Archive for stability

Four TIPS For The Aging Endurance Athlete (Hint: Yes, You Can Still Keep Playing!)

Coach Al (showing his back-side) at a Pisgah Mountain 50k aid station. Keeping it young!

Coach Al (showing his back-side) at a Pisgah Mountain 50k trail race aid station. Keeping it young!

Some of the readers of this blog know I raced this past weekend at the Pisgah Mountain 50k trail race up in New Hampshire (I finished 2nd  in my age-group and 26th overall), and will again be racing THIS coming weekend, tackling the very challenging Vermont 50 mountain bike race.  These events are just a small sample of what I’ve got planned for myself over the next few months and into 2015!

Today, more than ever, athletes are performing at a high level well into their 50s, 60s, and beyond! How are they doing it?  How do I (a nearly 55 year-old endurance athlete/coach with 35+ years of training and racing in the legs) maintain the ability to keep “playing” even as I’m aging well into my 50s?

To help YOU maintain the ability to keep playing, here are FOUR tips for the aging athlete. These could be YOUR secrets to success! (I’ve learned much of this through trial and error – take advantage of my mistakes and get started now).

  1. Maintain Your Mobility and Flexibility: The single thing we lose most as we age is the ability for our joints to move FREELY. Freedom of movement is what we associate with being young, isn’t it? Flexibility is related and is also something we lose as we age. Mobility and flexibility suffer as the miles pile up, too, so if you’ve been running or training for a few years, its likely you’ve lost some of that freedom of movement.

When you lose mobility:

  • Your body loses its ability to absorb pounding and attenuate forces that work on it while you’re moving, such as gravity and ground reaction.
  • Your stride shortens and you feel every “bump” in the road that much more.
  • You enjoy your training less because it becomes more of a struggle to do simple things such as bend over or step up.
  • Your risk of injury sky rockets!

To avoid these, first seek to find out where you’re tight or imbalanced, and then get started on a specific targeted program to address these restrictions.  This is absolutely your #1 priority as you get older.

A Helpful Video: One common area of unwanted tightness as we age is in our hamstrings.  Hamstring tightness can develop for a number of different reasons (including dysfunction of the glute region or extreme tightness of the hip flexor region). However, very often it develops simply from the overall loss of flexiblity as we age (or from too much sitting in a chair!).

Try this effective and safe movement (stretch) for the hamstrings demonstrated by our own Doc Strecker.

 

(To learn more about WHY mobility is so vital to your success, listen to Doc Strecker and I discuss the importance of this element of human movement!)

  1. Get Stronger: Like mobility, strength (as well as the pre-requisite to developing true functional strength, which is basic core stability) often decline as we age and the miles pile up. Along with staying mobile, the key to maintaining YOUR ability to play comes down to getting stronger!

Many athletes aren’t familiar with the difference between strength and stability. Its important for sure, and something you will want to KNOW as you age. To learn more, check out this blog post we did on the topic.

So what is the best way to get stronger?

There are as many programs and exercises as there are stars in the sky, or so it would seem. I like to keep things simple at first, by going straight at bodyweight exercises. After all, what is better than a pull up or push up to develop trunk strength? Not too much!

(If you’re unable to do a single pull up, start by doing “hangs” and then doing “negatives” as part of your progression!)

Whether it’s a kettlebell, floor based exercises, suspension training, or simply lifting and moving rocks or flipping tires, the best path to optimal strength development and good health is to start with simpler, more foundational movements and progress to more complex as you improve and gain strength.

One last thing: don’t get INJURED trying to get stronger. That happens all too often. Start at a smart level, and progress intelligently.

  1. Get Massage: With increasing age (and more miles along with chronic injuries) come the development of micro trauma in the muscle, which leads to the development of scar tissue and a loss of elasticity. Scar tissue, which forms in response to that micro trauma and tearing of the muscle fiber, reduces elasticity and leads to weaker and shorter, more injury prone muscle.

One key to overcoming the long term negative impact of scar tissue development (and keeping muscle healthy and young), is massage, from a qualified competent massage therapist of course.

Yes, your foam roller used routinely, can help.  But your foam roller can’t do the same things the sensitive and educated human hands of a qualified professional can, digging deeply into the muscle to strip it down and help the tissue remodel. Massage can literally be THE secret for the aging athlete whose goal it is to maintain healthy tissue.

(One additional tip about massage: In my experience, if you have been battling injury or know you have a significant amount of scar tissue or have lost flexibility, getting massage only occasionally won’t do the trick.  You need to commit to successive sessions where the same therapist can work progressively to restore tissue health. With repeated sessions, the therapist will learn more about your body and be able to address YOUR specific issues more effectively).

  1. Get Off Road: When it comes to staying young and fighting father time as a runner or cyclist, nothing beats getting off road! Trails offer variable terrain that challenges the mobility, flexibility and strength you’re working to retain, while also minimizing the repetitive stress that comes from road running and riding.
  • Mountain biking and trail running (and hiking) require very specific skills which keep you young!
    • Glute and hip strength, balance, handling, and leg strength all improve when you ride off road.
    • Agility and balance, elasticity, and leg and hip strength all improve when you run off road.
    • And since every footstrike is different and the surfaces are softer than asphalt, your risk of repetitive injury goes way down!
  • Best of all, you get to PLAY in the woods and keep it fun! Trail running and riding is just plain fun!

Even if you’re not quite as old as I am, you will be sooner than you realize! You’d be smart to start NOW to begin following the recommendations I’ve shared today. The same things that keep you young will also help the younger athlete stay healthier, perform better, and go faster.

