Archive for Triathlon

Are You Doing THIS, and Self Sabotaging Your Success?

Today’s I'm sharing something that at times frustrates the coach in me, I won't lie. Perhaps more than almost anything. And I know it shouldn’t, because…well, it’s the humanity in all of us. But if only…

So what is it?

Our constant need to self-judge at every turn or moment, during training and racing.

Trust me, I’ve been there. We all have. It’s our universal human nature to do this thing, self-judging right in the midst of when we're out there training and racing, that can be so destructive if we let it.

Many years ago, a smart friend reminded me that expectations are often the worst thing we can have. In any situation, of the three possible outcomes, two aren’t very attractive and can lead to frustration and sadness. After all, if an expectation is met, you naturally nod and go, “well, I expected it (so no big deal). If its not met, you’re inevitably and disappointed. Frustrated. Even angry.

Every workout or training session you do ISN’T a pass or fail TEST, that determines whether your training is moving in the right direction, or if you’re fit, or even if you’re any good.

Every race you do ISN’T a reflection of your fitness or preparation. Or even your value as a human being! It's just a single race. One event. On one day. That's all. 

When you go into any experience or training session or race with an expectation for it to be a certain way... or for you to feel a certain way, you’re setting up the chance of being disappointed. And the negative self-talk that comes out of that disappointment is sure to rob you of the joy of just being out there!

My friend, that sucks!

Because getting out there to train and race and participate on whatever level you are able, should above all else, be joyous. And affirming.

My advice?

Just do.

Just be.

Don’t let what happens in any moment in time detract from you just DOING what you set out to do, the very best you can, in that moment.  Take it all as it comes. Go with the flow. It’s neither “good” nor “bad,” it just is.

Take satisfaction from knowing you did the best you could in that moment. Pat yourself on the back.

**Select the words you use when you talk to yourself, with care. They will inevitably trigger thoughts, images and feelings, both positive and negative.

**Accept occasional setbacks and difficulties as normal and natural parts of life and training - decide to rise above them and carry on. Just do!

While it might not seem realistic at times, the simple truth is that we all need to talk to ourselves positively, not just some of the time, but ALL the time. Talk about things the way you want them to be rather than the way they might be in a moment in time.

Don’t let the inevitable ebb and flow of life (and training) suck the joy out of doing what you most love to do.

Al, we all have our negative inner critic, but never forget how awesome you are and how hard you’re working and fighting to do your best every day. Trust me, I’m right there with you!

To your success,
Al

PS: A while back I recorded a short audio on "Self Talk" for my coached athletes. Many of them told me it helped tremendously to keep them focused on the kinds of self talk that leads to better outcomes. If you'd like to listen, CLICK HERE to right click and download it for listening now or later on. I hope it helps!

This exercise has SO many benefits. Check it out!

Happy Friday my friend! I hope your day has started off great.

If you have any interest in getting stronger, perhaps progressing your pull up/chin up (or getting your first!) or... doing any overhead pressing and doing it safely, keep reading. I've got some important tips for you.

There are two very important questions I ask first, before I program any training for an athlete. Both of these questions deal directly with their safety (minimizing their risk of injury) and maximizing their potential to progress the activity, e.g. do more of it and get better at it.

What are those questions?

  1. Do they possess the movement prerequisites to perform the exercise, sport or activity?
  2. Do they possess the basic and fundamental skills and ability necessary to perform them safely and progressively?

Checking with my online dictionary :), I can quickly confirm that a prerequisite is defined as "a thing that is required as a prior condition for something else to happen or exist."

For example, let's say you want to start doing pull ups...but when you try, you struggle getting your shoulder to move through any range of motion, or maybe you can't quite get your arms overhead. In this instance, you honestly have no business trying to pick up a weight and put it overhead, right? The prerequisite in this case is shoulder range of motion.

Following me so far? (You'd be surprised how many fitness programs and trainers never actually check to see whether an athlete has that prerequisite ability before loading folks up with weight! That's a bad deal).

Fundamental skills and ability sorta speak for themselves, yes?  If you're not sure what I mean, here's an analogy: don't you think your kid needs to have a good handle on basic arithmetic, before their teacher will have them move on to algebra or calculus?  Smart training that pays positive dividends is no different. Move to more advanced skills without mastering the basics first, and your risk of injury is going to skyrocket while your ability to progress the training nosedives.


Train smart: make THIS part of your daily routine!

