Archive for gait

Learn How You Move: “Just Train More” Is The Worst Coaching Advice EVER!

Pursuit Athletic Performance Hot TopicThis post is the last in a four-part series "Learn How You Move." For other posts see:
Why Running Injuries Are Rampant
Diagnosing Running Injury
The Wisest Thing You Can Do To Enhance Your Training and Racing

In our final post in the "Learn How You Move" series, we're going to tackle the oft prescribed coaching advice of "just train more."

We are going to be completely honest here. The "just train more" bromide is possibly the most destructive, counterproductive, and irresponsible advice out there.

"Just Train More" is just plain WRONG. And, ultimately, it is disastrous.

Athletes who are coached in this way are advised that things like assessing movement quality,  gait analysis, and functional strength work aren't necessary because simply training MORE will make the body adapt, get faster, and "naturally learn" what is most efficient. Assuring athletes that it is unnecessary to explore how their bodies actually move in sport, and address weaknesses and imbalances where they might exist, is the biggest example of erroneous thinking inherent in many coaching philosophies.

We will go so far as to say that we believe it is irresponsible for any coach to recommend placing a load on any athlete without knowing how they move! This advice does GREAT disservice to athletes, not the least of which is to seriously impair their long term health, vitality, ability to respond to training, and longevity in sport.

Let's look at a typical scenario.

A coach advises a competitive cyclist that to get strong on the bike all that is needed is to bike harder and longer. There is no doubt that over the SHORT TERM, a focus on cycling will result in improvement at a pretty fast rate. We know specialization works, and it works especially well early on in the training process. Over time, however, that approach becomes less and less effective at producing the SAME desired results.

With the "just train more" approach, initial improvements soon decline. Performance plateaus are the norm with injury not far behind due to the lack of balanced development in the body. And that's assuming the person was fairly balanced to begin with!

If, at the outset, an athlete possesses movement dysfunction, negative outcomes happen much sooner. Ultimately, the "just train more" approach is stunningly ineffective in leading athletes to discover their true potential--and staying healthy over the long term.

It's amazing to us how athletes have come to accept cycles of plateaus and injury as normal! We are here to tell you it is NOT normal--and it doesn't have to be that way. Here's how to break the cycle in two simple steps that will create incredibly powerful shifts in your athletic development:

1. First, you must learn about the way you are moving, and how it may be leading to compensation and dysfunction. You do that through a quality movement screen and gait analysis.

2. It is not enough to KNOW what the issues are underlying how you move, you must do something about it. What should you do? Commit to the appropriate amount of functional strength training and flexibility training with an expert you trust to establish and maintain muscular balance and a true foundation of strength.

Make no mistake, EVERY great--and smart--athlete in this day and age is not ignoring the issues of strength, stability, mobility, and flexibility. Nor should you. They are THE PILLARS of superior athletic development.

We can think of dozens of examples of how the "just train more" philosophy ultimately backfires. Take the talented amateur triathlete who has had a great deal of success early in their career. By three to four years into training, results diminish. This athlete was likely faster in their first or second year of racing than in subsequent years following a "just train more" plan. Invariably, performance begins to lag, and rates of injury rise due to poor movement habits, lack of sport-specific skills, and absence of functional strength and muscular balance.

We bet you know an athlete with this story. Perhaps he/she stares back at you when you look in the mirror. Sure, "fast" age groupers with natural athleticism can usually "hide" a little longer. They might be lucky enough to stave off the inevitable downward spiral better than other competitors. Eventually, however, EVERYONE who "just trains more" pays the piper. EVERYONE.

