Archive for al lyman

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!) ūüôā

    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 ‚Äúlessons‚ÄĚ 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. ‚ÄúUp on the wall,‚ÄĚ 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‚Ķ.he didn't know me. And since I‚Äôd recently hired him as a coach, I wasn‚Äôt 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 ‚Äúfamous‚ÄĚ 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‚Äôs 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 ‚Äď everyone was nervously staring as he said ‚Äúyour 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‚Äôt go anymore.‚ÄĚ Naturally there were a lot of nervous laughs in the group ‚Äď 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, ‚Äúwell, Al, I guess there are some hills up in Connecticut, huh?‚ÄĚ


    Learning How To Train

    That weekend taught me a lot about what it meant to go HARD. But that‚Äôs 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‚Äôd 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‚Ķ.well‚ĶVERY hard.  Not just giving the concept lip service, but actually putting it into action on a daily basis.

    Of course, I‚Äôd learned the value of differentiating intensity and effort from my competitive running years much earlier. The difference with triathlon is important though ‚Äď 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‚Äôd 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 ‚Äúaerobic‚ÄĚ 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 ‚Äúaerobic,‚ÄĚ yet the group you join has some stronger riders with egos (doesn‚Äôt 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‚Äôd 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 ‚Äúaerobic‚ÄĚ z2, into semi ‚Äútempo‚ÄĚ 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 ‚Äúrace specific‚ÄĚ session where you‚Äôre 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. ‚ÄúYup, I guess that makes sense.‚ÄĚ 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‚Äôll be forced to go easily the day after. And because of the effort you expended, that ‚Äúeasy‚ÄĚ session will actually feel hard. You‚Äôll run ‚Äúslow,‚ÄĚ pedal ‚Äúslow‚ÄĚ and feel like you‚Äôre 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

    Boston Marathon Race Week: Old Habits Die Hard!

    "Mistakes are the portals for discovery."  - James Joyce
    "There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order to things." - Niccolo Machiavelli
    "The obstacle is the path."  - Zen aphorism 


    Spring is in the air in New England. And it's April. That means it's Boston Marathon time. One of the most important races in my own journey as a runner - I always miss it when I'm not there lining up in Hopkinton!

    Today's post isn't about this year's race, or the bombing from a few years ago. It is about training for the marathon, or any other long distance race. Because when it comes to LONG RUNS prior to a marathon, Ironman, or some other long distance race or run, old habits sure die hard.  

    What's the old habit I'm referring to? Running your last long run 3 or even 2 weeks out from race day.   

    Its amazing to me that in this day and age, with all we've learned about how our body functions best, the idea of doing a "longer" run within 3 and even 2 weeks prior to a marathon is still very prevalent out there in the running community. As the title of this post states, old habits (like being afraid of doing any strength training, or counting mileage as the primary predictor of performance!) die HARD!    

    So When Should You Do Your Last Long Run? 

    I was first exposed to research about the amount of time it actually takes for deep cellular tissue (muscle) damage to heal (from training) around 1990.  That's 24 years ago. One study, conducted at Harvard at that time, showed that tissue remained significantly damaged even after 4 or 5 weeks of "recovery" after that "long" run.

    After learning about that study and then discussing these concepts with our former podcast guest and running expert Owen Anderson, PhD (who at that time was the editor of Running Research News) I decided to adjust my own training to reflect that longer taper period prior to race day. I immediately felt the benefits of it with my first 2:40 marathon in 1991.  To that point, I'd been able to run a 2:50, but with this new approach to tapering, I ran a full 10 minutes faster and felt better on race day.  I don't necessarily credit that taper and distance between the last long run and race day as the sole reason for the 10 minute drop, but I do believe it was a huge factor.

    Without a doubt, I am convinced that a huge percentage of the runners who are running marathons in this day and age, and in fact many of those lining up in Boston next Monday, toe the line with "still damaged" muscle cells from a longer run, too close to race day.  Maybe its me, but it always made sense that if I wanted to have an opportunity to run my best on race day, that my legs needed to be healed from what I had done to them in training. That might sound like a simple concept, but again, old habits die hard.

    Keep in mind as you think about this, that a "long" run can mean different things to different runners. Someone running 90 miles per week can run longer, relatively speaking, than can someone who can only handle 30 miles per week. But in my opinion, even on an elite level, a lot of the country's best marathoners are still running too long, too close to race day, even with their lofty weekly mileage totals. I've employed this taper strategy or some variation there of, with every person I've coached since I began coaching, and as I mentioned, used it myself since the early 1990s.

