Archive for gait analysis – Page 2

Stuck In Injury? Now Is The Time To Do Something About It!

Woman and men running during sunset

It is now mid-February. Whether or not it feels like it (can you say 70+ inches of snow and counting, if you live in the northeast!), spring is right around the corner, and with it, the events you have planned that you are also HOPING will make you feel good about yourself AND about the year 2015, when looking back on it.

The problem for many, especially those who have had success in the past, is allowing their EGO (along with some wishing and hoping) to get in the way of forward progress.

Why do we allow our own "confirmation bias" or our need to always be "right" to drag us down and keep us stuck in a place of injury, plateau, or worse?

If you can't get out of your own way long enough to leave behind the wishful thinking and see things (even for a brief moment) for how they REALLY are, then you know what? You will reap exactly what you sow. You will remain stuck in a place where injury or poor performance becomes your new normal.

If I've learned anything over the years, it is how important it remains to embrace humility. I have also learned that I NEED to get out of my own way and reach out to others with a beginner's mindset, so that I may move fully forward and reach my greatest personal potential! Not always easy, incredibly important and powerful.

Why not join me and a long list of others and finally put the injury and plateau bug behind you!

Check out our NEW INJURY PREVENTION series and get started now addressing those issues, so 2015 turns out the way you hope it will!

All my best,

~Coach Al

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

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

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

Hi Everyone! Coach Al here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I get it.

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

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

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

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

My suggestions?

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

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

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

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

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

And, keep it fun along the way of course!

Happy trails!

~Coach Al

Would You Benefit From More Hip Mobility?

"If your mobility is compromised enough to make you compensate, the sensory input that you have to your reflexive behavior is askew—you have an overload of information or an underload of information. Either way, you’re not receiving the information you need. If sensory information is not converted to perception and perception is not converted to action, you’re not going to get better without embracing the idea of changing mobility."
          - Gray Cook, from his presentation entitled Continuums

Hi Everyone!  Coach Al here. As a coach who works with runners and triathletes of every ability level, all who want to be stronger, better, and faster, I KNOW for them to be their best, mobility must come first. It must come before strength work, before speed work or interval work, and before very long runs. 

Without appropriate mobility in the right places in the body, an athlete will be at much higher risk of injury AND won't perform to their true potential.

Restricted mobility in the hips and ankles means that athlete can't attentuate gravity or ground reaction forces. As a result, their calves or legs or low-back must step in and compensate, often resulting in pain, injury, and frustration. There's also the issue of poor economy or efficiency resulting from that restricted freedom of movement. To put it another way, that athlete simply has to work harder (higher heart rate, more effort, and thus more fatigue and less endurance) at any effort level to produce the same relative speed or power.

IF YOU are short on mobility in the right places, you're very likely much closer to injury than you realize, AND you're slower and less efficient than you could be also.

Here's a short 2-minute video that I hope helps you get a bit more freedom of movement from your hips and ankles. Enjoy!

~Coach Al

 

 

 

 

Pursuit Athletic Performance Announces Grand Opening and Open House

The grand opening and open house will celebrate our relocation and expansion to the new Pursuit Training Center on the top of Inspiration Lane!


On the heels of our recently held "Team Pursuit" open house (see all of the pictures below from that awesome event!), all of us at Pursuit Athletic Performance are excited to announce our upcoming open house and grand opening of the Pursuit Training Center on Wednesday, November 12 from 6pm to 8pm.

All are invited to meet the staff and tour our 7,000 square-foot state-of-the-art facility located at 8 Inspiration Lane in Chester, Conn. As many of you know, we were previously located in a smaller space in Old Saybrook, Conn.

We are very excited about our expansion which allows us the opportunity to bring kids’ injury prevention boot-camp classes, adult fitness classes, yoga, strength and conditioning, and our unique advanced gait analysis process, to the entire Middlesex county region.

Join us and check out some of our unique equipment designed to help you get stronger and faster, including the awesome Vasa Swim Ergometers, and our own special Computrainer studio, appropriately nicknamed the "pain cave."