Since I've been talking about pull ups and chin ups, (or overhead pressing), I'm going to share with you one of the greatest exercises I (or any other coach or trainer for that matter) has ever programmed for another. It's that awesome and that beneficial.

Click on the image to the left to check out an informal video of this exercise. I did this video for my friends over at Vibesworkshop.com. In it, I'll teach you this exercise.  It's called a Wall-slide.

As I said earlier, this exercise has so many benefits, they're almost too numerous to mention. Here are the three most important:

  1. It's a great exercise to establish and practice fundamental core stability while your arms are overhead and you're squatting.
  2. It will help you simultaneously open up the front of your chest/trunk (which, admit it, has gotten tighter since you started staring at your smartphone for hours on end!), while also stabilizing and strengthening your back and shoulders.
  3. It'll help you get your thoracic spine moving (that portion of your spine between your neck and low back), which is a very good thing.

If you find doing this is challenging (assuming you're doing it correctly of course), you'll likely be compensating when doing any overhead work. That means a big risk of injury. It may mean your t-spine isn't moving as it should. It may also mean you're super tight around the chest area and in need of some shoulder stability work! Regardless, you'll get so much benefit from making the Wall-slide part of your daily routine.

So, get on it! 🙂

Got questions or something I can help with? Get in touch!

To your success,
~Al

Are you helping or hurting your chance for a great race with your pre-race meal?

I've seen it happen so often over the years - you've trained hard for weeks and months, doing everything you can to be ready to have a great race. And then your stomach goes south - at the worst possible time during the race.  It sucks when that happens. There's nothing more frustrating.

Gastrointestinal intestinal (GI) distress has ruined more than a few race days for some otherwise very fit, very prepared athletes. Unfortunately, it doesn't matter how fit you are...if you are having GI issues, you know? You can't race to the max if you're sick, nauseous, or vomiting.

The first step in fixing problems is to accept that most races are, first and foremost, "eating and drinking contests."


It matters what you eat before a race...

I shot a 10-minute video (with a somewhat gross demo - sorry!) to discuss what I see is perhaps the most common mistake a triathlete or runner can make with their pre-race meal. Click on my picture to the left to check it out.

What are some of the important take home messages?

* Eat your pre-race meal at least 3 hours before race start.
* Make sure you eat simple, easily digestible foods which you've practiced eating prior to training sessions.
* Avoid taking in any calories between the meal and the start of the race. (Do continue to hydrate).
* Less is more - be kind to your stomach.

If you're racing this weekend, good luck and have fun! (And eat early and light!) 🙂

    Train (and eat) smart!

    To your success,
    ~Al

    Triathletes: Have We Needlessly Overcomplicated Training Intensity?

    "K.I.S.S."  - Just about every experienced smart person ever 

    Back in the late 90s, in my very early days as a triathlete, I worked with Coach Troy Jacobson. Troy taught me a lot about how to train. One of my earliest “lessons” came when I went to one of his (well-known at the time) weekend triathlon workshops in Baltimore. The weekend began with a Friday evening gathering. It started out friendly enough - you know, the usual (slightly forced) smiles, hand shakes, and nervous chatter.

    Not long into our evening however, things started to get serious. “Up on the wall,” he said - for a winner take all, wall-sit. His intent was clear: to find out who was REALLY serious about improving - who was willing to suffer and hang on until no one else was left.  (I managed to be the last one "sitting" that night on the wall. Somehow. I mean, you know….he didn't know me. And since I’d recently hired him as a coach, I wasn’t about to give in or give up. He needed to see I was ready to get to work to do whatever it was going to take).

    The fun got even more serious the next day when Troy led our group out to a rather “famous” hill (to his previous campers and the local riders) for some all-out, no holds barred, bike hill repeats. It was a massively steep hill that was about 200-300 yards long. It’s all a little bit of a blur as I look back, but I have vivid memories of three things (beyond that I suffered immeasurably):

    The first was Troy speaking to the group beforehand with a very serious tone – everyone was nervously staring as he said “your goal today is to go as hard as you can up the hill, in the biggest gear you can turn, and then turn around and get down as fast as possible so you can do it again. Keep going until you can’t go anymore.” Naturally there were a lot of nervous laughs in the group – everyone knew ahead of time what was in store. There was no hiding.

