Archive for Functional Strength Training – Page 2

Are You A Porsche Or A Cadillac?

 

Anyone who knows me well, knows I'm a car nut. I've always loved classics and muscle cars, and I love to go fast. So when I have the chance to draw an analogy between cars and running, how could I not speed ahead with it?

So here's the deal for today: To run faster than ever OR to finally get rid of that injury you've been nursing, you must think of your body as a spring on a car's suspension.

The optimal amount of springiness is NOT a Porsche. They're tight - firm - stiff, where you feel every bump in the road.

But, it is NOT a Cadillac either. They're soft and loose, bottoming out on every pothole.

Either scenario leaves you battling injury, recovering poorly, and running slower than you'd like!

Similarly, the answer to ANY question about flexibility, mobility, and stiffness for a runner is simply this: you want enough, but NOT TOO much.  

Don't be a Caddy OR a Porsche. To be a better runner, you'll need to find the appropriate amount of springiness and balance between the two.

Happy trails and have a great weekend!

~Coach Al

PS: do you love Yoga? The answer to that question might tell you which kind of car you are, and also where to focus your energy in order to improve.

It NOT About The Plan.

 

Recently, at a race where I was volunteering, I was chatting with a fellow runner. A week earlier he had finished his second 100-mile ultra.  He was feeling very good about having finished, and why not? Much like finishing an Ironman, getting to the FINISH line at a race of that magnitude is awesome and always worth celebrating! Despite his glow at having finished, I sensed there was something else bugging him...

As we talked, I began to understand why he was frowning. He acknowledged that yes, he really struggled during the race - his finish time was far slower than he was capable of. The primary reason, he felt, was an injury that had plagued him for most of the winter and spring, which prevented him from training as he had hoped or wanted.

His mood seemed to lift as he excitedly told me that in order to rectify things, he had already begun work on developing what he felt would be his perfect training week.  With a childlike grin, he described this "new" training routine as having the ideal blend of hill work, speed work, and long runs.

I chuckled to myself as I listened because I wasn't surprised. This was the same old blah-blah BS from a recently injured runner who, while well intentioned, was unfortunately on the wrong path.

Now don't get me wrong. This is a smart guy who has been running for only a few years, and it is clear he has talent. Unfortunately, he's unknowingly missing THE most important elements which will help him truly reach his potential. And he's not looking in the right places to get the answers he needs either.

Training plans don't cause injury, nor do they lead directly to success. Both injury and success are essentially up to us.

What he hasn't learned yet, that I want to share with you today, is the secret to reaching your potential actually has very little to do with "the plan."  It has much more to do with the "little things" that many athletes don't pay enough attention to.   

Honestly, of the many things I speak about daily with the athletes I coach, depending upon their experience and where they are on their training journey, only a small percentage have to do with "the plan."

So, what are those "little things" that this runner might want to consider beyond the more obvious things like patience, recovery, daily nutrition, mindfulness, focus, and life balance/stress, to name a few?

Perhaps the most important is movement quality.

What do I mean?

Start by learning what the root-cause of the injury was. After all, only then can you get rid of it once and for all.   

Many athletes mistakenly believe (hope? wish?) that rest and deep tissue massage cures all. That would be nice, but unfortunate it's wrong. Just because you rest or get body work, the root-cause of injury doesn't magically disappear.

Many struggle chronically with the same recurring injury, often from one year to the next, because they never learn the root-cause.

It was clear this runner had no real clue as to the root-cause of his injury. Here's some of what he would benefit from considering:

  • Has he lacked muscle balance, appropriate mobility/flexibility, or core stability?
  • Had prior injuries set his body on a path of increasing compensation which ultimately led to this injury?
  • What about his foot mechanics - is he wearing the most appropriate running shoe for his unique needs?
  • Did he simply need to be functionally stronger or allowed more time for a more conservative training build, in order to handle the increasing loads?

My advice to him, had he asked me, would have been to start by resisting the urge to only treat the symptoms. Instead, take the time to learn what the cause actually is.

Yes, a well-conceived, progressive, personalized training plan is an important part of an overall training program, but it is not the most important part.

When some of the important elements mentioned above, including arguably THE most important (movement quality) are in place and are monitored carefully and regularly, THEN and only then, is it time to worry about "the plan." But not before.

To your success!

~Coach Al

What Is Your MOST Important Tool For Recovery?

My short post yesterday on 1 day of scheduled rest each week really got many of you thinking, at least based upon the feedback I received.

