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Podcast Episode: Metabolic Efficiency Pt 1

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I’ve been doing metabolic testing and VO2max testing for a fair amount of time now, but mostly with predictable results. Not until recently, have we been testing for than one type of runner, and boy have results not been quite so “textbook.” These results have led me to explore more into the topic of metabolic efficiency.

This led to some personal revelations as to why certain runners struggle so much with not only training, but losing weight, and being able to progress from a health standpoint. I hope you find this info interesting and can put some of this towards your own training or coaching!

Hanson’s Philosophy- Part II

Yesterday, I wrote the first part of this series of blogs. I promised that I would get the second part out as soon I as I could, so here goes:

The third component of the marathon philosophy is consistency. You cannot have consistency without balancing your paces/training out. As well, you can’t run higher mileage without consistency. It really is such a tangled web we weave. To me, consistency is not just running most days of the week. That’s a great start, but now extned that to weeks, then a month, then months, and finally to years of just steady conistent training. I personally feel that being consistent will show a great deal of improvment by itself, even if it means slowing down some of your workout paces to tolerate the increase in days/volumes.

In my own running, I can tell you what consistancy meant to me. Looking at my training and when I had my biggest breakthroughs it was pretty clear when I had success. It wasn’t when I was hitting these monster workouts. That was great, but all I did was overtrain. I left my race on the bike path of Stony Creek Metropark. When I had my biggest breakthroughs it was when I had just hummed along through months of healthy and steadily progressing training. I was trained completely, but not completely overtrained. The trick is to recognize this as it is happening so you can copy it all the time. However, that’s the really hard part!

To finish up on constency, all of this ties together. We already showed how the first three components tie into each other, but what really brings these things together is the ability to run at your appropriate paces. By training at the paces appropriate for you then 1) you keep your training in balance because you are getting the desired benefits of the workouts. Training too fast can turn a speed workout into a repeat, or maximal effort workout. A marathon tempo can be turned into a strength workout. You are always missing out on what the workout is trying to accomplish. As far as higher mileage is concerened, when the paces are not right (usually too fast) then what happens? Right, we start shortening workouts because we ran too hard for what we were trying to do and we take days off because we are too fatigued from running too hard for several days in a row. By keeping paces in check, you allow yourself to run on the days that could be offdays. Easy running, when kept easy allows you to build mileage, recover from workouts, and does give you a tone of aerobci benefit. You know what that sounds like to me? Bingo, now you are being consistent with your training! You have now set yourself up for success within the current training block, but for long term training, too. It’s such a gorgeous thing.

What this all feels like during training is that feeling of cumulative fatigue. You are tired, but incredibly strong, fit, and able to do what is asked of you day after day. You aren’t so tired that you can’t bounce back, but you feel that fatigue of training hard. It’s heaven and hell, all at the same time. However, that fatigue is exactly how you are going to feel the last 10k of the marathon. The difference between you and the other guy, is that you have taken yourself to that place and and made it back intact. Having that confidence when the going gets tough is how the tough get going!

So there you have it, the philosophy of the Hanson’s marathon method. The very basic of basic concepts that pull the whole thing together- the amino acids of the training organism. While I know that many of you already use the syetem, I know that some of you may never buy in- that’s totally fine. I do hope that some of this can help you when you set forth on your own path.

As always, thanks for reading. Good running-

Luke

My winter marathon experience: near debacle to salvation

I’ve been running marathons for some time now, for about a decade. However, since 2011, running has been tough. I broke my foot and femur, dropped out of the US Olympic Trials, and just struggled overall to get my own running back on track.

My femoral stress fracture was in June of 2013, just when I thought I had figured out what my problem was. It just shows that sometimes you gotta ride out the storm, even if it seems like it will never end! Long story short, it healed and we (my coaches and I ) started to try again. However, in order to move forward, I had to accept my diminished capacity and basically start over. So the plan was to build my mileage, do reduced workouts, and stay healthy! The Chicago marathon ended up being my goal focus for the fall, not to race rather pace my teammate mike Morgan as far as possible. I was able to take him through 14 miles at 5:05-5:06 pace so it was a success. There was improvement, consistent training, and I was healthy!

After a lot of thought and discussion with my coaches, we decided to continue to build on the momentum and train for the next marathon that made sense- Houston in January. We thought we’d be ok, because December is usually still pretty decent here in southeast Michigan. Of course, this would be the winter of the Polar Vortex.