Here are our final four take-aways:

  • If you want to be faster, have fewer injuries, be more efficient, and absorb training effectively, you need to assess your functional movement and stability. Invest in a scientifically-based gait analysis at a reputable institution (not your local running store!), and a Functional Movement Screen. Commit to prescriptive exercises to correct your asymmetries, and build your stability, strength, mobility and flexibility. Work with someone you trust, and stick with it OVER THE LONG TERM.
  • STOP TRYING TO CRAM FITNESS ON TOP OF DYSFUNCTIONAL MOVEMENT. A paradigm shift is in order. You must become educated on issues regarding your body's movement patterns, and you must change your thinking about the effectiveness of the "just train more" philosophy. It is the surest way to spiral downward to performance stagnation and injury.
  • Take the time to do some self-reflection to see if the "just train more" mantra is advice you WANT to hear. It is not hard to convince athletes to train longer and harder. That's a philosophy many are predisposed to accept. "Just train more" may seem a logical "quick fix" boost to your training. We assure you it's the wrong approach. And, in time, you will find yourself slowing down, hurt, and burned out.
  • Your coach MUST integrate movement screens and functional strength work into your training year round. If your program lacks those elements, you would be well advised to find another option.

Many of you spend a great deal of energy, time, and money pursuing your athletic goals. You deserve straight talk and informed coaching to help you become the fastest, most powerful, and longest-enduring athlete you can to be.

Learn How You Move Series: Diagnosing Running Injury

Gait Analysis And Diagnosing Injury

Marathoner_Knee_Brace_medIn part one of our Learn How You Move series, we explored why it is so important for you to learn about your gait and movement quality and understand where dysfunction and compensation lie. Today we will delve into how delving deeper into issues involving gait leads not only to better performance, but can be a critical element in diagnosing and treating injury.

Gait analysis is an extremely effective tool for you to use when diagnosing injury and determining a treatment plan. When someone is injured, the SITE of the pain is rarely the SOURCE of the pain. How many courses of physical therapy have you gone through to fix an injury in a specific area only to have it crop up again? We hear that story from clients every day. Here's how it often plays out in a vexing triad of money, time, and confusion.

Let's say an athlete has recurring bouts of Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS). Here's a calculation of the costs:

3 bouts of ITBS x 12 weeks of physical therapy + 2 x-rays + 4 pairs of different running shoes + 2 knee braces + 1 MRI = $1,318.20 = a whole lot of TIME, MONEY, AND FRUSTRATION!

The athlete is often left asking, "Why isn't this injury completely better? Why is it always coming back?"

We repeat, in the absence of direct trauma, the site of the pain is rarely the site of the problem. In typical treatment, the sole focus is on a single area of injury, with exercises selected to rehab only that isolated area. In contrast, looking at injury through the lens of what gait analysis reveals, pain is a glaring indicator of serious problems in your overall movement patterns. These compensations MUST be addressed and treated from a whole body perspective. Gait analysis allows you to delve deep into testing and assessment to not only heal the acute problem, but to find and resolve the ROOT CAUSE of your injury or issue.

And we all want to fix the problem once and for all, don't we? Take action, and you can.

Maryann Martinez: Before and After Gait Analysis and Subsequent Training

pursuit athletic performance

It was great to see Maryann Martinez in our Gait Analysis Lab! Maryann came back in for a video re-shoot, to see what progress she has made since her last visit. Check out the photo for one example of the super progress she's made! Nice work, Maryann! That picture is worth a thousand words, for sure. You have to admit, that just by looking at it, you can intuitively see how her running is now more powerful, and her risk of injury diminished.

To summarize her results, Maryann is much more stable in left leg stance as evidenced by less drop of her right hip. She's stronger through the glute and entire posterior chain, as evidenced by less cross-over of the left leg - it is now landing more under her left hip, resulting in better "stacking." She's also stronger through the entire hip musculature as evidenced by a "straighter" left leg, e.g. less movement toward the midline of her left knee.

Also, notice how much more stable she looks in her shoe. Better alignment and therefore less SPEED and energy leakage!

After we posted Maryann's photo on Facebook, she wrote this great testimonial. Thanks, Maryann! Nice work. Keep it up! Come back and see us soon. You rock!

Pursuit Athletic Performance

I Have NO PAIN After My Ironman! Why?

