Archive for recovery

Rock Your Wall!

 

 

I love the analogy of building a wall when it comes to how we should build our fitness, don't you?

In some important ways, our body is a lot like a house...

If you're going to age gracefully and remain durable as you prepare for your races this coming season, you'd be smart to remember that you need to build your own "athletic" foundation, similar to your home's foundation.

Think about it...if you're driving down the road and you see a house that is leaning off to the side with a crumbling foundation, you sure wouldn't want to buy that house, would you?

Even though you and I would desperately LIKE to be able to, we can't build true ironman, marathon, or ultra-running fitness by just saying it, OR by taking it ALL in one bite. Just as Will said, we need to start by laying that brick, one at a time, as perfectly as we can, day after day after day.

If we do it right, soon we'll have that great foundation - one that is stable and straight and strong and that will support OUR "house" in any kind of wind, or more specifically, as the weeks, months, and miles add up!

Which brings me to the main message in today's blog post:

Any smart season-long training plan and progression BEGINS by:

  1. Restoring health and balance and fundamental movement quality, and then...
  2. Establishing a solid foundation that will support all the training that is to come. 

At Pursuit Athletic Performance, we call this first training phase, Restoration and Foundation.

So what's YOUR story?

During this time period, it's about learning as much as you can about your body - it's about self-discovery, from a movement point of view - learning your "story" as an athlete. That might sound a little strange but as a coach, I can't express just how important it is.

Try on some of these questions to get to the heart of who you are as an athlete:

  • Where do you feel tight? Why?
  • Where do you feel weak? Why?
  • Are you routinely fighting some kind of virus? If so, why?
  • Do you struggle frequently with constant nagging pain or injuries? If so, why?
  • Are you a strong, fatigue-resistant swimmer or a weak, slow swimmer? If you're a weaker swimmer, why?
  • Are you a strong cyclist who can climb with ease, or do you struggle to push a larger gear? If you struggle to push that larger gear, why?
  • Are you a strong, durable runner or would you consider yourself injury prone? If you're not durable, then why?
  • When you get tired out on the race course or during long training sessions, do you struggle to maintain efficient form?

Now if your house is about to blow over in the wind, or if that foundation is crumbling and starting to show some cracks...well then, the color of your window shades doesn't matter very much, ya know?

Your body and your fitness are the exact same thing

Get started NOW. Answer the questions and take action, and you'll be on your way to building the biggest, baddest, greatest, fitness "wall" that has ever been built!  It won't happen any other way.

As always, if you have questions, leave a comment of email me directly and let me know. I'm here to help.

To your success!
~Coach Al

 

Rock Your Wall!

 

I hope your Tuesday has started off great!

I sent out an note to our email friends last week that included a reference to a fun Will Smith video. In the email, I shared my SSQ and how important it is to review this past season before moving on to the upcoming season. If you missed that email, here's a link so you can read it in your browser. Check it out - it's VERY cool!

That email got me thinking about something else Will said that I absolutely love, and that is central to my coaching philosophy. One reason I love it so much? It's one of those quotes that isn't just about training, it has as much value for life in general.

I love the analogy of building a wall when it comes to how we should build our fitness, don't you?

Your body is a lot like a house...

It also reminds me of an analogy my partner, Dr. Strecker, refers to when discussing how we need to build our OWN "athletic" foundation. He says,"if you're driving down the road and you see a house that is leaning off to the side with a crumbling foundation, you sure wouldn't want to buy that house, would you? One big gust of wind and the house might blow right over."

Even though you and I would desperately LIKE to be able to, we can't build true ironman, marathon, or ultra-running fitness by just saying it, OR by taking it ALL in one bite. Just as Will said, we need to start by laying that brick, one at a time, as perfectly as we can, day after day after day.

If we do it right, soon we'll have that great foundation - one that is stable and straight and strong and that will support OUR "house" in any kind of wind, or more specifically, as the weeks, months, and miles add up!

Which brings me to the main message in today's email:

Any smart season-long training plan and progression BEGINS by:

  1. Restoring health and balance and fundamental movement quality, and then...
  2. Establishing a solid foundation that will support all the training that is to come. 

At Pursuit Athletic Performance, we call this first training phase, Restoration and Foundation.

