Marathon, Anyone?

The marathon is an event shrouded in mystery, yet remains the centerpiece of human running achievement. It’s legendary history (the Greek messenger Pheidippides – after running a non-stop 42km from the battlefield at Marathon to Athens – announces the defeat of the Persians before subsequently collapsing and dying) has only perpetuated its mythical stature. It is a challenge that nips at the ambition of every runner.

There are countless books, articles and opinions regarding “marathon preparation.” Because of the distance covered (26.2 miles/42.195km), there is a general acceptance that marathon planning is integral to survival. The key to your marathon plan rests in the understanding that training is a delicate balance between stimulation and adaptation. Stimulus must come from endurance, speed, strength, technique and psychology. The adaptive process allows you to become a better runner, without the compensatory problems most marathoners endure. Injury is essentially a “protective overreaction” to too much training. Each of you will need to decide the proper mix of volume and intensity – it’s an individual thing. At the core, it’s your responsibility and obligation to do what is needed, not what you want, that will determine your success. By improving technique (to better understand your body), increasing your speed (at various complimentary distances), developing strength (to eliminate your weakest links), recovering thoroughly (between intervals and workouts) and focusing your mental energy (clear thoughts), each of you can make the marathon a less daunting accomplishment.

The Power of Pose, part 2

About three hours after my clinic in Downingtown on Saturday (31 kids, ages 7-16), I got a call from the owner of the dojo where the clinic was held. Sensei Ben was ecstatic on the phone. He was explaining how his 7 year-old daughter, Liza, who had just run a surprisingly beautiful sprint in her final videotaping, was now elucidating to his wife (her mother) how you’re “supposed” to run. “Now, mommy, no it’s about gravity and you’ve got to fall, then run and make your fours. The figure fours, mommy!” Sensei was in disbelief, having just witnessed his daughter, proverbially playing-with-inchworms, while, outside, I was trying to instruct the students on proper running mechanics. This is what made it so amazing – not only had she ended with the best run of her day, but she had (literally) absorbed the underlying principles of movement and now was trying to show them to someone else.

Humans are designed to move, specifically run long distances. We could go into all of the anthropological and evolutionary reasons behind movement and bipedalism, but suffice it to say, we have a primordial urge to go somewhere on our own two feet. Learning how to do that is a very uplifting feeling. Movement is freedom. And I guess at the end of the day, Liza felt empowered by that freedom, that deep, deep thing that connects us to our earth, our universe.


As you strive to upgrade performance, much value is placed on the texture of your training regime: “what should I be doing in my workout” and “how much of this or that do I need to do?” A look at the current trend in sports-performance training yields an emphasis on developing power and explosiveness. Coaches and athletes alike, have sought the most cutting-edge science to help develop these components.

Most of you are familiar with the term “plyometrics” (Latin for measurable differences): exercise techniques that cause muscles to stretch rapidly and contract explosively. Hopping, skipping, and jumping are all examples of activities which, when performed properly, can help improve your performance. Although the term “plyometrics” came into vogue in the early 60s with the research of Russian scientist Yuri Verkhoshansky (and later with American track coach Fred Wilt), there is reportable evidence that even the Ancient Greeks understood the significance of speed-strength for their athletes. Says Greek philosopher Lucian, “we train [our young runners] to jump over ditches…or any other obstacle.”

Essentially, it’s the stored energy in your muscle-tendon complex that serves to enhance the reactive forces during muscle contraction. This stored energy, or elasticity, is transferred via our interaction with bodyweight support. To utilize this elasticity most effectively, the time on support must be short. The vertical velocity of your General Center of Mass (hips) must increase rapidly during the transition from loading to release time. In more technical terminology, Verkhoshanky describes plyometrics as “exert[ing] a positive influence on the effectiveness of central-nervous control of explosive muscle strength. Explosive muscle strength is bettered as a result of faster mobilization of motor units, higher frequency of thelr impulsation and greater synchronization in the work of motor neurons at the start of explosive effort.”

Simply stated, train fast, play fast. Just playing your sport will not help you develop top speed and power no matter how many times a week you practice. Speed and power are developed through very specific training. Basic exercises like jumping rope will help develop the spring you need. Otherwise, before entering into a plyometric program you should prepare yourself with less intense drills before progressing to higher amplitude jumping, like depth jumps or triple jumps.

Psyche Job

In “The Myth of Positive Thinking” (Liberty Sports Magazine, June/July 2010), Dr. Mitchell Greene challenges the oft-used strategy of getting “athletes to be more positive and to rid themselves of negative thoughts.”  Dr. Greene, sport psychology consultant to The Philadelphia Triathlon and SheRox Triathlon series, contends that any attempts to “be more optimistic and confident” can have the opposite effect by “unnerving” the athlete. Instead of trying to control our negative thoughts, we’d be better served acknowledging our self-doubt and lowering their impactfulness.

