Part 1-What’s wrong with the Traditional Physiology based training model?

The Physiological Map series:
Part 1-What’s wrong with the Traditional Physiology based training model?
Part 2- Global Change
Part 3- The Physiological Map

For the next couple days/weeks whatever, I'll be posting a very rough draft of a paper I did for school. The basis of the paper is introducing a different way to use science in training runners. Hope it makes sense.
What’s wrong with the Traditional Physiology based model?

Using physiology or science in training distance runners has gotten a bad rap. There seems to be a backlash against coaches who get too scientific and analytical, thus losing touch with the art of coaching. The coach gets scolded for making things too complicated and forgetting that the goal is to improve race times, not VO2max. The point that the ultimate goal is PRs and not improvement in some physiological variable is one that should be ingrained in your mind as a key theme. Because of that, I believe that the traditional “scientific” coaching method deserves the backlash that it gets for the most part.

At this point I expect that you are entirely confused. Why would I make a statement like that when the root of my training philosophy seems to be heavily influenced by physiology? The reason is that the traditional model of using science in training is extremely flawed. This is one of the reasons why there has been little successful crossover of physiologist to coaches. The problem is not with the scientists or coaches, but with the model that they have in their head. The flawed model is not anyone’s fault but rather a reflection on how scientists think and work. Let me give an example to illustrate the point.

When a scientist looks at distance training he has to break it down and see how different training method effect different variables. This is how we get the information on what kind of training seems to increase the lactate threshold or improve buffering capacity. The next step in the process is the coach then looks at this data and comes to the seemingly logical conclusion that if X training improves buffering capacity, then his athletes should do X training or workout to get an improvement in buffering capacity and because buffering capacity is a limiter to certain races, that race time will improve. So the coach goes out and implements this training with his runners and smugly throws around scientific explanations for why his athletes are performing the intervals they are to anybody who will listen, but something goes wrong and his runners do not improve their race times. The coach then becomes perplexed and either reasons that the science was wrong and becomes an anti-physiology coach or he reasons that the athlete did not work hard enough, thus it did not work. If the coach took his athletes to a lab, he most likely would see an increase in buffering capacity. Then he becomes perplexed and thinks the athletes are “weak” runners and not tough enough because the workout obviously accomplished what it was meant to.
The real reason for failure, however, is in the training model, not in the athletes or the coach or the science. Buffering Capacity DID increase as the science said it would, but you have to look at the global effects of a workout, not just a singular effect. The singular effect was an increase in buffering capacity, but there are many other singular effects that the science did not look into or explain and all of these singular effects make up the global effect. It is this global effect that is most important. In our example, the intervals had one singular effect of increasing buffering capacity. If you did research, another effect would probably be a decrease in aerobic capabilities (either aerobic capacity or power) due to the heavy acidosis that the athlete endured to increase buffering capacity. Thus these two effects combined (and any others for the workout) would make the global effect an increase in buffering capacity with a decrease in aerobic capabilities. With this new information we can then more easily use the science and come up with a combination of workouts to get the desired result we want, faster race times. If the athlete was training for a 5k, we would have to counteract this workout with one that increased aerobic capabilities to prevent them from falling. If the athlete was a 400m runner, we would not worry too much about a slight drop in aerobic capabilities as the larger increase in buffering capacity would be more important.


Part 2- Global Change
Part 3- The Physiological Map

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