(Yes, I love hearing from you, so keep your replies and emails coming!)

As time goes on, I'll share lots more about both recovery and rest. After all, assuming the training is done, isn't recovery the most important element to ensure you improve?

Today I want to get right to it and talk about the ONE most important tool in your arsenal to ensure you recover quickly and effectively.

I'm sure you all have your favorite tool, right?

So, is it your foam roller?

What about regular massage?

How about more sleep or better nutrition?

A secret supplement perhaps?

............

Nope, the MOST important tool isn't ANY of those.  

Sure, a foam roller can help on a peripheral level with superficial myofascial release. And yes, without a doubt sleep is important; we all get too little of it. And massage? I think it's incredibly valuable, especially as you age and the miles pile up (lots more on that in future posts).

As much as you might be in love with your foam roller or your massage therapist, none are your MOST IMPORTANT tool for recovery.

So, I know you're asking.....what is?

The answer is....

YOU.  

That is, it is your own body - how your own body "moves" - it is your individual movement quality.

If you don't think of your own movement quality as a tool for recovery, you're missing out on the most important element to helping you stay young and recover faster!

Simply put:

If you are imbalanced or unstable, you're likely shredding smaller muscles as they attempt to do the work designed for the larger prime movers. 

If you lack the mobility or flexibility you need, you're pushing the end range of muscles and tearing them up, causing excessive micro-trauma with each step or pedal stroke. And you're likely not attenuating ground-reaction-forces or gravity very effectively, increasing the "pounding" you experience with each step you run.

In my experience, the athletes with poor movement quality are in love with their foam roller because they beat themselves up so much in each and every workout! (Not good!)

They also never seem to fully recover or reach their potential, and also tend to end up injured.

Your most important recovery "tool" is you and your own individual movement quality. 

Think about that the next time you're dying to foam roll or wondering why it takes you days to return to quality training after a hard effort.

Or if you're struggling with chronic injury despite using that darn foam roller every day!

Have a great weekend everyone!

~Coach Al

Are You Getting Enough Rest?

So let me ask....

Are you training 7-days a week, thinking that you need to hit-it every day in order to improve?

Do you feel you get enough rest in between training sessions, or that a complete day of rest is only for novices?

Does training every day make you feel "tough"?

If any of the above describes you, beware. Worst case, you may be slowly drilling yourself into a hole that you'll have a difficult time getting out of. Best case, you're probably not recovering enough to be able to put the maximum amount of effort into your most important training sessions, which are ultimately what lifts your fitness to a higher level.

In my book, 1 full rest day each and every week is absolutely mandatory, regardless of your level of experience or what races you may be training for. The mental and physical break can help make your other training days more productive and ultimately help you lift fitness and boost recovery beyond a level it might have other wise been at.  And it might help you stay free from injury too!

Remember, your next training session is only as good as your last recovery.

Happy Trails!

~Coach Al

 

What Is Your Margin Of Error?

Whether we like it or not, when it comes to things like movement quality (mobility, flexibility, stability), running shoe choice, and training volume or intensity, to name a few, each of us has our own "margin of error."

That margin tends to lessen as we get older, as the miles pile up, or if we'd had a previous injury.

What does it mean for you?

According to Merriam-Webster, the definition I'm referring to is: If you have little or no margin for / of error, it means that you need to be very careful not to make mistakes. If you have a greater margin for/of error, you can be less careful.

The principles are the same for everyone. Violate one of those principles, and you'll end up injured, sick, or over-trained. And frustrated.

One lesson I learned the hard way and am often reminded of, is...

...it's when we feel most bulletproof and resilient that we are, in fact, most vulnerable.

Vulnerable to something as frustrating as an injury or tweak at the worst possible time (such as right before an important race), or worse, long lasting irreparable damage to our body...

Do YOU KNOW what your margin of error is?

~Coach Al

 

055: Visiting with Troy Anderson of Anderson Training Systems [Podcast]

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"Outlaw" Kettlebell coach, Troy Anderson

"Outlaw" Kettlebell coach, Troy Anderson

Today I am pleased to welcome Troy M. Anderson of Anderson Training Systems as a guest on our podcast.

Troy is an RKC Kettlebell Instructor, a DVRT Master Instructor, and most importantly perhaps, is a self described "farm kid driven to spread the good word of the ACCESSIBILITY of kettlebells, sandbags, bodyweight training, and UN-Apologetic Living."