Many psychologists, coaches, and even the athletes themselves, have attempted to solve this interplay of  the mind and performance. Why are we anxious before races, suffer after a poor outing or choke under the pressure? Matthew Syed, former British table tennis Olympian explains in his book “Bounce: Mozart, Federer, Picasso, Beckham and the Science of Success”, that choking boils down to reverting to more novice behavior. He notes that the brain utilizes two different systems – “explicit” (prefrontal cortex activation) and “implicit” (basal ganglia area) to respond to motor stimuli. “This migration from the explicit to the implicit system of the brain has two crucial advantages. First, it enables…the integrat[ion] the various parts of a complex skill into one fluent whole…and, second, it frees up attention to focus on…tactics and strategy.”

So Syed gives some roundabout credence to Dr. Greene’s belief of quieting the “mind-chatter” with his mention of the “doublethink” principle: constant reinforcement that the race “doesn’t matter.” Athletes calming themselves and gaining confidence from trivializing the significance of the event. Hard to believe, right? Did Jordan, Ali, Elway, Jeter, and Bird disassociate or stay in the moment?  What made them so clutch? According to Syed, only elite athletes choke. Interesting. The bigger the stakes, the bigger the failures. Says Alberto Salazar, winner of the NYC Marathon from 1980-82, “you are always going to have doubts and fears.”

What is the source of these fears? In several conversations with Dr. Nicholas Romanov, the idea of fear is related to “performing with no concept.” Meaning, at the end of the day, any athlete is only as good as their technique. Without an absolute understanding of the parts, the whole becomes a mess. You under-perform. There is an undeniable interconnection between our thoughts, desires and actions. “The belief in technique”, asserts Dr. Romanov, “gives you the confidence to move beyond your limitations and explore your true potential.” Training which focuses on development of speed, flexibility, coordination and balance will enhance your perception of the whole – the actions that make up one’s individual sport. I seem to remember when competition was most intense, those aforementioned great athletes seemed to live without pressure “in the zone.”

Those of you who have the ability to habituate complex tasks, are most susceptible to “explicit monitoring vying with implicit execution” (surprisingly, though, this “additional attention is likely to benefit execution” for the novice performer). Instead of trying to camouflage “racing jitters and doubts” try focusing on the elements you can control – the aplomb, determination and skill that got you there in the first place.

The New Freedom of Movement

I spent this week “interviewing”, which means, meeting and discussing my craft with the top brass of a couple organizations, explaining how I could help their athletes get better. Initially, everyone I met seemed most concerned about that one elusive quality: speed. But in the end, as the conversations progressed, it became apparent that their concerns for their athletes (and their own kids, who also participate in sport) were beyond speed training.

The more I talk with parents, coaches and athletes, the more I realize that everyone wants the same thing, albeit under the guise of “can you make him/her faster?!” As athletes, the goal is to reach peak performance. Finding even the slightest edge over your opponent is immeasurable. A step quicker. A few inches higher. Several miles an hour more. Yes, speed is what they ask for but it’s really movement that they want. You’re told that practice makes perfect. So naturally, you train and sweat and hope that’s enough. But what if it isn’t? What if there is something missing, something we all need to separate us from the clamor of mediocracy. An advantage you can’t get by hard work alone, only by working smarter…more systematically. If this is so, then what is this competitive edge?

Most of us say “speed” when we mean to say “movement.” Movement encompasses it all: quickness, agility, speed, strength, endurance and flexibility. It includes mastering the skills of your sport: the better fastball or serve, spiking with more power, running with more explosiveness. To get the end result you want, there are certain movement fundamentals that need to be addressed. Every sport can be broken down into basic skills – throwing, kicking, running, catching, skating – and every skill can be broken down into a series of movements. Each of these movements can then be separated into positions, or “poses”. The poses represent the blueprint for understanding how to move more efficiently. If you hit the right poses at the right time: that’s efficient, effortless movement.  As Fritjof Capra describes in his brilliant “Web of Life”, “With the tools of [Isaac ] Newton’s calculus it is easy to show that a moving body will run through an infinite number of infinitely small intervals in a finite time.”

No doubt, I’ve preached from my soapbox that this is a concept rooted in the biomechanics of Dr. Nicholas Romanov’s Pose Method. It will improve your abilities and amp them up with the scientifically-proven “working with gravity” concept. Simply, gravity is our greatest mechanical leverage, giving your movements more speed, more power, more stamina.

