Archive for triathlon

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

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

032: The Two Most Common Mistakes Endurance Athletes Make! [Podcast]

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Get the intensity RIGHT to ensure you continue to improve!

Get the intensity RIGHT to ensure you continue to improve!

What’s that old saying about the definition of insanity? To keep doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result? When it comes to THESE two “most common” mistakes, get in line if you’re among the folks who routinely make them, yet also expect to reach your potential or get better results while making them. I’m here to say, it is time to change and break some bad habits! Learn to train smart.

Mistake #1: Beyond the more obvious factors we talk about here at Pursuit Athletic Performance (that are important for any athlete to reach their goals), such as improving movement quality and developing true functional strength, one training element stands out as KEY for your success, more than almost any other. What is it? Differentiating intensity on a daily basis, and even within each and every training session.

What does it really mean?  (When you hear “train smart,” from a coach, this is partly what they mean!)

In my years as a coach and in training with other athletes, perhaps the single mistake I’ve seen most athletes make who do NOT progress as they hope to, or who have plateaued in their performances, is that they muddy workout intensity, making the easy stuff too hard, and the hard stuff too easy, and everything in between becomes “sort of” hard.  This basically is the equivalent of talking in a monotone voice. Boring, and not very good for improvement!

In order to IMPROVE and adapt to get better and ultimately be more efficient and faster, stay away from the “in between” intensity standpoint is a poor way to execute smart training. If the easy stuff is too fast or too hard, you won’t have the energy to sustain effort on the “quality” segments, and vice versa.

The MORE you can dial in and differentiate your intensity in every workout, the better you will feel, the better you will perform, the faster you will recover, and ultimately, the more you will improve.


Mistake #2: Preparing well, including doing a smart warm up, at the beginning of every training session is critically important to both prepare your body for that session and to minimize risk of injury. When I am observing others, I notice that many tend to blow-off their warm up periods and then end up starting their sessions too hard or fast. If you are rushed for time, that tendency to make this mistake is even greater.

One very common factor that many athletes forget to consider as their fitness improves, is that the more fit and strong you become, the more important a progressive warm up period is. And when it comes to racing, a proper warm up is crucial if you want to have a great race, regardless of the distance.   

Make It More Dynamic, Not Static!  

A high quality structured dynamic warm-up of at least 5 to 15 minutes at the beginning of training sessions and races will accomplish several important things:

It will raise body temperature. When you begin to sweat, it means that your muscles are getting warm, loose, and relaxed. There’s some evidence that higher body temperatures thin bodily fluid, which lessens strain on joints and on the heart.

It reduces initial levels of muscular stress. Anyone who has ever tried to keep up with an “overzealous” training partner who sprints out of the parking lot at the beginning of a ride, knows how your legs burn because you are not warmed up.

It conserves muscle glycogen. “Fast from the gun” workouts and races dip more deeply into your precious supplies of glycogen – the fuel your body needs and prefers to burn for endurance efforts. A slower start with adequate warm up allows you to burn a greater percentage of fat, conserving reserves of glycogen.

It opens capillaries. A warm up dilates the vessels that allow blood to bathe muscle cells with oxygen and nutrients. More blood flow means more fuel and a better performance.

It activates your nervous system. Your nervous system controls your movements and is integral in how efficient that movement is. Warming up effectively improves the activation and efficiency of your muscular contractions, which in turns improves coordination.  Dynamic activities that “wake up” and activate your nervous system make you more efficient and effective in any movement which follows the warm up.

It compensates for aging! Let’s face it, the older you get the more you need a warm up. When I was a kid, I could go full speed right off the couch and into the back yard. Not anymore!


What About Prior to a Race?: An effective warm up prior to a race involves both physical and mental components. The actual structure of your warm up can vary and is highly individual. Shorter is usually better than longer, as long as you accomplish what you need to, to prepare to race well. For a triathlon, I like to reverse the order of my warm up, starting with running, then going to the bike and then the swim.

THE RUN: Begin with some light functional warm up exercises that activate your nervous system, get the blood flowing, and loosen the hips and legs. After 3-5min of very easy running, throw in a few strides to open up a little bit and get the blood flowing, then shut it down and head over to grab your bike.

