988 Boston Marathon

I will admit that when it came to training, my entire focus as a runner was on one thing: How I could run the marathon faster, and the Boston Marathon in particular.

So it was more racing, more injuries, more humbling mistakes and "learning" opportunities. Hell, the things I write about and share today with the athletes I work with, I learned the hard way over those years and the ones that followed.

I trained for 5 years before running the 2:39 at Boston in 1992 that stands today as my PR for the distance.

5 years to improve by 22 minutes.

F-I-V-E years. Twenty-two minutes.

Have you or any of your friends worked relentlessly for 5 straight years, with a laser beam focus on one race, one distance?

Some of the athletes I've worked with look back and like to say I have more talent than they do. I don't believe that. (Do you remember this? "I Don't Care How Talented You Are,")

I have no more talent than you do, but as soon as I crossed the line in Boston in 1983, I knew what I wanted - I LOVED training with a very specific goal. And I LOVE the process. I always have, and I'm sure it comes in part from my life as a musician.

If you're going to reach your true potential, you have to be willing to listen, learn, and work really hard for as long as it takes. And you have to try to avoid being frustrated, mad, or disappointed. It's that simple.

As James Clear (and Dan John) pointed out, the fact is, you haven't worked long enough to be disappointed, frustrated, or discouraged.

It's time to embrace the process and enjoy the journey, my friends.

Just keep learning and working hard. Every day's a new day.

Happy trails!
~Coach Al

PS: 2016 is almost here. What is going to change for you? Do you have goals and a plan in hand to finally get leaner and stronger? If you want REAL change and want to get leaner and stronger in 2016, CLICK HERE to learn more about the next GET STRONG-BLAST FAT group coaching to be starting soon.

Are You Ready To Break The Cycle?

Marathoner_Knee_Brace_med

In response to a recent survey I sent out to some athletes on our mailing list, many told me how frustrated they are with an on again-off again running injury cycle. Quite a few also said they have learned the hard way that when they're injured, they can't train, and when they can't train, they can't improve.

Listen, I hate talking about injuries as much as you and everyone else. Being injured is like that dirty little secret that no one, especially the injured, ever wants to discuss, ya know? Runners lie, wish, hope and hide them, and even try to silently talk themselves out of them. And it doesn't seem to be improving either. I read a prediction recently that 7 out of 10 runners will be injured in the 2016 calender year. Something is seriously wrong here!

If you "google" any common running injury, you'll get page upon page of information on how to self diagnose your injury. As you start to read through the articles and pages you find, very often a calm will come over you; you're finally finding the information to the problem and hopefully a cure is around the next page, right?

The truth is, when you're injured, the SITE of the pain is rarely the SOURCE of the pain. So self diagnosis rarely ever works.  In fact, you often end up just treating the symptoms, not CURING the root cause because you don't know what it is!  And the root cause of an injury is often quite simple and foundational in nature.

If you've read this far, chances are this topic is resonating with you, so please keep reading!

So let me ask you a question: How many courses of physical therapy have you gone through to fix an injury in a specific area only to have it crop up again? I hear that complaint from athletes in every sport, young and old, every day. Here's how it often plays out in a vexing triad of money, time, and frustration:

Let's say an athlete has recurring bouts of Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS). What's the actual cost?

3 bouts of ITBS x 12 weeks of physical therapy + 2 x-rays + 4 pairs of different running shoes + 2 knee braces + 1 MRI  = a whole lot of TIME, MONEY, AND FRUSTRATION! 

"Why isn't this injury gone? Why does it keep coming back?"

If this is you and you're ready to stop treating the symptoms and finally RESOLVE your injury issues, why not start TODAY with my partner, Dr. Kurt Strecker's FREE VIDEO INJURY PREVENTION SERIES.  Click HERE to learn more.

Honestly, I watched him film these videos, and I think they're really good. There is absolutely no cost to you so you've got absolutely nothing to lose, right?  You will receive real and valuable information that actually works.

Are YOU ready to break that cycle?

If I can answer any questions or help in any way, contact me and let me know. I'm listening.

Happy trails!
~Coach Al

PS: In a future post, I'll discuss the biggest error that most runners make when they return from an injury. If YOU are making this mistake, you will very likely see the injury return much sooner than you would like, and that sucks. Stay tuned.

Is STRAVA The Newest Coaching Tool?

 

I was chatting recently with an athlete I just started working with about an upcoming marathon she had planned to run. I am excited about the opportuity to be working with her; regardless of how talented she might be, she is eager to learn and understands that contrary to popular belief, it doesn't take gobs of talent OR huge sacrifice to pursue our dreams and goals and approach our ultimate potential.  All it really takes are four things:

  1. a willingness to be honest with ourselves
  2. a never ending desire to learn
  3. a commitment to relentless, smart work 
  4. the patience to do things the right way and stay the course

As she and I discussed whether she should follow through with her plans to run the marathon, which incidently was only a few weeks away, I decided that reviewing the plan she had been following would give me a sense of her preparation, so I asked her to forward it to me.

