What’s wrong with endurance training?


2006 Grand Columbian Ironman - Approaching the Finish LineI found another article out there in the blogosphere on the dangers of endurance training; or at least on the risks associated with the way most people train for endurance sports. It references DeVany’s work (which I discussed in a previous post on my blog).

In his article, Brad Kearns, former pro triathlete turned fitness guru, asks the reader to consider taking a more “tempered” approach to endurance training. He suggests opting for less hours and more quality training, with an awareness of recovery, as a healthier and more productive approach to endurance training.

This has got me thinking more about my training approach. Which I have to admit is not at all very structured. And I’m wondering… and I accidentally following a more healthy approach because I am less structured… or am I haphazardly hurling myself toward injury.

Now of course, if you read my blog (which I’ve recently started) you probably figure I am pretty prone to injury, and quite possibly I’ve over trained myself into a weakened state. Exactly the kind of risks that Brad and Art warn about. Quite possibly I am in denial about this, but I think that I am in fact not over trained… and that my injuries have been related to the recently diagnosed “high arches”… at least that’s what my doctor said and so I’m sticking with that story until proven otherwise.

So am I training like my typical endurance sports brethren? Well, I don’t think so… Here are some things I know I don’t do like any of the other endurance athletes around me:

I don’t eat lots of sugar and carbs. I never take calories with me on long bike rides; and only rarely do I take calories on a long run. I drink water with Nuun, so I get my electrolytes without calories. I never eat a big “recovery meal” after a workout. I mean, if I end my workout at a normal meal time, I eat a normal meal… but I don’t down a recovery shake after getting home from a run or ride.

I don’t focus on zones, trying to hard days, easy days, base, max efforts, etc. I almost always wear my HRM, and I always geek out on all the data and charts after a workout, but I rarely pay any attention to it when working out or planning a workout. I go out and bike or run or swim and go at whatever pace feels good.

Most of my “training” particularly on the bike, is done while commuting to work. I get lots of varied terrain, and I’m forced to start and stop with traffic.

Frankly I feel like I’ve done pretty well for myself following this approach. I’ve been very pleased with my finishing times and overall and age group ranks. I sort of assumed that what feels like a pretty quick “ramp up” for me was attributable to ‘beginners luck’ or more likely ‘early gains from a newly trained body’. Maybe I’m gifted with some untapped potential that I wasted for the first 33 years of my life… but I’m not so arrogant to believe that.

Is it possible that my random approach has closely approximated the life style of an early man?

For what it’s worth, here’s how I trained today… Before lunch I did 45 minutes of spin class… couldn’t really push myself because my foot hurt a little when “standing”. After dinner and the kids were in bed, I went out to the garage and did 20 minutes of chest and shoulders strength training.

Oh yeah… and I killed a bear… but that’s a whole other story. 😉

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2 Responses to “What’s wrong with endurance training?”

  1. trifrog Says:

    Wow – killing a bear! I assume you had to eat it for recovery afterwards!?

    I think your improvement can definitely be attributed to being a beginner with a newly-trained body. Eventually, you may find yourself on a plateau and seeking out more specific training protocol in order to achieve additional gains. But for now, your ‘whatever-you-feel-like’ will likely continue to work for you. The best exercise is the one that you will do in the manner you enjoy doing it.

    Your sugar-ingesting friends are likely trying to make sure their bodies have what it needs to fuel and recover from every effort. Your goals to lose weight will necessarily compromise recovery at some point. There’s a balance between what the body needs to heal itself between workouts and burning more calories than you take in. Experts will say an athlete should focus on one goal or the other, but not both – losing weight or improving performance.

  2. noelryan Says:

    Killed a bear?!? C’mon – post that story!

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