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Written By: Seth Kotelnicki
Traditional long slow distance(LSD) running leads us to believe that the only way to train for a race is by a lot of volume. The basic idea is that the longer a person is able to run in training, the better off they will become race day. The coveted long run is where the moneys at; but is there an alternative to this way of training? What if a person has a full time job, a family, an actual life, and they do not have twenty plus hours a week to train?
Without breaking down every aspect of training or going into the full science of it, although we may later, let’s just look at the basics here, and also look at this in a logical fashion. Watch anyone finish a marathon, an Ironman, or some other feat of endurance, and rarely will you see a person come across the finish line out of breath and gasping for air, unless they had an epic sprint to the finish. Most people who finish these races are sore, beat-down, and weak. They then take weeks to recover as they hobble up and down stairs, pack their joints with ice, and pop the NSAIDs. This somehow becomes a badge of honor and an accepted norm for the endurance community, although it doesn’t have to be. So, let’s look at how training differently can affect our outcome.
To have an effective training program, priorities must be made in training. To list a few: fundamental movement patterns (which in this case would be running form), creating proper stability and mobility in respective joints, a systematic approach to address various other weaknesses, and specialization in sport. I know more can be added to this list and these can be broken down even further, but this will serve as a starting point in which we can talk about how to maximize training.
With this in mind, let’s look at how we can optimize training for an event. First by addressing movement patterns and dysfunction. As Mike Robertson says, “if you’re not assessing you're guessing”. An assessment of the athlete must be made to identify weak points. Without assessing at best the athlete will get better, but they will be wasting time on unneeded aspects of training. In the case of runners most of them do not know how to run. By adding intensity and volume to poor mechanics, it is only a recipe for disaster. Hence, more than 80% of runners are hurt annually. Fundamentals are the foundation of training and with a weak and shaky foundation nothing can be properly constructed from this. This is why most of the athlete’s time needs to be spent on the foundation and fundamentals.
With a large focus on foundational work, most stability and mobility issues will clear up, but more work is likely needed. If joints are not functioning as they should, energy is wasted and additional undue stress is added to the joints( like that stiff achy feeling after the marathon). I will say though that to some degree a little stiffness cannot be avoided. Taking over 40,000 steps in such a small movement pattern will create stiffness after a race, but to the degree that it debilitates most people, and the joint pain it creates is unacceptable. As movement is being addressed the next layer to our puzzle will be the person’s strength and aerobic capacity for endurance events.
A lack of strength is another reason people are a wreck after their event. The idea behind of why runners are training LSD in the first place, is simply to develop the strength to go farther and a solid aerobic base. Here is the problem with that thought; first off, aerobic capacity does not increase after running more than an hour. So there is little value in going farther, so these means for most athletes the purpose of running more than an hour is to build the strength necessary to run their event. The problem with this is that the body is simultaneously trying to get stronger while it is being broken down by the length of the training session. It takes more than eight hours to recover from a one hour run, and recovery time only exponentially increases from there as the runs get longer. So instead of running farther to get stronger people can head to the weight room, train larger movements such as squats, and by doing so they can more effectively increase strength, save tremendous amounts of time, recover faster, and lessen the chance of over training. And for these two reasons there is no need for LSD runs. Sprint, interval, time trial, and tempo work all under an hour will serve as an effective way to develop the skill of running and increase an athlete’s aerobic capacity, especially since doing anaerobic work has a huge carry over to aerobic gains. And if more aerobic training needs to take place it can be produced with proper conditioning done in the gym, such as prowler work.
What all this will do for the athlete is develop a well rounded, healthier person, who can save dozens of hours in a week. It will also create an athlete who is not debilitated after a race and can within 1-3 days be back to training.
Using our programing we have been effectively able to train athletes to compete all the way up to the 100k distance without ever breaking past seven hours of work in a week. The athletes have all been able to increase overall fitness, health, and speed for their events by cutting out needless hours of work.
Are we saying LSD training does not work? No, obviously it does. People have been using it for several decades and with a great deal of success. All we are saying is that there are other ways to get the job done, and that there are fundamental problems with solely focusing on LSD running that lead to many of the problems people suffer from.
Here is an example of one week of training: