Archive for triathlete

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

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Rachel on the run in Kona!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Among the topics we discuss on today’s podcast:

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

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

 

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

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

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

~Coach Al

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

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Avocado

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

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

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

Thanks for joining us on the podcast! Happy Trails!

~Coach Al and Dr. Strecker

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

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Doc Strecker pushing toward the finish!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for joining me on the podcast! Happy Trails!

~Coach Al 

041: The ONE Thing! [Podcast]

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Doc Strecker racing at Rev3 Quassy Olympic Distance and having fun!

Doc Strecker racing at Rev3 Quassy Olympic Distance and having fun!

Hi Everyone! Coach Al here. In today’s podcast, Doc and I delve into a topic we feel is SO important for long term success and fulfillment.  It is simply this: what is that ONE thing, that more than anything else, if you experienced a breakthrough in that area, would have the GREATEST impact on your success and happiness?

We are all an experiment of one: For each of us, the answer to that question will be very different, and that’s the point. We all have a unique “one thing.”

Are you getting the sleep you need? Are you able to be mindful and fully present in your daily activities and training? Do you have an eating habit that is holding you back? What about strength, mobility, flexibility, or a specific sport focus?

Are you HAVING FUN in your training and racing (as Doc clearly does!) and finding the right balance?

Identifying OUR own unique one thing, is often the easy part. What’s much harder is actually TAKING ACTION consistently, to truly make addressing that one thing, a priority. And that’s what we’re really talking about here…

Simplifying, and prioritizing as a means to achieving more, going faster, feeling better, and utlimately being happier.

Sounds “simple,” right? :)

Please listen in as we discuss this fun and important topic!  And have a great weekend too!

~Coach Al 

040: Listener Questions: Downhill Running and Nutrition [Podcast]

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Flatten the course!

Flatten the course!

In today’s podcast, we once again respond to some listener questions. We really appreciate it when you contact us and ask great questions – keep them coming!

Going down: The topic of downhill running, both from a technique perspective and also from a pacing perspective, is often glossed over in favor of the opposite, which is running up. A listener sent in a link to an article titled “Efficient Running Up and Downhill in Triathlon,”  (triathlon.competitor.com and the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport), which discussed some research conducted at the University of Connecticut on competitors at this past October’s Ironman World Championship. Specifically, the researchers looked at how “various types of pacing can effect overall performance.”

The author states, “researchers took a random sampling of Hawaii-qualifying athletes and measured their predicted personal pre-race goal time against their finishing time on race day. Using Timex Ironman Global Trainers and TrainingPeaks software, they analyzed nine segments of the bike course and 11 segments of the run course.  Their goal was to determine whether any of the segments predicted performance, and they were surprised at the results—the downhill portions (on both the bike and run) proved to be most influential on overall time. They found that athletes who maintained faster relative speeds on the downhill sections of the course, and who had smaller changes in heart rate between consecutive up and downhills, were more successful relative to their goal times.” 

How you pace your downhills and uphills in a race is critical, and the research, both anecdoatal and scientific, and practical experience, support this.  In today’s ‘cast, we’ve got lots more to share on this topic!  Its a good one.

Also, a listener wrote in with some questions regarding his nutrition planning as he prepares for the Alcatraz Triathlon next weekend. We believe his questions are common and important, so you’ll want to listen in to hear what they are and our responses.

Please tune in and join us for today’s talk, where we discuss these topics and a few more as well.

Have a great Memorial Day weekend everyone!  Thank you to ALL of the men and women in uniform who, through their selfless service, make enjoying our sports possible.

Happy Trails!

~Coach Al and Doc Strecker 

Coach Al: Your Next Workout Is Only As Good As Your Last Recovery

Hello Everyone!

RestDay2One of the athletes I coach pointed me to an interview with triathlete Sami Inkinen in Inside Triathlon. Sami gained quite a bit of attention after his sub-nine hour performance (8:58:59) at the Ironman World Championship in Kona–a result achieved on very low training volume.

