Would You Like To Improve Your Running Technique?

"You ain't gonna learn what you don't wanna know." - Jerry Garcia

"Should I 'sta' or should I 'mo'? - The Clash

Effective training is usually about hammering away at the basics. And that usually isn’t sexy. - Moses Bernard

 


 

In this age of social media, it's not uncommon to see a post on twitter or Facebook about the latest and greatest ways to improve running technique. The truth is, how you run (from a technique point of view) is inside-out, not outside-in.

What do I mean?

Well, let's start with two questions:

  1. Do your hip and ankle joints move freely and easily, without restriction?
  2. Are those joints stable and well supported by the muscles and soft tissue that surround them?

If you're like most runners, the honest answer is probably, "I'm not sure."

To run with a low risk of injury and develop as much speed as your talent will allow, you need certain pre-requisites from a movement quality perspective.  Among those are ankle and hip joints that move freely.

Simply put, "form work" or running "technique" work, is really frosting on the cake.

What's the cake?  How you move.

From the inside-out.

Be smart my friends. "Bake the cake" before putting on the "frosting." Doing that will enable you to enjoy lots of smiles and continual progress. Otherwise, you could end up going down a path that will ultimately lead to injury and frustration.

Not sure what to do next? Start with these:

  1. Find out where you're restricted or unstable and as a result, more likely to injure yourself as you build running mileage. (If you're not sure how, ask).
  2. Based on what you learn, get started immediately on building a true foundation of mobility, stability and strength so that your body is able to handle the repetitive stress inherent in running.
  3. Restore balance where its lacking. Do you need MORE mobility / flexibility work, OR...more stability / strength work?  Who are you?
  4. Build your running mileage and speed smartly and progressively while you also build strength and resiliency.
  5. Once you're stable and balanced, you've then got the pre-requisites to move on and refine your running technique.

Running technique work is FROSTING on the cake. The cake, is your mobility, stability and overall strength.

So if the above is the optimal path, what is the wrong path?

  1. Starting a progressive running program without knowing how you move from the inside-out, e.g. anything about your weaknesses or strengths or movement quality.
  2. Building your running mileage believing (mistakenly) that the key to improving is simply about running more mileage.
  3. Ignoring the pain that starts to develop in your hips, low back, feet or legs.
  4. Not only ignoring, but running through that pain.
  5. Listening to clueless coaches or training partners who tell you that to fix the pain, you need to change your shoes or simply run more mileage.

When you build a strong foundation, address weaknesses and fix them, and THEN progress in a smart way culminating with technique and form work, you CAN truly have your cake and eat it too!  Who's hungry? 🙂

  • No pain from injury.
  • No frustration as your program starts and then stops (due to injury).
  • More smiles, fun, fitness, and speed!

What are you waiting for?

Get in touch. I can help.

To your success!

~Coach Al

Rock Your Wall!

 

 

I love the analogy of building a wall when it comes to how we should build our fitness, don't you?

In some important ways, our body is a lot like a house...

If you're going to age gracefully and remain durable as you prepare for your races this coming season, you'd be smart to remember that you need to build your own "athletic" foundation, similar to your home's foundation.

Think about it...if you're driving down the road and you see a house that is leaning off to the side with a crumbling foundation, you sure wouldn't want to buy that house, would you?

Even though you and I would desperately LIKE to be able to, we can't build true ironman, marathon, or ultra-running fitness by just saying it, OR by taking it ALL in one bite. Just as Will said, we need to start by laying that brick, one at a time, as perfectly as we can, day after day after day.

If we do it right, soon we'll have that great foundation - one that is stable and straight and strong and that will support OUR "house" in any kind of wind, or more specifically, as the weeks, months, and miles add up!

Which brings me to the main message in today's blog post:

Any smart season-long training plan and progression BEGINS by:

  1. Restoring health and balance and fundamental movement quality, and then...
  2. Establishing a solid foundation that will support all the training that is to come. 

At Pursuit Athletic Performance, we call this first training phase, Restoration and Foundation.

So what's YOUR story?