Training for Houston went really well, until December 23. Then the “avalanche” opened up. I remember the day because it was the day of my Simulator workout (26.2 km at goal MP). We drove to the course where I was going to run, only to find it a sheet of black ice. For those of you who don’t know what black ice is, it’s basically asphalt that is frozen, but it looks like it’s just the road. Talk about a work hazard. So throwing up a Hail Mary, we drove to a parking lot loop about 20 minutes away. Luckily the loop was clear and the biggest workout of my segment could take place. It was cold and windy, but it had to be done. There really wasn’t any wiggle room on this one with Christmas and the travel to different places coming up. So, we did it and for about 18km, it went really quite well. The last 8km though, was a completely different story. Everything caught up to me and I am pretty sure I ran 6:00 miles for the last few km’s. However, I finished it and thought I would shake it off.

From that afternoon, of December 23, all the way to the afternoon of the 29th, I felt off. Not really too sick, but off. When my family and I got home from my parents house on the 29th, it was like somebody flipped a switch. I was down for the count. Over the next three days I thought it was all over. I lost nearly 10 pounds, was malnourished and dehydrated. To add to the scenario, it was the coldest air temperatures I had ever been in (below zero before the windchill) and the snowiest/iciest since I have lived in the Detroit area. “Great” I thought. Here we go again.

So, December was finally over and January blew in with a direct northerly wind, straight from Santa’s workshop. After regaining some strength, I decided I was sticking to the treadmill for the few days before I left to finally get to Florida. When I got to the Sunshine State, it was like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders- literally, because I didn’t have to run in my snowmobile suit! Seriously though, it was a game changer. My mood lifted and runs were instantly easier. I was convinced that I could now at least have a same day finish at Houston.

When I got to Houston I was in a precarious position. I was really fit at the beginning of December, but with everything that had happened, who knew anymore. Kevin and I talked for about 5 minutes at 5:30 AM on Sunday. The basic conclusion was to err on the side of caution. To the athlete’s I coach- I followed my own advice I always give you. I was at a point where if I were going to have a successful day (which at this point meant to a) finish and b) get an Olympic Trials standard out of the way) then I had to put myself in a good position at half way. What I mean by that is to a) be fast enough to even have a chance at a Trials standard and b) to be slow enough to have the opportunity to at least maintain my pace.

The morning was perfect- about 50 degrees, some sun, and barely a breeze. The course is very nice. Pretty flat, but a few little rollers in the second half. I actually prefer this because it breaks it up a little and they aren’t significant enough to really take anything out of you! I was lucky enough to find myself immediately in a small pack. Fortunately,one was a former Hanson’s-Brooks teammate and an athlete I coach, Tim Young. It was the perfect scenario for me!

The first half was low key and uneventful. I was completely able just zone out and wait until I absolutely needed to focus on the race. My 5k splits were 16:08 (5k) 16:12 (10k) 15:58 (15k) and 1:07:56 at the halfway mark. Tim and I came through the halfway mark and I said, “Well Tim, the good news is that we can run 1:10 for the next half and still qualify!” He laughed, and said, “Thanks, boss.” By then our group was down to 3 guys and the group ahead of us was feeling the consequences of going out way too hard for where they were at, fitness wise. Again, it was a perfect scenario.

Tim and I continued on, though I had to keep calming Tim down. He was really fit and itching to make a go for it. I held him back because I had ruined a lot of my own potentially amazing races between miles 14 and 20. We kept right at pace with 16:05 and 16:08 5k splits.

At this point, between 35 and 40 kilometers, I slowed down. It was my slowest split of 16:28 for that 5k. I’m not really sure what happened. I was feeling it, for sure. There’s no real way to completely avoid that feeling of, “oh man, I still have a ways to go.” However, I didn’t crumble. Mentally, I was still making coherent thoughts to myself, but I panicked a little bit. It had been so long since I had run a marathon that I just forgot how that feeling is.

What really surprised me is how I reacted. I really thought I would have caved in a little bit, but  I didn’t! I saw some of those guys coming back that had went too hard. I was catching them still and I used that to regroup. Looking at my splits, the last half mile was under 5:00 pace! I knew I was a little slow, but I knew I still had a good one going. I just had to keep it together and finish as strong as possible.

I crossed the line and sae 2:16:3x. It wasn’t my fastest time, but it was a race I could be proud of! It was a testament to just staying the course and doing what you can. It was a time that qualified me for my 3rd US Olympic Trials and a time that motivated me. It convinced me that I am still at a high level and there’s so much room for improvment. This race made me so excited for the next few years. I can’t wait to be in LA in February of 2016!