Because I'm a believer in the value of the kettlebell as an awesome training tool to get stronger AND improve movement quality, and because I've had the opportunity to see some of the great work Troy is doing out in his training space in Tempe, Arizona and also online, I thought it would be beneficial to bring him onto the podcast and have him share some of his insights with all of you.

Among the topics we discuss:

  • Strength Training: A plethora of strength related info, such as his philosophy, his favorite training tools and toys, and some of the valuable and hard earned lessons he's learned along the way.
  • Getting leaner: What works and what doesn't to really drop unwanted body fat.
  • Why he looks at training with the kettlebell a bit differently than most trainers (and the benefits which can be gained by taking a different approach).
  • What you can learn from his experience as someone who lifted very heavy weights at one time (the day he lifted the most weight ever, was also the last day he tried to).
  • His passion for making the "bell" and other tools like the sandbag, "accessible" for every person, regardless of age, size, or talent!

If you'd like to read more:

I'd like to convey my sincerest thanks to Troy for joining me today.  Even though most of you reading this are endurance athletes who sometimes can find yourself shying away from big strong dudes like Troy, I know you will learn a great deal, so tune in and enjoy! Happy Trails everyone!

~Coach Al 

TIPS For The “Roadie” Who Wants To Hit The Trail More (And Not Get Hurt Doing It!)

Coach Al with elite ultra-runner, Debbie Livingston

Coach Al with elite ultra-runner (and trail runner extraordinaire), Debbie Livingston

If you are one of the many runners or triathletes who routinely run on the roads because the trail isn't comfortable or intimidates you, or is a place you tend to get hurt or frustrated, read on. I used to feel that way too!

First, anyone who routinely reads our blog knows I'm a big fan of getting OFF the road and onto the trail, even if most of your racing is on the road, and especially at this time of year. (That's YOU, triathlete!)

Getting off-road can drive your run fitness and health up by introducing varied, often hilly terrain that simultaneously strengthens your hips, legs, AND heart. The problem is, the trail (especially a technical rock strewn trail) presents its own series of challenges that often make the intimidation factor even larger.

For instance, do any of these scenarios sound even remotely familiar to you?

  • You've just climbed a steep hill and you're standing at the top, looking straight down the other side at a technical, very steep descent that is littered with rocks, roots and ice-like leaves. You hesitate for a moment, visualizing yourself slipping and falling or going headfirst into a tree. You decide to go for it, taking off slowly, cautiously, nervously tip-toeing, and praying you don't slip and fall or roll your ankle.
  • You're running along and see a very technical rock "scramble" and a stream, and gaze nervously because you aren't sure where to put your feet down OR how you'll possibly avoid rolling your ankle. You decide it's better to be safe rather than sorry so you walk (rather than run) through the scramble, staring down nervously the entire way.
  • You decide to take the advice in this article and venture off-road for your next run. Alas, 10 minutes into the run and you've fallen twice, rolling your ankle. It hurts, you're frustrated (and angry) and immediately look for the nearest exit back to your safe haven - the asphalt!

To help you not only avoid the above scenarios (and many others just like them), here are some TIPS that I've learned the hard way. My mistakes will save you trial and error (and injury I hope), making you a true LOVER of the trail as I am now.

  1. Make like a duck: Whenever you approach a technical rocky downhill, try turning your feet outward into a duck-like stance.  Doing this may feel strange at first, but it actually helps improve stability and will reduce the chance of you rolling your ankle. When the dreaded ankle-roll happens, our foot will usually roll laterally, or inward. Turning your feet out will make this much less likely. You'll learn to descend with much more confidence.
  2. Tread lightly: Good trail runners are highly skilled and light on their feet. Through many miles of practice, they've learned how to instantly unweight their feet when stepping onto an unstable surface, or when they can't see what is below the leaves or brush. When running on asphalt we typically don't give any thought to how hard we land. If you take that same approach on the trail, your risk of an ankle sprain increases dramatically. Learn how to instantly and skillfully unweight your foot. Practice it routinely and it will soon become second nature.
  3. Fly like a bird: Runners who usually run on the roads typically keep their arms close to their bodies. However, when you're out on the trail, spreading your arms out wide (picture a bird or an airplane) will help you maintain better balance, improving your ability to move laterally as the trail changes in front of you. Your flow and rhythm will improve, not only helping you to more easily handle whatever the trail might throw your way, but improving the fun factor too!

As you practice more and spend more of your running time on the trail, your skills will improve!  In addition to the above...