During this time period, it's about learning as much as you can about your body - it's about self-discovery, from a movement point of view - learning your "story" as an athlete. That might sound a little strange but as a coach, I can't express just how important it is.

Try on some of these questions to get to the heart of who you are as an athlete:

  • Where do you feel tight? Why?
  • Where do you feel weak? Why?
  • Are you routinely fighting some kind of virus? If so, why?
  • Do you struggle frequently with constant nagging pain or injuries? If so, why?
  • Are you a strong, fatigue-resistant swimmer or a weak, slow swimmer? If you're a weaker swimmer, why?
  • Are you a strong cyclist who can climb with ease, or do you struggle to push a larger gear? If you struggle to push that larger gear, why?
  • Are you a strong, durable runner or would you consider yourself injury prone? If you're not durable, then why?
  • When you get tired out on the race course or during long training sessions, do you struggle to maintain efficient form?

Now if your house is about to blow over in the wind, or if that foundation is crumbling and starting to show some cracks...well then, the color of your window shades doesn't matter very much, ya know?

Your body and your fitness are the exact same thing

Get started NOW. Answer the questions and take action, and you'll be on your way to building the biggest, baddest, greatest, fitness "wall" that has ever been built!  It won't happen any other way.

As always, if you have questions, leave a comment of email me directly and let me know. I'm here to help.

To your success!
~Coach Al

 

The Coaching Advice I Give Most Often

 

Endurance athletes pride themselves on pushing through the most challenging, gut-busting workouts. Anyone who is on Facebook sees those "inspirational" memes where the message is always to push-push-push! We like to think of ourselves as tough and willing to push hard and do that little bit extra, even if that "extra" results in some pain that just might be an impending injury.

We love to share our toughness on social media too. Hell, thinking about it - isn't this really why Strava and Facebook exist? So we could prove to those athletes around us that we're a little tougher (and faster) than they are!?  Come on, admit it! 🙂

Hey, listen...I get it. I've been there. 🙂 Improving and racing long aren't easy. Sometimes you gotta dig deep, push yourself harder, put in that extra effort if you want to get better, right?

But let me ask you a question. Is there a point where that never-ever-quit mindset can be detrimental?

The answer to all of these questions is a resounding YES.

You've got to put in some extra work and be willing to do some things that most wouldn't. But at the same time, the mindset of "never-quit-no-matter-what" can sometimes do a lot more harm than good.

Let me just come right out and say it straight: You're never going to be as sorry for the workouts or sets you didn't do, as much as the ones you DID do that you shouldn't have.

In other words, if in doubt, leave it out.

A few weeks ago I sent an email to my mailing list, discussing what I believe might possibly be the world's dumbest exercise? (In case you missed that email and post and you'd like to read it, hit me up via email and I'll send it on to you).

My friend Amy replied (as did a lot of folks with similar stories) sharing with me her story that speaks to this very same idea. I clipped a portion of her email and underlined some of it. Check it out:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unfortunately, Amy's email says it all. If only she had stopped one set earlier or when she started to really feel her form falling apart.

 

The Best Kept Secret To Avoiding Injury and Improving Consistently

Anyone who knows me or has worked with me knows I'm passionate about helping athletes improve, get faster and stronger, and of course avoid injury along the way.  What many people don't know, is that the secret to improving and avoiding injury aren't those mobility or stability exercises I continually program.

So what is?

Most injuries occur, not because your core is unstable or you're tight. They happen most often, because of dumb training mistakes. You know, the mistakes you make that at the outset, look like you're being "tough." Going the extra mile. Doing that extra rep or set or workout.

Just like Amy did. 

Sometimes, the best thing you can do to ensure you'll keep improving is to leave something OUT or stop short, just when it might seem like you could go on forever.

I wish I had a dollar for every time I've said, "it's at the moment in time when we feel the most bulletproof, that we're actually the most vulnerable."  Not popular to hear, I know. Because hey...we love our toughness and never-say-quit mentality.

So, a couple of months ago I did a talk for some locals here on the sun-coast that was titled "Train Smart: What Is It? How To Do It!"  Goes right along with this theme, ya know?

I've got 24 slides from the talk that I'd be happy to share with you.

