Archive for run – Page 2

Brick Runs in Triathlon Training: Critical to Success or a Waste of Time?

Coach Al Lyman, Pursuit Athletic Performance, Discusses Brick Run in Triathlon Training

Coach Al Lyman, CSCS, FMS, HKC

Recently, there has been debate in triathlon circles about the benefit of brick runs. A new school of thought has swept in claiming that running off the bike in training serves no purpose and is of little use. After years of thought on this topic as a coach, and much personal experimentation as an athlete and movement specialist here in our gait analysis lab, here is my perspective on the debate.

In brief, I believe brick runs have great value, but not necessarily for the reasons most people think. In my opinion, the issue of running off the bike should not be presented as a training dilemma or time-saving problem to be solved. Brick runs, in fact, present the opportunity to solve a very important physical MOVEMENT issue for triathletes.

What I know from my work in our gait analysis lab, and confirmed from my own experience, is that it is VERY challenging to get the posterior chain--the glutes, in particular--working properly to be able to run well after cycling. I have personally spent a lot of time practicing and experimenting with ways to trigger better glute activation and involvement before a brick run. I have worked on correct hip flexor stretching, and various dynamic stretching of the entire anterior hip region in order to better activate the posterior chain. I can tell you with certainty that it is very difficult to get the back side of our body going after being on a bike for any length of time. And, to be clear, to run to your potential, your posterior chain--including the glutes--has to not only be firing, but must be strong.

But why do the glutes stubbornly refuse to activate off the bike? It is due to a real physiologic phenomenon known as reciprocal inhibition. Reciprocal inhibition causes the muscles on one side of a joint to relax to accommodate contraction on the other side of that joint. The posture of cycling involves sustained hip flexion, making the hip flexors short and tight. Reciprocal inhibition then causes the hip extensors, especially the gluteus maximus, to shut down markedly. As we discuss further, you will see how brick runs work effectively to counter this phenomenon.

The discoveries I have made in my own training, as well as what I see in the athletes I coach, prove to me that the following elements are absolutely crucial to one's ability to optimize the run portion of a triathlon:

  • You must first understand how important the glutes are in running. And its NOT enough that your glutes are strong (although they MUST be STRONG), they must also be able to act as the PRIMARY extendor of the hip, which is their role. Sometimes the hamstring or low back, due to compensation, tries to over take the role of the glute. First order of business for you is to eliminate compensation wherever possible so that the glutes are doing their job, and then via a platform of functional strength training, get them strong.
  • You must understand that the glutes work to create hip extension when running to power you down the road. When coming off the bike, the glutes are not doing that job well at all due to reciprocal inhibition. The longer the ride, the greater the inhibition. Therefore...
  • It is imperative to PRACTICE running off the bike frequently to develop a precise, in-tune FEEL of what it takes to get the glutes working effectively. How can you do that?

? Engage in kinesthetic and proprioceptive awareness when you run. Make thoughtful yet subtle adjustments in run posture, especially early on in the run, and periodically throughout the run. Lead with the hips, not the torso; shoulders down/elbows back; stand tall and lengthen your spine are just some of the cues to use.

? Employ a higher stride rate (at least 90 to 95 stride cycles per minute) and a "shorter" stride to allow for the awareness articulated above and to reduce ground impact forces.

? In your training, every few times you do a brick run, take a few minutes before going out on the run, to moderately and smartly stretch the flexors of the hip. This should be done correctly, from a neutral pelvic position, and done dynamically and with control. Own this movement pattern before running.

? Begin your run out of T2 very conservatively. Allow a few minutes for the body to "find" its correct running form naturally. You want your running to be AUTHENTIC, which is to say driven primarily by the glutes. If you start running too intensely or too fast, it is less likely the run will be glute driven--and the risk of poor performance and injury increase.

? Practice brick runs frequently, BUT combine the running with the proper awareness we discussed. If you do that, the authentic run groove can be established more easily and more quickly.

For the record, I am not saying that frequent brick runs, in and of themselves, fix the inherent problem we are discussing here. If your butt is weak and asleep, then no amount of bricks can change that, and in fact, will only groove poor movement and inefficient running. Running off the bike alone cannot and will not make you a stronger and faster triathlete.

What I am saying is that as a triathlete, you must first understand how crucial an issue this is. The inherent challenges that exist when going from cycling to running ARE NOT about the training effect of bike to run, but are about quality MOVEMENT. Your glutes must be strong, and they must fire in order for you to run well. If you do the work and strengthen the posterior chain, then the last piece of the puzzle is using the brick run often and effectively to groove the transition from strong powerful cycling to strong, powerful fatigue-resistant, injury-resistant running.