As I looked the plan over, I instantly recognized what I believe is the most serious and common flaw of many marathon training plans.  

I have to admit I wasn't that surprised to see it - I've seen it over and over again in many different plans written by many different coaches.

What is that flaw? Simply put, it is completing that last long run too close to race day. 

When I brought up the topic of this all-too-common mistake, she replied: "...all I have to say is, it's really incredible how hard it is to undo mass perception like that!  To be honest, while it makes complete sense, I had never heard that before!  The proliferation of social media and Strava in particular, gave me some insight into how some of my friends train who also race, and they certainly haven't applied this approach." 

I thought to myself, WOW...have we reached a point where Strava, is now not only a place to race for an "FKT" or fastest known time, but is now also a coaching tool?

  • Are you an athlete who decides¬†how you should train by watching what others do¬†(often total strangers) and apply what you see them do, to your¬†training? ¬†
  • Do you assume that because someone might be faster, you should train like them?
  • Do you believe that there is a "one size fits all" when it comes to training?

It seems to me that with the popularity of Strava (and other social media), the inclination for some to follow others or see what they do and use that as coaching guidance, without really understanding how that might be helping OR hurting, is an ever increasing problem.

Who knows why others are doing what they're doing, or whether THEY might go even FASTER if they employed a different approach?

If you've shown up on race day with tired legs and performed below your potential as a result, give this topic some serious consideration. Resist the temptation to blindly trust the plan or the "expert" giving you advice.

Learn. Think. Train smart.

For a much more in-depth review of what I believe is the best overall approach for tapering into your marathon or iron distance triathlon, check out this blog post I wrote prior to last year's Boston Marathon entitled "Old Habits Die Hard." 

Happy trails!

~Coach Al

One Quarter of an Inch!

 

When asked what he thought was man‚Äôs greatest invention, Albert Einstein didn't reply the wheel, the lever, or for that matter, anything else you might expect, he replied, "compound interest.‚Ä̬†Do you remember when you first learned about this seemingly magical way to earn money, faster and more easily?

What if I told you there was a way to "get rich" as a runner, by taking advantage of the same basic principles as those that make compound interest "man's greatest invention?" What I'm really talking about here is the ability to "compound" SPEED gains,  with no extra heart-beats required.

Well, there IS a way, and it's actually quite simple. Here's the deal:

If you add 1/4 inch to your stride length naturally, without forcing it artificially, you will be running about 10-seconds per mile faster at the same intensity.

Don't believe me?

Ever counted how many strides you take in a mile?

Depending upon your speed and intensity, it's about 1500.

If you were to get one-quarter inch more length out of each of those 1500 strides, you'd cover about 40 to 50 feet more at the same intensity.  That's another way of saying you're going to run about 10-seconds per mile faster.

How hard would you have to train to get 10-seconds per-mile improvement?

Imagine a 30-second improvement in your 5k finish time without having to do a single hard run workout! In a marathon, you could instantly improve by as much as 5-minutes or more depending upon your speed, just by adding 1/4" to your stride length! (Add more than 1/4" and you get even faster!)

The catch is, you can't just reach out further to grab more ground with your legs. Doing that would result in some overstriding and might get you injured. Not good.

So how do you get that extra 1/4" the right way?

By improving your stability, mobility and strength, that's how.

Even just a bit more hip mobility¬† = greater (and easier) range of motion,¬†more elastic recoil and a longer, more powerful stride, naturally. (Did you know that¬†50% of the energy that propels you forward during the running stride comes from elastic and reactive¬†‚Äúenergy-return‚ÄĚ of your muscles?).

Similarly, a more stable and stronger core and hips = LESS time spent in contact with the ground and LESS energy leaks, making each stride more efficient and powerful.

Sure, achieving either of these improvements will take some effort, but....the way I look at it, any improvement we can make that doesn't require more gut-busting track or tempo sessions, is worth exploring, don't you think?

Happy trails!

~Coach Al

PS:  And then there's the law of the Aggregation of Marginal Gains. I absolutely love the way James Clear writes about this amazingly similar strategy for improvement in his blog. Powerful stuff!

PSS: If you're a triathlete, imagine making similar kinds of gains as a swimmer. I'll be writing more about that in a future post.

It ISN’T About The Plan.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perhaps the most important is movement quality.

What do I mean?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Live and learn.

Happy Trails!