So what's YOUR story?

During this time period, it's about learning as much as you can about your body - it's about self-discovery, from a movement point of view - learning your "story" as an athlete. That might sound unattainable, but I can't express just how important it is!

Try on some of these questions to get to the heart of who you are as an athlete:

  • Where are you tight? Why?
  • Where are you weak? Why?
  • Are you often sick? If so, why?
  • Do you struggle frequently with nagging pain or injuries? If so, why?
  • Are you a strong, fatigue-resistant swimmer or a weak, slow swimmer? If you're a weaker swimmer, why?
  • Are you a strong cyclist who can climb with ease, or do you struggle to push a larger gear? If you struggle to push that larger gear, why?
  • Are you a strong, durable runner or are you injury prone? If you're not durable, then why?
  • When you get tired out on the race course or during long training sessions, do you struggle to maintain efficient form?

Now if your house is about to blow over in the wind, or if that foundation is crumbling and starting to show some cracks, the color of your window shades doesn't matter very much, ya know?

Your body and your fitness are the exact same thing

Get started NOW. Answer the questions and take action, and you'll be on your way to building the biggest, baddest, greatest, fitness "wall" that has ever been built!  It won't happen any other way.

(One more thing, if you haven't yet checked out this blog series "Learn How You Move" we did a while back, take a look - it'll be worth your time, trust me).

As always, if you have questions, leave a comment of email me directly and let me know. I'm here to help.

Happy trails!
~Coach Al

PS: If you aren't one of our email friends, you're missing out. We share a lot of awesome discounts and training information, so sign up if you haven't. Click HERE and as a bonus, you'll get instant access to my 5 TIPS for upgrading your off season NOW!

PSS: I almost forgot to mention, I just had two coaching slots open up for working with me one on one. If you're interested in learning more, reply to this email and I'll get you some information and a questionnaire. Rock on!

Should You Take A Break?

 

Shortly after the 2012 London Olympics, there was an article in the Wall Street Journal outlining how some elite marathoners were planning to take an extended complete break from any kind of training after the race. (A complete break...really?). In that article, one of the world's fastest runners, Bernard Lagat, was quoted as believing that "inactivity was one of the reasons for his success." He said he always "takes the time to be lazy."

That doesn't sound like the kind of relentless intensity and focus we would expect from a world class runner, does it?

Does Bernard know something we don't, or is the fact that he is an elite the reason he feels a break is justified?

What is the right approach for the average age-group athlete who has a job and many other demanding responsibilities on top of training?

It depends...

My initial response when an athlete asks me if they should take a break is usually the same: It depends.

Yes, I know that sounds like the classic "side-step," but honestly, there are a lot of factors that each of us need to consider as we decide how to approach this time of year.  We really are all an experiment of one, and the consequences of our choices will have a huge impact on what's to come.

 

Be honest: did you drill yourself into exhaustion or are you truly feeling good?

Recovery and rejuvenation come in many forms and is different for each of us. Stress comes in many forms, too, and depending on our lifestyle, work, and training goals, it can take a huge toll. Some of that stress is good, and some of it isn't so good.

The serious consequences of week-in, week-out, 3 (or 4) sport training for months on end, combined with busy, high stress lifestyles (and too little sleep) is a deep level of fatigue that for many borders on exhaustion, and in some cases, can paradoxically become addictive.

 

Consistency matters...

Even though Bernard Lagat preferred a complete break, I've traditionally believed that for the majority, a simple change from the normal training routine can be a good approach.  At the same time, as I've gotten older I'm reminded that there are few things as important as training consistency, especially as we age.  Like many things training related, there's always many viewpoints.

  • Is a "complete" break from training the best approach for short and long term mental and physical rejuvenation? If so, how "complete" is complete?
  • Could a simpler primarily unstructured approach be best, where we just go "how we feel?"
  • Is it better to turn to other activities that aren't typical for us in order to maintain some "fitness" while getting away from the sports we most often train in?
  • If we take a break, do we risk losing hard-earned fitness gains that will be difficult to regain?

Deciding in which direction to go and discussing these aspects can often generate as many questions as answers! Here are some additional things to consider as you ponder whether a break is the right choice for you...