THE BIKE: Jump on and head out of transition, spinning the legs and confirming everything’s working as it should be.  Depending on race distance and intensity, the warm up might be very short and easy, or longer and more progressive. That is, the shorter and more intense the race from the gun, the more you need to warm up prior to it. After a few short JUMPS to get the blood flowing, spin on in and re-rack your rig. Be sure you put everything back where it was originally, and pull your stuff together for the swim.

THE SWIM: Assuming you’ve left yourself enough time, at this point I like to get into the water and swim for 3-8min, just to get used to the water and the environment and get a sense of visibility and siting. Ideally, you should have enough time to do this short warm up in the water now, and then get out and have a few min to sit down and relax and compose and reaffirm your POSITIVE thoughts about what will be a great day for you!

As a general rule, for all warm ups, the closer you make the warm up to the actual start, the better off you are. Long gaps between warm up and the start of a race make the warm up largely ineffective for what it is primarily intended for, which is to get you warm, activated, and ready to go!

Lastly, as I said earlier, the better and more fit you become, the longer it takes to warm up your body and be ready to go.  When we don’t take the amount of time we need to warm up and prepare our bodies for more intense training, the quality of our workout can be adversely affected, and we also place ourselves at much higher risk of injury. When the gun goes off, pace yourself, stay in the moment, and build in intensity so you can finish strong! Best of luck and have an awesome day!

~Coach Al

Getting Your Season Started Right!

 

Lis Kenon and Coach Al, Pursuit Athletic Performance

Coach Al with 4x Ironman AG World Champion, Lisbeth Kenyon

Hey Everyone! Coach Al here. :)  If you are like many endurance athletes in the northern hemisphere, the late March marks the time when you really start planning to “get serious” with training and race preparation in anticipation of the upcoming competitive season. Even more, for some athletes this time period marks the time when, after a casual glance at the calendar reveals only a few weeks remain until the first event, a state of shock and absolute panic ensues! ☺

Before you panic and start hammering those high intensity intervals, moving yourself precariously close to either injury or over-training, remember to keep a few important things in mind as you embark upon a fast-track toward improved race readiness.

First, avoid the trap of thinking there is a quick fix, short cut, or easy path toward a true higher level of fitness. Building the stamina and strength that leads to success in endurance sports takes time and patience. However, if you pay close attention to the fundamentals such as skill and technique enhancement and general/functional strength, you CAN make some great inroads over a relatively short period of time that WILL help get you closer to being able to achieve your goals.

Secondly, while there are many facets of your training that will be integral for your success, there are two topics requiring your attention all year long but often don’t get the attention they deserve this time of year.  They are: maximizing your daily NUTRITION and daily RECOVERY from training.  (If you’re at a point in time when you feel you need a “kick-start” to cleaning up your diet, check out our De-tox!)

It goes without saying that if you don’t eat well most of the time and at the right times and don’t recover adequately between individual training sessions and week to week, your training, fitness, and ultimately your race preparation will stagnate or even worsen.

Here are three TIPS to assist in transitioning optimally to the month of April and also help you get your season started right:

  1. Review your current Limiters and then establish some Training Objectives to improve and overcome those Limiters. Limiters are your weaknesses or “race specific” abilities that may hold you back from being successful in your most important events.   Likewise, Training Objectives are measurable training goals that you set for yourself and which may be based on your Limiters, with the goal of improving upon them.

To help in this process, start by asking yourself these questions: 

  • As you review your current Limiters, how well have you progressed in the Off-Season in addressing those?
  • Did you “miss anything” in your Off-Season preparation that you should focus on now?
  • Is there a chance that your Limiters will hold you back from being successful in certain events?
  • Are you aware of your strengths and weaknesses?
  • Are you doing anything right now to improve your Limiters and thus your chance for success in your upcoming KEY races?

Even though it IS late March, it is NOT too late to start developing some key workouts to help strengthen your weaknesses. Be patient and persistent, and set measurable goals (training objectives) so that when you line up for your most important event this season, you will have the confidence of knowing you did all you could to prepare for success!