If you are unable to join us for this open house on November 12th, feel free to stop in any time and tour the space. We hope to see you soon!

Happy Training!

-Coach and Doc

 

 

 

 

 

 

Runners: Are You Injured? Here’s the Secret Solution You Need!

Don't train through injury and don't think wishing it away will solve your problem!

Don't train through injury and don't think wishing it away will solve your problem!

And what IS that secret solution?

(Drum Roll Please.........)

The "secret solution" is THE TRUTH....

.....which is something you probably don't want to hear.  I get it.

Listen up: if you're injured, you've got a real problem.  No, it isn't life or death.....but because you love to run, it's a real problem.

And the solution to your problem ISN'T as easy as just "resting and letting it heal." 

Yes, the words, "I'll just rest it and let it heal" is, without a doubt, the most common strategic response I hear from injured runners, on how they will solve their injury woes.

Allowing time for your body to rest and heal is hardly ever a bad idea, but it is foolish to believe (or hope, or pray) that simply resting and taking time away from running is all you need to overcome your injury.  Hardly ever works that way, I'm sorry to say.

There is only one way that works, based on my over 30 years of experience as a runner, triathlete, coach, and running biomechanics expert who's performed hundreds of gait analysis on injured athletes:

Until you determine the reasons WHY the injury occured, and then address that cause at its root level, your injury will likely return once you resume running. 

The choice is always yours. You can keep beating your head against a wall and living with some level of pain on a daily basis. You can keep throwing money away on race entry fees for races you never end up actually doing. The choice is always yours.

Doc and I are here to help, when you're finally ready to SOLVE your problem and enjoy running for the rest of your life.

Make it a great day!

~Coach Al 

ps:  The 2nd most common response I hear from injured runners is that they'll go to see their orthopedic doctor. Really?  Remember my friends, while there are many good orthopedists out there, their primary gig is using sharp toys to cut you.  For many, it isn't on helping you to address the movement oriented issues that are very likely the cause of the injury.  Think about it!

041: The ONE Thing! [Podcast]

Download_iTunes

Play
 

 

Doc Strecker racing at Rev3 Quassy Olympic Distance and having fun!

Doc Strecker racing at Rev3 Quassy Olympic Distance and having fun!

Hi Everyone! Coach Al here. In today's podcast, Doc and I delve into a topic we feel is SO important for long term success and fulfillment.  It is simply this: what is that ONE thing, that more than anything else, if you experienced a breakthrough in that area, would have the GREATEST impact on your success and happiness?

We are all an experiment of one: For each of us, the answer to that question will be very different, and that's the point. We all have a unique "one thing."

Are you getting the sleep you need? Are you able to be mindful and fully present in your daily activities and training? Do you have an eating habit that is holding you back? What about strength, mobility, flexibility, or a specific sport focus?

Are you HAVING FUN in your training and racing (as Doc clearly does!) and finding the right balance?

Identifying OUR own unique one thing, is often the easy part. What's much harder is actually TAKING ACTION consistently, to truly make addressing that one thing, a priority. And that's what we're really talking about here...

Simplifying, and prioritizing as a means to achieving more, going faster, feeling better, and utlimately being happier.

Sounds "simple," right? 🙂

Please listen in as we discuss this fun and important topic!  And have a great weekend too!

~Coach Al 

039: More Listener Questions! [Podcast]

Download_iTunes

Play
 

 

Did someone say running shoes?

Did someone say running shoes?

In today's podcast, we respond to some listener questions on running shoes. This is always a popular topic for discussion regardless of the circle of athletes you're in. We sure do LOVE OUR SHOES, don't we? 🙂

We get a regular stream of questions on shoes, including the merits of certain brands of shoes, when they should be replaced, and whether it's a good idea to rotate them. And without a doubt, it seems that from one month to the next, there's always a "hot" shoe amongst certain groups of athletes.