    The second thing I remember was him riding alongside of me up the hill literally screaming at the top of his lungs for me to go harder. And I mean screaming. No mercy. He spent his time during the repeats, circling up and down the hill encouraging all of the riders. (It’s worth noting that at the time, Troy was the top amateur at Ironman Hawaii and one of the best long course triathletes in the country; he'd soon become the half-iron national champ. And his strength as a triathlete was cycling. Bottom line, the guy was fit and could ride!).

    Not that it matters to this blog post, but I was the last one left that day.

    So what was the third thing I remember? He gathered the group together afterward and congratulated everyone, then looked at me with a grin and said, “well, Al, I guess there are some hills up in Connecticut, huh?”


    Learning How To Train

    That weekend taught me a lot about what it meant to go HARD. But that’s not all I learned. It also taught me about what it meant to go very easy, too.

    You see, Troy had 28+ mph half-iron bike speed in his legs, but despite that bike strength, he’d also be very comfortable in an easy ride situation averaging 15 mph or so. On a flat road no less. We had the occasion every so often to do these kinds of rides together in those early years, during which we discussed how important it was to keep it easy in those kinds of situations. In other words, he knew when it was time to keep it EASY and was very willing to do it.  He didn't let ego lure him into a too hard effort. And similarly he also knew when it was time to go HARD. He taught me the difference between the two, in real time.

    The same lessons were emphasized in running. And in the pool.

    Differentiating intensity. Making sure easy was easy. And making sure hard was….well…VERY hard.  Not just giving the concept lip service, but actually putting it into action on a daily basis.

    Of course, I’d learned the value of differentiating intensity and effort from my competitive running years much earlier. The difference with triathlon is important though – with a higher overall workload with more training hours and more skills to develop, the risk of training at the wrong intensity carries with it greater consequences: Over-training, staleness, injury, and sub-par race day performances, to name a few. All of which leads me to the title of this post:

    Have we made training intensity too complicated? 

    Troy had a very simple system for setting up heart rate and RPE based training zones. He used the simplest possible approach, using basic colors we're all familiar with to represent THREE different intensities.

    • Blue was aerobic (which is easier than most endurance athletes think!).
    • Red was HARD (which I’d guess many have never really experienced in the way I did on that hill).
    • Gray was the dreaded "no-go" zone in between the two.

    You're Getting Tired, But Are You Improving?

    He and I discussed this gray zone quite a bit. This is the intensity you generally want to avoid like the plague. It’s the intensity that will tire you out and that feeds your ego, giving a short-term ego boost, but in the long run (no pun intended), isn't likely to help you reach a new, higher level of fitness and performance.

    Here's a couple of examples:  (You'll have to adjust pace based on your own fitness level right now - regardless, I hope you get the point).

    • How about going out and running a 5k race and averaging a 7-minute per mile pace. Then going out in training and doing the majority of your “aerobic” running at around 8:30 pace.  Assuming that 7-min average was on a fair course and your best effort, your true z2 pace is much closer to 9:00 (or slower), than to 8:30.
    • What about going out for a group ride on a course you know you could honestly ride at ~16 to 17mph average speed and have it be truly, comfortably “aerobic,” yet the group you join has some stronger riders with egos (doesn’t every group?) so you work hard to hang on the back of the group and end up averaging 18 or 19mph for the ride. Sounds like you’d improve from that, right? I mean, you worked very hard, right?

    I think it's fair to say you deserve some kudos for hanging on. You certainly went hard enough to tire yourself out. But the really important question to ask in my opinion is, did you go hard enough to truly lift your fitness to a new level after some recovery? I'd bet my wallet that Troy would say no. And I’d agree with him.

    So what are a few of the most common training errors I see that are related?

    • You could guess this one: turning “aerobic” z2, into semi “tempo” or moderately hard.  (Ego, ego, blah, blah)
    • Not making easy z1, easy enough.
    • Not taking time to warm up into sessions from the start. Your first mile should be your slowest, most of the time. (The exception might be a “race specific” session where you’re working on a specific skill or ability that dictates you go harder from the beginning).
    • Letting ego or your training group dictate how you train.
    • Not running or pedaling or stroking easily enough during "recovery" intervals that separate "work" intervals.

    Most folks will read this and nod their heads. “Yup, I guess that makes sense.” But very honestly, most will only give it lip service in the heat of the moment, because egos are powerful! 😊


    Troy was one of the best triathletes in the country at the time I worked with him and he ended up giving me my start as a coach when he created the Triathlon Academy. He's one of so many that have taught me so much along the way.

