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View Full Version : Thoughts on the optimal training protocol for maximising aerobic base?


Paul Kayley
05-21-2007, 11:50 AM
A) Train like the Kenyans - as many as 14 sessions per week of slightly-sub-threshold work

B) As per Morris - blocked days of high intensity intervals interspersed with blocked days of recovery

or

C) Traditional - do tonnes of volume and hope for the best


At a peripheral level, the aim I would say is to maximise aerobic muscle fiber charateristics, maximising the mitochondrial reticulum and capillarisation in as many muscle fibers as possible.

A) - relatively subtle, consistent and highly repetative stimulation of the higher end fibers

B) - more aggressive, stimulating more of the anaerobic fibers, but less consistent

C) - blooby boring and relies upon long and exhaustive training to force the involvement of the higher end fibers

Mike ODonnell
05-21-2007, 11:59 AM
as i get older...the less I want to do...but the more I want in return....I go for B....more intensity, more recovery.....seems to work for my sanity and keeps me consistent in the long run...which is where my improvement comes in....consistency...

Derek Simonds
05-21-2007, 12:33 PM
At a peripheral level, the aim I would say is to maximise aerobic muscle fiber charateristics, maximising the mitochondrial reticulum and capillarisation in as many muscle fibers as possible. Ok I am with you. :D

In my training I have the best results for Olympic distance triathons with a combination of B and C. BTW I am probably not a great reference as I am traditionally a solid middle of the age group pack racer.

I will have 1 long bike a week, 1 long swim a week and 1 long run every 3 weeks with interval work for the run and swim interspersed throughout the week. The bike I will usually do 1 shorter session at a higher steady state mixed in with intervals.

Basically if you have any suggestions or want someone to try a different training methodology let me know as I am starting my race prep for my "A" race in September.

Paul Kayley
05-21-2007, 01:41 PM
as i get older...the less I want to do...but the more I want in return....I go for B....more intensity, more recovery.....seems to work for my sanity and keeps me consistent in the long run...which is where my improvement comes in....consistency...

Yes, as I'm getting older I agree that it has to be fun... hard and intensive fun that is! The traditional method (C) just sucks in that respect, and I'm starting to believe that its fundamentally flawed.

Why take the long road -forcing the stimulation of higher end fibers via the long and slow attrition of the ST fibers, when the same can be achieved in a shorter session by just working harder?? If intermediate fibers are stimulated and fatigued regularly, they will become more aerobic in order to bolster their fatigue resistance - (A)&(B)... without the mind numbing high volume work.

But which of the first two models above will be the most effective in the long-term?

Paul Kayley
05-21-2007, 01:48 PM
Ok I am with you. :D

In my training I have the best results for Olympic distance triathons with a combination of B and C. BTW I am probably not a great reference as I am traditionally a solid middle of the age group pack racer.

I will have 1 long bike a week, 1 long swim a week and 1 long run every 3 weeks with interval work for the run and swim interspersed throughout the week. The bike I will usually do 1 shorter session at a higher steady state mixed in with intervals.

Basically if you have any suggestions or want someone to try a different training methodology let me know as I am starting my race prep for my "A" race in September.

It looks like you follow a traditional mixed model of training.... a bit of everything. I like more defined periods of training, using reverse periodisation when aiming to peak for a long distance event.

Derek Simonds
05-21-2007, 01:55 PM
It looks like you follow a traditional mixed model of training.... a bit of everything. I like more defined periods of training, using reverse periodisation when aiming to peak for a long distance event.

Do you have a log of your reverse periodisation training, I would love to see how it lays out.

I used to be very traditional which was basically all LSD. I hated it but it is was all I knew at the time.

Paul Kayley
05-21-2007, 02:07 PM
Basically if you have any suggestions or want someone to try a different training methodology let me know as I am starting my race prep for my "A" race in September.

Check out Dave Scott's Triathlon Training. Its an old book, written in the 80s. My first copy has fallen to pieces! He stopped using method (C) because he was bored too, and adopted an interval based version of method (A). It worked for him, and worked really well for me when I was young and keen enough to cope with it.

The intervals he suggests all look really hard, but they are all based around time trial efforts of about LT. Just build up your number of sessions gradually. At the age of 20 I jumped in feet first and tried 6 of his sessions per discipline per week... I was toast after 2 weeks! I ended up doing his training plan based around 15 sessions per week, with one rest day, maintained for months. It worked so well!!!

Beware, his nutritional advice is somewhat outdated now!!

Paul Kayley
05-22-2007, 02:08 AM
Do you have a log of your reverse periodisation training, I would love to see how it lays out.

I used to be very traditional which was basically all LSD. I hated it but it is was all I knew at the time.

This very much depends what distances you are aiming to peak for?

Josh Whiting
05-22-2007, 02:59 AM
I think an important factor is your maturity as an endurance competitor. If you have never covered the distance before you better put some LSD work in, if you've been competing at that distance for 10 years then things change somewhat.

Derek Simonds
05-22-2007, 03:25 AM
Good point Josh. I have been mucking around with tri's since 2002. 2004 was my most focused year.

Paul my distance is Olympic. At some point in my life I am going to do an Ironman. I am not ready to commit to the time required for the longer distances.

Paul Kayley
05-22-2007, 07:13 AM
Good point Josh. I have been mucking around with tri's since 2002. 2004 was my most focused year.

Paul my distance is Olympic. At some point in my life I am going to do an Ironman. I am not ready to commit to the time required for the longer distances.

Definately look at Dave Scott's book then. Dont be put off by its age, his training advice is so good... either he is very smart, learned the hard way, or just got lucky with his design!

As for reverse periodisation - its not really relavant to the short stuff IMHO.

I did my first IM at age 20... it was only my 3rd triathlon, and my first open water swim... what a rush! I loved it. That was 18 years ago now. I have done others since and thoroughly recommend it, although be ready to give at least 8 months of your life to it entirely if you want to do it right. Having said that, if you just want to finish one, you could do it without too much sacrifice... just needs a strong mind and a little training!

Robb Wolf
05-22-2007, 01:35 PM
Really good thread...I can only throw out a few thoughts right now:
The Power Running guy makes the points:
1-be a s strong as possible
2-Do some intervals
3-run your race pace fast
4-substrate utilization/depletion is the limiting factor in endurance performance, not O2 consumption/utilization.

Many studies of late have shown that neither myoglobin or hemoglobin are depleted in O2 to a degree that will limit performance, even at extreme workloads.

Ideally one is "very" fat adapted such that, at any given output, one uses more fat and less glucose for activity. As intensity of exercise increases more and more carbs are inevitably used which can cause substrate depletion...also there is the issue of pH change with increasing workloads.


More later!

Dave Van Skike
05-22-2007, 02:29 PM
Stop your sceintifical!

I don't have a ton to add but.....My experience is that you can get a lot of bang for your buck with the occasional really long run/ride/swim. The advice above is going to be dead sexy for most endurance athletes. However, don't underestimate how much of your ultimate limits are wound up in being mentally prepared to suffer for hours or days.

My first mountain bike race that was over 50k seemed brutal. Once I had done a week long stage race, 50k desert races seemed like a temporary inconvience that involved some sweating and light chaffing. Overdistance stuff really helped my brain get fitter for the task.

Derek Simonds
05-22-2007, 05:17 PM
Dave I understand.

I have a saying that turns into a mantra while I am competing "Time and Distance Pass". I got it from some famous athlete who I wish I could give credit to.

Robb I have to work on my fat adaptation. I know that I have seriously depleted my substrate on more than one occasion.

Robb Wolf
05-23-2007, 12:32 PM
Dave-
You are spot on. I remember Mark Twight mentioned that shorter intense work provides adequate machinery for longer efforts but not the mental toughness. Only longer efforts can provide this. Some of the central governor theory (the piece Frank Forenich did for the PM for example).

It's interesting also...we have generally recommended CF type WOD's ~ 3-4 days per week, some sprint work and one long effort every 7-10 days for our endurance folks, particularly multisport. Some of these people are getting to a pretty high level of performance, placing well, improving race to race and avoiding most of the repetitive injury issues. Much more time efficient also.

Derek-
Its interesting...after about 2 hrs of say a 70-75% VO2 effort the fueling shifts from intramuscular triglyceride (IMTAG) to blood borne free fatty acids. The body appears reticent to deplete the IMTAG too far and if FFA's are not readily available things will grind down. Increasing IMTAG's and ability to put FFA's into circulation is key for those longer efforts.

Dave Van Skike
05-23-2007, 03:28 PM
Dave-
It's interesting also...we have generally recommended CF type WOD's ~ 3-4 days per week, some sprint work and one long effort every 7-10 days for our endurance folks, particularly multisport. Some of these people are getting to a pretty high level of performance, placing well, improving race to race and avoiding most of the repetitive injury issues. Much more time efficient also.


Good to here that's working Robb. I wish I would have been clued in to that type of training instead of the "miles on the bike is money in the bank" mindlessness that permeates roadie culture. especially stupid here and in Cali where there is no offseason.

Are your intense sessions sports specific for the clients at all or are you relying with the typical mix of CF movements?

I had used speed skating off and on to train for cycling but those are very similar limb movements. I do know of one national level Master's cyclocross racer who trained for nationals exclusively on a stair master for a month prior due to a broken collarbone. I think he was top 10 maybe top 5 that year.

Robb Wolf
05-23-2007, 04:23 PM
Dave-

We use pretty standard programming as far as the met-cons but on the shorter side actually. Not many 20-30 min scorchers. More in the 10-15 min range. We hit a strength circuit in the beginning which consists of a lower body movement, typically a DL but occasionally back squat, a press and a pull.

Honestly I think these guys have benefited the most from the direct strength work and just improving their general athleticism. One or two were pretty high level cyclists here but they were borderline feeble on simple movements like air squats. Simple improvements in ROM, recruitment and strength have dramatically improved their on bike performance...and they are generally more capable now.

Pierre Auge
05-23-2007, 04:39 PM
Robb,
thats fascinating - we've been doing something similar for our general population.

Sun - 10 min WU - 10 min WOD specific skill - Marathon WOD 25-40 min

Monday to Friday - 10 min WU - 30 min of Focused Strength & Skill work followed by 5-15 min WOD - 5 min cool down

Sat - 10 min WU - 10 min WOD specific skill - Marathon WOD 25-40 min

Our longest has been 42:00 minutes for the slowest person.

We're seeing some pretty outstanding performances. I've got a 130lb girl who did FGB with men's weights and scored 279 on her first time through the workout - pretty wild stuff. I've got some other stuff I think would be cool to mull over in a different kind of forum.

Jeff Northrop
05-23-2007, 04:50 PM
I remember Mark Twight mentioned that shorter intense work provides adequate machinery for longer efforts but not the mental toughness. Only longer efforts can provide this.

I believe this whole-heartedly. Last year I ran my first marathon. My training program consisted of the CrossFit WOD Monday-Thursday, then a long run on Saturday. The long runs increased steadily until I reached 20 miles. It worked very well for me. It kept me injury free (the first time I've been able to run injury free in 15 years) and I finished with a respectable performance. Could I have done better on a traditional marathon training program, maybe.

I do have one disagreement. I'd have to say that the CF stuff at times was much more difficult (for that mental toughness) then the long runs ever were.

Dave Van Skike
05-23-2007, 05:05 PM
I do have one disagreement. I'd have to say that the CF stuff at times was much more difficult (for that mental toughness) then the long runs ever were.


Jeff,

You raise a good point. This really goes to an issue that for me is more of an annoyance. Cyclist et al use the term "suffering" or "knowing how to suffer" when if fact the skill of suffering is a lot more about knowing how let yourself relax...learn to be efficient in the movement as your bio-mechanics fade or get sloppy.