    Obviously, doing this requires that you do GET IN those longer runs early enough in your preparation. But even if you fall short in either the number or length of those longer runs, trying to "squeeze in" one last long run too close to race day, ensures that you will toe the line with less than 100% of your capability that day, and that's a shame. The best chance any of us have to run our best "on the day," is to show up 100% healthy and healed and motivated to do well, with a solid strategy in place.  The key words are "100% healthy." If you're not, even with the best training and highest levels of motivation, you will very likely do less well than you might otherwise be capable.

    Why Do Runners Continue To Run Long Too Close To Race Day?

    Big Confidence Boost?: At first glance that close-to-race-day long run seems like a smart idea. Many runners believe they need to prove to themselves that they can go the distance on race day, and what better way to show you’re ready than to knock off a 20-miler just a couple of weeks before you go to the starting line! What a great shot in the arm to your confidence, right? Wrong.

    It might sound logical to lay one last long run down to boost confidence, but that would be a mistake, and the reason is simple: You need recovery after your long runs.

    Many runners dismiss the amount of pounding we put our bodies through running those miles. As I often say here in our Lab, a mile of running is the equvalent of 1500 one-leg squat jumps! That's a lot of repetitive trauma.

    In an article Owen wrote in RRN some years ago, he referenced research conducted by Dutch exercise scientists with a group of marathon runners. "About two thirds had significant signs of muscle injury on the morning of the race, before they had run just one mile of the marathon!" According to the study, "the reason for this muscular mayhem, for the most part, was the long running the Dutch had carried out during the month before the race. The Dutch-athletes’ muscles were totally non-recovered on race day." The Dutch researchers found that training runs with durations longer than 15 kilometers (~ 9.3 miles) were the ones which seemed to produce the greatest amount of muscle damage. Below 15K, little muscle damage accrued.  (The reason why I started back then, making 9-10mile runs my longest within four weeks of the race).

    The BIG Myth.

    The biggest myth that exists out there among runners getting ready for the marathon is that a long gap between the last long run and the actual marathon will make our body "forget" how to run long.  Going a full four weeks without a true "long" run, will cause our body to lose its ability to efficiently cover the distance, right?  Not so much! The truth is that provided you've done the necessary periodic long runs prior to that 4 week period and built to a distance of 20-22 miles on average, your body will not "forget" how to complete the distance on race day.   

    In fact, if you approach your training in the right way, you can use this long-run-free four-week period to truly boost fitness and be more prepared than ever for a great race day! As your muscles heal and recovery progresses, you can...

    • step up the intensity of your training, allowing you to do more of the kinds of training sessions which will have a direct impact on marathon readiness. Those are sessions focusing on lifting vV02max, running economy, and threshold.
    • focus more time and energy on your overall fitness, specific mobility and flexibility needs, and topping off your running specific strength.

    Most runners are so used to running on battered and bruised legs and being exhausted, that they never actually FEEL what it feels like to run on legs that are recovered and 100% healthy. What a shame!

    The Bottom Line?

    A smart marathon or long distance run training plan is one that builds fitness progressively and THEN ALLOWS for adequate recovery prior to race day. Many typical race training plans I see on the internet or written by other "experts" often leave out this critical recovery aspect, having runners run long 2 or 3 weeks out from race day. As a result, the runners following those plans or trusting that guidance end up toeing the line with damaged muscles, even though they "believe" they are 100% ready to have the best race possible.  If you're reading this thinking "that guy is an expert running coach," or "my fast friend does it this way," stop and think for a moment.

    Simply put, 3 weeks isn't enough time for healing for the majority of runners, and 2 weeks is flat out absurd under normal circumstances. The exception might be if your weekly mileage totals are over 80 to 100 per week.  If your weekly mileage is below those numbers, you'll be very smart to leave at least 4 weeks from the last long run you do until race day. Train smart in this way, and you'll feel better and run faster as a result!

    ~Coach Al 

    Want To Be More Injury Resistant? Don’t Waste Your Time With This Dumb Exercise.

    So here we are, it's almost April 1st! 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 next Tuesday) 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! ūüôā
    • 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!

    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! ūüôā

    Hey, listen...I get it. I've been there. ūüôā 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!¬† ūüôā

    To Your Success!
    ~Coach Al

    Are You Wasting Your Time Doing This Dumb Exercise?

    So here we are, it's almost April 1st! 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 next Tuesday) 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! ūüôā
    • 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! ūüôā
    • 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!

    Hardrock 100: Here She Comes!

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    So why write about this today?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    All my love, Deb.

    ~Coach Al

    Is It Possible You’re Dehydrated?

     

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

    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! ūüôā

    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!