  1. Focus on executing KEY WORKOUTS by differentiating intensity and being purposeful in all of your training: To ensure you continue to improve, one of your primary goals must be to execute key-workouts to the best of your ability, which are those workouts that when recovered from them, will have had a specific and material impact on your race specific fitness.  Avoid falling victim to the “rat race” mentality that has you chronically “running” from one workout to the next without any real focus, which only results in tiredness and higher levels of stress without resulting in improved health OR fitness.
  2. Eat as well as you can, most of the time: Eating the best foods to nurture your health and recovery, most of the time and at the right times, is the best path toward optimizing health and body composition. Too often endurance athletes fall victim to waiting until they are close to their goal races and then trying to get lean and “race ready.” Once you begin to do higher intensity race-specific training sessions, your body will be under greater duress – trying to limit calories at that time can be very stressful and may lead to injury, poor adaptation to training stresses, and basically undoing all of the work you are doing to improve!

To summarize, these three tips come back to one very important but often forgotten concept: listening to your body and trusting your intuition.  I believe your intuition may be the most important tool you have in your toolbox as an endurance athlete, and unfortunately many of us don’t listen to it when we need to the most.

If you are a novice, your intuition might not be as highly developed as your more experienced training partners or friends, but it IS there and is often talking to you! Your “inner voice” might be telling you that you are tired and just don’t feel up to that ride or run that you had planned, or, that what you are eating isn’t optimal to support your training or health.

Your body is smart! If you learn to really listen to it and stay patient and focused on the fundamentals, you will get your season started right and perhaps have your best season ever! Best of luck!

~Coach Al

031: Intensity Metric Triangulation with Coach Will Kirousis [Podcast]

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Coach Will Kirousis

Coach Will Kirousis

Today I’m joined by coach Will Kirousis of Tri-Hard Endurance Sports Coaching to discuss a variety of training related topics.  I’ve known Will for many years and know him, along with his partner Jason Gootman, as among the finest coaches in the business.

In today’s podcast, we discuss the concept of Intensity Metric Triangulation, which is simply an approach that helps to empower athletes to better understand what their power meter, pace meter, heart rate monitor and perceived exertion level are combining to say to them.

Taken further, and most importantly, Intensity Metric Triangulation helps athletes understand how to adjust and perhaps modify how they are executing a training session based on the feedback they are receiving, both objectively from the training tools they might be employing, as well as subjectively from the information their body is sending to them.  In a nutshell, Intensity Metric Triangulation is a simple to use system that helps the athlete know better what’s happening inside in their body and how they might want to adjust training as it evolves.

Will and I also have some fun discussing a variety of concepts that I know will be helpful to consider for any endurance athlete, from communication and self awareness to logging training data to understanding the value of each of our own unique personal histories.  These are key players in our ability to train smart.

One last thing: JOIN Will and I at TRI-MANIA Boston Summit and Expo on March 29, 2014. All information and details can be found here: http://www.tri-mania.com/Boston.htm.  Among many other great speakers, clinics and vendors, Will and his partner Jason Gootman will present a seminar on this topic, Intensity Metric Triangulation at 10:00 AM. I am presenting a seminar at 3:30 PM entitled “Lessons From The Gait Lab.”  Its going to be a great day all around. We hope to see you there!

~Coach Al

Are You Listening? Olivia Syptak is.

 Introducing Olivia Syptak as Pursuit Athletic Performance’s

Functional Wellness Coach!

 

Hey Everyone! 

Coach Al here.  With today’s blog post, Doc and I would like to formally introduce Olivia Syptak to you as a new contributing member of our team of coaches here at Pursuit Athletic Performance.  Olivia’s focus with our team will be on Functional Wellness.  Some of you may remember the Podcast we did with Olivia a couple of weeks ago on Training and Life Balance. We are SUPER excited to welcome Olivia and know you all are going to really enjoy and benefit from her contributions moving forward. At Pursuit Athletic Performance, we are passionate about training for the betterment of the body, not to its detriment. Spiritual, emotional, and mental health and fitness are as important as physical health and fitness. With Olivia by our side, we hope to share even more valuable information that will help you create the life that you truly deserve. Welcome Olivia, and thank you for joining us!