    Above all else though, he reinforced in me a concept that I’ve repeated a thousand times to others as a coach:

    The hard days should be easy, and the easy days should be hard.

    In other words, when you train easily on the days you should, you’re actively resting and preparing for the next hard effort, when you’ll be ready to go, precisely BECAUSE you didn’t go semi-hard the day before.

    Similarly, after a truly hard day (like it was for me on that hill), you’ll be forced to go easily the day after. And because of the effort you expended, that “easy” session will actually feel hard. You’ll run “slow,” pedal “slow” and feel like you’re moving through molasses.

    All you need is some smart recovery and you’re ready to get back after it, bringing everything you’ve got and getting every ounce of benefit out of the session in the process.


    Sometimes Simpler IS Better

    Despite all the cutting-edge graphics and charts on platforms like Training Peaks and others, all of the discussion among coaches and athletes about TSS (Training Stress Score) and the detailed zones courtesy of Andy Coggan et all, the reality is...some things don't change as much as we might thing, as time goes on. And sometimes, simpler is better.

    Blue is blue. Red is red. Gray is gray.

    The take home? Spend most of your time being blue. When you are red, you should be ready to rock, so don't hold back. And, avoid the gray as much as you can.

    Train smart!

    To your success,
    ~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

     

    060: MORE on Mindsets for Optimal Performance with Stanford Researcher, Omid Fotuhi [Podcast]

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    Dr. Omid Fotuhi

    Dr. Omid Fotuhi

    Hey everyone! Coach Al here.

    Today I am once again honored and pleased to welcome back onto the podcast, Dr. Omid Fotuhi, runner, triathlete, and project manager for the Stanford University Interventions Lab. It has been almost a year since we last had Omid on the podcast; I've personally been anxious to get him back on so we all could continue to learn from him and his research team.

    Without a doubt, that first podcast we did together (Episode 58, which you can listen to by going HERE) was one of our most popular ever.

    In Part 1 of our chat (Part 2 coming soon), we discussed what he's learned about how we all can better use the power of our mind to explode our potential!  Such as...

    • The important interplay between our own belief systems and effective goal setting.
    • The three types of goals / goal setting, and how they work individually and collectively to empower us to greater achievement and self actualization.
    • Fixed and growth mindsets: Which is more likely to lead to reaching one's potential?
    • The most effective strategies for reaching beyond our fears and achieving more than we ever thought we could!
    • And much more!

    Thanks everyone for joining us and tuning in, we appreciate it. I am already looking forward to sharing Part 2 of our discussion soon!

    Happy Trails!

    ~Coach Al 

    059: “Slipped Away,” with Special Guests Jean Mellano and Ron Hurtado [Podcast]

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    SteveT

    I'm honored to have two special guests on the podcast today: Jean Mellano, author of the memoir Slipped Away, and veteran, founding member, and executive director of the Airborne TriTeam, Ron Hurtado.

    Some background: I first met Steve Tarpinian in 1996 after deciding to attend his "Swim Power" clinic at the Nassau County Aquatic Center in Long Island, NY.

    I was hoping to learn how to overcome my fear of the water and how to swim. If you're thinking that's not exactly an easy task for a 36-year-old having experienced a near drowning as a 10-year-old kid, you'd be right.

    I arrived as a anxious newbie, wondering what the day would bring. When I left at the end of the day, I had made a friend for life and also come to know one of the best teachers, coaches and men I'll ever know.

    Sadly, on March 15, 2015, that great teacher, coach, mentor...lost his war on depression, and took his own life.

    SlippedAwayFast forward a short time later, Steve's soulmate and partner of 35 years, Jean Mellano, after reading all of the heartfelt remembrences of Steve on the popular Slowtwitch.com forum, decided to write a memoir to honor Steve's legacy and bring more awareness to mental illness, specifically depression.  She titled it Slipped Away.

    In Jean's words,"there is still so much stigma and embarassment attached to depression, which further adds to the suffering of those afflicted. Mental illness is where Tuberculosis, HIV/AIDs, and cancer were many years ago in terms of no one wanting to talk about it."   