In the end, brick runs help you address a MOVEMENT ISSUE crucial to your triathlon success. It is not a "training" issue. And it is a real mistake to view brick runs as unnecessary or expendable,

It is clear to me that coaches who diminish the importance of brick runs simply do not understand physical movement, where true running speed really comes from, the importance of the glutes, and the real impact of reciprocal inhibition. Frequent brick runs, built upon authentic movement and gluteal strength, will lead to better, more efficient, more powerful, more skilled running off the bike.

I believe it is something every triathlete benefits from when approached in the correct way, and with clear intent.

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.

The Results Are Amazing! A Wonderful Testimonial

We were delighted to receive this testimonial from one of our rock star clients, Steve Arendt. Steve came to us with a litany of injuries, and a spiraling downward trajectory in terms of running performance and training consistency. Instead of continuing to try and cram fitness on top of injury and dysfunction, he put his head down, did the work to get strong, stable, balanced and mobile. He is now seeing the benefit of his dedication, and it's just the beginning of an athlete unleashed!

Thanks, Steve! We know there are great things in store for your training and racing!

From Steve:

I'm a runner and triathlete -- I love the lifestyle and the feeling of being strong and fast. About two years ago I started on a downward spiral of running injuries: SI joint, piriformis, calves, and Achilles tendons. I grew to fear running -- even when I took time off, it seemed like yet another injury would crop up as soon as I started running again. It was ruining my races because I couldn't train with consistency. I tried all the usual things: massage, compression, stretching, icing, but the injuries just kept coming. I knew something bigger was wrong, but I didn't know what.

So I flew out to Al and Kurt for a gait analysis. What a revelation! The Functional Movement Screen was eye-opening -- I couldn't believe how weak I was in some areas. I've been following Al and Kurt's program for about 3 months now, and the results are amazing. I've been able to restart running and am slowly building back up (without injury). Running feels completely different now -- I used to feel like I was plodding, but now I feel like I'm gliding along, light and easy. And my pace is about 30 to 45 seconds per mile faster with the same effort. The program is a lot of work, but its worth it.

Most importantly, with Al and Kurt's explanations, I understand what I am trying to accomplish, so I know what to focus on. No more random exercises that might help or hurt the problem. And since I know what I'm trying to do, I can feel when I start losing form due to fatigue or lack of focus, and I can correct it.

Oh yeah, the swim. I went to Al and Kurt for help with running, but their program had an immediate effect on my swimming. I gained a nice bump in speed just from the improved core stability and strength. That was an unexpected, but very welcome, benefit.

I'm VERY excited for the coming race season, when I can try out my new run on the competition!

Want to Run Faster? Here’s What It Takes–Part One

First post in a two-part series. Part Two can be read here.

We have an interesting two-part case study involving one of our athletes, Tom. We chose him because Pursuit Athletic Performance Hot Topicwe bet his story will resonate with many of you. Tom is a triathlete stuck in a performance plateau (on his best days), but is more often dealing with recurring injuries caused by running. We thought it would be interesting and informative to break down what is going on with Tom, and explain what it takes to get an athlete back to training and racing at full potential. What may surprise you, however, is how our process not only involves strengthening Tom's body to prevent injuries and make him faster, but also includes the challenge of changing his mind.

In general, Tom has been struggling for a number of years with the triathlon run. He's a great cyclist who never comes close to hitting his potential once he gets off the bike. How many times have you heard a triathlete say, "I had a great bike, but a bad run"? We hear that lament all the time in our Gait Analysis Lab. That is not an acceptable scenario from our point of view, and it is one that triathletes all too readily accept as "normal."

So what exactly is the reason for the prevalence of the "good-bike-bad-run"? Tom is a great example of the physical issues that hinder a high-performance run. Quite simply, he is not balanced. Like many of you, Tom is a quad-dominant athlete with extremely tight quadricep muscles, hip flexors, and hip rotators. His glutes are weak and ineffective, almost like a light with the dimmer turned way down. The light is "on," but its not providing much help! This imbalance is THE primary reason for his struggle on the run. The fact is, if you are not balanced in terms of muscle length, strength, stability and mobility, it sets off a chain of dysfunction and compensation that absolutely hurts your performance. Until Tom develops better balance and hip mobility, and gets his butt working as it should, there is little to no hope for better running, especially off the bike. Balance and mobility MUST be restored first.

During our work together, we have had many discussions with Tom about what will and will not turn his running around. As we addressed his issues from a strength and length/balance perspective, he continued to search for other answers--first by experimenting with changes in different brands and types of running shoes, and then by making some conscious changes to his running form. Unfortunately, folks, the answer to better running DOES NOT come from what you can impose on yourself from the outside, like an attempted change in technique, or a different type of shoe. Improvement in running that ENDURES, and will be there for you during the late stages of your triathlon run, is entirely dependent on what you build on the INSIDE.