I guarantee there's some TIPS in there that just might help down the road to avoiding all of the mistakes I have personally made over the years! That's the thing, I think, that makes me a good coach. I've made ALL of the mistakes so you don't have to!  🙂

To Your Success!
~Coach Al

Are You Wasting Your Time Doing This Dumb Exercise?

 

So here we are, it's already mid April. Did it seem to you that the first three months of the year have just flown by?

Let me ask you two straight forward, honest questions:

1. Would you be interested if I said I could show you one simple (but not necessarily easy) exercise that could (nearly) instantly, give you a STABLE core? No BS here - I'm very serious. Done well, this particular exercise works almost like "magic."

2. And what if I could also save you valuable time and energy by showing you one popular exercise you're probably doing that is a serious waste of your training time and effort?

I'm going to assume if you've read this far, the answer is YES to both of those. So let me start with question #2, the exercise that is A WASTE. What is it you ask?

planksIt is the basic 4-point, front (aka prone) plank.  

Now listen, I know a lot of athletes love this one because you get that "burn" in your abs (yes, I do occasionally use this plank to transition between right and left SIDE planks), and it does make you feel mentally "tough" to gut out long planks, BUT... if your mission is to avoid injury and run faster, this version of a plank just won't do it for you. 

To learn more about the "WHY," take time to listen to this podcast where Doc Strecker and I go into great detail (and hopefully set the record straight) about this exercise.

Now to question #1, if you REALLY want a more stable and strong core, that'll help you get faster and go farther, the Half Front Plank with a reach, IS IT.

Now you might be thinking, this is much "easier" than a full front plank and certainly, something that "simple" can't possibly make a difference. But you would be wrong on both counts.

 

A Simple (But Seriously NOT Easy) Plank To Get Stable

 

Don't believe me?

I challenge you to TRY IT exactly as Dr. Strecker describes it (and demonstrates it) in the 3.5 minute video (click on the image to the left) and then let me know how it goes for you.

In fact, I challenge you to videotape yourself doing it and send it to me. I guarantee I will get back to you with a critique, and offer some tips on how you can improve.

Listen, I know your time is valuable and mine is too. I've been at this way too long to waste time. I'm giving you the straight scoop here, it's up to you to see if I'm right.

Try it. Video yourself and then email me to let me know you're sending video. (Dropbox is best to send video. Note that I will NOT open it unless I hear from you first via email).

Trust me, it may look easy but to do it well, is NOT easy.

It's up to you. You can get REAL results, or you can choose to waste your time doing dumb, pointless exercises like the basic 4-point front plank.

But if you ask me, life is too short to waste time on useless exercises.  As I said before, this year is flying by!

Happy trails!
~Coach Al

PS: If you're interested in digging into this Half Front Plank with a Reach a bit more, I shot a video for my coached athletes where I get into more detail with a ton of tips on how to make it better. You can check that video out HERE.

PSS: Let's face it, one of the ONLY real paths for anyone who wants to be proactive and make sure they are doing all they can to age gracefully and get rid of chronic injury once and for all, is to get to the heart of how they're "moving" and determine definitively where they're unstable, weak, or imbalanced. 

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

That solution is our unique Pursuit Athletic Performance Virtual Gait Analysis at 20% off the normal price of $299.00. That's right, 20% off!

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

 

The Virtual Gait Analysis Is For You IF:

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

The Virtual Gait Analysis Is NOT For You IF:

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

 

How Does Our Virtual Gait Analysis Work?

  1. Go HERE and hit the "Get A Virtual Gait Analysis" Button. During check out, USE THIS COUPON: VGASAVE20 to get 20% off of the normal $299.00 price, but ONLY if you act immediately because it goes away after 5 have been purchased! Coupon code: VGASAVE20
  2. After you complete the purchase, you'll receive an instant downloadable PDF with detailed instructions on every single step you need to take, which includes submitting pictures and video to us. It is an easy-to-follow process that works!
  3. I'll be in contact with you to help you through every step of the process of submitting what we need to conduct the analysis, should you need us.
  4. I'll take all of the information provided and conduct the analysis.
  5. When I'm done (normally about 4-5 days from the time you have submitted ALL of the information to us), we set up a SKYPE video call with you at a mutually convenient time, where we review everything we learned with you. At that time we will answer any questions you may have. Also included is a complete VGA report that includes a detailed, individualized exercise prescription for addressing YOUR specific issues, as well as all supporting pictures and documentation.
  6. And then, because you NEED TO KNOW what to do to fix your issue (and how to do it!), we will give you instant access to our website and all of the instructional videos and documents.

