Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The "Anti-Training" Way to Train

To state my entire post in a more eloquent (and let's be honest, informative) way, you can go out and read "The Big Book of Endurance Training and Racing" by Phil Maffetone.  You could also read, "Primal Endurance" by Mark Sisson and Brad Kearns.  Theirs are several thousand pages of practical information and knowledge on the kind of endurance training that doesn't compromise your health.

If you want the shorter story, my training this year is mainly in prep for the Leadville 100 trail run and probably 2-3 Spartan races in total.  Other "races" on the calendar aren't really races as I plan to wear my heart-rate monitor and keep it completely aerobic.

That's one very important thing. 
I train slow to run fast.
The only way to keep it real is by wearing a HR-monitor.

I have been keeping track of my workout metrics via Strava, since it's free and easy to upload.  I don't use Strava to stalk other runners or compare my times to theirs.  This evening I noticed after uploading a few workouts that Strava was making the suggestion that I "set goals for 2016."  I had to laugh at this.  Stay in your lane Strava.  If I wanted to perform poorly then I will set some goals and develop a very specific plan to get there just as you are suggesting.

Cause that's kind of what most endurance athletes do.
They lock themselves into an arbitrary training plan.

I know it sounds good to have all of your workouts carefully planned and the mileage and paces all just so.  And in fact this is what most Type-A, goal-oriented endurance athletes do.  It looks great on paper and it's backed by the best science and the coolest online articles.  Each week athletes are working into all of their systems at some point...strength, power, aerobic (or what they believe to be aerobic), interval, tempo, etc.

The reality is that if it isn't aerobic training, it's anaerobic training.  And there is a time and place for endurance athletes to do anaerobic training, but it's not every week and should never be at the expense of building a solid foundational aerobic base.  And you can't build an aerobic base without a HR-monitor, you will simply go too fast.  Even if you use rate-of-perceived exertion or the talk test during your aerobic base-building you will go too fast.  And each time you do you will be compromising your foundation.

Rigid programs will never be as good as intuitive training.

How healthy do you feel today?  How well did you sleep last night?  Do you have constant food cravings?  How is your mood?  How is your energy today?  Do you ask these questions before deciding what kind of and how much physical activity to do for the day?  Many athletes do not realize that poor training habits can encourage poor lifestyle habits (and vice versa).  If you're always training your glycolytic system because you refuse to wear a HR-monitor and slow down, you're always going to have some cravings for junk food (some kind of processed carb or sugar).  If you're always lighting up your "fight or flight" hormonal system in training, you're going to have issues with energy, concentration, motivation, etc.  You will eventually burn out.

"Take what your body gives you each day and no more."

So in my training for Leadville there are some things you might be surprised to see.  My goal is to finish Leadville and remain healthy, but if I had performance goals because I'd run 100 miles before and had more experience, I doubt I would change the following list.  How do I know this?  Well, I've run 52 miles and I would use this same method to train for a 50-miler again.

No written training plan and no weekly mileage goals.
Not locked in to 10% mileage increase per week or any specific progression.  Some weeks I will likely advance in mileage much more than recommended while other weeks I may hardly run. 
Absolutely NO set training paces. 
I will always run with a HR-monitor.  If I ever go above 150-bpm it's because a mountain lion is chasing me or I am at a very strategic point in training.  Anaerobic training is kept to a minimum and only performed if my body feels absolutely amazing for no more than 2 weeks at a time before inserting another recovery period. 
Sleep comes first.  Always.  If my sleep sucks I will change whatever I need to in my training to get my sleep back on track.

As far as nutrition and hydration goes, I do plan to experiment with "race day" nutrition.  I see this probably going one of two ways.  My hope is that through metabolic training, I learn to need very little nutrition during the actual race and the nutrition looks more like "regular food" than the highly-processed junk most athletes eat.  It's possible I'll use something like Vespa or Super-startch during some prep runs to determine what works best for my body.  I've used Oreos in the past with good success energy-wise (but great digestive distress which I'd like to avoid).  I'd like to minimize all digestive upsets if possible and simply having to eat less food will help with that.  Worse case scenario I end up eating whatever will go down.  Hey, it's always an option.  I'm skeptical to the need for electrolytes during exercise so I may avoid using them completely in training to determine if my body can self-regulate without exogenous electrolytes.

This is how I used to eat for ultras, trying to get away from this mindset.

Boring right?  What kind of anti-training training is this?
Aren't you some kind of elite Spartan Sam?

Yes, I am.  Which is why I don't follow training plans.  My body knows best.  My performance is highest and I have greater satisfaction with my season with intuitive training.  I've experimented with other styles of training, to include hiring a coach to hand me workouts.  In retrospect, even when I had workouts given to me by coaches, I always seemed to intuitively change them to suit how I felt.  I would suffer needlessly if I didn't.  I'd fall apart keeping up with some really arbitrary goal.

The science behind VO2-max and similar lab numbers is mute when it comes to practical application.  Knowing what I know now, I'd never worry about those numbers.  I would train by heart rate and chose my hard efforts by intuition and feeling.

I'm saying VO2-max is misleading because it says nothing about how to train correctly.

I hope you're able to grab a copy of one of the books mentioned at the beginning of this post.  I've been around running for some time now and I've seen the effects of not managing stress - training stress, metabolic stress, hormonal stress, work/family stress, etc.  We can really find the balance and perform our best when we train intuitively and not by some arbitrary pseudo-scientific method.  Really.  It comes down to a few basic principles; rest, recovery, sleep, stress management, and nutrition are priority.

If you'd like to learn more, for cheap, just read the books.  If you'd like to talk to a person who actually trains this way, talk to me since I have a feeling the greatest triathlete of all time, Mark Allen, is a little busier.

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