    In today's podcast, Ron, Jean and I discuss many things including Steve's legacy, such as:

    • Why and how the book, Slipped Away, came to be.
    • Project9linea Long Island based non-profit organization that supports veterans suffering from PTSD and depression, and which receives the majority of the proceeds from the sale of the book.
    • The Airborne TriTeam, another Long Island based non-profit organization started by Ron, specifically created for mentally and physically challenged war veterans. The team has a unique and strong connection to Steve and his legacy.
    • What we can all do to help those suffering from PTSD and other forms of mental illness.
    Depression is like an iceberg...

    Depression is like an iceberg...

    In Jean's words: "To many people who knew him, Steve had it all and appeared to be on top of the world. Hindsight is 20/20; we now know things weren't always as they seemed. In many instances, people who suffer from depression and mental illness hide it very well.  If someone close to you has a pattern of "going dark" (not returning phone calls or emails, etc.), it could be more than just them being busy or forgetful.  When this happens too often, perhaps a little more compassion and understanding for that person may be in order."   

    Jean believes Steve's true legacy and how he should be remembered isn't as a great coach, race-director or athlete who took his own life, but rather, as a human being who did his very best to make people feel good about themselves and who inspired them to accomplish things they never thought they could do.  I couldn't agree more.

    Thank you Jean and Ron, and everyone who joined to listen in to this podcast.

    To learn even more about the memoir and about Steve, or to purchase a copy, visit the website HERE.  It's also available on Amazon.  You might also want to visit the Slipped Away Facebook page HERE.

    ~Coach Al 

    PS: Jean wrote a wonderful article for the online magazine, The Mighty. In it she shares some of what she has learned about grief since Steve's passing. I highly recommend it.

    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

    Who Wouldn’t Like To Run Faster Off Of The Bike?

     

    "The truth isn't always popular, but it's always the truth."  - unknown


    I've got some important (and very different) stuff to share with you today, and I know, because you're busy you may not want to stop what you're doing to read this.

    But listen, if you want to KNOW how you can train differently and smarter on the bike, AND learn how to run FASTER off of it (no it isn't about the same old blah blah, brick runs, etc.), then ya gotta keep reading!

    Trust me, my advice is NOT going to be the same-old, same-old. It will probably rankle a few folks, too. Especially some of the "experts" out there that are reading.So to get to the heart of what I want to share today, I have to start with a story about swimming. It's a true story.

    (I know, I know...I said I was going to help you ride and run faster, and I am!  But...you need a little context - and this story will provide it. Keep reading!)

    A few years ago I was sitting around with some swim coaches at an ASCA conference. The topics at the table revolved around two things: the iconic swim coach, James "Doc" Counsilman (who is well known for coaching Mark Spitz, winner of 7 golds at the 72 Olympics), and the "S" curve in swimming. 

    Now, I don't know if you're a swimmer or not, but if you are, I'm sure you're familiar with the "S" curve pulling path. This "S" curve is what many coaches believe is the "ideal path" for your hand to follow during the pull phase of the stroke.  Shaped like the letter S, this pulling path has become well known as one hallmark of a fast swimmer.

    Apparently all the hoopla about this "S" curve began with Counsilman and Spitz. The story goes, the coach was watching Spitz swim and noticed this "S" curve in his stroke. Since Spitz was swimming faster than anyone else in the world, Counsilman (always the innovator), came to the conclusion that the secret to his speed might be this curve. 

    So Counsilman figured, if it was good enough for Spitz, it should be good enough for everyone, and proceeded to instruct every swimmer he coached to start putting this "S" curve into their strokes. What began as a simple way to make his swimmers faster, soon became gospel in the swimming world.

    Simply put, many believed that to swim fast, you needed to have an "S" curve in your pull.

     

    Which came first, the chicken or the egg?  

    What I'm talking about here is CAUSE and EFFECT, so the chicken/egg analogy may not really work. But it is sort of a funny cartoon, don't you think?  🙂

    Anyway, an odd thing happened as Counsilman's swimmers started adding this "S" curve consciously - something he didn't anticipate.

    Despite imploring his swimmers to "S" more, not only did most of them not get any faster, some actually started swimming slower.

    What was going on?

    To answer that question, let's go back to Spitz for a moment.

    Is it possible that the "S" curve emerged as a natural byproduct of both his training and his body's intuitive understanding of how best to create more lift (and thus increase pulling power)?

    Based on my own experience, I'd have to say the answer is an absolute, YES.

    Spitz, like most great swimmers, could "grip" and hold on to the water, making the water more "solid" as his arm traveled past his rotating body.

    He didn't consciously try to create that letter S.

