Archive for Yoga

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.

Meet Our Trainers: Zack Kraft-Shinn, Our Yoga Dragon

Pursuit Athletic Performance trainer and teacher, Zack Kraft-Shinn

Pursuit Athletic Performance trainer and teacher, Zack Kraft-Shinn

Here at Pursuit Athletic Performance, we are really proud of the awesome staff of trainers and coaches we have to help YOU improve!

Today we introduce our own "Yoga Dragon," Zack Kraft-Shinn. Zack teaches our very popular kid's bootcamp and kid's yoga, adult yoga and martial arts, and is also a personal trainer.  To learn more about Zack, check out his bio on our site here. 

Zack is an amazing teacher who is passionate about teaching and sharing his gifts with young and old alike. Zack says, "I believe that knowledge is food for your brain, and as a member of Team Pursuit, my hope is to share weekly motivational and educational thoughts." To that end, enjoy!

shadow-ornament

 

I wanted to start off strong with something “neurologically nutritious”, so I present this for your consideration:  Life's a battle. It's like a daily knife fight. An ever present struggle of balancing will and choice on a hairline edge.

I always ask myself, "How can I bring forth all of my energy to give my genetic gift and serve; while also making sure I take care of myself and my basic needs?” Every day is different. Some days I train more, so on those days I make sure to give myself a little extra time to stretch so my body doesn't break. I eat larger portions those days so my body can stay fueled rather than feed on itself. I make sure to drink extra water those days to aid in the recovery of my torn muscles so that they can repair themselves more efficiently. And I make sure I get adequate rest, which involves much more than just the time I lay my head down.  Just as important is the environment I rest in. Are the lights on? If so I shut them off as that will affect the quality of my rest. I do little things to make sure that when I wake up the following morning at 4am....I jump outta bed healed and ready to attack the day. Ready to read, train my yoga then head off to my first job…to make the morning muffins. (And in case you were wondering...YES…I am the muffin master as well!)

photo 2I know that if I don’t take care of myself, is I start to slip...It's much like taking that cut in the “daily life” knife fight. Yeah, it may not be a big deal right now, but man, I'm gonna feel that later. Say, for instance, I get home at 12:30 am and I’m starving because I forgot to pack a cliff bar or a banana. I open the fridge to see what my options are. There's some lasagna my mom made, a delicious piece of chocolate cake and some leftovers of the mouth-watering sub I got from JAMSS. (Kidding on the last one, I never have any leftovers from JAMSS! The plate is usually licked clean to be perfectly honest!) So I heat up the lasagna and eat it, then wash it down with the cake. Tastes great!  BUT, because I ate right before bed, my body can't heal itself! Instead of focusing on healing, it's using those essential calories to break down all that food. Plus, because my body is so used to breaking down food while in a standing position, it’s now working almost twice as hard to do so lying down. What did I do?  I set myself up for failure. When I wake up, I feel it instantly. Instead of jumping out of bed, it's a slow zombie crawl approach to the day! So instead I make a better choice…understanding that I'm placing want over need, I close the fridge and chug some water.

Making good choices is one thing, but there is another kind of blade that life can use to cut me.  The stuff that I have no control over. The unexpected. The variables I never saw. The family tragedy. The loss of a loved one or a career. The relationships that leave scars or weren’t destined to be a part of my path. But the experienced knife fighter understands that almost always in a knife fight, you’re gonna have to take a minor cut to give a better one. Sometimes losing the opportunity for a new job or some love fantasy we feel would make our lives better or enrich it in some way, is actually a blessing in disguise. From my experience, I know a lot of good is lost looking for something better. By thinking of all I've lost, I miss out on the present. My mind is caught in an endless cycle of despair and should've, would’ve, could’ve scenarios. Because my mind is in pain my body follows. My negative thoughts manifest themselves through discomfort in the body, starting with bad posture.   Because I'm hunched over, looking down, putting unwanted pressure on my neck and lower back...my breathing is then changed. I've created less space in my body for air, my lungs aren't working as cohesively with my heart to pump all those much needed hard working, freshly oxygenated blood cells to the vital organs, muscles etc.photo 1

Luckily, at some point in this process I’ll realize what’s happening. I understand that I'm not present, and I will find my focus by saying a mantra of some kind. (Mantra's are words or groups of words we can say verbally or in our heads to promote clarity.) My favorite is from the Bhagavad Gita. Arjuna is being counselled on the cusp of a battle that will tear the very fabric of reality. Krishna says to Arjuna, "If you bring forth what lies in your inner most self, what you bring forth will save you and it will save a piece of the world. If you do not bring forth what lies in your inner most self, what you do not bring forth will destroy you and it will destroy a piece of the world."

