Visit to Pursuit Athletic Performance Gait Lab: Your Ticket to Faster Running

Yesterday Lis and I visited Coach Al Lyman and Kurt Strecker’s Gait Lab in Old Saybrook, CT. Al has coached Lis to both of her Kona wins and made her a faster runner than ever in her mid 40s. Kurt is also a triathlete and Chiro. Between the two of them you have an incredible wealth of knowledge that was not just derived from some quick certification course. Both are students of the human body and athletic performance optimization. For Al much of this was driven, as it has been for me, through a desire to improve as an athlete over many years of competition. Al’s palmares include more than 20 marathons (2:39 best) and 9 Ironmans. In a world full of “coaches” whose qualifications include a few years of racing and a few certification courses, Al stands head and shoulders above the crowd.

This wealth of experience and insight finds an excellent home in the PAP gait lab. Not only will you find out EXACTLY what your deficiencies are, WHY you have injuries, and WHY your performance is sub-par, you will leave with an education and understanding that will give you a new path forward in sport.

For our friend Becky who visited from Alaska, and who had been to ALL of the “big names” in an attempt to fix her chronic training-related pain issues, a visit to PAP fixed her issues once and for all. And she knew exactly WHY and WHAT was going on. Of course, her visit to TTBikeFit and time on the TTFitBike also helped – as she wound up with a new off-the-shelf bike to replace her “custom” disaster.

For Lis and I, we quickly learned why we are both good relatively strong cyclists but relatively weak runners. And I do mean WEAK. The process starts with a table exam by Dr. Strecker, followed by a movement screen by Al. At the end of these two assessments, they already know what you will look like on the treadmill. But you get on the treadmill anyway, and high speed video is captured from 3 angles for analysis is Medical Motion software.

Then, the journey begins. Al and Kurt will fill your brain with a torrent of valuable information as to what specifically you need to do to improve YOUR personal deficiencies. This is no cookie-cutter program. From here on out you will be given tailored exercises and workouts to FIX yourself. Even for Lis, as the fastest over-40 age grouper ever in Kona, she has a lot she can improve on – which is scary for anyone competing with her. For me, my running form is actually pretty good. I sure have studied it enough. It is good for a few minutes on a treadmill – but check back 60 minutes into a hard run – not pretty.

Both of us have to start with some very basic improvements to our movement skills and strength balance. And I do mean BASIC. The stuff we need to work on is far removed from running. We’ll get to that point one day, but it will be a long path. So this stuff is nearly impossible to work on during the season – now is the time.

One of the many things you will quickly realize is that it is a complete waste of time to try to change your foot strike or cadence or knee drive, your running “technique”, from the ground up. If your foundation is crumbling, it doesn’t matter how pretty the structure on top is. It won’t hold up under stress – e.g., the latter portion of an IM run. You will likely learn that there are some fundamental weaknesses that don’t even hold up in slow floor exercises in the lab – so how on earth can they hold up through 4 hours of dynamic running after 5+ hours of biking?

Some of you may have seen my analyses of running form in Kona pros last year. Well guess what? It is relatively easy to see WHAT is wrong, WHAT Chris Lieto is not doing and Crowie is. But you can’t see WHY. AL and Kurt will tell you, and tell you WHAT needs to be done. Don’t expect it to be easy, and don’t expect it to involve lots of running miles. You will have to earn that. And only a sound foundation will provide the platform to move forward. I would guess that very few triathletes, especially amateurs but certainly not exclusively, have sound strength and movement skill foundations. The very nature of our training, especially long course, works daily to tear them apart. Why did Macca look great running down Palani – why could he easily pull away from Raelert? Well I can tell you it was NOT BECAUSE he was running with a certain technique. His technique was a RESULT of his solid foundation which resulted in an incredible performance.

You may be thinking here that if you follow someone’s video or online program for “strengthening”, you are good. Maybe but unlikely. The fact is that most people do most “strength” exercises WRONG. Very subtle differences in muscle activation order can make huge differences in outcome. I thought I was pretty good at performing a simple bridge. Turns out I have been using the wrong muscles. The human body gets the job done in whatever way it can – doesn’t mean it is the right way.

So in visiting Al and Kurt, you will find out exactly WHY you have injuries, or break down during the run, etc. And, you will find out WHAT to do about it. It’s like learning to walk all over again. Once you have that relearned, then you can run. We’ll see how Lis and I progress this winter. I know my running has become worse with long course training. I now know why, and am optimistic I can return to my former speeds, and make it through long course without my 200 lbs pounding me into submission. As for Lis, she could get silly fast. Time will tell. In the mean time, I urge you to visit Pursuit Althletic Performance, stop wasting your time jackhammering your foundation, and start on a new path forward towards injury-free speed.