Thursday, August 14, 2008

Claus Bech comment..

I made a few comments on weight training in yesterday's post.. here is Claus' response. Excellent! Thank you for taking the time to contribute!
Hi Tim, I value your effort to provide advice on training and your ability to combine scientific and empiric knowledge. But I disagree with the following quote: "I firmly believe that lifting weights is a good thing as it improves the oxygen carrying capacity of the muscle and improves economy."
A few years ago I did a review study on strength training for endurance athletes. In most scientific studies it´s generally agreed that adaptations from endurance and strength training are very different and mostly works in opposition to each other. I focused mainly on cycling and running and their very different approaches. Both sports were concerned about hypertrophy and the related weight gain, relative decreased capillarization and increased distance for O2 an CO2. The Danish National Junior Team experimented with very high intensity weight training: 2 sets of 3 reps with 5RM, in leg extension, leg curl, leg press and calf raises. They performed a 45 min. TT on track, 5-7% faster than before - without any unwanted side effects. Runners used almost exclusively plyometrics and drills directed towards the SSC (stretch-shorten-component) of, mainly, the achilles tendon and thereby improving running economy. A famous Swedish study found that weekly running of up to 120 km elicits optimal running economy and after that it´s a matter of diminishing returns. Unfortunately Danish long distance running has adopted the short/fast concept and we haven´t had any sub 2.12 marathoners for years. For distances up to half marathon I believe you can reach a lot of your potential by doing up to 120 km/week, if you carefully and intelligently mix training as you obviously do. You can´t compare different people, but in our running community we´ve had relatively good success by just running pretty slowly - no concerns towards speed - only frequent competition in 5 and 10 km races. With an, embarrassingly slow, average speed of 4.30 min/km one guy ran 2.19 with 100 miles/ week and I ran 2.32 on 50 miles/week on this ridiculously slow pace! The slow pace reduced the risk of getting injured, but we might have had even better results if we had differentiated the stimulus more. If nothing else it would have been more exciting with the variation. Now I´m a firm believer in a more varied and programme, with lots of different paces and workouts, and follow your training and thoughts daily and with great interest. Bottom line: I think most people will get a long way by just getting/being able to do 6-8 consecutive weeks of 80-120 km/week, which is by no means an easy task for most people.

My response: certainly lots of anecdotal and scientific evidence to cover any argument we can start. There certainly are a lot of proponents for weight lifting as there are opponents. I still believe there is value in weight training perhaps for the injury prevention it can give. Particularly in the 'recreational' runner. An elite runner may be another story. I think an elite runner is better off lifting (if at all) in the off season as weight lifting is huge energy drain for key training and volume. Hill repeats are better.
Also, correcting muscle imbalances?
Increasing bone density?
As far as hypertrophy goes, wouldn't that be determined more by diet? If I lifted weights and ran but maintained a slight caloric deficit wouldn't it be impossible to gain muscle mass? I think too that people who just begin a weight training program will experience weight gain immediately- not from increased muscle- but from increased water and glycogen storage.

With the high mileage I would have to point more towards anecdotal evidence in world class runners. Even Rodgers Rops was running 200k per week in preparation for running a 58:00 1/2 marathon. I think the answer lies somewhere in the adaptation process where a younger or newer runner may benefit more from lower mileage- but once they adapt to that mileage then the stimulus needs to change in order to bring about gains. Using intensity would be one way to do that but with intensity the risk is certainly higher. In regards to the marathon specifically- intensity needs to stay appropriate to the metabolic processes required for the marathon. So changing the stimulus to a higher volume seems more effective to the marathon goal rather than increasing intensity?


Claus Bech said...

Hi Tim, you´re right! There´s endless, running and training related, topics for discussion and I´m glad we´re able to actually do this – it would´ve been even better to discuss it while running... I guess that´s part of the reason our past running community were running so slow in training: we were talking all the time! I often raised the subject of varying the pace, based on lactate threshold, inspired by Peter Janssens book: “Training, lactate, pulserate”. It´s one of the first and best books ever written on the subject of heart rate based training and very easy to use – a lot like Jack Daniels concept. But it was hard to beat the fact that the fastest guy in our training group was averaging 4.27 min/km (6.04min/mile?) for his annual 5700 km. - including all of the racing. I often raised the question: why would a sub 2.20 marathoner (3.18 min/km) and sub 30.00 10 km (3.00 min/km) runner, choose to never train at his goal race pace??? His answer was simple: he loved to run, the more the better, and to be able to run consecutive 100 miles weeks and avoiding injuries, he chose to slow down. He had a background of road cycling on a national level and it seems he adopted their very simple recipe of training: 100 km (65 miles) a day, of easy riding with an occasional sprint for the city limits, to running. Traditions and habits means a lot to training philosopies.
Marathon running in Denmark has been very influenced by Lydiard, who trained the middle-long distance runners here in the 70´s. His high volume-high intensity philosophy gave tremendous results and it was the golden age of marathon running, with Henrik Jørgensens 2.09 victory in London in 89 (?), being the pinnacle. The Lydiard disciples also took nearly all records from 3000m to marathon.
At the moment, barely no one exceeds 100 miles/week and it´s sad to see that we rarely see Danish runners break the sub 30 10km and the 2.20 marathon barrier. There has been very little studies made on why long distance training works, but there´s plenty of anecdotal evidence. I do believe that a lot of junk miles can be substituted with metabolic/pace relevant training, especially in the last 6-8 weeks leading up to the race. But to arrive sufficiently fit to those last critical weeks, takes a lot of preparation – principles that you explain so admirably well through this blog.
It seems to me that the greatest limiter for a small country like Denmark is the limited pool of athletes, peoples reluctance to aim for high mileage, the risk of injury and a lack of dedicated runners due to more attractive alternatives, like soccer. Look at Kenya and Ethiopia and you´ll have the complete opposite scenario, no wonder they rule long distance running.