Cool, huh?? But hey, no pressure!  J   However, I challenge you! Ask yourself not “HOW can I change the world”, but instead “how AM I changing the world today?" Cause every thought you have manifests itself into reality. Not only actions, every thought you have changes the world!  Choose to be non- judgmental to a passerby. Give a smile, high five or a hug to someone you feel could really use it. (It will usually be met with a rather contagious case of the giggles that in turn leads to an outbreak!) OR GO BIG! Get involved with your local community! Pick up trash, offer help to those in need, sign up for a walk that has a cause that doesn't affect you or anyone you know... It's all good! So please, I encourage you to take care of yourself, because you have to change the world today.... Love, light and happiness, The Yoga Dragon, OSS

Also, special shout out to my two new good friends for helping me in my Pursuit of perfection. Sensei Doc and Shifu Coach. Love you guys!

~Zack
P.s. Special shout out to Mark and Ange at J.A.M.S.S. catering in Old Saybrook, Ct for hooking me up with the sponsorship! I can't thank you enough for all the culinary masterpieces you both make for me daily! Love you guys!

Ps.s. Also huge shout out to my friend and brother Tim Seabre for helping me with my new Yoga Dragon Tukano Gi's! I can’t wait to rock those on a daily basis! Many tribes, one root!

Meet Our Trainers: Christine Kopcha

 

Pursuit Athletic Performance personal trainer, Chris Kopcha

Pursuit Athletic Performance personal trainer, Chris Kopcha

Here at Pursuit Athletic Performance, we are really proud of the awesome staff of trainers and coaches we have to help YOU improve!

Today we introduce Chris Kopcha, who teaches yoga, bootcamp, and fitness classes at our new space in Chester, Connecticut: the Pursuit Training Center.  To learn more about Chris, check out her bio on our site here. 

Chris is passionate about teaching and helping others to get stronger and improve. She hopes YOU will come out and take some of her classes and learn what she and we have to offer first hand.

To that end, Chris shares her thoughts on yoga including TEN REASONS why YOU should join her in her "tree house" for class.


Our "tree house" yoga room at the Pursuit Training Center.

Our "tree house" yoga room at the Pursuit Training Center.

One of the misconceptions of yoga is that it is only for skinny 20-something girls in spandex who can twist themselves into a pretzel. Or vegan hippies that sit around chanting and meditating. While you do find some of these scenarios in yoga studios, yoga is for everyone and the benefits go much farther than being able to tie yourself in a very uncomfortable knot.
1. CORE: We all know that a stable, strong core is important in keeping you injury free. But your core consists of more than just your abs. It includes everything other than your head, arms and legs and incorporates almost every movement in the human body. Yoga works your core in 360 degrees! Flexibility and balance stem from your core.

2. FLEXIBILITY: Who doesn't want to increase their comfortable range of motion? How many people do you know can't reach down to tie their shoes or have a hard time reaching for their seat belt?  Flexibility is one attribute we associate with being and feeling younger.

3. BODY BALANCE: As we move into our later years this is important in keeping us active. Even tasks as simple as walking.....the ability to stand on one foot at a time while propelling yourself forward requires a great deal of balance.

4. TRAINING BALANCE: Every good exercise program needs to include aerobic training, strength work, and stretching! Many athletes tend to hit two out of three of these genres, keeping them from reaching their full potential!

5. SPEED: By learning about your body and how it moves, you can work with what you've got allowing you to become faster.

6. LOW IMPACT: Yoga is it! Which means it's great for seniors and anyone who has joint trouble.

7. LOWERS STRESS: By encouraging relaxation, focusing on your body and breathing, it reduces the effects of stress by lowering blood pressure, heart rate, and improving digestion.

8. THE BREATH: Yoga practice teaches us to take slower, deeper, healthier breaths, improving lung function and increasing the amount of oxygen available to the body.

9. CLEARS THE MIND: Yoga helps us un-clutter our mind. It allows us to be still in a world full of chaos.

10. JUMPSTART A HEALHTHIER YOU: Yoga can be the jump start you need toward a healthier lifestyle. It can be your first step on a path away from unhealthy stress and poor eating habits, toward healthier habits that lead to long term health and happiness.

11. BONUS: And if you are interested, you can ALSO learn some really cool party tricks like headstands, handstands, splits, and arm balances.

These work for me – what about YOU?