We've talked shoes in previous episodes of the podcast. For those of you who haven't listened, in this episode we told you how to pick the best shoe for YOU.

In this blog post from March of last year, we offered some tips on which ones you should buy.

And in what has been one of the most frequently listened to podcasts we've done to date, in this episode we discuss the merits of minimalist/barefoot running and hash out our differences and similarities with our guest, well known coach/athlete Ben Greenfield.

Join us for today's talk, where we get into the Altras, Hokas, the weather :), whether to rotate (the shoes), what's the key to knowing WHAT IS the right shoe for you, and much more!

Join us!

Happy Trails!

~Coach Al and Doc Strecker 

 

 

 

Feeling Stuck? (TIPS On How To Manage The Inevitable Ups and Downs)

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the wind in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."
    ~Mark Twain


1464594_10151779280753247_1902748399_nHave you ever felt discouraged that things don't seem to flow out or manifest as you hope that they would? Ever felt lost for motivation to keep at the good fight, when it seems that many more times than not, things seem to go more wrong than right? Are you struggling with injury right now and wondering if it will ever end? Recently, I've received a number of notes from athletes asking about how best to motivate ourselves and push forward when we are discouraged. Sometimes the writer describes it using words like frustration, or feeling "stuck," and even angry, and they want to know how to turn things around. That's a great question!

First, this is our collective humanity folks. We ALL feel discouraged or frustrated or "stuck" at some point in our lives and with our training. Whether it's being at our "wits end" with an injury (DON'T run through it, no matter how much you might want to. Read this to learn more!) that hasn't healed, or being frustrated with the economy or a business venture that seems stuck, or confused by our own behavior toward something we very much want but seem unable to achieve, we all have these feelings.

As Scott Peck says in the first line of his best selling book, The Road Less Traveled, “Life is difficult.” Yup.  🙂  No one has a life without problems and difficulties. This is characteristic of what it means to be human.  I think in all of my years, I've finally (hopefully) learned that happiness is given by how we manage the problems we’ve got, not the absence of problems. If we manage large problems well, we can be very happy. If we manage small problems poorly, we can be assured of sadness and frustration.  However, there is a corollary to this, yes? People can be measured by the size of the problems they undertake! Great accomplishments never come without great problems. Big people undertake large problems (such as solving global warming). Small people restrict themselves to small problems (like whether that guy in the other lane cut you off or not).

All of that being said, one key to finding resolution is to ask the RIGHT questions. It's common to hear someone ask questions like,  "Why am I so stuck?" or, "Why does this always happen to me?" Notice the assumptions that are made about being "so" stuck and that this sense of discouragement or frustration "always" happens. With questions like that, no wonder there's frustration and a sense of hopelessness.

A much better question might be, "How do highly successful people handle these normal experiences?"

Here are a few of my observations about how successful people handle the normal roadblocks and frustrations of life, and that includes being injured.

1. First, successful people learn they must face the truth and acknowledge that what they are doing isn't working. They do NOT keep beating their heads against a wall. Stop the madness!  If you're discouraged, frustrated, or stuck, be honest enough to say, "this isn't working" and take a rest. That means if you're fighting an injury, get to the root cause of WHY the injury occured. Contact us and we will help. Check out the testimonials on our site and hear from folks who have been there and are now better than ever.

2. Second, successful people seek the truth and understand there is a difference between being discouraged, which often has to do with being tired (it may be time for a day off or a recovery week), verses real depression, which is an illness (it may be time to see the doc). Frustration is normal and can be seen as a belief that what you're working toward is possible, it just isn't happening.  In all things, seek the truth.

3. Succesful people ensure their values and highest aspirations align. Often we are frustrated because our goal isn't consistent with our values. Sometimes we self-sabotage or procrastinate because deep inside we don't truly want the thing we say we want. Human beings can achieve amazing results when they are totally committed. Unfortunately, we are also capable of fooling ourselves about this.