You'll know WHAT to do, HOW to do it, and will be able to contact me directly should you have any questions along the way!

It's time to stop the insanity.

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

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

 

There is NO Tomorrow.

 

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

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

Now... before I tell you what kind of action I recommend you take, let me share a quick story with you...

That's me with Life Breath owner, Linda Jaros, and our friend (and coached athlete) Kristin Wilkes-White.

Last week I traveled up to the great state of Rhode Island to perform a series on 1 on 1 movement assessments at the Life Breath Wellness Center and Studio, with an absolutely awesome group of people, most of whom are just like you.

They are all hard working athletes who are unfortunately dealing with a variety of nagging injuries and the resultant pain and dysfunction. They all simply wanted to know what they need to do to feel better so they can go live life and enjoy it on THEIR terms!

I don't think that's unreasonable, yet it is a situation so many athletes find themselves in.  Can you relate at all?

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

The ONLY path for anyone who wants to be proactive and make sure they are doing all they can to age gracefully and get rid of chronic injury once and for all, is to get to the heart of how they're "moving" and determine definitively where they're unstable, weak, imbalanced, or asymmetrical. 

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

That solution is our unique Pursuit Athletic Performance Virtual Gait Analysis at 20% off the normal price of $299.00. That's right, 20% off!

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

 

The Virtual Gait Analysis Is For You IF:

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

The Virtual Gait Analysis Is NOT For You IF:

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

 

How Does Our Virtual Gait Analysis Work?

  1. Go HERE and hit the "Get A Virtual Gait Analysis" Button. During check out, USE THIS COUPON: VGASAVE20 to get 20% off of the normal $299.00 price, but ONLY if you act immediately because it goes away after 5 have been purchased! Coupon code: VGASAVE20
  2. After you complete the purchase, you'll receive an instant downloadable PDF with detailed instructions on every single step you need to take, which includes submitting pictures and video to us. It is an easy-to-follow process that works!
  3. I'll be in contact with you to help you through every step of the process of submitting what we need to conduct the analysis, should you need us.
  4. I'll take all of the information provided and conduct the analysis.
  5. When I'm done (normally about 4-5 days from the time you have submitted ALL of the information to us), we set up a SKYPE video call with you at a mutually convenient time, where we review everything we learned with you. At that time we will answer any questions you may have. Also included is a complete VGA report that includes a detailed, individualized exercise prescription for addressing YOUR specific issues, as well as all supporting pictures and documentation.
  6. And then, because you NEED TO KNOW what to do to fix your issue (and how to do it!), we will give you instant access to our website and all of the instructional videos and documents.

You'll know WHAT to do, HOW to do it, and will be able to contact me directly should you have any questions along the way!

It's time to stop the insanity.

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

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

To Your Success!
~Coach Al

PS: Still doubt it works? Why not speak with any other athlete who has gone through it. Send me an email (coachal@pursuitfitness.com) and I'll give you contact information so you may find out for yourself.  Or, jump on to our Pursuit Athletic Performance Facebook page and ask for input.

PSS: Remember, for 5 days ONLY and for 5 runners ONLY! 20% off!! No exceptions! Act now! This is gone by the start of next week!

Stuck In Injury? Now Is The Time To Do Something About It!

Woman and men running during sunset

Believe it or not, we're approaching mid-January. The sub-freezing temperatures have settled on the northeast and Midwest, and the snow is piling up.

Whether or not it feels like it (can you say 15+ inches of snow and counting yesterday, if you live in the northeast!), spring is right around the corner, and with it, the events you have planned that you are also HOPING will make you feel good about yourself AND about the year 2018, when looking back on it.

