Archive for Ask Coach Al

A Long Arduous Journey Back To Running

 

Elise VonHousen will go for her first run this weekend. It's been a long time since the last one. She’s worked incredibly hard over the past few months to get to this point in time, where she’s ready to take these first steps.

Why is it such a big deal, and what led her to this point in time? Grab a cup'a joe (or whatever your preference is) and follow along. I hope what I share today inspires!

So, whenever I talk to someone who inquires about the coaching work I do in my company, Pursuit Athletic Performance, I inevitably catch myself saying, "Hey, what I do…. it isn't curing cancer, that’s for sure. But, at the same time, helping people overcome what are often long-term chronic injuries, to come back to being able to do the things they so love to do - that can be incredibly powerful and life changing.”

Such is one more incredible story of resilience and hard work that defines Elise VonHousen's journey back to running.

Where did our story together begin?

Elise emailed me in April of 2017. She’d gotten my contact information from a close friend of hers – a triathlete who herself had been saddled with years of chronic injuries, and who had successfully overcome them to return to training and racing.

Elise’s email to me started off like so many others I have received over the years, saying “I am probably going to tell you too much right now, but I know information is important.  At the same time, I don’t want to waste your time, so I apologize if I ramble on.”

 

Reaching out - looking for answers. Hoping. Praying.

She was reaching out hoping beyond hope, that I might be able to help. She didn’t want to waste my time though. Hope, in her mind, had all but faded into the past.

She continued: “…I started running back in middle school.  Back then I was a band geek with very little self-confidence.  I went running with my sister one day and realized running was something I could do other than school.  It turned out I was pretty good at it (at least at the local level).  On a personal level, running got me through a lot of tough times growing up.  It was the one thing that was mine and no one could take away from me.  Unfortunately, my body has never liked running quite as much as the rest of me.  Starting in my freshman year of high school I have had multiple stress fractures anywhere from my feet to my femur.  I have had bouts with plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendonitis.”

She went on to describe a life-long history of injury: “Stress fractures began my freshman year in high school and I have lost count of how many I have had.  Some were self-diagnosed as I had enough experience to know what was going on.  Most of them have been in my right side with a couple on the left.  I have cracked just about everything from my foot to my femur.  In high school I ran a state championship on a stress fracture and ended up pulling my calf muscle at the same time.”

On she went, fighting through the injuries and continuing to dream of training for the races she loved to do. Training and racing with her friends was a big part of the joy she felt and took from the training process.

 

Forging ahead - setting goals. And hoping. 

Fast forward to 2017. She had a dream of qualifying for the 70.3 world championships in Chattanooga. Two weeks out from a qualifying race, she said she was out on a run and “felt a pop and sharp pain in my right foot.  I tried to jog it off like a twisted ankle but it wasn’t working so I walked until I could find a ride back to my car.  I didn’t know what I had done but I knew it wasn’t good.  I was hoping it was more of a bruise or soft tissue and pretty much stayed off of it until race day.  By then I was walking almost normally and told myself I could gut it out and run well enough to qualify.  Had solid swim on a rough day and the best bike of my life only to have it all fall apart on the run.  My foot wouldn’t have anything to do with running 13.1 miles so it turned into a walk/jog/limp fest just to get to the finish line.  In hindsight, I never should have started.  But I’m stubborn and had to try.”

She went on to describe what followed: “The fun began, doctor’s visits, x-rays, MRI’s, etc to find out what I had actually done.  After way too long, I find out that it was a stress fracture in the navicular bone.  (something I had also done back in college).  So, in the boot I stayed until Thanksgiving.  The one amazing thing after all of this time off was I could get out of bed in the morning and walk normally and climb stairs like a normal person for the first time in years.”

She finished her email to me with these words: “When I saw the Dr. for my stress fracture I was told that I may never run again and that If I did, I should be happy to run slowly and for shorter distances as I would be lucky to do that.  I didn’t like that answer and I still don’t.  I have thought a lot about getting a second opinion, but haven’t known where to turn.”

What ensued was a series of conversations that resulted in Elise doing a Virtual Gait Analysis with me. That approach (vs. us meeting face to face) was necessary because she lived in the northeast and I live in Florida.

Like so many before Elise, I knew in my heart that having a realistic chance of returning back to the sport she loved would be difficult.

  • Was she coachable?
  • Was she willing to work with someone who would hold her accountable?
  • Would she be willing to do the sometimes-tedious work that was required to restore balance in her body?
  • Was she patient and persistent enough?
  • Was being able to run without injuring herself important enough to her, for her to follow my guidance, no matter how long it took?

These were the questions I asked myself – questions I always ask whenever someone reaches out in this situation.

In my email reply back to her, I said “You've had a long and VERY challenging road as it relates to your running and past injuries. I can very much relate to how much you enjoy it and feel it’s a part of who you are. It sucks when you can't do it, and the thought, as you said, of never being able to do it, is just unacceptable - not a pleasant thought at all!