  1. If all else fails, trust your intuition. If your gut feeling is you "need" that break, you probably do!
  2. If you have been nursing an injury, STOP now and do what is needed to determine the root cause. NOW is the ideal time to resolve injuries once and for all.
  3. The harder and longer your races, the greater the likelihood you'll benefit from some extended recovery and rejuvenation.
  4. The older you are, the smaller the margin of error you may have for taking complete time off.  To put it another way, as we age, we need more than ever to keep moving. Don't "stop" and rest just for the sake of it.
  5. The best "break" may simply be a change in training routine. For example, if you are usually on your tri-bike, put that away and get on your mountain bike or cruiser instead. If you're usually running on the roads, get off road and onto a trail. Ease off on the pace and re-establish your aerobic base at a conversational training intensity. If in doubt, try a relaxing hike, ski, roller-blade, or simply sleep in!
  6. If you're like many and could use to improve skills in some areas, now might be the perfect time. Lower intensity, and technique focused!

Whether YOU need a complete break from structured training or not depends upon you - how healthy and durable you are, what you've done over the recent past, and what your upcoming goals are.

 

Plan for recovery year round...

Planning regular periods for recovery throughout the year is arguably more important, especially as one training phase builds to the next.

Whether you're an elite (like Bernard), a weekend warrior, or a competitive age-grouper, if you've recently established some training consistency and feel mentally energized and motivated, AND you aren't carrying deep fatigue from a long season of racing and training, there is absolutely no reason to stop now simply because of the calender.

Happy trails!
~Coach Al

PS: In a series of future posts, I'm going to lay out my philosophy for how to build fitness progressively in the off season. Stay tuned.

 

 

Do You Ever Ask Yourself These Questions?

 

As a coach, people sometimes think I have all the answers...

I don't.

No one does.

The truth is, in order to be successful, sometimes the athlete needs to look in the mirror and ask themselves some questions...

...so let me ask YOU....have you asked yourself any of these questions?


* What can I do better?

* What "tools" do I need to have in my "toolbox" that I DON'T have right now, in order to have my best chance for success on race day?

* What specific challenges does my "A" priority race-course(s) present to me, that I am not yet ready to meet and conquer?

* Am I being honest with myself about my weaknesses and my strengths, and am I addressing them as honestly as I can?

* Am I taking time each day and each succeeding week, to learn and to master skills, accepting and understanding that until I become more skilled and smarter in my training, my opportunities for improvement will be limited?

* Am I remembering to think long term (vs short term) about my overall growth as an athlete and person, with respect to race planning and day to day training?

Am I relaxing when I need to, tensing when I need to, and prioritizing training as I need to?

* Am I staying in the moment, doing my best in each rep, set, and training session, knowing that this might be the single biggest factor to improving over the long term?

* And....most importantly...am I enjoying this journey as fully as I should be and need to be, in order to truly feel great about myself and the sacrifices I have made, when this season is behind me?


I've given you a lot to think about here. I believe these questions can have a powerful impact on your potential for future success.

As I said, I don't have all the answers. However, I am committed to doing my best to help YOU on your quest toward greatness. Onward!

Happy trails!

~Coach Al

Are You Eating In Harmony With Your Goals?

 

Two triathletes recently contacted me to set up nutrition consultations. Both are staring down at upcoming Ironman distance races and neither is satisfied with their training progress to this point. Feeling frustrated and panicking a little, they reached out and asked for help. I'll refer to them as Tom and Sally. (It's no secret to anyone who knows me that I LOVE helping athletes like Tom and Sally who reach out for help - it is my passion!)

In instances like this, the first thing I ask for is a detailed diet log, to better see how an athlete is eating on a daily basis. (Do you ever wonder whether you could adjust or tweak your eating habits to better support your training?)

As it turned out, I quickly learned they are like you, very serious about their training and their goals.

I also learned that despite them training for what was essentially the same race, they were on complete opposite ends of the spectrum when it came to how they ate.

Sally's daily total caloric intake, despite training 12 or more hours per week (or trying to), was far below what her activity level and training volume demanded, by a wide margin.

What she proudly believed was a "disciplined" approach to eating in order to "get leaner," was actually excessive calorie restriction The end result was chronic exhaustion, constant hunger, and uninspired training. Unfortunately, as is all too common for many athletes like Sally, what she most accomplished was to feel very frustrated!