The problem for many, especially those who have had success in the past, is allowing their EGO (along with some wishing and hoping) to get in the way of forward progress.

Why do we allow our own "confirmation bias" or our need to always be "right" to drag us down and keep us stuck in a place of injury, plateau, or worse?

If you can't get out of your own way long enough to leave behind the wishful thinking and see things (even for a brief moment) for how they REALLY are, then you know what? You will reap exactly what you sow. You will remain stuck in a place where injury or poor performance becomes your new normal.

If I've learned anything over the years, it is how important it remains to embrace humility. I have also learned that I NEED to get out of my own way and reach out to others with a beginner's mindset, so that I may move fully forward and reach my greatest personal potential! Not always easy, I know, but incredibly important and powerful.

Why not join me and a long list of others and finally put the injury and plateau bug behind you!

Get in touch with me by email to see if there might be a way I can help you with a consult, or even a Virtual Gait Analysis. Take the first step now toward becoming the better, more durable athlete you know exists inside, so that 2018 turns out the way you hope it will!

All my best,

~Coach Al

Triathletes and Runners: Strength Doesn’t Equal Stability

 

"Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free." - John 8:32


Without a doubt, endurance athletes are finally coming around to understanding and believing in the importance of strength training. Even though it's taken a while, it's great to see.  The kinds of "functional" strength work I was experimenting with in the late 1980s to help increase my durability, endurance and speed (while logging a lot less miles than most of my training buddies and competitors), is almost becoming routine now among many competitive triathletes and runners.

Along the same lines, it almost "normal" now to sit in the middle of a group of runners or triathletes and hear folks talk about "hitting the gym," or getting in their "leg (or arm) day." That was unheard of even just 10 years ago. Today, smart athletes KNOW that strength work has to be a part of their routine. As a "bonus," the strength trained runner or triathlete looks better. After all, who doesn't want a better physique to go along with our already highly developed cardiovascular fitness?

Part of the reason for this gradual shift is likely because baby boomers (like me) are aging. Ack! In addition to their race results or the next ironman, more and more are thinking about their longevity and how well (and gracefully) they'll age. That's a smart thing.

On the topic of strength and maintaining it, I've shared a few links recently that speak to the obvious and profound connections between muscle wasting (sarcopenia) and aging more gracefully.  THIS TedTalk called "Muscle Matters," and THIS article from OutsideOnline titled "To Delay Death, Lift Weights," are two examples of what I mean. Definitely take the time to read and listen!

So what's the problem?

Listen, there's absolutely no doubt that strength training is important for every athlete, regardless of your gender or age or experience level. As the above article and TedTalk discuss, there is NO substitute for being strong. In my opinion, every single person ought to put getting stronger at the TOP of their priority list.

But at the same time, as someone who works with injured athletes every day, I have to point out the BIG MYTH that exists in so many athlete's minds -- that ALL you need to do is hit the gym and work your arms, abs, back and legs, and you're set.

You may think you're doing all you need to do to avoid injury and perform your best, but unfortunately that's not the case.

How "ripped" or muscular you are - how much weight you lifted in that gym session last night - none of it has anything at all to do with how durable or injury resistant you are or will be down the road.

Not sure what I mean?

Here's an example. And yes, in case you're wondering, I see this week in and week out - athletes who can't for the life of them understand why they are so often injured, despite religiously going to the gym to lift weights and get strong.


The triathlete pictured here in these two photos contacted me recently to inquire about coaching. He's got talent and as you can see, he's a pretty strong guy. What's his goal? Qualifying for Kona - which is no easy task.

So what's the issue?

In one of his first attempts to qualify, he came really close to getting his slot, proving to himself that he had what it took!  However, ever since then his results have tumbled...and NOW, he's dealing with hip pain that has him in physical therapy and making multiple visits to his orthopedic surgeon to try and learn what is going on. To say he's frustrated is an understatement!

How does an obviously talented, goal-oriented, hard working triathlete like this, who as you can see is strong, end up with hip pain and suffering from increasingly worse race results? (There are many examples of athletes like this guy - strong and yet frustrated! Are you one of them?)

