Archive for triathlete

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!


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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Triathlete Calls Us The Holy Grail! Watch His Amazing Improvement

We are pleased to present another in our series of before and after gait analysis videos. This one features long-time triathlete John Crocamo, a very smart athletes who got tired of trying to train through injury and falling short of his true potential. We say it over and over again, cramming fitness n top of dysfunction NEVER works, and you will never release your best performances if you are locked up in bad movement patterns.

John says he thinks of us as “the holy grail,” and what he has been searching for for many years. We are truly flattered. We also know that what we do WORKS. Take a look at his before and after video, and see an athlete who is ready to respond to training, get faster, and be much more resistant to injury.

Thank you, John, for your kind words. We are so proud of the work you’ve done. When you reap the benefits of your compliance and dedication when racing triathlon this season, you will deserve every bit of success coming your way.


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Training Run Cadence

Coach Al Lyman, Pursuit Athletic Performance

Coach Al Lyman

A few days ago, a discussion began in the USA Triathlon coaches group about running stride rate and cadence. Below is the original question that started the thread. Based on my work as a movement expert, it was clear I have a very different perspective than the other responses offered, and I would like to share my point of view.

Fellow Coaches, I’m a new USAT Level 1 Coach. I am currently working on running with a 90+ cadence. I understand the lean at the ankles to increase speed. How does one stay in the RPE 3-4 (Zone 2) while keeping a 90 cadence? Before taking this to my clients, I’m trying it and it is a bit exhausting. Is there a period of getting used to it that one must go through? Any drills to help with this? Is this tied to run durability? Thanks.

Hi Coaches,

I’d like to offer a different viewpoint from the responses so far.

Stride rate is not simply a function of some kind of conscious decision or choice on the part of the runner to move their legs faster–especially if the runner actually WANTS to run faster AND be more efficient as a result of that faster stride.

Stride rate is a function of applied force to the ground. It is Newton’s third law of physics in action (Issac, not the shoes). That is, stability and strength are the determinants of ground contact time (GCT), and shortened ground contact time results in a faster stride rate (SR), all things being equal.

The same is largely true in cycling. As noted physiologist and coach Allen Lim said with respect to Lance Armstrong pedaling at very high cadence compared to his competitors, “a fast spin isn’t a technique for producing power. It is the result of having power.” Words to remember.

A runner who is more stable through the lumbar spine/pelvic girdle, and whose entire body is more functionally strong, will have less energy leakage when the foot comes into contact with the ground, thus shortening the GCT and facilitating a faster SR. The analogy I often use in our Gait Analysis Lab is what I call the “bouncy ball effect.” If I take a bouncy ball and throw it at the ground, it will bounce back up at a speed directly proportional to how hard I throw it. If I throw it “harder” and have it hit the ground with more force, it bounces up FASTER, and goes farther as a result. Our body is the same way. Note that I said our body–NOT our legs, or our core, or our feet, OR our shoes! We run with our entire body, not just the feet or the legs.

In my work, I help runners understand that if their stride rate is well below 90 cycles per minute (and especially if they present with a tendency to over stride), they will benefit from GRADUALLY and progressively increasing that rate to 90 cycles or faster. (Leg length is a factor in determining any “optimal” rate, obviously). I remind them that since they are not striding quickly, a progressive, gradual increase over the course of a few weeks will likely cause a spike in heart rate due to the change in a neuromuscular habit. They are not efficient yet at the higher SR. They are also moving larger muscles more quickly, which tends to increase HR as well. As they become more efficient at the higher SR, heart rate usually comes back down to the normal range.

So, the bottom line is this….

“Thinking” and “trying” to change to a higher SR won’t result in a FASTER or more powerful runner UNLESS that runner is ALSO working to get stronger and more stable at the same time. Stability and strength come first, right after appropriate mobility.

When I coach runners on increasing SR, I also teach them that their ability to stride faster–and to RUN FASTER and be more efficient–comes from building the proper combination of stability, mobility, and strength. When those appropriate levels are built, THEN I add the “frosting on the cake”–form changes and drills.

Very often, when a runner gets stronger and more stable one is surprised to find that very little stride rate “coaching” is actually required! The body is smart. Changes come authentically, from the INSIDE, not the outside.

My advice is to resist the urge to make conscious changes to any arbitrary run mechanic issue, including stride rate or GCT, without FIRST examining the ESSENTIAL issues of pelvic stability and true functional strength. TRUE stability and strength is required of EVERY athlete in any sport who wants to be faster and better. Real and meaningful changes that last–and result in faster running speeds and improved efficiency–always have, and always will, come from the inside.