~Coach Al

054: Presenting The Trail Running Film Festival [Podcast]

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Click on the image to see all of the upcoming dates for the Spring 2015 East Coast tour!

Click on the image to see all of the upcoming dates for the Spring 2015 East Coast tour!

In today's Episode 54, we are psyched to welcome race director and trail running junkie, James Varner of Rainshadow Running and The Trail Running Film Festival. Also joining us is our own ultra runner extraordinaire and coach, Debbie Livingston.

The Trail Running Film Festival is coming to the east coast this spring, highlighted by a local showing on Wednesday, March 4th, in Hartford, Conn.  (For tickets to this show and others, as well as more information, go here).

In our conversation with James, we talk about...

  • How the Trail Running Film Festival got started and how the events are structured. (Can you say lots of community, food, fun, and a little beer too? Woo!)
  • Rainshadow Races: Where and what they're all about. As their motto says, "why run anywhere else?"
  • A little bit of history of trail films, and why James and Rainshadow (as well as those of us at Pursuit) are so passionate about sharing these films and bringing them to the world for all to enjoy.
  • Which specific films are featured in the Trail Running Film Festival, as well as additional dates and locations.
  • Practical tips and tricks for those of you who might be new to trail running or would like to learn more and enjoy it more!
  • Our upcoming Pursuit Athletic Performance Cedar Lake Trail Running Camp and Retreat,¬†from Friday, May 29 to Sunday, May 31, 2015. ¬†(Come join us!)

**James ALSO did a podcast with the Ultrarunnerpodcast back in 2014 where he talks about the film festival and other cool topics. To listen to that interview, go here.

**To check out the Trail Running Film Festival on Facebook, go here.

TrailFilmFest2And finally, to learn more about all of the great events in the Pacific Northwest put on by Rainshadow Running, go here.

Safe and happy trails everyone!

~Coach Al 

Are You Ready To Break The Cycle?

Marathoner_Knee_Brace_med

In response to a recent survey I sent out to some athletes on our mailing list, many told me how frustrated they are with an on again-off again running injury cycle. Quite a few also said they have learned the hard way that when they're injured, they can't train, and when they can't train, they can't improve.

Listen, I hate talking about injuries as much as you and everyone else. Being injured is like that dirty little secret that no one, especially the injured, ever wants to discuss, ya know? Runners lie, wish, hope and hide them, and even try to silently talk themselves out of them. And it doesn't seem to be improving either. I read a prediction recently that 7 out of 10 runners will be injured in the 2016 calender year. Something is seriously wrong here!

If you "google" any common running injury, you'll get page upon page of information on how to self diagnose your injury. As you start to read through the articles and pages you find, very often a calm will come over you; you're finally finding the information to the problem and hopefully a cure is around the next page, right?

The truth is, when you're injured, the SITE of the pain is rarely the SOURCE of the pain. So self diagnosis rarely ever works.  In fact, you often end up just treating the symptoms, not CURING the root cause because you don't know what it is!  And the root cause of an injury is often quite simple and foundational in nature.

If you've read this far, chances are this topic is resonating with you, so please keep reading!

So let me ask you a question: How many courses of physical therapy have you gone through to fix an injury in a specific area only to have it crop up again? I hear that complaint from athletes in every sport, young and old, every day. Here's how it often plays out in a vexing triad of money, time, and frustration:

Let's say an athlete has recurring bouts of Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS). What's the actual cost?

3 bouts of ITBS x 12 weeks of physical therapy + 2 x-rays + 4 pairs of different running shoes + 2 knee braces + 1 MRI  = a whole lot of TIME, MONEY, AND FRUSTRATION! 

"Why isn't this injury gone? Why does it keep coming back?"

If this is you and you're ready to stop treating the symptoms and finally RESOLVE your injury issues, why not start TODAY with my partner, Dr. Kurt Strecker's FREE VIDEO INJURY PREVENTION SERIES.  Click HERE to learn more.

Honestly, I watched him film these videos, and I think they're really good. There is absolutely no cost to you so you've got absolutely nothing to lose, right?  You will receive real and valuable information that actually works.

Are YOU ready to break that cycle?

If I can answer any questions or help in any way, contact me and let me know. I'm listening.

Happy trails!
~Coach Al

PS: In a future post, I'll discuss the biggest error that most runners make when they return from an injury. If YOU are making this mistake, you will very likely see the injury return much sooner than you would like, and that sucks. Stay tuned.

Are Running Drills A Waste of Time?

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

The answer is a resounding NO.

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

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

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

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

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

No, as a general rule, they do not.

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

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

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

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


Swimming and Running: How Are They Different?

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

That is what it comes down to, I think.

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

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

MASTER THE BASICS and FUNDAMENTALS first.

Own them. Completely and totally.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Trails!

~Coach Al