(I'll admit, I did whisper in her ear that in all likelihood, her body was reacting and performing as though it was being starved. Yep, she sure was shocked and dismayed to hear that!).

On the other hand, Tom was getting enough calories, BUT on an almost daily basis, his diet was littered with simple sugars and junk food. He mistakenly convinced himself that because he was training "like an animal," (his words) he could treat himself a little bit each day.

Tom learned the hard way that his frequent, less than optimal daily choices delivered chronically high insulin levels that led to cravings, energy and mood swings, and more body-fat than he desired. (The key take-away words here are frequent and daily. I don't believe there are any "bad" foods, only bad habits!)

Listen, in the 35 years I've been training, competing, and coaching, I've seen and heard it all, especially as it relates to nutrition.

I always chuckle, shaking my head in amazement (and at times, disgust) as those emails pour into my inbox, boasting of the latest "cutting edge" info on a new nutrition "breakthrough," or a "recently discovered" biohack to a leaner better body, all delivered courtesy of any one of a plethora of internet marketeers (masked as "coaches" and self-proclaimed "experts"). Do you get those kinds of emails, too? You might be smart to delete most of them, I think.

So back to Tom and Sally - with their well intentioned but somewhat "flawed" efforts to improve, what did they learn?

The answer to that question is rooted in a philosophy that can be summarized with these words: BALANCE and MODERATION.

I also told them the same thing I'll say to you now: commit to eating in a way that is in harmony with your goals.

If you're wondering where to start, begin today with the guidelines below.  Remember balance and moderation.

For optimal results and enjoyment, apply them most of the time and especially around key training periods. 

  • Eat a varied and well-balanced diet, containing copius amounts of fruit, veggies, fat (especially those known as "good" fats), and quality protein.
  • Eliminate or minimize processed foods, especially those containing simple junk sugars.
  • Eat an amount that reflects your activity level and training volume (e.g. more calories in the days leading up to big training days, and less on other days).

This simple philosophy will then "set the table" for you to refine and personalize your approach, learning through experimentation and small tweaks.

It isn't about extremes, "biohacking,"or strict adherance to any one particular approach.  It also isn't about a "secret," marketed in a way that hooks you into believing there's an easier way - a magic bullet. There isn't.

It's about sound principles applied daily, combined with smart experimentation and continually dialing it in.

Ok, one more thing, some "food for thought" before I sign off: there is this certain 4-time IRONMAN Age-Group World Champion who is as tough, competitive, and committed as they come, who also happens to love chocolate and red wine!

Reflecting today's message of balance and moderation, I know she would never give up those awesome foods entirely; for her, they add richness and enjoyment to her life and they taste good! However, to her credit she also carefully picks her days to indulge, especially during key training periods, choosing to eat in complete harmony with her goals as an athlete.

Happy Eating!

~Coach Al

ps: Because so many of you have asked, yes.....I'll have more posts in the future on a ton of other nutrition topics, so stay tuned and don't forget to get in touch if I can help.

057: All Things Trail Running with Ethan Veneklasen and Deborah Livingston [Podcast]

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UltraRunnerPodcast co-host, Ethan Veneklasen

UltraRunnerPodcast co-host, Ethan Veneklasen

Deb and Coach Al, at their Cedar Lake Trail Camp and Retreat this past weekend!

Deb and Coach Al, at their Cedar Lake Trail Camp and Retreat this past weekend!

Today I am excited to welcome Ethan Veneklasen and Debbie Livingston to the podcast. Without a doubt, this was one of my favorite podcasts to date!

I had the opportunity to connect with Ethan after this year's Miwok 100k. All three of us were there to race. Miwok is one of those old classic races in the ultra-running world. Held on May 2nd in the Marin Headlands outside of San Francisco, Debbie and Ethan ran a little bit of the course together that day.

Ethan is one of those great guys who seems to know everyone in the ultra-running world! Besides being a co-host of the ever popular ultra runner podcast (over 150k downloads per month!), he's also a Hoka One One and VFuel ambassador.

As for "Deb," anyone who listens to this podcast knows who she is.  Mom and wife, elite ultra-runner, coach, yoga teacher and steward of all things mother-nature and the environment, she was last on the podcast with me when we visited with James Varner and the Trail Running Film Festival back in February.