4. Again, successful people ask great questions. They ask themselves, "what parts of my goal have I achieved?", or "How have other people solved this problem?" They consult with experts, read books, and find answers to questions that can help them move forward. If nothing else, they'll ask, "What other crazy, off-the-wall thing could I try just for fun?"   🙂

5. They take a DIFFERENT action. After taking a deep breath and asking great questions, highly successful people do something different.  They try another way. They are willing to look in the mirror and face the truth in order to move forward positively. Are you?

Sometimes I think discouragement or a sense of impending failure and frustration are actually useful "early warning signs". They are the brain's way of telling us our objective is reachable, but that we might be going about it the wrong way. These normal feelings and experiences tell us that maybe we need to step back, get a new perspective, take a deep breath! Strategize. Get creative. Ask better questions. Seek help from others who care and who have the tools to help you.

Clarify your values and be certain your highest aspirations support you in achieving your goal. I think ambivalence over our outcomes is perhaps the greatest source of discouragement.  Do you want to finish atop your age-group and qualify for Kona yet don't want to commit to finally resolving that niggling injury or attacking your weaknesses? 🙂

Lastly, seek inner peace in the face of these entirely normal human feelings and experiences. As hard as it may be to do, this requires giving up the notion that “there is something wrong.” Giving this up means that everything is exactly the way it is supposed to be, and exactly the way it is not. In the space of such detachment you can be both peaceful and powerful. This detachment doesn't mean that we aren't commited to principles or a philosophy, or that we are satisfied with the current state of our world. But we can fulfill those commitments much more powerfully from a position of inner peace, than from one of upset, fear, anger or rage.

When our values align with our goals, and we ask the right questions, anything is possible! Use discouragement to your advantage! It's your brain telling you to listen up, develop a better strategy, and work smarter rather than harder.

Enjoy!

~Coach Al

Variety Is Greatly Overrated. Here’s Why! (Including TIPS On How To Progress!)

Despite what some believe, strength is NOT the goal with the movement training we do. Strength is a symptom ....a symptom of moving well.  In a similar vein, speed training is not the optimal path toward improving our fitness.  Improved fitness leads to improved speed potential. Speed is a product of moving well and improved fitness.  

~Coach Al


Strength isn't the goal! Strength is only a symptom of moving well!

Strength isn't the goal! Strength is only a symptom of moving well!

Here at Pursuit Athletic Performance, Kurt and I believe the true value and benefit to movement based strength training resides in digging DEEPER into the basic skill and integration of  a movement.

In this day and age, with athletes becoming bored so easily and instant gratification being so prevalent in every phase of our life and culture, digging deeper into a movement vs. moving "on" from the movement is often difficult (and even frustrating) for the individual athlete to fully embrace.  We seem to frequently fall victim to the mindset of always looking for the next "great" exercise, the next great "tip," or how we can blast on to the more "advanced" stuff, thinking its a magic bullet to the success we seek.

Whether or not you like it, the truth is that the devil is in the details and the magic to optimal progression and exploding your potential is in true mastery of the basics and fundamentals.  This single concept, while easy to read, might be the most challenging for the average person to accept and embrace, but it IS the key to long term, meaningful success.

So, yes, variety is greatly overrated.  To reiterate, once the shiny newness of an exercise wears off and you’re “bored” with it because it's not “new” anymore, you’re forced to get deeper into it, or bail out and just move on to something else “new” and “exciting.”  I’d argue the best choice is the former, not the latter. 

Of course, that being said, there are a great many ways to enhance the quality (and thus results) of the training you are doing, rather than to change exercises.  For example:

1. Use a slower rep speed. 

  1. It’s common for folks to move in and out of movements quickly.
  2. It’s common to see folks come out of the bottom of a movement quickly, rather than “owning” that bottom portion.
  3. Use a count of 4 – 1 - 3 seconds: 4 seconds lowering – 1 second pause at the bottom – 3 seconds raising.
  4. Removing the ‘elastic’ or rebound component to better own each phase of the movement.