Whatever the issues are which are leading you to re-injure yourself - until they're uncovered, addressed, and changed for the better, nothing else really matters. The root causes must be learned.  And then changed, if possible, for the better.  That's the only path that might work.

The best case scenario? We spend a day or two together to work on these issues. The next best scenario? You do our Virtual Gait Analysis and we start on that path together.

There's no magic fixes, no easy quick answers. There's a process of learning what needs to be addressed and then going about doing the work to address that, be it stability, flexibility, mobility, or strength (and most likely some combination of those).

Those are my thoughts. If you're willing to try, then the chance and choice is up to you."

 

Moving forward with the "VGA." 

Elise moved forward with the virtual analysis in June. And afterward, got started on the training I had prescribed for her in my analysis report.

While I was hopeful she was ready to embark on the path I felt she needed to, I was also realistic. I knew it was going to be very difficult for her.  Sometimes, soldiering through the host of things which need to be addressed, “solo,” without someone there to guide you and work alongside you who knows what they are doing and how to help, can be just too much to overcome.

Yes, she had the tools such as the plethora of instructional videos on our website, that she needed to begin to make some changes and get started. But like so many before her, I knew that the best chance for her to be successful would come when she was willing to go all in and work with me 1 on 1. In that scenario, we’d work together as a team. She’d have me to be accountable to - to send regular video to - for form assessment - to program her training daily. Me to guide her every step of the way.

Nevertheless, she embarked on the process and the training.

Months went by.

Every so often I’d think of her and wonder how she was doing. Every so often I’d email and check in on her. In my mind, I truly wondered whether she would ever successfully overcome the injuries and get back to doing what she loved. Maybe it was just too much to overcome. I’d seen so many others like her, some successful and others who just disappeared from my radar.

Could she do it? Was she willing to do what was required? Only time would tell.

Fast forward to October of 2017 – on her friend Kristin’s encouragement, Elise signed up for my “Get Strong – Move Right” online group coaching program. Honestly, I was super excited to hear from her again and was hopeful this might be the program that could finally kick-start her progress.

Now, I don’t think I ever told Elise this, but in my heart, while I was hopeful…I also had some doubts. Why?

I felt that while she’d certainly benefit from the group coaching, I knew that the focus of that group training wasn’t what she ultimately most needed to be successful.  In other words, many of the movement issues Elise faced were mobility / flexibility related, and the primary focus of that group coaching was (and is) stability and strength.  In some respects, they are the same thing – very much inter-related. Yet, for some people (and Elise is one), imbalances needed to be addressed head-on to really get to the heart of why these injuries kept coming back.

 

The "journey", like so many things, is a process. Growth and change are hard.  

At this point in Elise's story, I should mention…she is a very shy person. Smart, goal-oriented, talented also. But shy. And very proud. While the group training might not have ultimately been THE thing she most needed to be successful, I knew it was also a big step forward for her. It was another step forward in accountability. She worked hard. I applauded her efforts and knew all of the time and effort would help her improve. What I wasn’t so sure of, was just how much, and if it’d be the thing that might help her get to where she wanted to be.

After the group coaching program ended, I didn’t hear from Elise. Months again went by.

That is, until Monday, March 26th, when I received an email reply from Elise, to an email I had sent to my subscribed list – an email that was titled, “The Journey Is The Destination.” (If you’d like to read that email, you can do so by going HERE).

In her email reply to me, Elise said:

“It has been a wild and crazy year since Kristin put me in touch with you and none of it has been what I expected. Last year I did a gait analysis with you and despite all of my desires to run, I heeded your advice and did not run for the summer and focused on the functional exercises you gave me (along with some swimming and biking) with a goal of starting to run again in the fall.  My daughter ran her first season of middle school cross country last year and it was so much fun to go to meets and cheer her on at a sport that I love dearly.  Unfortunately, just running from point to point on the race courses hurt my foot and I was quickly reminded that despite all of the work I did over the summer and almost a full year of rest, something still wasn’t right and my return to running wasn’t going to go as I had planned.  After some inquiries I got in touch with a doctor at Brigham and Williams hospital in Boston and went to see him to try to figure things out.  I had a second MRI and a CAT scan and he was able to determine that the bone did fully heal from the stress fracture but it has some abnormalities which may be the source of my continuing pain.”

 

Two things are important to acknowledge at this point – two things that are critical for her (or anyone else in this same situation) potential for a successful return back to running:

1.       Elise did go through the program I had laid out for her after her analysis, and had also done the group coaching program – but in neither instance had she become fully accountable for HOW she was performing the movements that were prescribed. In other words, my experience has taught me that the “devil is in the details.” Without the feedback she needed, she was probably not doing the things she needed to do in the way that she needed to do them.

2.       She determined on her own when to try running again, based almost entirely on her emotions and desire TO run. Without having a specific set of objective guidelines or training (movement) objectives that would tell her (or anyone else) that she was truly READY to start a return back to running.