 

Hot Topic 9/20/2013- diet trends

Ok, so I was going to do a Hot Topic on tapering, but I have been working on the nutrition chapter of my forthcoming half marathon book. I was looking over the chapter I wrote for Hansons Marathon Method as well as, doing some casual research in current trends. One thing that struck me was the growing popularity of high fat, low(er) carb diets and endurance athletes. I shook my head at a lot of it, but some of it makes sense.

Forgive me if my details aren’t exact but here’s basically what I know about high fat/low carbs and general eating habits.

1) The idea is that we eat too much carbs (true, but misleading) and that the excess carbs we eat are turned into fat. That part is also true. However, Americans eat way too much crappy carbs- pop, candy, starch, processed junk. That we know. What we don’t eat enough of is fruits, veggies, high fiber carbs. So, while we do eat too much of the crappy carbs, we don’t eat enough of the good carbs. So all that junk is not used and absolutely does turn into fat.

2)  If you eat too much fat, it doesn’t have to convert to anything, it just has to get stored!

3) High fat/low carb has been shown people to lose weight in the SHORT TERM. There isn’t a lot of evidence of long term maintenance.

4) You have to replace what you burn. Unless you train at a fast walk, you are burning both fat and carbs. You have theoretically unlimited stores of fat, while your carb stores can vanish within an interval workout. If you don’t replace what you burnt just to get back to baseline, things will not go well after even a few days.

5) If you focus on high quality food and nutritiously dense food, these things balance themselves out. That means eat lean sources of protein,  eat your fruits and veggies, and stay away from fatty/greasy crap as much as you can. If you can do that, you can take a lot of the guesswork out of your diet.

Feel free to discuss your thoughts below. Better yet, if you have had experiences to share, please do!

 

Luke

Beginning to understand the hanson philosophy

I was recently reading another “coach” bio on the interwebs and it got me thinking a few things. The first was, “Dang. Everyone is a coach these days!” That’s a whole different story. What I was really thinking about was training philosophy. This young man had about 20 names listed as his coaching influences and for reasons we’ll discuss, puzzled/worried me. Why? Well, the thing is, the first response to this was, “Why so many?” Was he just name dropping to look smart? Maybe. But maybe there was more to it than that. I think there may have also been a big lack of understanding in what these coaches really stood for in their own coaching philosophies. For one, you could really divide the group he listed into three groups. The first group, well ok, person, would have been Arthur Lydiard. He is without a doubt the man with the plan when it comes to training. The second group would be the pupils of Mr. Lydiard. This was the majority of the names mentioned. The last group was smaller, but consisted of the non Lydiard lineage.

So, the second group I totally get. It’s the same ingredients, just different mixtures. Everyone has their own interpretation about what Lydiard would do in present day. I completely understand the slight differences. On a side note, I have been reading a lot of notes and articles lately involving many of these other good coaches. I found it funny that a lot of what they did differently wasn’t out of differences in thought, but rather, out of necessity. Some of it was due to climate or facilities. Some of it was geographical. These coaches did what they could to mimic the original based on what they had to work with!

What I don’t understand is how the third group of coaches played into this. You have on your left, one school of thought. On the other you have a completely opposite school of thought and now you are somehow supposed to integrate components from both. To me, it seems very counterproductive. I am all for being adaptive and growing as we find new theories, but you can’t play politician and flip sides when your crowd changes. Stick with what you believe and if you don’t know what to believe, find something!

Ok, so enough soap boxing ( I really wasn’t attempting a political theme here…) and let’s get to what matters with us! What is the Hanson Philosophy?

That’s a great question and until I began working on the book, I didn’t have an exact answer. This isn’t going to be a short answer, but it will be thorough. Overall, everything that involves Kevin and Keith Hanson (the elite distance project and the schedules for the masses) is Lydiard based in thought. So, let’s go over what exactly is the Lydiard thought process?

Lydiard in a nutshell:

Ok, the VERY basic Lydiard philosophy:

Lydiard Training Pyramid

Simple right? Don’t let it trick you. All it’s saying is that you the base of your training is easy aerobic running. After you build that you can move to the next level, then the next level, all the way until you are close to you your goal race. Each step is smaller in size, but higher in intensity. All year, you do things like hills and form drills.

Now, if you read in depth about Lydiard, what you find is interesting. This is the pyramid that is the staple for his training- but he wrote that you “climbed the ladder” to the point where you were racing. So, an 800/1500 meter specialist would climb that ladder all the way to the top. However, as Lydiard indicated that for a marathon runner, he wouldn’t get past the 5k intervals.