    It happened as a function of what his body did naturally, AND what he learned via tens of thousands of hours of mindful, consistent swimming.
      

    Should you scrape mud off of your cycling shoes?   

    I'm betting a very similar kind of story could be told when it comes to riding a bike efficiently and powerfully.  And THEN..running efficiently AND fast after the ride.

    How so you ask?

    Have you heard that popular advice, made famous by legendary cyclist Greg Lemond, to "pedal like you're scraping mud off of the bottom of your shoe"?

    Like Counsilman's advice to articially integrate an "S" curve, trying to artificially change how you pedal a bike is not going to help you, and it may even HURT you.

    And that "hurt" might not be limited to riding, but could also negatively impact how you run OFF of the bike. And increase your risk of injury, too.

    In fact, I'm here to tell you that for the most part, ANY drill, tool, or technique that you've read about or heard was designed to improve your pedaling technique, is probably a complete waste of your time. 

    How about Spin-Scan on a Computrainer? Or those fancy charts that show you exactly where you should apply pressure to the pedal as you go around? All of it, a waste of your time.

    ...except for one, that is.

    One, very different and important, approach.

    That one approach is the topic of a 12-minute video I prepared for you, that you've GOT to watch.

    Authentic Cycling Video is here.So when it comes to riding faster,

    I have to ask...Do the best cyclists have a great "spin" because they consciously "scrape mud" at the bottom of the pedal stroke?

    Or (like Spitz in the water), are their pedal strokes and nervous systems more finely tuned and coordinated because of natural ability and perhaps more importantly, thousands of hours in the saddle?

    Whenever we start incorporating something into our training because we heard the pros do it, or our friends said they read it in a book or online in a forum, OR we think we can outsmart our nervous system with "better" technology (such as clipless pedal systems), bad things can happen.

    That was true for Counsilman's swimmers, it is true despite LeMond's advice, and it's true for running and just about every other activity, too.

    There are a few other "truisms" that can be gleaned from all of this, such as...

    • getting faster isn't just about training "hard," it has a lot more to do with our nervous system than most realize.
    • mountain bikers, I think, have known a lot of this for a while. They 'get it.'
    • all of us are learning more every day - no one has all of the answers.

    As for how ALL of this specifically impacts YOUR running off of the bike...well you'll have to watch and listen to the video for the answer to that.

    When you do, please let me know what you think, ok?

    Happy trails!
    ~Coach Al 

    PS: A few minutes into the video, I refer to an article I wrote for Active.com, called: What Kenyans Can Teach Us About Running Economy and Efficiency.  To read it, CLICK HERE.

    PSS: Just so y'all know, I have tremendous respect and admiration for Greg Lemond, a true champion and legendary cyclist. My belief is that at one time, he probably made an observation and drew a conclusion from it.  I've done that many times and am always learning. I've also changed my mind on things as a result of having a better understanding of "cause and effect" with certain things.

    Do You Ever Ask Yourself These Questions?

     

    As a coach, people sometimes think I have all the answers...

    I don't.

    No one does.

    The truth is, in order to be successful, sometimes the athlete needs to look in the mirror and ask themselves some questions...

    ...so let me ask YOU....have you asked yourself any of these questions?


    * What can I do better?

    * What "tools" do I need to have in my "toolbox" that I DON'T have right now, in order to have my best chance for success on race day?

    * What specific challenges does my "A" priority race-course(s) present to me, that I am not yet ready to meet and conquer?

    * Am I being honest with myself about my weaknesses and my strengths, and am I addressing them as honestly as I can?

    * Am I taking time each day and each succeeding week, to learn and to master skills, accepting and understanding that until I become more skilled and smarter in my training, my opportunities for improvement will be limited?

    * Am I remembering to think long term (vs short term) about my overall growth as an athlete and person, with respect to race planning and day to day training?

    Am I relaxing when I need to, tensing when I need to, and prioritizing training as I need to?

    * Am I staying in the moment, doing my best in each rep, set, and training session, knowing that this might be the single biggest factor to improving over the long term?

    * And....most importantly...am I enjoying this journey as fully as I should be and need to be, in order to truly feel great about myself and the sacrifices I have made, when this season is behind me?


    I've given you a lot to think about here. I believe these questions can have a powerful impact on your potential for future success.

    As I said, I don't have all the answers. However, I am committed to doing my best to help YOU on your quest toward greatness. Onward!

    Happy trails!

    ~Coach Al