Are You Listening?

By Olivia Syptak

 

Pursuit Athletic Performance Functional Wellness Coach, Olivia Syptak

Pursuit Athletic Performance Functional Wellness Coach, Olivia Syptak

For today, I’d like to have some fun so let’s do a quick puzzle! It’s a simple jumble. Unscramble the letters below and see what you get. 

ITENSL

What word did you come up with? Or did you find two words?

There are, in fact, two words that are spelled with these letters: SILENT and LISTEN. Cool, right? It’s even cooler if we dig into each word and look at how linked they are in terms of maintaining our forward progress in life, as athletes and otherwise, in a balanced way.

Let’s start with silent. First, let me be clear that this isn’t necessarily about a complete lack of sound, or stark library quiet in our physical environment—although that has its merits. I am talking about a silence derived from stillness, openness, and space in our hearts and minds.

Contrasted to a chattering mind, a defensive and fearful heart, and a cluttered perspective, a still mind, an open heart, and an expansive perspective represent states of being silent that set up the possibility for “hearing.” It is in hearing that we gain the opportunity for listening.

To listen is to attend to, or give focused attention to, that which we hear. Again, this goes beyond what we hear or listen to through our ears. This is about awareness of the things that we may know deeply, but haven’t yet attended to on a surface level. It is about that feeling that something is right (or isn’t). It is about a “wide lens” point of view that doesn’t jump to conclusions or limit options.

As busy athletes with children, significant others, parents, siblings, co-workers, demanding projects, traffic jams, injuries, doubts, hopes, and dreams, developing our ability to listen is critical to our ability to be as great as possible in all of these areas.

We need be in honest touch with our strengths and weaknesses in racing to determine where more training time might be spent to increase that balance in our programs that Coach Al and Doc Strecker have recently discussed. We need to know when training or racing may need to be set aside in order to free us up literally and emotionally to spend a whole weekend with our families. We need to trust that feeling that resting today, rather than getting on the bike is right, and that doing so does not mean we are weak or giving up on our goals. Or maybe, we might feel in our bodies that we are capable of pushing our run pace in training but hold back out of comfortable habit.

There may be things that you know deeply but that you haven’t yet acted upon; something you know in your heart that is right but that you’re not listening to. To really be able listen to the cues or signals that may come rationally, emotionally, or perceptively we may need to carve out some silence in our lives.

What are some potential sources of “noise” in your life that may be limiting what you hear and listen to? Would it be possible to take a minute today to be silent and think about things you may be aware of but not yet be listening to?

You may just find that in these two solutions to this little puzzle, you may unlock some incredible opportunities for growth and performance. Think of the opportunities that you may be missing!

~Olivia 

030: Trueform Runner: A Remarkable Tool For Honing Your Running Technique [Podcast]

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Trueform1

Trueform Runners in action!

If you’ve listened to our podcast or visited us at the gait lab, you know that we believe running form is a product of your mobility & flexibility, strength & stability, biomechanics, and what the brain tells the body to do.  In fact, in most cases, we reduce the emphasis on technique in the beginning of an athlete’s journey with us to focus on restoring balance to the frame.  Once that mission is accomplished (or is at least a work well in progress) we feel that is the time to start to develop and improve running form.

Today on the podcast we had the great pleasure of sitting down with Brian Weinstein and Jeff Vernon, founders of Samsara Fitness and creators of the Trueform Runner. The Trueform Runner is a non-powered treadmill whose deck is curved up a bit at either end.  It’s quite simple in design, and it is truly a revolutionary training tool.  Coach Al and I have recently had the opportunity to spend some time on one of these machines and experiment a bit.  In the gait lab when we work with athletes on running technique, the first concepts we introduce are proper posture and appropriate cadence.  I can tell you without hesitation that these two things might well be the Trueform Runner’s strong suit.  It provides immediate feedback to the user, increases activation of the posterior chain (that would be the butt!) and it’s quite a lot of fun to play with!  We’re very excited to be doing some research using a Trueform Runner in the coming months, and we’ll share what we learn with you along the way.