Coach Al Lyman, Pursuit Athletic Performance, Gait Analysis and Functional Strength Training Expert

Coach Al Lyman, CSCS, FMS, HKS

Great story for you today!

One of our clients, and a triathlete I coach, had a terrific day at Ironman Coeur d'Alene on June 24. Her super finish is all the more sweet when you consider that she came to us last winter a seriously BROKEN athlete. For the previous few years she had followed a training plan that focuses on daily intensity, actively discourages athletes from strength work, and promotes a "just train more" philosophy. Like most athletes, our triathlete did OK for a while on this kind of plan, putting up gains and getting faster.

But then the inevitable kicked in.

Without proper strength, stability, mobility, flexibility to support ANY kind of training--much less the kind of program she was on--our athlete fell apart. She could not absorb the training, she was not recovering, and her times got slower. End result? Injury. (Unfortunately, we see this scenario in our Gait Analysis Lab every day.)

Our triathlete came to us for a gait analysis last winter. Through our findings, we went to work to rebuild her, and then train her hard, but sensibly, for her Ironman. She took our work together seriously. As the months passed her body became functionally strong, durable, and resilient. She was able to train with appropriate intensity, absorb the training, and recover. She made serious gains in power and speed. And as we said, she had a great Ironman race day.

But take a look at how she feels now, only a few days out from the race:

"I have to say that this has been my must amazing post race ever. I was walking and sitting yesterday like it was 2 or 3 days post marathon. Unbelievable. It's strange, every time I sit or stand I brace myself for pain but it isn't there. I guess this is what being healthy, balanced, and functionally strong is all about! Essentially pain free post IM. Un-frickin-believable!"

This athlete emailed me to ask WHY she felt so good? Here the reasons, all of which are very obvious to me.

1. She was not remotely injured going into the race.

2. She was and is stronger than she has ever been. Hence, her body was able to deal with the stress of race day much more easily.

3. She was more balanced and more "fit" in a holistic sense, than ever before.

4. For the first time, she went into a race with a training plan that was designed to bring her fitness along smartly, rather than destroy her into injury and poor health submission.

My partner, Dr. Kurt Strecker, and I are thrilled for this client. We know how far she has come from the broken athlete that walked into our Gait Analysis Lab last winter. As her coach, I am thrilled at where she is at this point in time. Now, FOR THE VERY FIRST TIME, she can now unleash and get faster. Why?

Strength, stability, muscular balance, and good health are the basis for a training program designed to get you fast. That's right, it's not punishing intensity or the latest-and-greatest secret-sauce training. Movement quality FIRST is the only way to get fast, stay fast, and get faster over time.

It's like we tell athletes all the time, when your body is working as it should, it will race well AND also recover quickly and completely. It's how our athletes race again and again, year after year.

We wish every competitor, from Ironman to 5K runner, the same sense of accomplishment and good health our triathlete here is experiencing. She has a heck of a post-Ironman glow, and we are so happy for her

Coach Al

We’re At Multisport World Boston Triathlon Expo This Saturday!

Dr. Kurt Strecker and Coach Al Lyman, Pursuit Athletic Performance

Guided Movement Screens Multisport World Boston on March 31! Register in advance.

Attending Multisport World Boston on March 31? If you are, stop by our booth to say hello!

At the NYC event, we offered Guided Movement Screens, and they were a hit! We will be offering them again in Boston. This 15-minute screen will help you begin to discover what is impeding your performance--where you are leaking speed, or if you have hot-spot areas ripe for injury. It's only $25 for expo participants ($95 value). Slots went fast in New York, so secure your spot by registering here in advance.

Our very own Coach Al Lyman is presenting the seminar, TRIATHLON TRAINING IN THE 21ST CENTURY: MOVEMENT QUALITY FIRST! at 11 am. In the talk, Coach Al will cover why establishing a foundation of quality "authentic" movement with minimal compensation and dysfunction is essential for long term improvement, injury resistance, and overall health for every single triathlete. Special guest, Ironman World Champion record holder Lisbeth Kenyon will join Al to talk about her own movement issues, and how dealing with the challenges have impacted her training and racing.