Coach Al

Fantastic Improvements for Triathlete in Only Four Weeks

We are turning over the blog today to one of our athletes, Lauren Novakowski. Since we could not better present the progress she has made with our training in only FOUR WEEKS, we will let Lauren tell you herself.

We will be following her progress through the season, so stay tuned. Thank you Lauren for taking the time to share your fantastic success! As we keeping telling you, you’ve only just begun!

By Lauren Novakowski

I started training with Pursuit Athletic Performance (PAP) four weeks ago, and I am thrilled to share my results and progress.

I have been an athlete since childhood, and have spent the last last five years in the world of triathlon. Over the past year, injuries and age have messaged that it was time to fundamentally change my ways. I decided that this year I was going to acquire a better understanding of my strengths and weaknesses, develop training to specifically address those weaknesses to improve overall athletic performance with greater efficiency.

A wise athlete once said that If you come across superior way of training today than what you were doing yesterday, you have an obligation to implement those changes and share with others. Coach Al Lyman and Dr. Kurt Strecker have been instrumental in teaching me a superior way of training yielding positive performance results, less fatigue in fewer training hours.

For the last five weeks, I have been training with Pursuit Athletic Performance. The first four weeks of targeted work have resulted in measurable improvements in my bike, swim and overall strength (see results below). I have documented all training via various metrics, and I am fortunate to have kept performance measures from my last few years of multisport training for baseline comparisons.

Below is a snapshot of my results after initial four weeks of work with Pursuit Athletic Performance:

? Various metrics include time, speed, power (watts), HR, cadence, calories burned. Training tools include bike power meter, PAP CompuTrainer ergometer, HR monitor, PAP Vasa swim ergometer, 25 yd pool.

? I started with a solid bike, swim, and strength base prior to initiating training with PAP. Four weeks into my current 12 week plan, my cycling functional threshold power improved 10 watts and my swim 100m Vasa threshold time decreased by 5 seconds. I have also experienced more consistent and improved pool time intervals.

? Executing proper functional strength movement has significantly improved existing injuries. For the first time since I can remember, I was able to cycle outside for 2 1/2 hours with no low back pain.

? Better results with improved efficiency. In a four week time frame, I allocated 2-3 fewer hours per week following the Pursuit Athletic Performance program versus going to spin classes, strength training with weights, swimming in the pool 100% of the time.

I am writing this to tell all athletes if you are looking for maximum return on investment, take a moment to check out all the services that Pursuit Athletic Performance has to offer no matter what your sport. I look forward to sharing additional progress in the near future.

Lauren Novakowski is not only a triathlete, but a mom of three (son, 11, and twin daughters, 9). She is a Senior Corporate Account Manager for Amgen. She lives with her husband of 15 years in Old Saybrook, CT.


This Triathlete Gets It! Meet Brian Czak

We are very pleased to be working with triathlete Brian Czak. We met Brian at the Multisport World Expo in Boston a few weeks ago. While talking with Dr. Strecker at our booth, Brian had an “AHA! moment.” During their discussion, Brian came to a clear understanding that the best way for him to compete at his fastest, and to stay his healthiest, is to understand his movement patterns and shore up weakness and instabilities BEFORE piling on the training.

This guys gets it.

Even though Brian is new to the sport of triathlon, there is no doubt that going through our gait analysis and taking on the subsequent training, he is setting himself up to crush his former racing self. We hope you take a moment to listen to his wise, proactive perspective. We’re ready to stand with Brian every step of the way! This athlete is doing it right!

Core Stability and Swimming: What’s The Connection?

Coach Al Lyman, gait analysis and functional movement expert

Coach Al Lyman, CSCS, FMS, HKC

I had a great conversation worth sharing on the issue of core stability and its vital role in swimming. Triathletes, in particular, ask me about this all the time.

In the audio below I discuss what it means to have a stable core, and I explain the purpose of training that stability. Let’s just say that consciously trying to “engage the core” when swimming–or doing any other sport for that matter–is NOT the way to generate power. Rather, it’s all about building core stability as the foundational element of proper and powerful movement that translates across all sports.

Myths about core strength and core stability are rampant. I talk about a number of these issues in the audio, and you can learn more in our blog post series on the core beginning with What You Don’t Know About the Core Can Hurt You.

Train smart, and have a great weekend!

Coach Al



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pursuit athletic performance, gait, gait analysis, online gait analysis, virtual gait analysis, boston marathon, triathlon, cycling