Many thanks to Jeff and Brian for joining us today!  We really enjoyed having them in the lab, and we hope you enjoy the podcast.

~Doc

Coach Al : Secret #3 – 4 Secrets To Help YOU Explode Your Ultimate Potential (with triathlete Susan Ford)

“The more I read, the more that I acquire, the more certain I am that I know nothing.” – Voltaire
“Learning never exhausts the mind.” – Leonardo Da Vinci
“Belief gets in the way of learning.” – Robert A. Heinlein

Gandi quote

Without question, many different elements need to come together for any athlete to reach their true potential.  In this series, I’m sharing four “secrets” that I believe have separated Susan Ford from many of her peers. Clearly though, the list could contain more than four, so my goal is to go beyond the more obvious aspects (that you might already be aware of as essential for success) and focus on those that might come as a surprise, that you might not have considered, or perhaps most likely, that you yourself have UNDER-estimated.

For example, most are aware that consistency is essential for long term success.  In a recent article on the Training Peaks blog, calling consistency the #1 rule of endurance training, Coach Jim Vance said “the number one most important rule of training, which is often forgotten, is consistency. There is no training program or workout any coach can devise that can make up for a lack of consistency in training. The higher your goals are as an athlete, the more important consistency is.” I might argue that the only way one can be consistent is to be moving well and be durable, but his point is well taken. In a very real way, consistency is an integral part of long term durability and thus success as well.

Another obvious element is being enthusiastic and enjoying the training process. It is impossible to reach your potential when you don’t enjoy the training process. Figuring out more creative ways to bring fun into your training and racing routine is critical for long term success. Susan is definitely enthusiastic and truly enjoys her training. She brings a smile and an eagerness to every training task, many more days than not, and that is saying a lot.

There are many other factors that are important for exploding your potential. Beyond these elements which include being consistent in training and enthusiastic about training lies the next “secret” I’d like to share with you…


Secret #3: To explode your potential, embrace life-long learning.

Don’t look for knowledge, experience, wisdom or speed to trickle down on you like magic pixie dust.  

To truly grow requires you embrace active learning. Active learning requires mindful engagement, experimentation, practice, tenacity and a willingness to make mistakes, all with an enthusiastic smile.

Forster quoteLife Long: From the very first day that I spoke with Susan and began to work with her as her coach, she has shown an insatiable thirst to learn!  And it hasn’t just been her desire to learn that separates her from many others, she has also grown to understand that learning has no beginning and no end, and it isn’t passive. She’s not satisfied with being “exposed to” information, she has always wanted to dig in and rip it apart, seeking to separate the junk from the quality, the marketing hype from the meat.  She’s truly a life-long learner.

Active vs. Passive: She knows the only true path to learning that brings value and will help create the future she wants, is to not only read about it and ask questions about it, but also to try it, experiment with it, engage in it fully, dig deeper into it. In his book, “The Sourcebook for Teaching Science,” author Norman Herr presents two very different models of learning, one active and one passive.  In a passive model, students are simply “expected to record and absorb knowledge,” vs. an active model, in which students are expected to “care deeply about their own education, learn to monitor and discuss their own learning, and collaborate with other students to discover and construct a framework of knowledge that can be applied to new situations.”[1]

Humility: To truly learn requires being humble and open minded. I’ve seen many an athlete who believes they know “all they need to know,” and along the way, use their own “confirmation bias”[2] to shut down any chance to really grow, improve and learn. Susan always approaches a topic she wants to know more about as a beginner. She opens her mind with very little confirmation bias, and from there, opportunity to learn and grow abounds. Above all else, she understands one thing that very few endurance athletes do: the ability to reach our ultimate potential mirrors our desire and ability to learn more.  

Coach Al shares a memory of Susan and her desire to share and learn...