Finally, you can also register at the booth to a free on-site or virtual online gait analysis package! As you can see there will be lots going on! We hope to see many of you on Saturday!

Before and After Video: WOW! Watch This Triathlete Run Now!

WOW!!! Take a look at this great before and after video!

Triathlete Rich Markowitz came to us for a gait analysis. Among a myriad of things, he learned that improvements to his posture would help him become a more injury resistant and efficient athlete. He did the work, and the changes are remarkable!

Not only is Rich's efficiency and economy much better in his running, but the changes he made are also protecting the long-term health of his back, neck, and cervical spine. As athletes, it's natural that we focus on issues relating to performance, endurance, and speed. But making the kinds of changes Rich has will also benefit his overall well being now and through the years. That's no small thing.

We are always pleased to give a shout out to our amazing athletes who commit to the program and see it through. Great job, Rich! We can't wait to see how you rock the 2012 season!


Gait Analysis Now Offered At Fleet Feet Sports in West Hartford, CT!

Pursuit Athletic Performance (PAP) is bringing their clinical gait analysis and sports-Pursuit Athletic Performance Offering Gait Analysis at Fleet Feet Sportsmovement expertise to Fleet Feet Sports, 1003 Farmington Ave., West Hartford, CT.

Each Wednesday evening, Coach Al Lyman and Dr. Kurt Strecker will offer 90-minute personalized in-depth gait analysis and full-body functional muscle and joint examination for runners who register. Following the analysis, a customized report outlining an athlete's key limiters will be provided. An exercise prescription will also be developed to build strength and stability, as well as to remove compensations and dysfunctional movements that severely limit running performance. If required, experts from Select Physical Therapy and Fleet Feet store are also available will work with athletes to optimize performance.

More information and registration is available here. The cost for the 90-minute session is $295. As a special thank you, PAP will offer each runner who signs up a $50 Fleet Feet gift certificate to ensure each athlete has the correct shoes and gear.

Said Dr. Kurt Stecker, Certified Chiropractic Sports Physician, "The sporting world has been abuzz with news of 'functional movement analysis' and 'core conditioning'. The movement-based analysis and training we provide at Pursuit Athletic Performance is the same philosophy embraced by professional teams like the Atlanta Falcons and the Indianapolis Colts. Endurance athletes--like runners, cyclists and triathletes--are also discovering the immense benefits that come with training from a foundation of functional strength and stability."

"It makes no sense to build fitness on top of dysfunction," continued Coach Al Lyman. "Through our gait analysis and follow-up prescriptive training, you absolutely will run more efficiently, and you will get faster. PAP will help you unlock your full-potential, and your risk of injury will plummet."

Fleet Feet owner Stephanie Blozy discussed why they created the "Performance Corner," and entered into the partnership with PAP and Select Therapy. "As we designed the new store, we knew we needed a special space to offer a higher level of movement and injury analysis. We sought to partner with organizations that can bring cutting-edge analysis and performance improvement programs to the store. Pursuit Athletic Performance and Select Physical Therapy are the best practitioners out there." she said.

Pursuit Athletic Performance was founded by Coach Al Lyman, CSCS, FMS, HKC and Dr. Kurt Strecker, DC, CCSP. Their top-notch reputation in the industry attracts athletes from all over the US and Europe. Most recently, they have worked with elite endurance athletes like Lisbeth Kenyon, three-time Ironman Triathlon age-group World Champion and course record holder, and Debbie Livingston, ultra-distance champion, and winner of the Grindstone 100, the east coast's most difficult endurance trail run. They can also point to outstanding success with hundreds of age-group athletes at all levels of ability.

The Fleet Feet Sports "Performance Corner" is located at 1003 Farmington Ave.,
West Hartford, CT. 860.233.8077.

Learn Something New About How You’re Moving!