As for the strength training, I´ve come to the conclusion that a time/energy limited endurance athlete should save strength training till they´ve reached a plateau in performance/progression. Plyometrics, coordinative drills, sprint/hill training is a different story though and should be incorporated as soon as the athletes has acces to good guidance. I´ll try and find the Australian longitudinal study of a succesfull female runner that improved impressively after introducing plyometrics to her training. To keep this short, I´ll just recommend reading H. Tanaka and Swensen´s interesting review from 1998:

Or if you have access to the relevant databases: Tanaka & Swensen: Impact of resistance training on endurance performance: A new form of cross-training?

Enough for now, hopefully there´ll be other chances to reflect on interesting topics, please keep sharing, Claus Bech.
Feel free to shorten this, however you like.

Lucho said...

No way I'll shorten it! I want every word..
I will have my wife (a librarian) get Peter Janssens book ASAP!
I really think the United States went through a very similar period that you describe in your own country. In the 70's and early 80's we seemed to have the greatest runners doing very high mileage.. then we slipped away from that. Even at the Olympic trials this year the average mileages were in the 90 mile range (~150k). The top runners though see the benefit of the high mileage and are going back to it. I can certainly relate to your fastest guy wanting to train high mileage for the enjoyment of it. I am also trying to include the higher intensities.. we'll see if I can handle it! I have seen first hand the benefit of long kilometers at a 'slower' pace. You get to a point where you can run quite fast at an easy effort, but there is time where you plateau and need in incorporate a different stimulus. I agree completely on the junk mileage if an athlete only does the very easy "recovery" paces. I try to hold my HR at a minimum of 20-30 beats below my LT (178). I have found though that once I get very aerobically fit this pace is often times fast and I need to run fairly hard every day.
There's no argument on the value of plyometrics for sure. Very good stuff and you have a great point in needing proper guidance in performing them correctly! Maybe that's my next video post?

I don't think too many people see that Lydiard was not advocating long, slow distance. He did have periods of light jogging, as any good program should have and I think that is the MAF (base) work that I talk about. But as you get more and more fit- your 'steady state' becomes quite difficult! Lydiard was "The Father" of running in the modern era. At a book sale a couple of years ago I found his first edition book in a pile of old books.. and it's signed by Arthur. I bought it for 25 cents. It's one of my 'treasures'.
Thanks Claus!

Morten Liebach said...

"With an, embarrassingly slow, average speed of 4.30 min/km…"

Rock stars!

I just ran a 10 km PR at 44'53" yesterday. To me 4'30"/km is fast. :-)

When I run aerobic, which I of course do most of the time, I run more like 6'00"/km (9'40"/mile) at an average heartrate of 140-145 bpm. I wish I could cruise at 4'30"/km at that heartrate.

How fast were you guys when you started out?

Lucho said...

Morten- We all started somewhere! No one is born fit and when I finally stopped smoking and getting drunk every day my first run I couldn't make it 2 miles before I had to walk home. Fight the good fight and stay disciplined and it'll come. I've seen a lot of athletes make tremendous gains off of simple aerobic running. And I feel the exact same as you do when I look at guys like Alan Culpepper who was recently disappointed with a 29:30 10k.. I would give anything to run that fast! Or look at the world record in the marathon.. I'm a full 26:00 slower.. 1 minute per mile! So I hear you. Stick with it.

ace said...

This is an excellent post touching on adaptation and specificity. I've found weight training to be beneficial up to a point over the years but now my thinking is starting to change. Not that I feel weight training is no longer useful, but I'm starting to look at weight training and strength training as not necessarily being one and the same.

Now I see weight training as a component of strength training which when used wisely can lead to injury prevention and in some cases enhanced performance. Quality strength training seems to address more of the physical systems and cause broader adaptation. As such, in the way I tend to view strength training now, also can result in more efficient movement patterns and higher endurance.

I think for a lot of athletes the distinction between the two may also cause some of the confusion as to how to go about integrating them properly in their training or whether or not to use them at all.

Lucho said...

Ace- Well put! I may use that in a future post if I may?

ace said...

Certainly... I look forward to reading your take on it.