Work smarter, not just harder: As a coach, I’ve seen so many athletes over the years who decided that working “hard” in their “own way” was the best path toward improving.  People who think like this will always under-achieve long term. You’ve all heard the saying, “it’s not just about working harder, it is about working smarter.” Susan has learned over time how to live this philosophy every day.

The true secrets to improving and reaching YOUR potential aren’t about slick aero wheels or a cool lightweight bike. It isn’t about fancy colored shoes. It isn’t about dressing in the latest cool tri-clothing, buying books that collect dust, reading the cool mags, or hanging around with the fastest athletes. Improving and reaching one’s ultimate potential requires an individual commitment to life-long learning and a willingness to block out all the NOISE.  If, like Susan, you can commit to learning something each and every day, and then take that knowledge and work to become the most well read and well-rounded and studied athlete that you can possibly be, you have the opportunity be better than you ever thought possible!

Look for secret #4 soon.  All the best!

~Coach Al

 


[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confirmation_bias

Coach Al : Secret #2 – 4 Secrets To Help YOU Explode Your Ultimate Potential (with triathlete Susan Ford)

Secret #2: Seek Clarity and Conviction – Choose Wisely

“Life is fired at us point blank and we must choose. ” – Ortega
“We can have anything we choose, but not everything we want. Our appetites will always exceed our grasp.”  – Philip Humbert

I wake every day affirming that what I do on this day is a choice. Some days it doesn’t exactly feel like it :), but I know this is true. At the same time, I also affirm that what I DON’T do is also a choice.  Every single day, every one of us chooses to do (and think) certain things and not others. And there in lies the challenge: one of the traps we can all fall into is the belief that “we can choose to have it all.” I don’t think that is true, at least not all at the same time.

In order to reach your ultimate potential as an athlete, you must decide that is what you want, and then make clear choices that point you toward that goal. 

There’s something unique about this day and age we live in that leads many of us to believe we can “have it all.” I often speak with athletes who send themselves off in many directions at the same time. For example, in addition to training for ironman, they might also be starting a new job, raising a young family, buying a new home, or working on their Masters! Yes, these folks are super type-A high achievers with the commensurate commitment to make it all happen. But the truth is, doing all of these things well and reaching our true potential on the race course too, is fool’s gold.

Each of us must choose. We must all decide for ourselves what we want to achieve, and then seek clarity and conviction and a singular focus toward that end.

 The problem some have when they read this, hear me speak about it, or glance at Susan’s life from afar, is that they think that they are different. They don’t want to give up certain other aspects of their life while pursuing their racing goals. They “like” dabbling in and pursuing many things all at once.  Some say that racing fast isn’t their only goal. Others believe driving themselves into a hole of deep exhaustion from having so many irons in the fire is something to be proud of. As a society, we love to pat ourselves on the back for being able to “do it all!”

Trying to “do it all” leads to mediocrity.  Hey, if you’re ok with your race results and your overall progression as an athlete, then read no further. However, if you are truly committed to being the best athlete you can be and seeing what you are truly capable of, like Susan is, you’ll have to make THAT your focus and make some sacrifices in other areas of your life, at least for a period of time.

  • Susan narrowed her focus.  She makes sacrifices in other areas of her life in order to be on this journey.
  • She has built up systems including a support group of friends and family, and has created and nurtures an environment that supports this singular focus.

As many have said, ultimately the “winner” is the person who is most happy with their choices. I believe (as I bet Susan does), that happiness comes directly from having clarity.  To quote Philip Humbert, “happiness comes from deciding who we are, what we value, and how we will spend our lives, and that comes from taking time to think clearly, make smart choices, and plan wisely.”

Susan is living life in her own way, according to her values. In this day and age, we often fall into the trap of working harder, doing and buying more, yet not finding the happiness we had hoped to. What we would all benefit from is what Susan has done: choose wisely, create clarity, and live life on our own terms to its fullest.

In the end, each of us is required to accept responsibility for the choices we make and the path we follow. We can’t have it all. What we can have is whatever we choose!

Who knows what lies ahead? Follow YOUR path with clarity and focus and be the very best you can be!

Look for secret #3 soon. Enjoy!

~Coach Al