My feeling is that the overdistance help you tune in to how your body mechanics will change as you fatigue. I sued to race a lot of track cyclists who were blazing fast Cat 1/2's on the track but could barely hang with the Cat 3 pack at a local critierium. I know these guys were extremely fit for cycling generally but had no idead how to be efficient and recover from a deficit say 20 minutes or 50 minutes into an event. This is much more of a learned thing than a chemistry thing.

The whole idea that somehow long nasty rides or runs many days a week are going to teach you something about tuffness is BS. What you are tyring to learn is how your body reacts to pain and stress of the longer event and how you can be efficient at making it hurt LESS.

Josh Whiting
05-24-2007, 03:55 AM
I seriously think that getting used to concentrating despite the tedious and repetitive nature of long efforts has it's value. I've never stopped half way through Fran and though "I'm really bored of this". Long efforts require a different type of coping strategy.

Paul Kayley
05-24-2007, 05:47 AM
IME the psychological ability to race long distances and suffer really stemmed from how much importance I attached to an event. I have raced Ironmans where I was not in my best shape, however achieved a better performance (Austria 2005) than when in good shape (Austria 2004), because I had simply attached more importance to the race and was willing to hurt myself more for it!

However, having said that, the old addage "Train hard - win easy" really does have some truth to it. The suffering, intelligently calculated suffering that is, should be reserved for training. So that a race, with a well recovered and rested body, just feels easy (ish!). With the right preparation and when in peak condition, even an Ironman can be pushed and feel relatively easy.

I have heard European IM winners being interviewed stating that they just couldnt hurt themselves during the race, saying "It was like a dream - effortless speed!"

But, back to the original question...

When designing a training programme, I like to look at specifically what is required physiologically in the event being targeted, then work backwards from there. A common phsiological theme among elite endurance athletes, especially over longer race distances (2hrs+), is muscle fiber composition. Having a high % of type 1 slow-twitch fibers, and well trained type2a fibers being of the upmost importance. Categorising fibers into 3 or 4 sub-types is really a reflection of the means by which phsiologists measure, detect, and label the fibers. The reality is probably better described as a sweeping continuum of fibers, ranging in characteristic from highly unfatigable ST to stronger but easily fatiguable FT. There are many arguments and counter arguments surrounding the plasticity of muscle fibers, that is their ability to change their charateristics from one type into another... some so much so that they even display altered gene-expression. (This probably only applies in one direction though, FT towards ST, with FT gene expression being the default gene-expression) Personally I like this argument as it puts us back in control. Rather than being victims of our genetics, we may have the ability, at least in this small area to change things providing we are prepared to put in the measured effort.

So, my first step in designing the optimal aerobic training protocol would be to target muscle fiber endurance charateristics through as wide a range within the fiber continuum as possible.

Robb Wolf
05-24-2007, 07:36 AM
Paul-

Yes, absolutely. Much in line with the book you sent me (thank you BTW). Epigenics/form following function.

Some people obviously have talents with regards to genetics but epigenics...how the environment influences gene expression is of utmost importance.


Somewhat off topic:
I had an idea for a CrossFit journal piece (way back when) thinking about "fitness" within a group setting...like say a hunter gatherer group. Having a homogenized fitness might not be that desirable...certainly there are some general characteristics that have more value than others but a little statistical outlying, either towards strength/power or endurance could be of enormous benefit to a GROUP. Paul sent me Bruce Liptons book the Biology of Belief...it talks extensively about systems biology, epigenics and some other goodies. It really changes the view of simple Darwinian evolution and "survival of the fittest".

Paul Kayley
05-26-2007, 07:26 AM
I particularly like the concept of the "Mem-brain" and the religation of the DNA to little more than a blueprint or memory which is reluctant to be rewritten!

The speculation surrounding the power of conscious adaptation was also intriguing, albeit a little over enthusiastic.