Coach Al Lyman

Coach Al Lyman, CSCS, FMS, HKC

Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere. ~Chinese Proverb

Matt Kredich, the women's swim coach at University of Tennessee, gave an excellent talk at the American Swim Coaches Association convention I attended. There are many things I could expound upon from Matt's talk, but one thing he said about setting goals for dryland training rang especially true for me:

If we move the body through the RIGHT sequence of movement, the body learns something. ~Matt Kredich

That simple statement is a summary of what my partner Dr. Kurt Strecker and I emphasize daily with our Pursuit Athletic Performance athletes and clients in our Gait Analysis Lab. It is what I preach to the athletes I coach in regards to proper, authentic movement in strength training, and in all sport skills. This is how I see it:

  • Moving authentically = quality learning = improving skills = more efficiency, economy and better production of force = more power = more speed!
  • Moving poorly or not correctly = poor learning = less skill development = less power AND increased risk of injury = stagnant or lack of improvement, or worse, injury and burnout, mentally and physically.

I fully believe that my enthusiasm for what I do as a coach and athlete is grounded in the idea of continual LEARNING and growth, NOT in simply training hard and racing.

So I encourage you--this week, go out and LEARN something new about how you're moving! The year is new, and it's great time to do so. Since this post was inspired by a swim coach, let's stick with the sport of swimming. Here are a couple of suggestions that can help you learn about how you're moving in the water:

1. Find a coach in your area who is versed in training on the Vasa swim ergometer. (The Vasa is such a great training tool, and we'll talk more about that in future posts.) Being on the Vasa with someone who can give you appropriate feedback is a great way to LEARN about how you move when you swim. We have no reason when on the Vasa to NOT move correctly. Swimming or any other movement starts with executing some basic proper skills. The Vasa is great for this skills-based learning.

2. Videotape yourself in the water. Video work is essential! How else will you know what you're doing? And if you don't know what you're doing, how can you know what must change to improve? Start videotaping yourself, and do it routinely. Start now.

We spend so many hours training, yet so few of those hours are spent really trying to understand what we should do, vs. what we are actually doing. In my mind, that adds up to a fairly large amount of wasted time and energy.

Think it's time for me to schedule another swim clinic....

Now My Eyes Are Wide Open! Triathlete Shares Gait Lab Experience

Pursuit Athletic Performance Gait Lab Client Jess Withrow

Client Jess Withrow on the run at Ironman Louisville

A huge thank you to client Jess Withrow for writing Operation Rebuild, a smart, thoughtful, and funny blog post about her recent gait analysis experience here with us. Her post is the kind of feedback that buoys us here at the Gait Lab, and makes our work so gratifying.

Jess writes:
The Doc and The Coach had me figured out and gave me possibly the most eye-opening experience I've EVER had. Sure, sure, I know my glutes are weak and my pelvis is anteriorly rotated. BUT! To see it on have the visual of my hip dropping, my lats taking the day off while my traps work overtime, and to combine that with the knowledge from the Functional Movement Screen--NOW my eyes are wide open.

I got to work on my exercise program THAT NIGHT and I'm feeling significant changes already--after just one week.

One thing we know for sure is that Jess and her husband John, who also came in for a gait analysis, are athletes who "get it." We know they are committed and will do the work to not only become "unbroken," but to see their performance soar--leaving sub-par outcomes and injury in the rear view mirror.

Jess, thank you so much again for your kind words. Here's to the VERY BEST 2012 season for both you and John!!


A Quick Fitness Boost Now…Or Faster, Lasting Results in the Long Run?