  • You'll learn how to confidently gaze farther ahead, rather than looking down.
  • You'll use the rocks you approach on the trail as stepping stones (keeping you out of the stuff you CAN'T see).
  • You'll learn to pick your feet up instead of dragging them along the ground, AND most importantly....
  • You'll learn to relax and enjoy it more!

Now get out there and have at it!

Happy Trails!

~Coach Al


cedarlakecampIf you'd like to learn more skills and increase the fun factor, becoming a better, faster, happier trail runner, click HERE for more information on our upcoming Cedar Lake Trail Running Camp and Retreat from May 29-31, led by Debbie Livingston and Coach Al. It is for all levels and abilities, even newbie trail runners. We'd love to have you join us for the fun, comraderie, and learning!

Have You Ever Wanted To Learn How To Deadlift Safely?

DL Clinic FlierThe basic barbell deadlift is arguably the single BEST exercise you can do to build total body strength.

Back, legs, shoulders, hips, arms, and glutes - you hit them all with this powerhouse of an exercise.

The challenge is knowing how to do it safely.

Come join us for a FREE "Learn How To Deadlift" clinic on Wednesday, December 17th, at 6:30pm, where you will learn the basic skills required to perform a barbell (or kettlebell) deadlift.

No experience of any kind is required. Novices, do NOT BE intimidated - this clinic is for you! 

To register, call the Pursuit Training Center at 860-388-4248, or email: coachal@coachal.com

SPACE IS LIMITED to 20, so don't wait.  No walk-ins - in order to attend, you MUST email or call to register!

I hope to see you there!

~Coach Al 

 

Meet Our Interns: Caitlyn Kelly

Pursuit Athletic Performance Intern Caitlyn Kelly

Valley Regional student and Pursuit Athletic Performance Intern Caitlyn Kelly Valley

Valley Regional High School in Deep River Connecticut serves the communities of Chester, Deep River and Essex.  Students have the opportunity to get actual hands on experience in potential career paths through the CAPSTONE internship process.

As a result, we here at Pursuit Athletic Performance have been lucky enough to have Caitlyn Kelly join us.  We are excited to have Caitlyn here a couple of times a week.  We asked her to talk about what she hopes to gain from this experience.  See what she had to say!


I first became aware of  Pursuit Athletic Performance when I was seeking treatment for my Plantar Fasciitis foot injury. Here I was taken in graciously by the staff and then treated in an effort to keep me healthy through my strenuous high school soccer season.

As I have always been a fan of overall health and fitness, when thinking about identifying a work site for my internship, the genuine and caring staff of Pursuit Athletic Performance made my choice a no brainer.

While fulfilling my duties here as a student-athlete intern, on a general scale I look to become more knowledgeable about injury prevention and human health, but I am also looking to hone in on particular strength and speed training techniques that can be applied to my sport of choice. While I have been playing soccer almost all of my 18 years, most of the training off the field I have been exposed to has not been targeted to improve my areas of weakness that can make me the stronger, faster, smarter soccer player I look to become. As I am looking to continue my play at a collegiate level, I would like to elevate my current fitness to another level.

To be specific, I would like to learn exercises and tips that strengthen my hips and glutes, allowing for quicker, cleaner cuts and acceleration. I would also like to enhance my core and upper body strength  to have an edge over weaker female competitors.

Though my time interning at Pursuit Athletic Performance is limited, I am looking to make my experience a long term, continued application into my lifestyle as an educated student-athlete.

If YOU would like to learn more about the work I am doing here, would like to get stronger yourself, or have a child who plays sports who you would like to see remain injury free or get faster, come check out the classes and personal training that are available to all ages and ability levels. For a limited time only, we have 2 week trial memberships for ONLY $1. Come join me and check it out!

 

Minimum Standards: Can You Hit “X” Of Something To Ensure “Y” Result?

Team Pursuit triathletes reviewing some basic skills at our fall 2014 "Re-Set Camp."

Team Pursuit triathletes reviewing some basic skills at our fall 2014 "Re-Set Camp."

Hi Everyone! Coach Al here.

On the heels of our "Team Pursuit" Re-Set Camp this past weekend, a team member emailed me and asked about some proclamations I had apparently made with regard to minimum standards, that you, as an athlete, ought to be shooting for prior to embarking on hard(er), more challenging training.