In my reply to her, I said simply:

“Thank you for taking the time to write. Why don’t we set up a time to talk for a few minutes. I would love nothing more than to help you return back to running in a way that you can manage and sustain for the rest of your life, but I will need your help to do it. It’s really up to you. I believe I have the tools and the expertise to guide you and give you the best chance for success.

Please know that it’s my passion to help, but I won’t continue to reach out to you and I certainly won’t pester you. Life is too busy, too hectic and there are many things pulling me in different directions. So consider this my one sincere and heart felt message expressing my desire to help and my hope for you, for the future. If you’d like to talk about it, let me know and we’ll set up a time to chat. Either way, all the best to you!!”

We set up a time to talk.

And we decided to work together and give it our collective best efforts to help get her back to the thing she loves – running!

Elise and I started working together 1 on 1 in late April – around the 20th.

Today it’s July 13th.  Almost 3 months.  Twelve long, hard, fun, arduous....weeks of daily communication, video uploads, workouts, emails, and on and on.

This Sunday she’ll do her first “return to running” session – a very modest combination of walking and running for a total of about 12 minutes.

To say it’s been an incredible journey over these past 3 months would be an understatement. Along the way, she’s learned not only to shoot video of herself performing the movements I’ve prescribed (not easy for her, trust me!)…she’s ALSO learned how to talk with me during the videos! (After I begged her to share with me what she was feeling and thinking as she did the movements). 😊

She’s worked so hard.

Along the way, she’s involved her kids in the process – her daughter who is also an athlete, has been doing many of the movements together with her.

She’s ready to get back to it and to get started on the path of reintroducing her body to the loads inherent in running. It’s been so much fun and so rewarding for me to guide her to this point.

No, she’s not done with the supplemental work she needs to do. She understands this. Finally, she gets it. She also knows there are absolutely no guarantees. We’ll see how things progress and we'll take it one day at a time.

It's funny in a way: Elise and I have never met in person. Personally, I can’t wait to meet her. I will tell you one thing -when we meet we’ll share a big hug and perhaps a little cry, too.

I love the work I do.

No, it’s not curing cancer.

But helping people to grow and learn and thrive and see the greatness and the potential that resides inside is incredibly rewarding. 😊

To your success!

~Coach Al

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

 

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!

 

What is Your Preference?

 

I've always found it fascinating how certain things end up developing a huge following, often becoming so popular they almost develop into cult status. In the fitness world there's a million examples, and no better example than when it comes to building strength.

KippingWhether it's body-building vs. powerlifting, barbells / dumbbells vs. kettlebells, or fat-loss vs. crossfit, it's not uncommon to see everything from mild bantering to flat-out arguments flying on twitter and FB between these groups of believers, each out to prove THEIR approach is the right way.

What often starts out as a "new," cool way to get stronger, ends up becoming an entirely new belief system...with hard-core disciples that proudly proclaim their allegiance on a cool (and often expensive) t-shirt. Confirmation bias and passion make for a powerful mix!

However.....as anyone who knows me well will vouch, I tend to think differently than most. I guess you could say I have sought refuge in being unattached.

To me, functional vs. isolation, dumbbell vs. kettlebell - none of this really exists. (The term "muscle confusion" made popular by P90x doesn't exist either, but that's a topic for another email!) 🙂

What does? It's simple: Get strong training, a.k.a. strong person training.

How about something even simpler? Movement training.

Every tool has pros and cons. For example, bands are convenient and can be taken anywhere. Kettlebells are amazingly versatile, and barbells are cool because you can add lots of weight in small increments.

And bodyweight training might be the very best because after all, if you can't control and move your own body against resistance, what right do you have picking up an object to increase your strength?

(In my Get STRONG-Blast FAT group coaching program which is going on right now, I'm teaching bodyweight training nearly exclusively, primarily because it is so quick, simple, safe, and effective!)

The bottom line? Use the equipment (or no equipment at all) that matches your skill and experience level and best serves the purpose. For me the purpose is simple: to develop "real" strength and improve my overall health.

So yes, I will admit that the kettlebell definitely IS one of my OWN preferred tools for strength building and that's one reason why I am leading a Kettlebell Training for Triathletes workshop from 11am to 12pm, at the TRI-MANIA Summit and Expo on Saturday, March 19th, at Boston University's Fit-Rec Center in Boston!

TriMania adYou DON'T have to be a triathlete to come out and join in!

In fact, check out this note (to the left) from FB, left by a trail-runner who admitted not wanting to do a tri anytime soon, but just wants to learn some good form!

Whatever system or method you choose, my advice is to ensure it is BOTH safe and effective. If it is both of these, then it's probably a good choice.

So what is YOUR preferred mode for getting stronger?


Don't forget - Saturday, March 19th, at Boston University's Fit-Rec Center in Boston - Kettlebell Training for Triathletes workshop from 11am to 12pm.

CLICK HERE to go to the registration page. It's only 20 bucks, and should be lots of fun (with some great learning too!). If you've got questions about the workshop or simply want to get in touch, email me at: coachal@coachal.com