In June of last year, I did an interview with Debbie for the podcast. It's a fantastic chat where she shares some of her secrets to success, as well as discussing those things (like trail running, ultra-running, caring for the environment, her family) that are most important to her! She's one of the best!

In this podcast, we have a really informative and fun discussion on topics such as:

  • How far the unique sport of ultra-running has come in such a short period of time.
  • Why they feel trail running is special, unique, and so very different from road running.
  • Their "story" and some of the important things that have changed their lives and brought them to this point in time. Ethan has a unique one - you can read more about it here.
  • Miwok 100k: This was Ethan's 2nd try, after a DNF last year. Debbie ended up as 4th woman! What makes this race so amazing and special?!
  • Tips for those who want to get started in the sport. You CAN do it! 🙂
  • And much more!

I'd like both of them for joining me today. I sincerely hope you enjoy the chat and are inspired to get out there and hit the trails! All the best!

~Coach Al 

056: Visiting with Podiatrist Rebecca Rushton [Podcast]

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Rebecca Rushton BSC, author of the Advanced Guide to Blister Prevention

Rebecca Rushton, BSc, author of the Advanced Guide to Blister Prevention

Today I am pleased to welcome podiatrist Rebecca Rushton of Esperance Podiatry in Esperance, Australia, to the podcast. Without a doubt, Rebecca is one of the world's foremost experts on blisters!

Now if you've never struggled with a blister, then the information she has to share might not seem all that important. I believe however, that at some point in the future, each and every runner or endurance athlete will experience a blister, and probably at the worst possible time. What we can all learn from Rebecca could make the difference between a painful struggle to the finish line, or busting a new PR with a smile.

Some of the things we discuss in this podcast:

  • What are the most pervasive myths surrounding blisters? There are plenty!
  • What's the difference between rubbing and shearing and why does it matter?
  • Are certain folks more prone to blisters?
  • What about shoe fit and lacing options?
  • Do lubricants like vaseline or powders work to reduce blister risk, or are you actually making things worse by using them? (Hint: I unfortunately discovered this during my last race, a 50 mile trail race in Florida a little over two weeks ago! Not good). 🙂
  • And much more!

Rebecca has created a terrific FREE online resource called The Advanced Guide to Blister Prevention. If you want one single resource that will be your go-to for all things blisters, this is definitely it.

For more resources from Rebecca on how to take the mystery out of blisters, go to her website.

I'd like to thank Rebecca for joining me today. I sincerely hope this short 25 minute podcast makes a difference for someone out there who, at some point in the future will be able to avoid a blister, rather than struggle with one. Happy Trails everyone!

~Coach Al 

Are Running Drills A Waste of Time?

Keep Calm and Get Your Learn OnHi Everyone. Coach Al here. I often get questions from our team members and others about which running drills are best for improving form as well as "fixing" running gait issues. Today I decided to share one of those questions and my response to it.

Now I'm sure the title of this blog post caught your eye, right? On the topic of running drills, are they really a waste of time?  Keep reading to learn more. Here's the question I received:

"I saw my functional movement guru recently; he was really impressed with all my hard work and how well I've progressed since he saw me last. Gave a thumbs up to all the exercises and the return to running program as well, and made one small suggestion that made a lot of sense to me, so I wanted to run it by you guys. He asked if I was doing any running drills...and I replied, no, not really. He related it to my swimming- how I've taken such a big chunk of my swim time to retrain my movement patterns with my swim, and since I am returning to running, yes I am strengthening weaknesses, but he felt quite strongly I should be incorporating more drills to unlearn poor movement patterns. Retrain my brain so to speak. And this made total sense to me- I know I have been doing exercises that strengthen the muscles I should be using when I run, but the brain also plays a large part in how we move too, and I thought the drills suggestion was awesome. BUT- I have no run coach, and not sure where to go from here. Can you help?"

These are really good questions and I'm sure, many of you have heard this kind of recommendation before. So here's my response....


First, you ARE already doing "drills" with the exercises you are practicing and progressing (such as the basic glute-bridge and others), you just may not be "thinking" of those movements as running drills.

