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Monday, May 24, 2010

Slow's the way to go Joe - Part 2

So, what’s a self respecting weekend warrior to do to avoid getting into that dreaded gray zone where training is less effective and causes our fitness gains to plateau?
Build your zone 1 and 2 through walking and use the run walk method. These are 2 different training modalities. This is a great way to develop muscle endurance and develop your fat burning capabilities (with correct nutrition). Good nutrition, over and above the usual advice of eat more regularly, reduce the bad fats, keep the fiber high, get your iron in somehow (if it’s low) also pay particular attention to gradually reducing the carbs and increasing the healthy fats. Walking and the run/walk method also reduce fatigue, risk of injury, rapid recovery and allow for a safer, more rapid increase in volume.
With the walk, add 2 – 3 walks per week to your regular training. You can lower your run mileage in a ratio of about .5 to 1; i.e. for every 1 mile you walk you can add .5 of a mile to your run mileage accumulation. Example: a 4 mile walk = a 2 mile run. I mostly have my athletes simply add the walk mileage however. 2 walks of 25-35 minutes, plus a building hike, starting off at around 45 minutes and building to the time you ultimately wish to be on your legs in the marathon. With the demands of IM training I recommend a maximum of 3 hours. Add about 15min per week to this long hike till you have achieved your target volume. Pace is not so important, but form is – go for a quick stride rate of 65 plus steps per foot per minute, keep your elbows bent and engage your core with each stride.
What happens to runners is that they begin to run too fast as they become facilitated and feel more comfortable at a faster pace and incorrectly think that that’s the progress that we are all striving for. The problem is the increase of HR with pace. PACE MUST INCREASE ONLY IF IT CAN BE DONE WHILE KEEPING THE HR WITHIN THE ZONE. This is the true test of base training efficacy, pace increases, but work rate stays the same.
With the walk/run method – which I recommend to everyone, pros and amateurs alike, it is a matter of discovering which ratio allows you to achieve the fastest OVERALL time. For the longer distances what is also of importance is best pace with lowest heart rate. The whole idea with the walk/run method is to develop the ability to maintain the highest overall pace for the entire distance. It is an amazing training and racing tool. Rough suggestions are: Beginners use a walk 1 minute/run 1 minute pattern. For most athletes a 9 minute run, 1 minute walk pattern works really well. I also recommend using a 6 to 1 pattern on your long runs. A final suggestion for maximum benefit, don’t run for longer than 10 minutes at a time and don’t take less than a 15sec walk break. Again, don’t saunter – develop the ability to walk and recover faster and faster. It is not difficult to walk at 12 min pace for a minute, to recover from a run pace that is considerably faster than your ability to run continuously and end up with a huge net gain. Again, bend your elbows, take shorter, quicker steps and “roll” along – don’t dramatically spike the heel into the ground with long slow powerful strides.
Add to this the suggestion that in order to gain the most capacity from BASE training, i.e. increase the pace as much as possible, while keeping the effort (HR) the same, one should not do any intense prolonged training in other workouts. For triathletes this extends definitely to the bike and perhaps even the swim.
What you CAN do to maintain strength and neuro-muscular facilitation during this phase is to do alactic training – this means strides. After a good warm-up, do 4 x 9 second strides at your best controlled effort; i.e. fast, but without bits flying off. Very importantly you MUST recover fully between these. Build until you can do about 8 of these 2-3 times per week.
Now for triathletes the big hurdle to overcome with patience is the fact that you get to a point on the bike where you feel you can work much harder far more quickly than you do on the run. When this happens you ride shorter and harder in higher zones because this feels good and fast and strong. You then not only might plateau, but you have limited your bike fitness potential and seriously retarded your chances of improving on the run as well.
This leads to the most common mistake in long course triathlon racing – over riding the bike portion…..
Pre-race many triathletes predict with quite good accuracy what they will do on the swim and bike and fall woefully short with their run prediction with something like this, “I was doing great till 16 miles on the run when I cramped/became nauseous/lost my lunch/bonked…. If only I hadn’t, I coulda, woulda, shoulda…”
Do more work for longer in those lower zones on both the bike and run and expand your work capabilities and ultimately your race results. Once you have done this background work, it will serve you for a long time & restoring it each season becomes easier & shorter.
Bobby McGee


  1. You should agree that this is a very, but very dificult task to accomplish, specially for the competitive triathlete!
    I am using this walk/run "methodology" aleatory and got some nice perception on the recovery after some seconds walking to have some water or wait for the training partner.
    Cheers, MAA

  2. Thanks Marcos - You'll run/walk blissfully when you start going minutes faster in races!