In our next post we will examine in-depth what works and what doesn't in building a powerful, enduring, and faster runner.


Want to Run Faster? Here’s What It Really Takes–Part Two

Second in a two-part series.

In our first post we dug into why our client Tom was stuck in a performance plateau and often injured. We explained in what ways he was physically weak and unbalanced, and what changes he needed to make in those areas.

Today, we'll examine how Tom long searched for answers to his running woes by trying various form and technique , and why that will never work for him--or for you. Here's what it really takes.

While searching for answers to his running woes, Tom became convinced that working on a technique called the "paw back" would have a positive effect in his running stride. A few so-called running experts define the "paw back" as the precise moment in time when the leg moves backwards directly under the hip. The claim is that by applying deliberate and conscious force to the ground and in a backward direction you can improve your form, cadence, and thus be able to run faster. But there is one major problem....

While the leg obviously is moving backward when it comes down and makes contact with the ground, there is no such thing as a conscious "paw back." It doesn't exist in that way. It's a fallacy and total b.s. Working only on technique will will never improve Tom's, or your, running.

Let's look at the running stride holistically. The stride is really a series of complex Pursuit Athletic Performance Hot Topicmovement patterns, almost like poetry in motion. You watch a child run, you don't break it down into specific isolated phases, thinking, "there is the paw back. There is the knee drive. There is the leg swing, and now the mid stance." No, it's a stride--a holistic series of movement patterns that involve the entire body. When Tom tries to deliberately "paw back," he creates a complete disconnect and disturbs the symmetry and balance inherent in a great stride. This disconnect is the notion that a runner can make the active portion of the run stride a CONSCIOUS activity. Tom told us, "I actively drive my leg into the ground, then I drive my body up, and can now stride faster and run 'correctly'."

What really happens is this: When running, you simply cannot consciously drive your leg into ground for more than a few strides. Remember, running is 1400-1500 strides in a mile. There is NO POSSIBLE WAY you can consciously control what you're doing 1400 times per mile. But many runners want to believe they can. Sorry, but you can't WILL your body into changing complex holistic total body movement patterns-- and that's what running is!

So where does strong, fast running come from? The inside. It comes from the right kind of hip extension generated solely from strong powerful butt muscles, and the strong muscles around the hips-- hips that are mobile and balanced. It comes from an all-important neutral pelvis which facilitates the application of force. That force is generated from the glutes. The stronger the butt, the greater the impact force when the leg hits the ground, the shorter your "ground contact time" as a result, and the farther you go with each stride. It's that simple, folks, and NONE of it is conscious. The stronger your butt is, the more balanced your hips are, the more neutral your pelvis is, the greater the application of force--the faster you run.

Ask the best Kenyan runners if they are actively applying force to the ground, or consciously employing a "paw back" with every stride. How do you think they will respond? After they look at you as if you're from Mars, I bet their simple answer would be, "I am just running. I am not thinking about it, I am just doing."

What we see in the formidable stride and speed of a healthy elite runner is the physical manifestation of the balance, strength, and mobility they have on the INSIDE. (And, no doubt, great genetic gifts.) The great runners work from this center of balance to run incredibly fast--not from a conscious effort of trying to impose form or technique on the body. Most runners don't get this. And if this is a new concept for you, a paradigm shift in your thinking would be a powerful change you can make to better your run performance.

So here's our message to Tom, and to all of you who think that by thinking first of simply working on form and technique ONLY, you can improve your running. You can't. It's a myth. It's the exact opposite of what needs to happen. Form and technique work is vital, and we certainly work on it with our runner athletes. BUT, it's the frosting on the cake, its not THE cake itself. The finer points complete a running transformation to a new, more injury resistant powerful stride. What you have to do FIRST and foremost, is build a body that works like that of the greatest runners. You absolutely can do it. Get balanced FIRST. Get neutral FIRST. Get functionally strong FIRST. Keep progressing your strength work--THEN go run. And amazing thing will happen--your training will produce the results you are seeking. You will get faster, often with much less "work" than you imagined. Its a great feeling. And there's no shortcut to getting it. Cake first, frosting later.

We happily report that Tom was able to make this shift in his thinking, and is reaping the rewards. He continues to do the work required to build the foundation he sorely needs. It's tough for athletes to let go of long-standing misinformation and correct erroneous practices. But to watch Tom run "unconsciously," and from a place of true physical power and speed is extremely gratifying for us. The same can be true for you too--if you learn what it means, and do what it takes to get strong and fast.