2. Decrease your leverage. 

  1. Think about the HUGE difference in difficulty between a double arm push-up with a wide arm position, and a single arm push-up! Huge difference in leverage.
  2. On the topic of stability, a tiny difference in how wide your arms or knees are really changes how difficult the exercise is to do well!

3. Improve your focus and tension! 

  1. Where’s the hard in your exercise coming from?
  • From inside of you? Posture, breathing, focus?
  • Or is it coming from OUTside of you?  Are you thinking a different exercise, or more weight (outside of you) will automatically make you stronger? Not going to happen.
  • We need to consciously PRODUCE that tension, even when moving a relatively small amount of weight.
  • Focus, tension management, radiation of tension throughout!
  • “Intensity” and “strength” isn’t just about moving more weight. Its about bringing a certain level of whole-body tension and focus into every movement.
  • In RKC/HKC circles as well as in power lifting circles, there’s a saying: “If you make your lighter weights feel heavier, your heavier weights will feel lighter.” Practice the focus and tension skills with lighter resistance, you’ll get more benefit from every movement you do!

Happy Trails!

~Coach Al

We Are All An Experiment of One: Find Out What YOU Need The Most and Then Get It Done!

TEAM Pursuit Athletes at the 2013 Timberman Half Ironman triathlon!

TEAM Pursuit Athletes at the 2013 Timberman Half Ironman triathlon!

In order to be able to run as fast and as long as you would like to and remain injury-free while doing it, your running body must be BOTH strong and flexible. Think about this fact: approximately 50% of the energy that propels you forward during the running stride comes from elastic and reactive “energy-return” of your muscles! While you’re taking that in, think about this: at the same time that certain muscles are required to be elastic and reactive, others need to be very stiff and strong, to prevent your body turning into a wet-noodle as your feet hit the ground!

Muscles tense and lengthen and release and stretch (helping to facilitate rotation around your joints while doing all of that!) as they prepare to store energy and absorb outside impact forces and turn that stored energy into forward propulsion. There’s a lot more going on during the stride than you could ever imagine!

And while all of these things are happen within each of our bodies while we run, they happen at different rates of speed and relaxation and ease for each of us. We are, at once the same, and yet very different.

Some of us need more STRENGTH and STIFFNESS in our “chain,” while others need more FLEXIBILITY and ELASTICITY and MOBILITY.  We each have our own “limiters” and weaknesses which may be making us either more prone to injury, or limiting our speed and endurance potential.

So given all of that, do YOU know what your weakness is?

For example...

  • Are you prone to calf injuries because your calves are forced to absorb impact forces due to “too tight” hips?
  • Do you lean back on downhills and “hurt,” suffering from painful quadriceps during those downhills because your quads are too weak to absorb those impact forces and prevent your body from collapsing against the forces of gravity?
  • Are you still landing out in front of your center of mass, even though you know you shouldn’t, because your hams and glutes are not “reactive” enough (too slow) and weak to contract quickly, getting your feet UNDER your hips as you touch down?
  • Does your low back hurt during the late stages of your longer runs or rides because its trying to do the work your butt should be doing?
  • Is your stride short and choppy because your hip flexors are so tight they can’t release to allow your pelvis to rotate forward so that your legs can extend behind you as you drive horizontally forward with each stride?

These are the questions and issues we ALL need to consider, and for each of us, it is different. If you take the time to listen to your body and consider what YOUR weakness or limiters are, then you’ll be able to address it and as a result, improve and run to your true potential!

The answers you are seeking are not always found through “harder” training. Sometimes the answers come when we listen within.  Sometimes things like YOGA or revisiting the BASICS and FUNDAMENTALS, are the path to exploding our true potential, rather than another hard track session.

Our unique Pursuit Athletic Performance “Gait Analysis” system was designed to help us help YOU, learn what it is that YOU need the most! To learn more, go here to learn more about our analysis packages.

Check out our testimonials page here to learn more about the success stories of so many athletes who learned what THEY needed to do to truly explode their potential!

Happy Trails!

~Coach Al