There are certainly a variety of things in both his movement quality and in his training and recovery that could explain his frustrations. One of the potential answers to that question became very obvious to me as soon as I saw some video of him on the treadmill as part of his Virtual Gait Analysis with me, something I do with EVERY SINGLE athlete I coach.
These two images, which I clipped from his run video at mid-stance (or shortly thereafter) of the gait cycle, show an excessive amount of  instability of his core and hip girdle, specifically measured here from the back as "lateral pelvic drop." As you can see in the picture, I measured 9 degrees of "drop" on the left leg and 7 degrees of "drop" on the right.

To say the amount of instability on a single leg here is significant is an understatement: 2 degrees or less would be considered "ideal" for this athlete. He's at 9 and 7 degrees respectively! Yikes.

One thing most don't realize is that this instability has very little to do with the strength of an individual muscle. Or the strength of his body. Or how "ripped" he might be. It has a LOT to do with his nervous system - and the timing of muscle firing. The kind of training that will fix these issues begins in the brain, with basics and fundamentals.

If you'd like to know MORE about this topic, you're in luck. I've written lots about it over the years.

Start by going to THIS post, where I discuss why mechanics are so important for race-day performance and injury resistance. Or THIS post, discussing the truth about why runners become injured. Or THIS one, which discusses the often misunderstood relationship between strength and stability. In fact, use that search function there to dig into many similar kinds of posts. There's much to learn.

Luckily, this athlete came to the right place. I'm confident that as he follows my guidance and the process unfolds, we'll see a gradual improvement in his stability.  And along with that, his durability and his performance.

As soon as possible, he wants to be back out on the roads so he can take advantage of his strength and determination to succeed, and finally reach his goal of qualifying for Kona!

So what are YOUR goals? Better yet, how can I help you get past YOUR movement related frustrations so you can go out and reach them?

To your success,

~Coach Al

 

Motivation and Stress: An Inverse Relationship?

 

So I was chatting over the last few days with a couple of athletes I coach, helping them to be a little kinder to themselves during what is a challenging time in their lives.

We all have our battles to fight - life is just like that sometimes. stress, anxietySo often we go through periods of time where stress and anxiety levels are higher than we want them to be.

Maybe it's a personal or family difficulty, or dissatisfaction at work, health issues with someone close to us (I am living this right now unfortunately), economic challenges, or just flux and change, which in and of itself, can cause a ton of stress.

What ALL of us need to remember is that when stress levels are HIGH, it is natural and normal that our energy and motivation may wane.

In other words, stress and anxiety exist in inverse of boundless energy, internal drive, and motivation.

The problem comes when we don't see this inverse relationship, and we begin to ADD to our stress levels by berating ourselves for not "wanting it" more, or working harder, or trying to have the same level of motivation we might have had in the past.

The issue IS NOT that you don't care or that you don't "love it" anymore. More likely, it's your body in flight-or-fight mode causing stress hormones to course through the bloodstream. The BEST thing for you to do at any moment MIGHT be TO train, but sometimes that is the last thing you want to do!

If you find yourself feeling stressed, or struggling to recover from your workouts, remember the old adage, "this too shall pass." 🙂

Here's a few tips that I hope will help you thrive in a challenging world:

1. In times of stress, stop beating yourself up for any lack of drive or motivation. See this for what it is, an inverse relationship. Treat each day as a NEW day, and strive to be better. Take one session, one task, at a time. Smile more, you'll feel better!

2. Try to take a "bird's eye" view of everything, and remember that your body has only so much (limited) energy available to sustain life, repair damaged tissue, digest nutrients, handle emotional stress, handle cooling during hot, humid weather, AND complete those challenging training sessions, among many other things. During stressful times, something has to give, and sometimes that needs to be your training. If you need to take a step back or a few days "off," you won't lose your fitness. In fact, you might return to your routine feeling better than ever.

3. Seek ways to alleviate the stress. Facing the issues causing the stress and taking action to change the situation as best you can is a smart strategy. Just don't bite off too much at any one time.

