Despite yesterday’s perplexing MAF test, my real conundrum consists of how to transition into a three-month strength training phase. Since I have been experiencing success with the Maffetone method of low stress, low intensity, purely aerobic training, I am at a bit of a loss about how to proceed. In his Big Book of Endurance Training and Racing he explains that all strength training should be considered as anaerobic, and therefore potentially damaging to increasing aerobic fitness and fat burning metabolism. Since endurance events rely almost exclusively on aerobic energy, strength training is less important. As I understand it, this is because aerobic endurance relies on the slow twitch muscle fibers and strength training recruits mostly fast twitch fibers. So, in essence the wrong muscle fibers are being trained if endurance is the goal. Maffetone explains on page 122:
“Some feel the added muscle gained during lifting will protect them from injury. But it’s the aerobic muscle fibers that perform this task much more than the anaerobic fibers. Others feel weight training improves power, which it does. But this power is not used nearly as significant (sic) as aerobic function in endurance events.”
So why am I risking it?
I fall into a couple of exceptional categories:
- Age: I am now at an age where maintaining muscle mass with strength training may outweigh the risks
- Aerobic Base: I have completed six months where nearly all workouts were purely aerobic. I cut back on racing.
- Ski season: While I am not as dedicated to alpine skiing as previously, I know from experience how helpful the gym is.
- Racing: What? Despite what Maffetone believes, I believe that in off-road racing there is greater need for power than racing on the road.
So, I am willing to risk it. The conundrum is how to design a workout that will increase strength without interfering with my aerobic development, since I still have a long way to go, as clearly shown by my MAF test.
Today I trained basic movements: lower body thrust, upper body push, upper body pull, crunch and back extension. It looked like this:
Chest Press 2×12
Lat pull-down 2×12
Leg Press 2×15
Back Extension 2×12
I tried as hard as I could to keep intensity and volume low. I know my joints will be sore for a while as I adapt. I want to do the minimum possible that will still get gains. I am trying to apply the “less is more” philosophy to the gym and avoid the injury and burnout producing “no pain no gain” mantra. So, I’ll hit the gym again this weekend and change up the exercises, but keep the same template. Knowing whether I am on the right track will come from watching my HRV and my MAF test result in two weeks.
The Marathon Project is officially underway! Today I ran 1:45, which is about fifteen minutes longer than my previous long runs, but a bit shy of my goal for the month of two hour long runs. The good news is that I completed the run feeling pretty good. Immediately after the run I was on my feet gathering veggies at the farmer’s market with no undue distress. So Week 1 of The Marathon Project has me training:
One hour bike commute
Run a M.A.F. test on the track
A.M. Strength Train @gym
P.M. 90 minute bike commute 1 hr. trainer ride
The first real cold front is working its way through California, with real rain expected.
Run 60 min.
Bike commute one hour
A.M. 2 hour long run
P.M. Strength train @gym
2-3 hr Bike ride, road or MTB
Except for Monday’s faculty meeting, no work commitments should interfere. Unlike the last two weeks, the weather calls for our California Indian summer to finally ease up. No more 90 degree afternoons cancelling runs, I hope.
Remember January 1? Whatever happened to those resolutions? Come on, admit it, you’re among friends, you had a few, didn’t you? Even if you didn’t make a big deal about them at the time by broadcasting them to your support network, blogging them, keeping a journal, or even writing them on the fridge, they were there somewhere in your mind. Then what happened? Of course, Life happened. It usually does. Then there were a few slips, you slacked off, and when you started to feel bad, your ever ready ego fired up the Rationalization machine and presto! You absolved yourself of actually making any change. You’re happy now right?
Of course not. You made those resolutions because they meant something to you. So I’m here to say that you are not to late to make serious progress on those goals. We have 100 days left in 2011. That’s a lot of days that you can use to make your goals and dreams come true. So, recommit yourself to the spirit of the goals, even if they were vague to begin with. What can you do right now, this very minute to make some progress? Start small. Very small. Like five minutes worth of small. What can you do right now for five minutes that could help? Maybe write down a plan for tomorrow. Maybe reconnect with what you find inspiring about your goal. Maybe you could close your eyes and for five minutes just imagine what life would feel like when this goal is achieved. Maybe you could just watch your breath for five minutes and let theuniverse talk to you.
Then what? Do something! Maybe the original goal is too ambitious for 100 days. So what? When all else fails, lower your expectations. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Reflect for a moment on what would be reasonable to expect in the final 100 days this year. Now take that goal and cut it in half. If you’re really ambitious, cut it by 75%. You read that right. Some times we get too wound up and anxious and get in our own way. Maybe we get too excited and try to hard to “dream big”. Maybe we can ease up and be kind to ourselves by trying gentler. But you know what? Those small, kind, and gentle actions can add up to great things. And it will happen quicker than you think, because as we all know well, time truly does fly. So perhaps the harder we try and the more tension we create, the quicker we abandon. I am reminded of the old Zen story:
A spiritual seeker came to see a famous Zen master and asked how long it would take to reach enlightenment if he meditated two hours a day.
“Ten years,” the Zen master answered.
“Ten years! What if I doubled my efforts and meditated four hours a day?”
“Probably about about fifteen years.”
“What?! OK, what if I was totally devoted and meditated for six hours a day, every day. How long?”
“Oh, I would say at least twenty years.”
“This is ridiculous! How can it be that the harder I work the longer it will take? That doesn’t make any sense!”
“The harder you try, the tighter you grasp and cling to this idea of enlightenment that you alone created in your own mind. It is not true understanding. To truly wake up you must let go of all those ideas and receive the wisdom around you. Only when you relax your mind and expectations will you see with new understanding.”
Hmmm. Interesting ideas. Go easier to go farther. Sounds like the Maffetone method all over again. So what will I do? Keep practicing. The Maffetone method of athletic training has been a great help. It changes my focus from trying to hit specific targets,to instead putting faith in the practice of daily improvement of my aerobic engine. So I will continue to do that. I will find a few races to participate in to stoke the fires. But not too many, I have learned the lesson of over racing. I will focus less on numbers (weight, HRV, times, pace, poundage etc.) and more on the behavior and habit. Is what I’m doing now going to help me run that marathon in December or Leadville 2014? As long as the movement is in the right direction, I’ll count it a victory. I’m much more more interested in the habit than I am how long it took me to run to the bridge and back or ride up St. Joseph’s Hill.
100 days left! What are you going to do?
I ran across Chris Carmichael’s postabout what is so great about the fall and couldn’t agree more. I love the fall in California. Cool nights and mornings with warm afternoons are perfect for long training or racing. Fall is definitely here in the Bay Area. I am happy that this is the second weekend in a row that I have resisted the temptations of the couch or given into workweek fatigue and actually followed the training plan. Score another one for the Maffetone method. Saturday consisted of a great 2 hour MTB ride around the trails off Skyline above Palo Alto. Sunday’s workout was a 90 minute long run to begin the build phase for a December marathon. Unfortunately, my legs were deadened a bit by Saturday’s ride, so I had to slow to a pathetic jog to keep my HR within the prescribed range. Regardless, it was a good workout because it met the criteria and it was a beautiful morning to run. After the run of course it was time to hit the Campbell Farmer’s Market. Another reason fall is the best, the truly amazing bounty at the Farmer’s Market! I scored bok choy, mizuna, eggplant, green beans, yukon gold potatoes, heirloom tomatoes, and peaches.
Time to create a menu plan and a training plan for the week. Definitely a lot more work needed on my aerobic engine. No anaerobic efforts until gym work begins next month. How are you training now? Still racing? What are you eating now?