Archive for Ironman

This exercise has SO many benefits. Check it out!

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

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

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

What are those questions?

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

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

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

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

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


Train smart: make THIS part of your daily routine!

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

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

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

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

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

So, get on it! 🙂

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

To your success,
~Al

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

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

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

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


It matters what you eat before a race...

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

What are some of the important take home messages?

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

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

    Train (and eat) smart!

    To your success,
    ~Al

    Triathletes: Have We Needlessly Overcomplicated Training Intensity?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


    Learning How To Train

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

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

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

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

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

    Have we made training intensity too complicated? 

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

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

    You're Getting Tired, But Are You Improving?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


    Sometimes Simpler IS Better

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

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

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

    Train smart!

    To your success,
    ~Al

    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 

    Triathletes and Runners: Strength Doesn’t Equal Stability

     

    "Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free." - John 8:32


    Without a doubt, endurance athletes are finally coming around to understanding and believing in the importance of strength training. Even though it's taken a while, it's great to see.  The kinds of "functional" strength work I was experimenting with in the late 1980s to help increase my durability, endurance and speed (while logging a lot less miles than most of my training buddies and competitors), is almost becoming routine now among many competitive triathletes and runners.

    Along the same lines, it almost "normal" now to sit in the middle of a group of runners or triathletes and hear folks talk about "hitting the gym," or getting in their "leg (or arm) day." That was unheard of even just 10 years ago. Today, smart athletes KNOW that strength work has to be a part of their routine. As a "bonus," the strength trained runner or triathlete looks better. After all, who doesn't want a better physique to go along with our already highly developed cardiovascular fitness?

    Part of the reason for this gradual shift is likely because baby boomers (like me) are aging. Ack! In addition to their race results or the next ironman, more and more are thinking about their longevity and how well (and gracefully) they'll age. That's a smart thing.

    On the topic of strength and maintaining it, I've shared a few links recently that speak to the obvious and profound connections between muscle wasting (sarcopenia) and aging more gracefully.  THIS TedTalk called "Muscle Matters," and THIS article from OutsideOnline titled "To Delay Death, Lift Weights," are two examples of what I mean. Definitely take the time to read and listen!

    So what's the problem?

    Listen, there's absolutely no doubt that strength training is important for every athlete, regardless of your gender or age or experience level. As the above article and TedTalk discuss, there is NO substitute for being strong. In my opinion, every single person ought to put getting stronger at the TOP of their priority list.

    But at the same time, as someone who works with injured athletes every day, I have to point out the BIG MYTH that exists in so many athlete's minds -- that ALL you need to do is hit the gym and work your arms, abs, back and legs, and you're set.

    You may think you're doing all you need to do to avoid injury and perform your best, but unfortunately that's not the case.

    How "ripped" or muscular you are - how much weight you lifted in that gym session last night - none of it has anything at all to do with how durable or injury resistant you are or will be down the road.

    Not sure what I mean?

    Here's an example. And yes, in case you're wondering, I see this week in and week out - athletes who can't for the life of them understand why they are so often injured, despite religiously going to the gym to lift weights and get strong.


    The triathlete pictured here in these two photos contacted me recently to inquire about coaching. He's got talent and as you can see, he's a pretty strong guy. What's his goal? Qualifying for Kona - which is no easy task.

    So what's the issue?

    In one of his first attempts to qualify, he came really close to getting his slot, proving to himself that he had what it took!  However, ever since then his results have tumbled...and NOW, he's dealing with hip pain that has him in physical therapy and making multiple visits to his orthopedic surgeon to try and learn what is going on. To say he's frustrated is an understatement!

    How does an obviously talented, goal-oriented, hard working triathlete like this, who as you can see is strong, end up with hip pain and suffering from increasingly worse race results? (There are many examples of athletes like this guy - strong and yet frustrated! Are you one of them?)

    There are certainly a variety of things in both his movement quality and in his training and recovery that could explain his frustrations. One of the potential answers to that question became very obvious to me as soon as I saw some video of him on the treadmill as part of his Virtual Gait Analysis with me, something I do with EVERY SINGLE athlete I coach.
    These two images, which I clipped from his run video at mid-stance (or shortly thereafter) of the gait cycle, show an excessive amount of  instability of his core and hip girdle, specifically measured here from the back as "lateral pelvic drop." As you can see in the picture, I measured 9 degrees of "drop" on the left leg and 7 degrees of "drop" on the right.

    To say the amount of instability on a single leg here is significant is an understatement: 2 degrees or less would be considered "ideal" for this athlete. He's at 9 and 7 degrees respectively! Yikes.

    One thing most don't realize is that this instability has very little to do with the strength of an individual muscle. Or the strength of his body. Or how "ripped" he might be. It has a LOT to do with his nervous system - and the timing of muscle firing. The kind of training that will fix these issues begins in the brain, with basics and fundamentals.

    If you'd like to know MORE about this topic, you're in luck. I've written lots about it over the years.

    Start by going to THIS post, where I discuss why mechanics are so important for race-day performance and injury resistance. Or THIS post, discussing the truth about why runners become injured. Or THIS one, which discusses the often misunderstood relationship between strength and stability. In fact, use that search function there to dig into many similar kinds of posts. There's much to learn.

    Luckily, this athlete came to the right place. I'm confident that as he follows my guidance and the process unfolds, we'll see a gradual improvement in his stability.  And along with that, his durability and his performance.

    As soon as possible, he wants to be back out on the roads so he can take advantage of his strength and determination to succeed, and finally reach his goal of qualifying for Kona!

    So what are YOUR goals? Better yet, how can I help you get past YOUR movement related frustrations so you can go out and reach them?

    To your success,

    ~Coach Al

     

    It NOT About The Plan.

     

    Recently, at a race where I was volunteering, I was chatting with a fellow runner. A week earlier he had finished his second 100-mile ultra.  He was feeling very good about having finished, and why not? Much like finishing an Ironman, getting to the FINISH line at a race of that magnitude is awesome and always worth celebrating! Despite his glow at having finished, I sensed there was something else bugging him...

    As we talked, I began to understand why he was frowning. He acknowledged that yes, he really struggled during the race - his finish time was far slower than he was capable of. The primary reason, he felt, was an injury that had plagued him for most of the winter and spring, which prevented him from training as he had hoped or wanted.

    His mood seemed to lift as he excitedly told me that in order to rectify things, he had already begun work on developing what he felt would be his perfect training week.  With a childlike grin, he described this "new" training routine as having the ideal blend of hill work, speed work, and long runs.

    I chuckled to myself as I listened because I wasn't surprised. This was the same old blah-blah BS from a recently injured runner who, while well intentioned, was unfortunately on the wrong path.

    Now don't get me wrong. This is a smart guy who has been running for only a few years, and it is clear he has talent. Unfortunately, he's unknowingly missing THE most important elements which will help him truly reach his potential. And he's not looking in the right places to get the answers he needs either.

    Training plans don't cause injury, nor do they lead directly to success. Both injury and success are essentially up to us.

    What he hasn't learned yet, that I want to share with you today, is the secret to reaching your potential actually has very little to do with "the plan."  It has much more to do with the "little things" that many athletes don't pay enough attention to.   

    Honestly, of the many things I speak about daily with the athletes I coach, depending upon their experience and where they are on their training journey, only a small percentage have to do with "the plan."

    So, what are those "little things" that this runner might want to consider beyond the more obvious things like patience, recovery, daily nutrition, mindfulness, focus, and life balance/stress, to name a few?

    Perhaps the most important is movement quality.

    What do I mean?

    Start by learning what the root-cause of the injury was. After all, only then can you get rid of it once and for all.   

    Many athletes mistakenly believe (hope? wish?) that rest and deep tissue massage cures all. That would be nice, but unfortunate it's wrong. Just because you rest or get body work, the root-cause of injury doesn't magically disappear.

    Many struggle chronically with the same recurring injury, often from one year to the next, because they never learn the root-cause.

    It was clear this runner had no real clue as to the root-cause of his injury. Here's some of what he would benefit from considering:

    • Has he lacked muscle balance, appropriate mobility/flexibility, or core stability?
    • Had prior injuries set his body on a path of increasing compensation which ultimately led to this injury?
    • What about his foot mechanics - is he wearing the most appropriate running shoe for his unique needs?
    • Did he simply need to be functionally stronger or allowed more time for a more conservative training build, in order to handle the increasing loads?

    My advice to him, had he asked me, would have been to start by resisting the urge to only treat the symptoms. Instead, take the time to learn what the cause actually is.

    Yes, a well-conceived, progressive, personalized training plan is an important part of an overall training program, but it is not the most important part.

    When some of the important elements mentioned above, including arguably THE most important (movement quality) are in place and are monitored carefully and regularly, THEN and only then, is it time to worry about "the plan." But not before.

    To your success!

    ~Coach Al

    Triathlon in 2015: The Challenge of Changing Beliefs and Perceptions

    Coach Al on the run at the 2004 Hawaii Ironman World Championship

    Coach Al on the run at the 2004 Hawaii Ironman World Championship

    Hey Everyone. Coach Al here. Thanks for joining me today.

    I want to to share with you today some thoughts on the challenge of changing beliefs and perceptions in athletes. It's a view from my side of the fence, the perspective of a long-time coach who has dedicated many, many years, not only to studying movement and the powerful roles strength, stability, mobility, and flexibility play in unlocking ultimate athletic potential, but simply put, on what it takes to stay healthy and go FAST on the race course.

    Let's start with this: Are the bullets below, true or false?

    • Pain in the joints or muscles when training is normal.
    • Being "tough" and training through pain or injury is sometimes necessary, and should be considered a source of pride.
    • Strength training is a luxury, and not really "necessary" for runners or triathletes.
    • Stretching has not been proven to be beneficial, so why do it?
    • Stretching has been proven to be beneficial.  However, to receive the benefits and remain healthy from stretching, one must stretch the whole body.
    • The way to get faster and improve future performance potential is to focus on continually increasing volume and intensity.
    • The way we move ultimately has no bearing on training or performance.

    There is no doubt that some of you reading the statements above think many, or all of them, might be "true." In fact, from my point of view--and the view of renowned athletic movement experts--NONE of them are true. They are but a few examples of harmful and erroneous notions that have deep roots in the minds of many athletes, even in 2015!

    At Pursuit Athletic Performance, we face the challenge of helping athletes discard commonly-held beliefs about training that are injurious and destructive. We ask athletes to open their minds, and let go of outdated and disproved ideas about what it takes to excel in sport.

    Our message is a simple one, and it is this:

    If you want to perform better, get faster, avoid or recover from injury, have longevity in sport, and have a healthier quality of life you must FIRST restore or develop MUSCULAR BALANCE, and THEN GET MOBILE, STABLE AND STRONG. Period. You MUST make your body MOVE like a champion athlete. That quality movement MUST COME FIRST before serious sport-specific training can then take you to the zenith of your potential.

    One thing I know for certain: movement patterns filled with compensations lead to dysfunction, and dysfunction absolutely destroys the potential to train and race fast. I have dedicated my coaching career to helping athletes learn this life-altering truth, and break free from perceptions that undermine their true abilities and push attainable goals out of reach. It's not easy to change or upend the beliefs most consider gospel. It demands a paradigm shift. Some get it, some don't.

    IF YOU ARE BATTLING injury and want to finally turn things around for you can have your best season ever, why not begin anew and start by checking out our new VIDEO series on avoiding and recovering from the most common running injuries. You won't be disapointed, that is for sure!

    If you are not injured and want to stay that way, or you're a seasoned triathlete but frustrated because you aren't improving or getting faster, then get in touch with us and we will show you how to achieve your dreams!

    Got questions? Fire away on Facebook or email me directly at coachal@pursuitfitness.com.

    Have a great day!

    ~Coach Al

     

    Be Careful WHO You Get Your Running Advice From…

    "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result." - Albert Einstein

    "Caveat Emptor" - Latin for let the buyer beware


    Hi Everyone! Coach Al here.

    Today I'm jumping up onto my soapbox.  I guess I'm a little tired of looking around me (and online as well) at coaches and trainers who call themselves "experts" or who dish out a pile of crappy advice (and who don't walk the talk) when marketing to unsuspecting potential athletes/clients, and so I just figured it was time to vent a little bit.

    And perhaps offer a little advice, too. 🙂

    So if you're a runner or multi-sport athlete who truly wants to be better, faster and improve consistently, OR a fitness enthusiast who simply wants to be able to work out and stay healthy, read on. If you're offended by hearing the truth, then stop reading now.

    My advice today starts with this: Be very careful about who you're taking your running (and training) advice from. 

    In this day and age, anyone can post a video on youtube and become an "expert."

    Anyone can open a gym or fitness studio and talk about "doing it right," without really knowing what "right" is or actually doing what they say you should do.

