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A Guide to Endurance Training Methods

Previously, I have written about the three primary predictors of overall endurance performance which were VO2 max, functional threshold, and efficiency.   While each is important on its own, it is the interaction of all three (along with factor such as pacing, tactics, etc) that determine actual real-world performance.

Each is also developed in a different way.  So in this series I want to look at various methods of endurance training as they are commonly recommended or used by athletes to optimize and maximize performance.

Today I mainly want to introduce the topic by looking briefly at the major adaptations that occur in response to endurance training.  Since it will provide background to better understand why different methods of endurance training “work”, I will also delve into bit of molecular physiology regarding something called AMPk.

Today I want to mainly make some introductory comments, looking briefly at some of the major adaptations that occur in response to endurance training. … Keep Reading

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Bodyrecomposition Mailbag 10

Once again it’s time for another mailbag.

Mixed Brain Fuel

Question: On a ketogenic diet, how rapidly does the brain flip between glucose and ketones for fuel? Can it use both fuel sources simultaneously?

Answer: The above question sort of encompasses a few different potential things and I’m not 100% sure which you’re asking so I’ll just cover them all.  First realize that one fuel that the brain cannot use is fatty acids, at least not directly.  This has led to the oft-stated belief that the brain can only use glucose. But this is incorrect as the brain has an alternative fat derived fuel which are ketones (or ketone bodies, the two major of which are beta-hydroxybutyrate and acetyl-acetate).

Ketones are produced primarily in the liver (from the breakdown of fatty acids) and exist predominantly as an alternative fuel source for the brain (they can also be used by skeletal muscle) during periods of low-carbohydrate availability. … Keep Reading

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Endurance Training Method 2: Tempo and Sweet Spot Training

On Tuesday, in Methods of Endurance Training Part 2: Miles Build Champions, I discussed what is probably the most traditional and common of endurance development methods, to whit “pissing around” at fairly low intensities of perhaps 130-150 hear rate for hours at a time and doing it almost daily.

The Problem with Miles Build Champions in the Real World

There is no doubt that this method of training “works” and “has worked” for decades in terms of developing the aerobic engine.  It has certain advantages and, like all training methods, certain disadvantages.  Perhaps the biggest disadvantage for real humans being the enormous time commitment required.  With weekly training volumes of 20-40 weeks, that’s still 2.5-6.5 hours per day (depending on the sport) if someone trains 6 days/week.

Realistically only full-time athletes can do that.  At most the average citizen racer might get in several shorter workouts during the week and devote more time on the weekends. … Keep Reading

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Endurance Training Method 1: Miles Build Champions

Continuing from Part 1, I want to go ahead and move into perhaps the most commonly used method of endurance training which is the miles build champions approach.

Miles Build Champions

.Arguably the most commonly popular (or certainly most traditional) approach to developing endurance over the years has been a volume oriented ‘miles build champions’ type of approach.  Many coaches echo that idea that unless you can do “X amount of miles/kilometers/volume per week” you simply can’t succeed at the highest levels or build maximal endurance.  Cycling coaches will often tell up and coming athletes that they just “need another 1000km in their legs” to reach the next level.

The focus with this philosophy is basically on just doing endless volumes.  You do the miles, you build a champion.  I saw it summed up on one power training forum with the simple coaching mantra “Ride lots”.   But the goal here, basically is to do about as much training as you can, stand, handle or recover from without overtraining. … Keep Reading

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Endurance Training Method 3: Threshold Training

In Part 2, I discussed intensive endurance/tempo training and Sweet Spot training as conceptualized by Andrew Coggan in the power meter community.  There I mentioned the idea of a threshold representing the maximum intensity that can be sustained for some time period (usually defined as one hour).   I called it Threshold Training and that is the topic of this part of the series.

Threshold Training

Early in the study of endurance performance, a great deal of focus was placed on VO2 max, the maximum amount of oxygen that the body could process.  And while it was thought to be a primary factor determining performance, that turned out not to be the case.  Certainly a high VO2 max was required to be an elite endurance athlete but it was not sufficient.

Later research would turn to a concept that has had many names over the years including lactate threshold, anerobic threshold, individual anaerobic threshold, OBLA, ventilatory threshold and more. … Keep Reading