4. If the circumstances are out of your control, do your best to JUST DO IT, knowing that you will nearly always feel better AFTER exercise or training, regardless of the situation. Exercising is a great stress reliever, first and foremost. The added bonus is that you will have done something positive for YOU, leaving you feeling better about yourself. Endorphins will also enhance your mood.

5. The reality is, motivation is overrated. #inspirational memes are overrated. Sometimes you have to come back to the discipline and dedication to do what you know you need to, simply because you care. Danny Kavadlo (Progressive Calisthenics trainer at DragonDoor) wrote a great blog post yesterday on this same topic called "Take Hold Of The Flame." I recommend you take a moment to read it.

The bottom line? Sometimes you need to just be kind to yourself. Seek balance as the best path toward optimal training. If at first you don't succeed, try and try again. Keep smiling, keep it fun, and don't be so damn hard on yourself.

None of this gives you permission to slack. But, rather, be honest, compassionate and kind to the most important person in the world: Y O U!

To your success,

~Coach Al

 

Hardrock 100: Here She Comes!

 

There are so many things that I love about coaching.  For starters, I love the opportunity to get to know and work with inspiring and motivated people every day who have a high standard of personal excellence, and who want to learn more and challenge themselves to achieve more. I love working with different athletes, from ultra-runners to triathletes - novices to world champions.

I also love how so many of those athletes challenge me (often without knowing it) to be better and be truly worthy of their trust. Every day I embrace my responsibility to find more meaningful ways to be a positive influence on both their athletic development and their lives as human beings.

Perhaps the most enjoyable of all though, is having the opportunity to work so closely with someone (and for a long enough period of time), that you can almost anticipate what they're thinking - how they're feeling, seeing deep inside of them to know what really makes them tick, knowing just what they may need to be their best.

To be able to watch them grow, evolve and thrive.

What hopefully develops with hard work, careful nurturing (and a little good fortune) is a mutual deep caring, trust and respect...a lifelong friendship that comes only from the true partnership that is a great coach/athlete relationship.

That's exactly what has happened with the incomparable Debbie Livingston.

Meeting Debbie with a big hug and smiles, just after she crossed the finish line of a 3-Day Stage Race, The Emerald Necklace.

I've coached Debbie for 7 or 8 years, I think. 🙂 Honestly, I've lost count - the years have just flown by. And they've been amazing.

Funny...I was thinking about it and wanting to write this piece, so I texted her this morning and asked her when we started working together. "2010," she said. She remembered because it was the year after her daughter, Dahlia, was born.

So why write about this today?

Debbie is in Silverton, Colorado, with her family (husband Scott, son Sheppard, and the aformentioned Dahlia), going through final preparations for her first Hardrock 100 Endurance Run.

Hardrock Hundred starts Friday morning, July 14th, at 6 am MST.  It needs no introduction for anyone who even remotely follows trail or ultra-running. Simply put, it's one of the most difficult to run (and to get into!) ultramarathon trail runs on the planet and among the most prestigious just to finish.

With 33,050 feet of climbing and 33,050 feet of descending for a total elevation change of 66,100 feet, AND with an average elevation of 11,186 feet (low point 7,680 feet and high point 14,048 feet), this ultra-running monster sure isn't for the weak or faint of heart.  

Hardrock has been a #bucketlist race for Deb for as long as I can remember. She's had an incredibly challenging time just getting into the race!  Each year over the last few, we'd talk about her race schedule and always had to consider that this might be the year she'd get in.

This year she's one of 145 runners who will start and one of only 22 women. Debbie's husband Scott wrote up a beautifully detailed blog post preview as a lead-in to this year's race. In that post, he outlines a brief history of Debbie's failed attempts to gain entry (the lesson: never stop trying!), along with all of the assorted fun they've had preparing for this unique race journey. To read that post (which I highly recommend), go HERE.

The real purpose of me writing this today isn't just to throw a huge shout-out and congrats to Debbie for having achieved this incredible feat of just GETTING TO the start line of Hardrock 100.  (That's no easy feat. A great many ultra-runners end up toeing the line of their goal events nursing some kind of injury - having been unable to complete the training required and also survive to get to the startline 100% healthy). No, I want to do more than that. I'd like to share with you a few things about Debbie that I've learned coaching her.