 

~Coach Al 

ps: Do you have questions, comments or feedback about these four tips to help you stay younger? Or your own tips to add? Leave your thoughts below or on our FACEBOOK page. 

Come on out to our NEW facility in Chester to check out our new Trueform runners - the BEST treadmill on the planet because YOU have to do the work!

Come to our NEW facility in Chester to check out our Trueform Runners – the BEST treadmill (non-motorized) on the planet for staying younger as a runner, because YOU have to do the work!

3 TIPS to Jumpstart YOUR Running This Fall!

Deb-Trails For A Cure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy trails!

~Coach Al 

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

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

~Coach Al


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Use a slower rep speed. 

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

2. Decrease your leverage. 

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

3. Improve your focus and tension! 

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

Happy Trails!

~Coach Al

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

TEAM Pursuit Athletes at the 2013 Timberman Half Ironman triathlon!

TEAM Pursuit Athletes at the 2013 Timberman Half Ironman triathlon!

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

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

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

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

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

For example…

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Trails!

~Coach Al

Zach Hurd, Oakland Raiders Offensive Lineman, Talks About Training with Pursuit Athletic Performance

oakland raiders, zach hurd

Zach Hurd, Offensive Lineman, Raiders Training Camp, 2012

We have had the distinct pleasure of working with Zach Hurd, local guy who just happens to be an offensive lineman with the Oakland Raiders. Not only is Zach one of the best people we know, but he is also one of the hardest working, most dedicated, and smartest athletes you will ever meet.

Zach took the time to talk with us and explain how our training helped him break into the ranks of the NFL. The fantastic full interview is below. Zach can teach all athletes a thing or three. Here are a few nuggets from our conversation explaining the benefits he derived from our work together:

  • Training with Pursuit is different than the traditional program of “lift weights and run.” Our program taught Zach how to tie all the systems together and understand that true strength and fitness is about more than just getting bigger in the weight room. Zach is proof positive that being rock-solid stable is powerful stuff that pays big dividends. He also talks about how our work together has decreased his risk of injury even in the face of the rigor and the challenges of the NFL.
  • He says, “Last season, when I went to the Raiders for my tryout they asked me to do a couple of drills. I tied in what you guys taught me–lats, cross, down to the butt, keep that core tight–and the coaches definitely saw that stability in my pass protection. That’s why they picked me up, and why I was there all [last] season. It’s definitely a big reason why they signed me to a new contract.”
  • Asked if Pursuit is for only elite level athletes, Zach replied it didn’t matter if you were a child or a grandmother. He said our program will help anyone who wants to take their fitness “to the next level” and remain healthy– “If you want to make sure your body is here for the long term, then you definitely want to come in.”

Zach is at the first day of the 2012 Raiders training camp today. To know that we had a hand in his ability to reach the highest ranks of performance in professional football is incredibly gratifying and humbling.

Thank you, Zach, for not only taking the time to talk to us, but for taking the time to learn and put into practice movement and strength principles that will serve you well throughout your career and beyond. We hope your words will inspire any number of athletes to learn the truth about training correctly, and how one’s ultimate performance can, in fact, be unleashed when you do the right work.

Coach Al and Raiders Lineman Zach Hurd Teach You How to Train Stability Isometrically

Hello Everyone!

Pursuit Athletic Performance Client Zach Hurd signs with Oakland RaidersWe have a special treat for you today! One of our clients is Oakland Raiders Offensive Lineman, Zach Hurd. GREAT guy and a GREAT athlete!

Zach helped me out with this follow-up to our blog post, Why Being Stable Is SO Important, And Tips to Train It. In that video I talk you through why being a STABLE, as well as a strong, athlete is so important. Today, Zach and I show you an exercise that is very effective in helping to train stability in an isometric fashion.

Take the time to learn why stability is so important for you as an athlete, whether you are in the NFL or a 5K specialist. Here is another of our posts on the topic that will be helpful for you to read–What You Don’t Know About the Core Can Hurt You. Stability really is the fundamental basis for your ultimate performance potential no matter your sport. All your hopes, dreams, and goals for training and racing rely on a stable core.

Work this exercise into your routine. If an NFL Lineman is doing it, shouldn’t you be too?

Happy training!

Coach Al

Why Being Stable Is SO Important, And Tips to Train It

Pursuit Athletic Performance On Core Strength and Stability

The lumbar region in the human skeleton

Let’s start with a simple question….

Why is stability so important?

Stability is the basis upon which you develop POWER and SPEED. Without it, you will never be able access your true and ultimate potential. Stability also greatly contributes to lowering your risk of injury.

Do I have you attention now? :) As a coach and movement expert, I feel passionate that athletes understand what stability is, what it isn’t, and its incredible importance no matter what your sport.

In this short video I review the role of stability in athletic movement so you can begin to understand how essential it is to cultivate it as part of your overall training. Using the split squat exercise as an example, I teach you how to train the movement for STABILITY vs. strength. There is a big difference.

You can read additional posts on the issue of stability here and here. Enjoy, and fire back any questions.

Coach Al

Ask Coach Al! Mobility vs. Flexibility, Stability vs. Strength

Hello Everyone!

Coach Al Lyman, Pursuit Athletic Performance, Gait Analysis and Functional Strength Training Expert

Coach Al Lyman, CSCS, FMS, HKS

In my weekly talk to the athletes I coach, a question came up about the differences between flexibility and mobility, and stability and strength. This is a common topic of conversation in our Gait Analysis Lab, and it is important for athletes to learn the distinctions.

Here’s a brief audio that will help you understand the differences, and why they matter.

Play