Hope to see you in the tree house AND on the mat soon!

~Chris

049: Coach Al visits with Triathlete Rachel Beckmann, Ironman Coeur d’Alene 30-34 Age Group Winner [Podcast]

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Rachel on the run in Kona!

Rachel on the run in Kona 2013, sporting her signature trucker hat!

Today I'm really pleased to welcome on to our podcast the winner of the women's 30-34 Age-Group at Ironman Coeur d'Alene, Rachel Beckmann.

Rachel is an active duty commisioned officer in the U.S. Coast Guard presently stationed in Alexandria Virginia. Amazingly, I managed to catch her not moving for a few minutes while she was out in Las Vegas on vacation visiting family (AND training for the 2014 Ironman World Championships in Kona).  This woman doesn't stop and sit still for too long so I feel really fortunate to get her on our podcast.

Rachel and I go way back to her days as a cadet at the Coast Guard Academy. (I was also at the Academy playing percussion as a member of the U.S. Coast Guard Band).

In the time we spent together as coach/athlete, I really learned so much from her. Honestly, I still had so much to learn about coaching (and still do) and I think she was too young to really see it!  🙂  I also learned about her relentless work ethic and inner drive to succeed, and that she is truly as intelligent, fun-loving, kind hearted and just wonderful to be around, as anyone you will ever meet.

Rachel has blossomed from that enthusiastic young collegiate newbie into a full-blown Ironman age-group champion, who has certainly learned a thing or three on her path to multiple Ironman finishes and numerous overall race wins.

In today's podcast, she looks back on the journey and shares some thoughts on the fun she's had, the difficulties, what she's learned, and what it's like to live life as a young female officer serving our country while also pursuing her "personal-best" in the sport.

Among the topics we discuss on today's podcast:

  • How did her childhood, as well as her experiences as a female cadet at a military academy impact her development as a triathlete?
  • How does she balance her career as a Coast Guard officer with her triathlon lifestyle? What has she learned that could help YOU?
"Rach" knows how to keep it FUN and can rock the mountain bike too!

Rachel knows how to keep training FUN, and can really rock the mountain bike too!

 

  • What are her most important training, racing, and life "secrets to success?"
  • What about the challenges she faced during this year's Ironman Coeur d'Alene. How did she respond that ultimately lead to her age-group win?
  • What are the two or three things she thinks are the most important, to both have more fun and achieve greater success? (You won't want to miss these!)
  • And so much more!
Rachel and Coach Al catching up on one of her recent visits to Connecticut

Rachel and Coach Al catching up on one of her recent visits to Connecticut

Thanks for joining me Rachel, I enjoyed our chat!  Make it a great day everybody!

~Coach Al

Yoga For Endurance Athletes With Ultrarunning Champion Debbie Livingston

Hello Everyone!

Coach Al here with Pursuit athlete and ultrarunner champion Debbie Livingston.

Debbie is fresh off her WIN at the Traprock 50K ultrarun on April 13!

Traprock organizers call the race a true "test of the runner’s fitness and mental stamina." Fitness and stamina? Yeah, Deb's got that! And her season is just going to get better. Huge congratulations to her!

Debbie is also a long-time, accomplished yoga instructor. In our post today, she talks about the benefits of yoga for endurance athletes. Yoga not only keeps her physical body in balance, but also helps Deb hone the mindfulness she needs when training for and competing in ultra-endurance events. At Pursuit Athletic Performance, we work on those same tenets with athletes every day:

Integration of mind and body

Balance in the body of muscular strength and length

For certain runners and triathletes ("certain athletes" being the caveat here), yoga can be is the perfect way to increase much needed mobility and flexibility.  Some key elements regarding yoga practice for runners and athletes include:

1. Those who tend to enjoy it the most, need it the least!

2. Those who "hate it" likely need it most!

What I mean is...for those of you who are already very mobile and flexible, yoga can lead you down a path where you end up improving—and in some cases, over doing—movement elements you already "own" to some degree. For those (like me) who aren't very flexible or mobile, the practice can be very helpful in improving on that limitation.

As is always the case, a good yoga class—where each person only goes to their limits and learns their body while focusing on their own unique limiters—is the ideal approach.

 In this video, Debbie demonstrates "Melting Heart." The pose is TREMENDOUS for flexibility and mobility of the mid- and Yogaupper back (lats) and thoracic spine. It feels great, especially if you're tight through this region. 

Get down on the floor and do some yoga! Aaaahhh..... 

More yoga videos with Debbie coming soon! Until then...be great! 

Coach Al