Coach Al Lyman, gait analysis and functional movement expert

Coach Al Lyman, CSCS, FMS, HKC

Don't put fitness on top of dysfunction. -- Gray Cook, PT, co- creator of the Functional Movement Screen

If you are like most endurance athletes in the northern hemisphere, you've put the 2011 season behind you, and are anxiously looking toward 2012 hoping to make it even better. Among the things you might be pondering is whether to add a new piece of training equipment or whether to start a new training program. Before you decide which new tools or tricks you want to add to your training mix, I highly recommend you take a step back for a moment, and begin your path to a great 2012 season by first taking a focused look at the quality, rather than just the quantity, of your movement. More miles or reps at the beginning stages of training, if some aspect of your movement is inefficient, causes pain, or is putting you at higher risk of injury, is short sighted and will surely end up slowing your ultimate progress. In short, avoid adding progressive fitness elements to your training (positives) before you resolve lingering sources of pain, inefficiency, or dysfunction (negatives).

More specifically, the "negatives" might be:

1. A restriction in movement or lack of appropriate mobility where it is needed.

2. A lack of stability or muscle balance.

3. A nagging injury that you've been nursing for a while resulting in other tissues being forced to compensate or absorb more stress than they were designed to handle.

Even a subtle lack of balanced strength and flexibility around the hips/pelvis, or in other joints in the body, will prevent you from achieving the desired results from challenging workouts. In a way, it would be akin to a farmer trying to plant seeds on gravel. They (the workouts) simply won't be landing on fertile soil and will have little chance of producing a bountiful harvest. And a bountiful harvest--results-- is what matters!

The bottom line: You have to move well before you throw reps, high heart rate, and miles at your movement pattern.

My suggestion to you: choose to reverse the "negatives" now!

Here are some TIPS to help you do just that:

o Know this: when you massage or use a foam roller on "healthy" muscle tissue, it shouldn't be painful. If doing foam roller work is painful, the tissue has lingering micro-trauma and damage. Be smart and take care of the soft tissue work now to ensure normal muscle elasticity when you resume more progressive training.

o Get screened and/or evaluated by a knowledgeable professional who knows (and can show you) the difference between core "strength" and core "stability." There is a difference! The best "screen" I know of is the Functional Movement Screen (FMS), which is an excellent way to learn what your weak links, asymmetries, and overall risk of injury is. Find a certified provider near you.

o If appropriate levels of flexibility are an issue it is going to interfere with training at some point. Remember, you might be "inflexible" in certain places because your body is creating stiffness due to a weak synergistic muscle somewhere else. Things aren't always as they seem. Learn about Active Isolated Stretching and focus your flexibility work on muscles that are tight due to your lifestyle (sitting at a desk or behind the steering wheel for example).

o Poor mobility, stability, or balance will interfere with training. Get them cleared at the beginning of your training, so that they won't limit your progress or create greater risk of injury moving forward.

o You can visit me and my partner, Dr. Kurt Strecker, at our Gait Analysis Lab and get a full assessment of all of the above items, starting with a detailed exam, FMS, and 3D-video analysis. We also do online assessments also for those of you who cannot make it to the lab.

o Besides being assessed by a professional, start videotaping every exercise you are doing in your routine. Learn and study what good movement is and improve your awareness of how you are moving.

All of the above applies whether you are a novice or elite athlete. We know that the central nervous system (CNS) of talented high-level athletes is much better at compensating than the average person's CNS. However, an elite or a top age group athlete could still have a restriction in movement, or a lack of basic core stability or compensation that is holding them back. Here's a prime example.

Lis Kenyon, who I coach, WON her age-group in Kona this year (and set a course record doing the same in 2010). She recently visited our Gait Lab. We discovered a number of issues related to stability, muscle balance, and strength. Despite the fact that she handily beat the best in the world in her age-group, she still has room for improvement and can be even healthier--and faster. As her coach, I feel that is exciting and is something that we can all learn from.

To summarize, this is a little bit like the story of The Tortoise and the Hare. You could start out now with workouts designed to achieve fast fitness benefits. OR you can decide to learn how to move better now, and increase the chances of finishing stronger and better later in the season. If you get it right in the beginning of the training process and progress steadily forward, you will most certainly increase your chances of "winning" in the end, beating the hares every time. Improving how you move NOW will pay big dividends in the long run, in the form of improved vitality, youthfulness, and much faster race results!