    As you move forward and work toward achieving YOUR goals in 2015 and beyond, ask yourself some simple questions:

    • Has the person you're taking advice from EVER demonstrated the ability to remain injury free while doing progressively more challenging training?

    Many coaches and trainers right around you, are injured themselves while they lecture to YOU about what you need to do to stay injury free! Beware of frauds and internet "experts".

    • Have they demonstrated the ability to train progressively and improve their performance consistently, moving from a novice to a higher level of performance?

    Many coaches and trainers out there preach like they've "been there and done that," yet have never ever trained from a novice level to a higher level of performance!  I'm not talking about finishing a half-marathon or marathon, I'm talking about raising performance to a higher level.

    If you are going to take advice about how to get faster or stronger, shouldn't you take it from someone who has actually demonstrated an ability to do it? Beware of a trainer who always has an excuse for their sub-par performance or some reason why they are always satisfied with mediocrity.

    • Have they worked with others who have been injured or in a long-term cycle of injury and helped them get OUT of that injury cycle to rise to a higher level of performance?

    If a trainer or coach IS injured themselves, can they honestly speak to what it takes to remain injury free? (Other than traumatic injury, in nearly every instance the answer is no!)

    No, I AM NOT saying a coach has to have gone "fast" to be a good coach, or done the ironman to be considered a triathlete.

    What I am saying is that there are way too many frauds out there pretending to be "expert" trainers and coaches, using the internet and unsuspecting consumers to profit.

    • Take a good look at who you're training with:
      • Are they injured?
      • Are they dismissing things like movement quality and are they recommending you do the same?
      • Are they practicing what they preach?
      • Are they, or have they, demonstrated the ability to do what they say you should do?

    Be smart. Caveat emptor.

    You're worth it.

    Happy Trails!

    ~Coach Al

    From Olivia: The Two Wolves of Ironman Lake Tahoe

     

    Pursuit Athletic Performance Functional Wellbeing Coach, Olivia Syptak

    Pursuit Athletic Performance Functional Wellbeing Coach, Olivia Syptak

    All day yesterday I thought about what the cancellation of Ironman Lake Tahoe so close to the start, might have felt like for the athletes there. I obviously can’t know any of this for certain, but my heart imagines being at the swim start, suited up, expecting to race, and not knowing for sure what would happen. I can almost feel the mix of emotions. There would be that energizing surge of pre-race nerves and excitement for the day so long-awaited (and finally here!), and then with each minute of uncertainty having that enthusiasm get alternately muddled, intensified, or squashed by the confusion about the go or no-go decision.

    This situation serves as a very real reminder of how full the range of emotions can be that any one person experiences in the heat of these kinds of moments. It also is worth thinking about how we can manage and come to some sort of peace with this range of emotions in the days that follow.

    When the final decision was made on Sunday, when what was uncertain became certain, a whole new set of emotions likely piled onto those nerves. Among them may have been disappointment, anger, sadness, or rage. There also may have been feelings of injustice and unfairness and just maybe even hatred for the situation or for the authorities that made the decision.

    With those feelings, though, there could also have been a sense of solidarity with other athletes, a shared empathy for the potential of the day that was lost in the decision. There may have been some peace in just knowing the decision and being able to move forward based on that certainty. Some athletes may have even felt relieved at the prospect of not having to deal with potentially dangerous conditions throughout the day.

    As I imagine the athletes experienced those emotions in that moment, I also expect that they will continue to experience these and other emotions, in the days and weeks ahead. At any given time an athlete working through this might experience more the anger and sadness type emotions than the understanding and acceptance type emotions. Or (and?) vice versa. By experiencing each type of emotion and gaining perspective and comfort, each athlete will move forward.

    Today as I continue to think about what the athletes (and the spectators and families and volunteers) will face to make sense of and come to their own level of peace with this decision, I can’t help but wonder if this old Cherokee legend might help folks get to a point of peace.

    One evening an elderly Cherokee is teaching his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, “...my son, the battle is between two wolves. One is negativity - it is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. He continued, “…the other is good - he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.”

    The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?"

    The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."

    May all of you who were impacted recognize both of the Ironman Lake Tahoe wolves within you. Respect the negative one for the fullness that it brings to your human experience, and then consider the option of letting it forage alone. How might that free you up to care fully for the other wolf?

    And for the record, in my book, each of you was an Ironman yesterday!

     

    ~Olivia

    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!