When answering the email, I didn't recall exactly what those minimum standards he was referring to might be, so I responded in the email to him the way that Kurt and I typically do, by saying that the "gold standard" for assessing when any athlete is ready to train hard with little to no obvious risk of injury, is to have 2 degrees or less of lateral pelvic drop at 5k race effort. I wasn't entirely sure that this response would satisfy or answer this athlete's question, but as I said, it IS a pretty good minimum standard to aim at.

The athlete responded to me with this: "You had a lot more proclamations than that. It is hard as athletes to know we are hitting that, where knowing a list of accomplishments that support that will be far more productive (plank for X min, 10 pushups, etc)."

I completely understand that knowing on your own how much pelvic drop is occuring at any time is difficult. (To know for certainty, come on in to our gait analysis lab in the Pursuit Training Center, and see what IS actually happening when you run.)

However, from my point of view, while it might be neat and tidy to have a LIST of "x" minimum standards to meet, the truth is that training progression and "readiness" for more progressive, harder, more challenging training, isn't QUITE as black or white as we might like it to be.

And perhaps more to the point, in my mind, one of the fundamental questions that comes out of this discussion is, how strong or stable is "strong or stable ENOUGH?"

Taken at face value, that is a very iffy question with no real rock solid answer that applies to every person. And its complicated by the fact that it isn't really pure strength we're after, its work capacity (and perhaps resilience or resistance to fatigue), as Gray Cook alludes to in this article called: Strength?

I love this quote from the article, where Gray speaks about the phrase he prefers to use when describing strength: work capacity.

He says, and I quote: "Let me simplify work capacity. If we are talking about repetitions: Any repetition with integrity should get you an A or a B on the qualitative strength-grading scale. Any repetition without integrity should get you a D or an F on the strength scale. If you can't decide on integrity, you are stuck at a C.

How many imperfect reps do you have time to do today? If you don't have an integrity gauge or a quantity-against-quality gauge, you will never be able to truly value work capacity."

This is a very powerful concept because it points out that as we move forward on the progression continuum (making things harder, or to do more challenging exercises, or to add more load to our existing exercises), we're also fighting that constant battle to maintain that movement integrity - to keep the ratio ofquality vs. quantity as it should be. For anyone who has pushed themselves to do more, lift more, run faster, or pedal harder, you KNOW that form starts to deteriorate as fatigue rises. Simply put, the more tired you get, the harder it is to do it well.

So if I were to offer you a simple and straight forward minimum standard of "do X reps and you'll get Y result," and you didn't get that result you were seeking even though you hit that minimum, you'd be looking back at me and wondering why. And likely holding me accountable to it.

This athlete said it's "hard to know as athletes" where you are and whether you're hitting what you need to.

I get it.

But what if, in your quest to hit some theoretical "minimum standard," you gave up quality in favor of quantity to hit the standard?

What if the standard itself ended up having very little to do with YOUR specific issue, or the limiters that are most holding you back from reaching the next level of performance?

The truth is, there are VERY few, engraved-in-stone, "if you do this, then you get that" scenarios within the progressive training process.

And along with that, there are certainly NO guarantees that any athlete is "enough" of anything, especially when that anything has to do with stability, work capacity, or mobility/flexibility.

My suggestions?

  1. Keep trying to be better. Not perfect, just better. 
  2. Embrace the process - immerse yourself in it. It might be cliche' to say enjoy the journey, but it really IS paramount for long-term success and exploding your true potential. 
  3. Seek solutions within AND outside yourself for your weak links, weak patterns, your imbalances.
  4. Go enthusiastically after those patterns, exercises, or skills that you don't do quite as easily or quite as well as others. Clean them up!
  5. Always come back to the movement quality basics and fundamentals as your baseline. 

The objective real-time video assessment that we do as a part of our gait analysis really IS THE ONLY way to know for sure, exactly where you are at. Other than that, the process that includes increasing training stress or load, doesn't always have hard margins and may not even have a finish point. To believe that there are those minimum standards, in order to make it easy to know where you're at, is really fools gold.

That is NOT to say that you shouldn't keep trying to be BETTER. That's really the ultimate goal. Wake every day with a commitment to be better.

WillSmithQuoteKeep laying bricks perfectly, as Will Smith said, and soon you'll have a wall.

Seek the paths that lead you ultimately toward improved body balance, improved mobility and stability, and work capacity, and then reinforce ALL OF THOSE elements (capabilities) with smart, progressive, patient, persistent training.

And, keep it fun along the way of course!

Happy trails!

~Coach Al