It’s a great article, and I encourage you to read it. Once you do, here is what I like all of you to take away from the piece:

First and foremost is Sami’s focus on RECOVERY:

What I’ve been super-conscious about this year is this idea that if I don’t improve in almost every single workout, it’s not because I haven’t trained, but because I haven’t rested. Literally, that’s been my thinking,” said Sami. In other words, he rejects the notion that you have to train through months of hard, exhausting workouts to improve. Instead, he followed the principle that he should literally get stronger and faster every week, if not every day, and that his numbers should improve during every intense workout.

I coach Lis Kenyon, Ironman World Champion and reigning age group record holder (45-49). Lis tells me all the time that my words that stick with her and help guide her are: “Your next workout is only as good as your last recovery.”

Sami Inkinen uses RestWise to track his recovery. My opinion on this tool reflects my view on just about any training device. If you use it, and it increases YOUR OWN awareness of how you are recovering, then it could be a good tool.

I do not think RestWise is absolutely necessary to gauge how you are recovering. Each of you can do it with increased awareness, and honesty with yourself. I believe it all begins and ends with being truthful, and engaging in quality, open communication with your coach.

Ask yourself: Are you improving week to week, and even day to day?

Let’s face it, very few of us have Sami’s innate talent. BUT, as a long-time coach and competitor, I do think there is a great deal of value in this mindset about both recovery and improvement.

I Have NO PAIN After My Ironman! Why?

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

Coach Al Lyman, CSCS, FMS, HKS

Great story for you today!

One of our clients, and a triathlete I coach, had a terrific day at Ironman Coeur d’Alene on June 24. Her super finish is all the more sweet when you consider that she came to us last winter a seriously BROKEN athlete. For the previous few years she had followed a training plan that focuses on daily intensity, actively discourages athletes from strength work, and promotes a “just train more” philosophy. Like most athletes, our triathlete did OK for a while on this kind of plan, putting up gains and getting faster.

But then the inevitable kicked in.

Without proper strength, stability, mobility, flexibility to support ANY kind of training–much less the kind of program she was on–our athlete fell apart. She could not absorb the training, she was not recovering, and her times got slower. End result? Injury. (Unfortunately, we see this scenario in our Gait Analysis Lab every day.)

Our triathlete came to us for a gait analysis last winter. Through our findings, we went to work to rebuild her, and then train her hard, but sensibly, for her Ironman. She took our work together seriously. As the months passed her body became functionally strong, durable, and resilient. She was able to train with appropriate intensity, absorb the training, and recover. She made serious gains in power and speed. And as we said, she had a great Ironman race day.

But take a look at how she feels now, only a few days out from the race:

I have to say that this has been my must amazing post race ever. I was walking and sitting yesterday like it was 2 or 3 days post marathon. Unbelievable. It’s strange, every time I sit or stand I brace myself for pain but it isn’t there. I guess this is what being healthy, balanced, and functionally strong is all about! Essentially pain free post IM. Un-frickin-believable!”

This athlete emailed me to ask WHY she felt so good? Here the reasons, all of which are very obvious to me.

1. She was not remotely injured going into the race.

2. She was and is stronger than she has ever been. Hence, her body was able to deal with the stress of race day much more easily.

3. She was more balanced and more “fit” in a holistic sense, than ever before.

4. For the first time, she went into a race with a training plan that was designed to bring her fitness along smartly, rather than destroy her into injury and poor health submission.

My partner, Dr. Kurt Strecker, and I are thrilled for this client. We know how far she has come from the broken athlete that walked into our Gait Analysis Lab last winter. As her coach, I am thrilled at where she is at this point in time. Now, FOR THE VERY FIRST TIME, she can now unleash and get faster. Why?

Strength, stability, muscular balance, and good health are the basis for a training program designed to get you fast. That’s right, it’s not punishing intensity or the latest-and-greatest secret-sauce training. Movement quality FIRST is the only way to get fast, stay fast, and get faster over time.