Time and space. It’s what frames these infinite intervals, giving us the perspective to analyze motion and improve the actions of every athlete. What does this mean to you? Move better and everything else gets better. To show improvement, you’ve got to purposely work on refining those tiny intervals of motion to drastically effect your performance. Working with gravity, will give you the upper hand.


It seems like wherever you turn, there’s more evidence validating running sans footwear. From scientists elucidating evidence that early man developed an upright posture and bipedalism because of a need to chase down protein-rich food to modern-day gurus ensuring a swift recovery from running related injuries, the barefoot niche is now becoming a revolution.

On a positive note, all of the ruckus has forced athletes, coaches, therapists, podiatrists, researchers and the casual runner to weigh the benefits and detriments of how to best “put one foot in front of the other.” For years, Dr. Romanov and his Pose methodology has been on the cutting-edge of just that: what’s the best way to run. Like most things in our culture, it took hype (Chris McDougall’s Born To Run) to open people’s eyes that perhaps rolling along heel-to-toe isn’t the best way down the road.

On the negative side, barefoot running is now seen as the remedy for all running ills, and allows a lot of hacks to rise to the forefront of the running biomechanics world, with no more expertise than having survived a marathon blister-free. Sure, they can tout Olympians Zola Budd and Abebe Bikele successes to reinforce their stance, but most of them don’t understand the difference between the forefoot and midfoot, Pose and Chi or the far-reaching epistemology that surrounds how and why humans run. As Dr. R has often said, “they hear he sound but don’t know where it comes from.”

 On the subject of barefoot running, Dr. Romanov has much common sense to share: “All the hype is just amazing…If you actually look at the history and the bigger picture – you will easily recognize that it’s not a trend and it never left or came back, so to say. We now know and have evidence that going barefoot is healthy and is good for us. It is a good way to develop better perception of the body weight, support, muscle efforts related to the body weight location on the support and consequently muscle strength of the lower extremities. Once the shoes are off, most of us will naturally run on forefoot or will land flat somewhere directly underneath our body. But the puzzling [few] will attempt to heel-strike and that shows that while barefoot running is good for you it doesn’t guarantee anything, it doesn’t guarantee a proper body position on support, proper interaction with support, and proper muscle efforts in space and time. While going barefoot is a step on the path to better health, it is not the panacea that most everyone now seems to want it to be. It will not solve your problems that stem from incorrect movement that comes from the incorrect idea of how running should be done.”

Again, we must be careful in our zealousness…often, what seems to be sound may be riddled with half-truths and inconsistencies. It may sound like a broken record, but at the end of the day, your efforts as a runner should always be towards improving technique. Many things may be utilised to get the proper perception needed, running barefoot included, though they are simply ingredients in the overall recipe.


terminator (3)Lately, I’ve done a lot of work with athletes outside my normal realm. Instead of the typical set of runners, triathletes and track athletes, I have been expanding my palette to include those in sports as diverse as ice hockey, volleyball and football (field goal kicking!). My family and friends get a kick out of my stories, me walking into unknown territory, yet being able to analyze the situation and show the athlete ways to improve their movement skills.

I could claim intellectual superiority (my wife thinks I’m smart!), but the truth is my mentor, Dr. R, helped me thoroughly understand that gravity exists in all situations and my job is to find the correct positions where this energy can be utilized. In most cases, it’s a relatively common sense (here’s that word again) thing, albeit conceptually one that cuts against the grain of many “experts” opinions. What it all boils down to is that we, humans, are always dealing with our bodyweight, which in essence, means gravity. The volleyball/ice hockey/football player must understand their bodyweight to efficiently, gracefully and explosively move, so not to excessively waste his/her muscle effort.

Being attached to our bodyweight is primordial. Our body mass becomes weight when we have support (a foot, a hand, our butts) on something (the ground, a chair) and feel that “pressure” imparted on said foot or butt. Think of the alternative. When are we most uneasy or scared ? When we’ve lost our ability to “feel” our weight (losing our balance). However, the irony is that the thing we’re most afraid of, falling (although children have less of this fear instinctively until they fall and an adult freaks out), is what we need to embrace to run faster, kick farther and jump higher.

It’s this fear of falling that leads to our downfall, our resistance in letting go, the tension that accompanies pain. Our ability to find support (Archimedes states “Give me a place to stand and Iwill move the earth.”), perception, allows us the anchor to which powerful movements can occur and gives us the emotional and psychological freedom to perform well.


terminator (3)

In lieu of our obsession with social media outlets (Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc.), I’m “retweeting” (for all of you Twitterettes) a recent column by Dr. Romanov. I thought his perspective needed to be restated, hopefully shared with more readers. The topic was the “Importance of the Role of a Standard.” Far too often, training becomes about work – how much and how hard. However, the most significant aspect – how well – is often neglected because coaches and trainers fail to understand how to properly gauge the daily performances of their athletes. 