Where it gets complicated for marathon runners, to me anyway, is that Lydiard indicates two things what would leave room for discussion. 1) That training needs to be balanced. This means that all aspects of training are somehow incorporated into a training program. 2) That he wants the most race specific work to be done near the time of the goal race. However, in his writings he has the last few weeks of a marathoners program doing intervals at 10k and sometimes 5k pace. To me, the last thing I really want to do is to be on the track doing intervals two weeks before my marathon. This is where I can see some room for negotiation.By no means am I claiming to be smarter than Mr. Lydiard, only that I have trained for a few marathons and know what my body likes…

It is that second point where you will see the biggest discrepancy in the classic Hanson Marathon schedules and the Lydiard philosophy. In the classic schedules you will see the speed more in the beginning of the program. Why? It’s simple- the runner has a balance in training and no aspect is left out. Also, the last several weeks are completely devoted to marathon specific running. Some argue that the speed lowers the pH in the blood and this hurts aerobic development. However, the speed in the beginning acocunts for roughly 7% of the total weekly volume. 93% of the running over the rest of the week is marathon pace, or slower. From a practical standpoint, we don’t care if the intervals are truly at their best 5k or 10k times. If they are slower than their true 5/10k potential, that is fine. The work they do would then be closer to lactate threshold and still provide a great transition to the marathon specific work later in the segment!

Remember, the classic schedules are designed to fill a wide spectrum of runners and what is offered individually may be different. The book has an entire chapter devoted to the marathon philosophy that Kevin and Keith have developed over the years to fit those runners. For members, I am working on a complete detailed explanation of the training philosophies- so watch out for updates!

Some speedwork observations

May marks the annual tradition of Tuesday night speedwork seesions at Dodge Park in Utica. For those unfamiliar with the area, Dodge Park has a hard packed dirt path that winds through the main park for just short of a mile. Since most of our adult runners will never run a track race, this path is a perfect compromise for getting fast work in and being on a similar surface that they will race. Our speed sessions attract over 100 people (of all pace ranges) in the summer, and this makes it much more usable for everyone. So, at any rate, we have now completed our first three speed work sessions, and in that time, I have made some observations.

1) As much as the word “intervals” has been thrown around in mainstream running publications, the idea still seems to cause a great deal of confusion to the average runner.

Let’s start with the basics. Intervals at their basic structure are intervals of faster and slower running. They can be based on a set distance, time (or pace), or both. So, a typical Interval workout is 12×400. This means that a person will complete 12 fast intervals of 400 meters.

As far as time and pace, there are a couple ways to express an interval workout. For instance, you could express the same workout above in even more detail: 12×400 @ 5k pace. So, now we give a set pace for what the intervals should be run at.

A second way to approach the interval is by only time. When a track or loop is not available, you can simple say something like, 12×2 minutes at 5k effort. So now the emphasis is to run for a set amount of time, regardless of distance traveled. I usually only do this if a person has no idea where they are at with their fitness, or it’s winter and a track isn’t going to be accessable.

Where people really get confused: When adding a recovery jog. A complete interval workout may look something like this: 12×400 meters @ 5k pace, with 400 jog recovery. When runners see the complete workout written, they often get confused and think that everything should add up to 12. This is not the case. The number you are given in a workout is always the number of faster intervals that is being prescribed. The recovery jog whould always be listed as a seperate component.

2) Most people really don’t know how to approach intervals.

This past week’s speed session was a perfect example. We were running 600 meter intervals. Just long enough that proper pacing will be crucial for completion- by completion, I mean not having a big time discrepncy between the first and last interval. My observation was simple this week, people go out way too hard and try to end up racing their group mates. I love the group training because it gives you someone to get through the workout with, but I hate when they just try to run faster and faster until one, or more, of them break. Interval workouts are not meant for racing- that’s done on the weekends. The goal of interval workouts is to stress a specific physiological system in order to make long term training adaptations. When you start out too fast and finish way too slow, the only thing you have gotten better at is slowing down. The majority of time, that runner will do the same thing in their weekend race.

If you have to walk on your recovery you are running your intervals too fast! That’s the one thing to remember.

3) Regardless of age, speed work can make you faster.

We have all ages, men, women and kids who attend the speed nights. One thing that is constant, is that they all get faster. Maybe not in the first few weeks, but over the course of the summer, the majority are doing things that they didn’t think possible and doing them faster than when they started. If you are unsure of speedwork, I suggest finding a group. With our groups as large as they are, nobody runs alone and there is someone there who can show you the ropes.

I have seen some pretty amazing changes with runners across age groups. If you are in the Detroit Metro area, we do speedworkouts from May til October. Dodge Park, which is at Dodge Park and Utica Roads in Utica. Announcements and warm up at 6:30 PM.