It’s like we tell athletes all the time, when your body is working as it should, it will race well AND also recover quickly and completely. It’s how our athletes race again and again, year after year.

We wish every competitor, from Ironman to 5K runner, the same sense of accomplishment and good health our triathlete here is experiencing. She has a heck of a post-Ironman glow, and we are so happy for her

Coach Al

Ask Coach Al: Make Every Race Count

Hello Everyone!

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!

Coach Al

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How We Trained A Top Junior Olympic Gymnast, and How it Applies to YOU!

David Jessen, Junior Olympics, Gymnastics, Pursuit Athletic Performance

David Jessen on the pommel horse

Our client, 14-year-old David Jessen–a fantastic and talented young man–took the silver medal at the US Junior Olympic National Gymnastic Championships in Cincinnati this weekend. After four grueling days of competition, David stunned audiences with his outstanding performance in the last round of the Men’s All-Around to stage a come-from-behind 2nd place finish!

David competed against a 192 person field comprised of the best regional gymnasts from across the nation. He also won silver in men’s pommel horse, vault, and horizontal bar. We are very proud of David, and so happy for him!

While we often talk in this blog in terms of training runners, cyclists, swimmers, and triathletes, at PAP we work with an array of athletes ranging from an NFL offensive lineman (Zach Hurd of the Oakland Raiders), to novice runners, to an elite level gymnast like David. The need for a solid foundation, which starts with quality movement, is universal for any athlete in any sport, and it is ESSENTIAL for top performance. It is essential for YOU. David’s story is a good illustrator of that point.

Here’s a brief synopsis of our findings when we put David through our gait analysis process, and a recap of how we helped him overcome muscle imbalance, compensation, and dysfunction, all which were holding him back from a personal-best performance in gymnastics. We worked with David over a period of about 4 months, and will continue to do so.

In our initial analysis, where we assessed David’s overall movement quality, muscular balance, and strength, a few things stood out:

1. He was upper extremity dominant in many of his movements. He would absolutely need to become more balanced with an equal contribution of stability and strength coming from the lower extremities.

2. He was not as stable through his pelvic girdle as he needed to be.

3. His hips were not equally strong or stable in all three planes of motion, particularly the side-to-side frontal plane.

4. Prior injury had created asymmetry and compensation. If these issues were not addressed, the imbalances would, indeed, limit the improvements he needed to make in his gymnastic performance.

Based on the above assessment, we knew David would not perform to his potential in the events most likely to expose these weaknesses, such as the floor exercise. After our assessment, we understood why he occasionally had trouble “sticking the landings,” consistently falling out to the right side.

Here’s what we did:

1. First of all, we helped David understand, intellectually, how basic movement quality impacts gymnastics performance, and how his specific limiters would negatively impact HIS performances.

2. We prescribed specific exercises for the hips/glutes to address muscle strength imbalances, and develop better strength in the tissues. Gaining proper strength where HE needed it directly translated into better movement–and better performance. He could train better, recover, and, thus, up his chances of outstanding performance in competition.

3. We prescribed basic core stability movements, and taught David how to progress of the exercises over time.

Our work with David is a clear illustration of the impact quality movement has on sport performance. It does not matter if you are Olympic bound, or running your first 5K. We can help you make the the same kind of powerful changes in YOUR body through gait analysis and prescriptive training designed specifically for YOU.

We wish David the very best as he continues on the elite gymnastics competition circuit. Next up for him is the Visa Championship in St. Louis in June. We’ll be cheering!

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David trains at Rhode Island Sports Elite Gymnastics, aka RISE Gym in Warwick, RI. He is coached by Vasili Vinogradov, who was on the Russian National Team and has placed several gymnasts in the World Championships, and by Vladimir Mureso who was on the Czechoslovakian National Team. David is also a High Honor Student at Tollgate High School, and enjoys mathematics, sciences, and music.

Training for an Ironman? Read This

Coach Al Lyman, Pursuit Athletic Performance, Discusses Brick Run in Triathlon Training

Coach Al Lyman, CSCS, FMS, HKC

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.

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