We use the word “standard” on a daily basis, we’re all very familiar with its meaning. A “standard” is an approved and generally accepted model of something, a rule or principle that is used as a basis for judgment, an average or normal requirement, quality, quantity, level, grade, etc.

What does having a “standard” offer us when it comes to human movement in sports, when it comes to running, swimming, cycling, etc.?

  • PRECISE MODEL TO LEARN. With a standard model to learn, a student avoids the potential pitfalls of a wondering mind. Experimenting on top of a learned standard is quite different from experimenting without the basic foundation. While the first is full of advantageous discoveries, the latter is full of confusion and easily avoidable mistakes.
  • PRECISE MODEL TO TEACH. If there was no standard, all teachings or attempts to teach would be disorganized, scattered, unfocused, etc. There would be no way to determine what’s a mistake and what is not. There would be no way to offer clarity of the subject to a student. Teaching would be an impossible task.
  • ABILITY TO IDENTIFY & CORRECT ERRORS. This is probably one of the most important attributes of any model of any “standard”. When there is a clearly identified and put forth model for a standard, any deviation from that standard is easily seen. That is precisely the definition of an “error”. In order for something to be labeled an error there has to be a clear standard according to which something is classified as an error. One does not exist without the other.

The claim that there is no correct running technique or any other sport technique is unfounded and is not supported by science. Moreover it does not make any sense. Unless we figure out how to defy gravity or it suddenly changes the way it works – we will abide by its current standard of operation that has not changed since the dawn of humanity.

The laws of operation of all natural forces with gravity at the helm consequently lead to a particular set of rules in movement of a human body. This standard branches out into standards in human movement when participating in various athletic activities or simply moving around. Movement related overuse injuries and pain are our signals that we’re deviating from the existing standard of movement. Plain and simple.

Article by Dr. Nicholas Romanov


terminator (3)In light of the usual wordspeak, I wanted to share this video clip of a clinic I recently did for Westside Wellness Chiropractic.

The first person is Rich D’Ambrosio of Malvern Prep performing a tapping drill. Then, there are 4 participant before and after clips. The final clip is of Dr. Todd Serinsky, performing good Pose in his dress shoes. As he said, “if my Pose is right, the shoes shouldn’t matter!” I was very pleased with the results during the two-hour session. It definitely shows how (running) mechanics can be adapted when there exists a standard for evaluation and correction.

A Blog By Any Other Name…

terminator-3 As an irregular blogger, I feel that I break the blogger’s golden rule #1: Blog Daily. I normally have every intention to “sit down with pen” and give my loyal readers (Where are you?!) some insight into training that will help them catapult their performance into the stratosphere. However, my life gets in the way.

As I ‘tweeted’ a few moments ago, I spent the weekend watching, waiting and watching some more AAU basketball, players representing the finest hoopsters in the area. My oldest son (Tracy Jr.) plays for Team Phenom. When the dust settled, Phenom had won 2 of 3 chips (championships for those of you cool-challenged) – the 15U (where T led them) and the 16U (where he collected an unexpected amount of splinters). He (Tracy) more than anyone I know, has the most positive outlook on things and never let’s the low moments damage his resolve or confidence. He sat the bench, encouraged his teammates, never got mopey (afterwards, he was “fine”), shared in the celebration KNOWING that he would have, could have, contributed to the victory. It’s a lesson he’s had to (unfortunately) learn this year that the path to your goals are strewn with minefields, and that (as AI’s tattoo proclimates) “only the strong survive.”

In sport, as well as life, there are many things beyond our control (opinions, in team sports, being the most damaging). However, what we can control is ourselves: our attitude, work ethic, preparation, focus, commitment and unyielding drive. Coaches may bench you, teammates may desert you, fans may turn on you, but only you can continue to work hard and keep your goals in sight. What’s that cliche…”never say never.”

This week, for me seems promising. I’ve connected on so many viable levels that, as Malcolm Gladwell expertly discussed, hopefully “[I’m] about to tip.” tracypealspeed may soon be reaching a boiling point where all of my efforts may pay-off. It’s been a long journey (still not over), very similar to the journey my son is taking or the journey taken by most successful people. I’ve kept my head in the game, despite years of failed attempts, unreturned phone calls and leads to nowhere. So, we’ll see how the press release, multiple contacts, workshops, Texas lacrosse clinic (Rashad Devoe), Derrick @ Artizen Management Group, volleyball clubs, etc. work out. It could be a very good year. Or better yet, it’ll be another year I learn something valuable about myself and press on.