Most people don't think of a basic bridge (and the variations including one-leg versions) as a running drill. But it is. It's a hip extension pattern that mimics what happens when you run. Done correctly and progressively, the movement strengthens the body to run stronger, better, and faster. Isn't that what a drill is supposed to do?

My point in presenting the bridge as a "running drill" is this: Traditional running drills are highly dynamic. Bounding or A-Skip/B-Skip - these are movements that are very challenging to do well. If the foundation (and the basic skills designed to build that foundation) aren't solid and well established, especially combined with a lack of the required strength to absorb the loads inherent in running (resulting in loads equaling 3 to 4x our body weight from the affect of gravity and ground reaction, and up to 1500 or so foot strikes in every mile), then no amount of even more complex or "traditional" drill work is going to FIX the lack of a strong foundation or the lack of those basic foundational skills.

Start at the beginning, and master that beginning before moving on to something more complex. After all, if you were a math student, wouldn't you expect to learn basic math and algebra efore moving on to calculus?


Two Popular "Schools of Running": What's The Deal?

Some run coaches and other supposed "experts" (including those runners who consider themselves to be the experts) often suggest to others, who may not have learned how to extend their hips with their butts correctly (as with the basic bridge), or learned how to stabilize their core, or even perform a perfect 1-leg squat for that matter, to do complex drills like A-Skip, or B-Skip, or some other "typical" running drill.

Chi Running and The Pose Method represent two "schools" of running form that also offer lots of drills, designed to "teach" the body how to run efficiently and effectively.

Are the drills sometimes fun to do and learn?* Yes. Do they "teach" you how to run well? By well, I mean, with appropriate stability, balance, coordination, applying powerful forces into the ground efficiently and effectively.

The answer is a resounding NO.

The reason is simple: the drills, just like running, are made up of very complex movement patterns involving LOTS of moving parts and our entire nervous system.

Something we frequently discuss with athletes here in our Pursuit Athletic Performance Fast Lab  relates to this very point, which is conscious control of running. What do I mean?

Let's start with a question that is worth considering honestly: Can you consciously control what your entire body is doing when you are running? Other than basic posture, arm carriage (which would change as soon as you stopped thinking about it), stride rate to some degree, and where you're looking, the answer is NO, you can not.

Core stability, hip and ankle mobility, foot mechanics, ground contact time, over striding, etc., are ALL things which largely HAPPEN FROM THE INSIDE OUT, NOT THE OUTSIDE IN!

The take home here is clear: drills can be learned, yes. But will they change what happens on the INSIDE?

No, as a general rule, they do not.

Now is a good time to pause and for me to make something very clear: I am NOT saying all running drills are bad or that there isn't an appropriate time and place for them - what I am saying is this:

MOST runners who do drills are NOT ready for them, and because of that, they will serve no meaningful purpose, nor will learning them result in meaningful changes to either injury resistance OR speed potential. 

Most running drills DON'T help you "un-learn poor movement patterns" at all, they usually do the reverse! They take "poor" (meaning compensated) patterns and often make them worse.

When you MASTER the basics first, then you may be ready to move on to a host of different "drills" which really challenge the nervous system and improve some aspect of running (I do think the jury is out on this however). The point is, certain drills, if they are going to be beneficial, will only be when learned and worked on in the presence of mastery of the fundamentals, and basics, first.


Swimming and Running: How Are They Different?

Your trainer's comparison between running and swimming is really common, but it's dead wrong.

The two "movements" are very different beyond the obvious factors (being horizontal in the water vs. vertical on land), and thus are learned very differently. As such, the role of drills is very different for each sport. Here's what I mean:

  • Regardless of intensity, swimming and running happen at very different speeds. For example, on average most triathletes take 18 to 20 strokes when swimming freestyle for 25 yds. That's 18 to 20 individual strokes over the course of an average of 20 to 30 seconds. In that same 20 to 30 second time period, the runner has taken 80 to 100 strides. That's a BIG difference in terms of the amount of time and focus you can give to controlling and executing the basic movement pattern. Swimming can be consciously controlled to a MUCH GREATER degree than can running, because it is happening much more slowly. It is less dynamic in terms of time and speed of the movements.
  • While we know swimming freestyle is "complex" (reach, catch, pull, kicking, etc), the truth is that when comparing the "complexity" of the run gait cycle to the freestyle stroke, running is more complex. For example, you could really lie on your stomach in the pool, put one arm out in front of you and keep one arm at your side, and just paddle like you were on a surfboard. And while your entire trunk is involved, your lower body could truly just be stationary and not doing much. It is, in effect, the motion of your arm and back that is largely responsible for swimming freestyle. In contrast, running involves virtually every single soft tissue in your body - its truly holistic and total body! And when you add in the forces acting on our body such as gravity and ground reaction forces, the movement becomes extraordinarily complex, immediately! And there's no way to "slow it down" or make it less complex, unless you do what I alluded to earlier - lie on your back and work on that 1 leg bridge or stand and groove a perfect 1-leg squat.

In summary, because of this complexity difference and the speed of the movements, there's no comparison between the "thoughtful" drills you do in the pool to improve technique and skill, and the run gait cycle. And as such, how we learn and improve upon our skills must be approached differently.

(*If you'd like to learn more about the connection between core stability and swimming, go to our podcast on the topic).


What Determines Your Path: Is it boredom or a need to be entertained while you train? OR is it a genuine pursuit of personal and athletic excellence? 

Now at this point you may be asking...."ok, well I've mastered the basics - shouldn't I be ready to tackle A-Skip or B-Skip?"

My response to that is to say this: As I look back, rarely have I ever coached or seen a runner in a clinic or worked with someone in our Pursuit Training Center who had mastered the basics well enough for me to say, "you are not only ready for the most complex drills, but because you're ready, you'll get a ton out of them!" That just hasn't happened very often. Does it happen occasionally? Yes, but not very often.

The reverse however, happens a lot. What is that? A runner who continues to struggle OWNING basic static stability or low level dynamic stability, and who hasn't yet developed powerful glutes and hamstrings to explode their hip extension..."wanting" to learn a new "cool" drill that they THINK, will take the place of good old, patient and persistent hard work.

That is what it comes down to, I think.

Building strength and stability is sometimes boring, and it is very hard work. Drills, on the other hand, are more fun and seem to be more beneficial because of the complex nature of them. And in that lies fools gold, in my opinion.

What's more, our subconscious mind hates for us to engage in "practice," and in mastering the basics! Why? Because there is no "guaranteed" positive outcome. So, we need to be smarter than our subconscious mind and understand that to be the best we can be, we need to:

MASTER THE BASICS and FUNDAMENTALS first.

Own them. Completely and totally.

When you become super stable and strong and keep improving those elements, and then start training FASTER with the strength you've developed (and keep returning to the basics to ensure you OWN them completely), trust me, you won't be asking what drills you ought to do to get faster and better - IT WILL BE HAPPENING AUTOMATICALLY!

All of the above form the philosophy of training that drives our company and team Pursuit, and of course how I have personally trained as a runner and triathlete:

No one, not even those will great talent, will be successful over the long term, if they attempt to put higher fitness or higher level skills, ON TOP of a basic compensational or dysfunctional movement pattern (or a lack of basic functional balanced strength and length).

So, back to the title of this blog post, no, I don't believe all drills are a waste of time at all. Explosive drill work, just like running form technique work, does have its place!

That place, however, isn't at the beginning nor is it for the great majority of developing runners or triathletes. These things are FROSTING ON THE CAKE.

The thing is, before you apply the FROSTING, you HAVE TO BAKE THE CAKE!

Happy Trails!

~Coach Al 

Musings From Coach Al: Are You Ready?

"If people can make permanent decisions in their life regarding their choice of mate, religion, or political party, then they are equally capable of making permanent decisions regarding their food choices, fitness commitments, and goals. (The human species is not biologically weakwilled, though you'd never know it if you observed typical human behavior.) Making sweeping, definitive, all-encompassing, and enduring commitments is an incredibly powerful and liberating experience, both in the making and the living up to them." --  Chris Kostman, Race Director of the Badwater Ultramarathon


Today I received an email from an athlete I coach, with a hyperlink to a blog post from another coach.

The post resonated with me because I could really relate to what the author, Coach Taylor, was ranting about.

Many of you remember the podcast I did with Coach Pat Flynn, on the challenge inherent in being a "truth-telling" coach and teacher.

