Finding the Right System.

Almost done with the semester for school, so getting all of that stuff taken care of. Training has been going well. The last weeks workouts went pretty well. Monday was 4's, while the other workout of the week was a mixed workouts of some 8's and some faster work.

This upcoming weekend I'll be doing an 800m and then two weeks after that a 1,500m.

Lastly, a quick update on the runner featured in my little video a couple posts ago. He's improved his PR's to 4:15/9:18 so far.

Finding the right system.
Do you follow a Lydiard system? Daniels? Coe? Hudson? Or how about Pfitzinger? That is a very common question that many coaches and athletes get asked. It typifies our need to simplify training down into something that is easy to digest.

What’s Lydiard? 100mi weeks leading to a peak.
How about Coe? 5-pace theory.
Daniels, you say? LT,VO2, reps, intervals, and don’t forget your V-dot.

Of course I’m taking it to the extreme, but this oversimplification does our athletes a disservice. Do you really think that Lydiard had one distinct training system that he used every single year? No. He adapted, changed things up, made modifications based on his athletes. You can even see this in the progression of his books. Look at a Lydiard book from the 1960’s and compare it to one printed in the 2000’s. There will be some big differences. Look at Seb Coe’s career, as outlined in Peter Coe’s book. Yes, Peter Coe has a system that he outlines, but it is adapted to the athlete across his career. Coe focused on different parameters throughout his son’s career. The training Seb did at the age of 18 was certainly different than that when he was 28.

All of this might seem like it is common sense, but in reality do you adapt your training from year to year? How many coaches use the same basic formula year after year for their athletes? They only think of what it will take to bring athlete X to a peak for that year. Then once that season is done, the athlete takes a break and then repeats the process of coming to a peak.

The problem with that approach is that training changes us. What are you doing when you workout and then recover? You are making subtle changes to your physiology. So much so that after several years of work, you will probably have a different muscle fiber type percentage than when you started. That is just one example, but everything changes. The training has to adapt with it. That same workout you did last year of 400’s in 65 won’t have the same effect the following year.

It’s not just the speed of the workout that has to be adapted but also the volume, and the recovery. It’s one of the reasons why simply stating that an athlete has to do X amount of work when doing a workout at X pace doesn’t work. It’s the same reason why doing long runs as a percentage of total mileage is ridiculous. The amount of running in that workout is dependent on the athlete, not some formula.

Not only do individual workouts need to be changed at times, but global training changes need to be made. A couple examples are the density of the work and the amount of total mileage. Most people only think in terms of mileage increases, but it also includes mileage decreases. In the U.S., it’s easy to classify yourself as a high mileage or a low mileage guy, I’ve been guilty of it myself in the past, but that is simplifying things far too much. In an athlete’s career there is going to be a point where he needs to run some high mileage, but there is also a period where he will most likely reduce his mileage. If we look at steeple WR-holder Shaheen’s average KM per week during the base phase you can clearly see this.

2001 : 90
2002 : 120
2003 : 150
2004 : 180
2005 : 150
2006 : 130

Why did the mileage drop? Because after several years of higher mileage, he no longer needed it. Most mileage is only good for general endurance, or building the foundation for the athlete. Once the foundation is built, why try to continue building it if it is already developed? Instead, he cut the mileage and by cutting the mileage was able to focus more work on specific development, or training with more of a direct influence on his race.

The whole point of this blog is to get across the message that you have to think long term. What would bring an athlete to a peak this year might not necessarily be best for him for his entire running career. You have to think beyond one season. That is why cookie cutter approaches of following some formula of doing A then B then C to reach peak doesn't work in the long term. The training you do today needs to improve the training and racing you are going to do next year and the year after.

That is why early in a runner's career, a focus on more general work with a lot of mileage might be great, but 4-5 years later, that athlete might need a lot of medium paced mileage. Similarly, an athlete might need to build a foundation of pure speed and mechanical support, while later in his career, having established that foundation, more work might be spent translating that into speed endurance.

In essense, EVERYTHING should build towards the end goal. Each year should be building on top of the last one, not just repeating what has been done before.

Hopefully, next time I’ll get into some examples of how things have to change, progress, and adapt over a career.

Anaerobic Training

Sorry for the lack of posts. I've been very busy. School is winding up for the semester so I'm finishing up everything in my classes while also trying to start my outline and research proposal for my thesis. And, of course I've been running.

So, my first race of the season was pretty slow. Not exactly what I wanted but there were some positives out of the experience. First off, I really didn't feel that bad until about 500-400m to go. Then the legs were just kind of non-responsive. The good news, kind of, is that my teammate Mo felt the same way. Why is this good news? Well, I'd rather of had him run well obviously, but it means that it wasn't some mysterious thing or something that isn't fixable. We both just simply died, and died hard. That being said, I just think for both of us, it was a much more hectic trip then we planned. It took longer than we thought to drive there because we hit some heavy traffic from the get go, and then went through some bad weather. So obviously driving 10hrs or whatever took it's toll. But it was more than that. It was if we were always rushing to the next place and never had much time to relax. So, I think that definately affected both of our races a little bit.

All of that being said, It's a place to start and you take out of it what you can. Obviously it's not a reflection of our fitness or racing shape. I mean we could go easily run that in practice dead tired if we wanted to. So, stuff happens sometimes. You learn from it, and move on. So that's what I'm doing.

My next race will most likely be an 800m at George Mason, followed by a 1,500 at Georgia Tech.

Anaerobic Training-
Whether you call it anaerobic training or high intensity training or any other phrase, I'm talking about high lactic interval work. Stuff that makes you feel the burn in the legs and makes you tie up like no other. Recently, there have been some studies, on not endurance trained participants, that have shown that these short intense workouts help both aerobically and anaerobically! Personal trainers basically think it's the best workout because you get the best of both worlds (my apologies to Hannah Montana...). Many track coaches latch onto hardcore interval training as being the key to success, especially with HS athletes.

However, over 40 years ago, Lydiard knew there was something wrong with this idea. He speculated that the increase in acidity (a decrease in pH) could cause harm to aerobic components in the athlete's muscle. He wasn't some scientists so the physiology guru's would spit back research that said otherwise to counter his ideas. Well, as always it seems, Lydiard, and the guys going off experience, may just well have been right.

A recent study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, found that acidosis may interfere with mitochondrial biogenesis.

You can find the abstract HERE

I'll give you a layman's terms summary. Basically, they compared a cycling workout's effect on PGC-1 under induced acidosis conditions and normal conditions. So essentially, they compared the same workouts training effect under normal and high acidity conditions. PGC-1 basically regulates mitochondria creation. So, it's basically the signal that tells the body to start producing more mitochondria.

What happened is significant. They found that the SAME workout had much less of an effect if it was done under induced acidosis. PGC-1 was 2-3 times higher after the non-acidosis workout than with the acidosis workout.

What does this all mean? Basically, high acidosis may interfear with mitochondria production.....Just like Lydiard thought all those years ago.

Moses Mosop's Training

Training Update:
Training has been going well. I've got in a couple of solid workouts the last couple weeks, so we're on the right track. Last week, I had 14x400s 63 down with short recovery and then the other workout was some longer repeats.

My first race of the year will be this week. Me and Moises are headed down to Furman, SC to race in the Blue Shoes Miles. I'm excited to finally race, as it has been a while.

Below, I'm going to take a look at some recent research done and then look at how that correlates with Moses Mosop's training (1st at Kenyan XC Champs and 11th at Worlds).

Take it Easy:
There is a large debate in endurance training circles about easy or “junk” mileage. Does it do anything? How much easy running should be done? Does easy running actually make us better?

Those are just some of the questions that could be asked in regards to what exactly easy running does. Ask almost any (non-coach) Physiologists and he’ll tell you that intensity is the way to go. These physiology guys LOVE intensity. They all have their particular best intensity, whether it’s training at VO2max or Lactate Threshold. But almost all of them will tell you that running so many miles per week is stupid and that easy runs will only do so much.

Okay, so I’m making a vast generalization, but it holds some truth. I could give many examples of guys with PHD’s who write about the latest speed workout that improved performance by 10000%. It kind of makes me cringe. In fact, in my research for my presentation on Kenyan runners for class I came across a quote in a pretty good review article that said:

““The dominance of African runners in the last 2 decades may provide valuable insight into the training process. Their training appears to be relatively uncomplicated. In essence, intensity is emphasized over volume.”
“In contrast, in the author’s opinion, training in western countries appears to be guided by a ‘more is better’ philosophy which necessitates limiting intensity.”

It made me cringe. He went on to speculate that this intensity over volume emphasis was one reason why African’s were better at distance running. He’s not the only one. There are many others, and they do this despite the fact that there is evidence smacking them in the face to the contrary. Most science types won’t accept anything not published in a journal article, so much of the “anecdotal” evidence is dismissed. But even evidence from Scientific Studies, like one from Billat, et al., show that African’s train at high volumes (avg. between 160-175km per week leading up to a track season.).

But there is hope. A couple somewhat recent studies have come out that help show the importance of easy running. Both were done in Spain on relatively well trained distance runners (in one, performances ranged from about 30-34min for 10k I think).
The original study set out to quantify a group of runners training for two CC races using HR. They split training into 3 HR zones and recorded their HR during all training for 6 months. The 3 zones essentially came down to easy running, threshold type running, and interval/speed type running. It’s more complicated but that makes it easy to think about the training. At the end of the study 75% of the training was done in zone 1, 21% in zone 2, and 8% in zone 3.
The surprising thing was that the ONLY thing that significantly correlated with how an athlete performed was the amount of training done in zone 1. So, the more training in zone 1 an athlete did, the better he tended to perform.

This was obviously surprising since you’d expect that the amount of training in the faster zones would correlate to race improvement since they were racing over 4.1km and 10k. So, they did another study to figure things out.

In the 2nd study, they took a group of runners and split them into two even groups. One group did had a zone distribution 80%, 10%, 10%. While the other had a distribution of 65%, 25%, and 10%. They made sure the training load (calculated based on HR, essentially it is volume X intensity) was equal in both groups. Basically, the 1st group did more easy and steady running, while the 2nd group did more tempo work.
What happened? Both groups improved. That’s good. BUT, the group with more easy running improved even more so. In fact, they improved a statistically significant amount more.
So, what does all of that mean? EASY running, including junk mileage, has a place! It works.

Lastly, let’s look at Moses Mosop’s training prior to the Kenyan XC champs, which he won. For the months of November, Dec, Jan. and Feb. he had the following avg. miles per week: 124, 127, 88, and 125. That’s a lot of running. Let’s look a little deeper at the average training over these four months.

Weekly mileage –AVG= 116.2mpw
Regeneration Mileage (< 6:10/mi)- AVG=52.33%
Basic Aerobic Mileage (6:10/mi ><5:30) AVG= 27.73%
Aerobic Endurance Mileage (5:30-4:50) AVG= 10.7%
Aerobic Power Mileage (4:50- 4:25) AVG= 7.89%
Specific Speed Endurance Mileage ((4:25-0) AVG= 1.02%
Speed (faster than 15” per 100m) AVG= .11%
Short Length Hills (60m >< 150m) AVG=.03%
Medium Length Hills (200m >< 300m) AVG= .19%

Just to compare it to that last study, approximately 80% of Mosop’s training would be in “zone 1”. 10% in zone 2, and 10% in zone 3. Pretty crazy how that works out…
It’s no surprise that his training percentages come out that way. There’s some research that suggests that higher percentages of intense work may suppress the sympathetic NS a bit and effect catecholamine secretion. The important thing though is that because of Mosop’s large base of support on which to work, he can handle more TOTAL work. Thus his total work at the intensities is higher than someone else might be able to handle. Thus, why that someone else can only run 80mpw with similar percentages of intensities while Mosop can handle 120mpw with the intensity.

With all this being said, I think it is very important to look at EACH training session. Look at the progression of the training that Mosop did for example, it’s great, especially the long run progression. Looking at averages just gives us an easier way to look at how an athlete globally trains.
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