What is it that makes Debbie unique and allowed her to have such enduring success? 

I was going back through some of my old coaching notes and emails with Debbie and reminded myself that in the fall of 2012, we were fearful that Debbie might have a labral tear in her hip. As it turned out that wasn't the case. 🙂 The point of that story is, while Debbie's had many more victories than defeats over the course of her career as an ultra-runner, there have been some challenging periods. Like so many athletes, she's had to overcome her fair share of difficulty just to get to this point.

Every time we faced one of those difficulties, we did it together (as a team along with her family). We re-evaluated what we were doing and how we were doing it. We tried to find a better way, together. Debbie really has been at the cutting edge of so many of the things I've introduced to my coached athletes. She's always willing to try new things and has become a master of so many (yoga, kettlebell training, vegan nutrition, to name just a few) because of her boundless desire to grow both athletically and personally.

Deb and Lis. Amazing athletes - beautiful people - beautiful smiles! (All of the photos here are courtesy of Scott Livingston, hubby and photographer extraordinaire!)

As I think about it, Debbie often reminds me of one other elite athlete that I'm fortunate to coach, 5-time Age-Group Ironman World Champion, Lisbeth Kenyon. How so, you ask? Well, perhaps not surprisingly, they're alike in a lot of ways. Here's just a few:

  • Both of them are 100% willing to be accountable for every single thing they do in training. They keep great training diaries, are always timely in how they communicate with me, and they leave no stone (details) unturned when it comes to their daily training and preparation. They're detailed oriented in every way.
  • Both value their health ABOVE their fitness, meaning they would never exchange doing something that isn't smart for their health for a fitness "boost."  They deeply value what it means to "move well" and approach their training holistically. What results is that they both possess a near-perfect balance between mobility/flexibility and stability/strength; one reason why they've remained durable for so many years.
  • Both embrace a quality over quantity training approach which is based on a "movement-quality-first" mentality. Rare in ironman and ultra-running circles, it means they have more time and energy for family and work responsibilities. And less risk of burn-out over the course of many years of training and racing.
  • Both love to learn and actively participate in learning every day. They're always the first to 1. be accountable to something new that I introduce, or 2. attend a class or clinic that I host, or 3. show up in a room full of students with a "beginner's mindset." They are incredibly humble.
  • Both are mentally strong. In fact, they are the two most mentally tough athletes I have ever worked with. And I don't just mean on the race course. Yes, they are gritty and as tough as they come on the race course! More than that, by mentally strong I mean they willingly take days off and rest when they need it (do you think of the willingness to rest as a 'strength'?). They do the work without whining or bragging, they don't make excuses or miss training sessions needlessly, they own every result they get whether it's what they wanted or not, and they always put their family first and hold themselves to the highest standard, before anyone else.

Debbie and I at last year's Vermont 50 ultra-run and mountain bike.

A big group with my son AJ and his girlfriend Liz, and Terry, Deb, Dahlia and Shep...but we're missing Scott (per usual), he's always behind the camera!

Debbie and I have gone on to host many camps and clinics together. Our families have grown close. We've built a lasting friendship that I know will far outlive our coach/athlete relationship.

I'm honored to not only coach her, but to know her and call her a friend.  I'm privileged to play a small role in this amazing life (running) journey she is on!

In a short message on Facebook yesterday, one of Debbie's friends named Barbara, I think best described her (and I quote) as a "combination trail beauty and beast from the East." Yup, that's her! You nailed it Barbara. 🙂

I'd like to wish that wonderful "beauty and beast from the East" and her crew, the very best of luck as she toes the line this Friday and knocks one more trail "monster" off of her #bucketlist!  You are going to do great.

All my love, Deb.

~Coach Al

Is It Possible You’re Dehydrated?

 

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

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

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

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

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

I would argue that no, they're not.

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

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

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

The Conservation Mindset

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

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

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

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

Your Fascial (Water) Net

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

What do I mean?

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Drink To Thirst?

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

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

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

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

Happy trails!
~Coach Al

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

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