Perhaps you remember my blog post from Ironman Hawaii in 2012 on truth and honesty.

Well, here's another piece on the topic that I believe is worth a few minutes of your time to read.

Blog image

 

But only if you want results.

And are willing to look in the mirror and hear the truth.

And aren't easily offended.

Are you ready??

~Coach Al 

 

Musings From Coach Al: What It Really Takes To Be Successful

"What a pity that so many people would rather believe their doubts and doubt their beliefts. Why don't we just decide to have no doubts, and believe our beliefs! Fear and worry are just the misuse of the creative powers we originally got to dream." --  Jannie Putter

There is more in us than we know. If we can be made to see it, perhaps, for the rest of our lives, we will be unwilling to settle for less. -- Kurt Hahn


Every day I speak with athletes who are hoping to up their game to a new higher level.  They want more speed, more strength, less injury, and faster finish times. Every so often an athlete will walk into our Pursuit Training Center looking for a quick fix for a chronic injury, or the secrets to getting faster. For those who are willing to learn and work hard, they have found a home to build their "best" possible self. For others who don't find the quick fix, we often never see them again. At least for the moment, they lack what it takes to truly reach their potential.

In this society in which we now live, it seems that everywhere we look around us, we are encouraged to look for that quick fix, "instant" cure, or some kind of special secret to success. Take a pill, walk into the right gym, or meet the right person, and all of a sudden your life is better and you're faster and stronger, right?

Wrong. It doesn't work that way, not now and not ever, despite what you read or who you believe.

The great Jim Rohn once said: "Success is the predictable result of doing the right things, in the right way, at the right time."

John Gardner once said: "Excellence is doing ordinary things, extraordinarily well."

Athletes who are able to achieve long-term success and who reach their ultimate potential aren't born that way, in the same way that most people who are rich didn't just stumble upon a large plastic bag filled with hundred dollar bills.

Long term success happens to those who embrace the idea that it is a growth process that requires focus, determination, hard work, a little humility, and perhaps most of all, a willingness to do the things you often least want to do.

Emphasis ought to be placed on the humility and willingness to do the things you don't want to, as in my experience, they very often have a greater impact on long term success than many other factors. Humility means accepting you don't know-it-all and are willing to listen, hear the truth, and commit to life-long learning. It also means seeing supposed "failures" as not failures at all, but rather, as one more stepping stone that moves you closer to success - and to your ultimate potential.

Here at Pursuit Athletic Performance, we preach fanatically about the importance of doing things in the right way, as Jim Rohn said. My partner Doc Strecker is often heard saying that you can do virtually any exercise 95% correctly and get very little benefit from it.  To get the full benefit of any endeavor, exercise, or training progression, there's one best way - the right way.

Are you doing the right things, in the right way, at the right time, in your own training?

Are you doing the ordinary things, extraordinarily well?

There's no substitute for hard work and determination, that is true. It is equally true that there's is also no substitute for doing the right things, in the right way, at the right time.

  • Skill building: start immediately learning and building proper skills and mechanics, all of which will ultimately set the limit for how far you can raise your fitness level.
  • Fundamentals first: address foundational and fundamental movement quality elements first, before moving on to more advanced fitness oriented exercises and activities.
  • Get out of that injury cycle: fix that chronic injury once and for all so you can get out of constant pain and into a state of growth. (If you're frustrated and not sure WHAT to do, then contact me and I'll help you get the results you desire!)
  • Team building: who will help you achieve your ultimate potential? No one does it alone. Build a support team of family, friends, coaches, and training partners, who are healthy, like-minded, patient, life-long learners.
  • As hard as it is sometimes, be willing to take a good look in the mirror: Is it easy? No. Is it worth it? YES. The truth WILL set you free. It is only with honest and objective feedback of where you are, right now, can you truly move forward in a positive way toward meaningful lasting success and happiness.

Our future success and happiness isn't dictated or limited by our DNA, our parents, where we grew up, or who we know.

Far greater achievement, statisfaction, and fullfillment are available to each and every one of us, regardless of our background, talent level, or gender.

Start with the above quotes and live by them on a daily basis, and you'll be well on your way to making 2015 your best year ever!

~Coach Al