Eugene R. Allen
Much like the advocates of various points of view in religion or politics, adherents to specific types of training methods can be most resistant to alternate methodologies. We all have our comfort zones and a background from which we have come on our way to the Nirvana that is CrossFit. My background is endurance sports as a racer in triathlons and other multi-sport races from sprint to Ironman distance and 2-day races such as the Sea2Summit which races from Vancouver to Whistler via kayak, mountain bike and run, walk or scramble. (I do that race this weekend). I believe in periodization so that you do different types of training during different times of the year and advocate very strongly that you have a base of running mileage before sharpening your performance sword with the quality miles of intervals, threshold runs and the various training whetstones that will hone your speed.
I have not invented any of what you are about to read. I have put these methods into practice and have had success with them but their origin is from books by Jack Daniels, Hal Higdon, Scott Tinley, Edmund Burke, Phil Maffetone and others. I also experimented during my 2005 race season with a CrossFit only training program and was slower in every single one of my races than in 2004. While I have brought my Helen time down to 8:30 and improved my pull-ups from around 20 to 47 this year, my long distance racing ability has suffered. I do not attribute my performance deficit to the CrossFit training, but rather my lack of sufficient distance work. Training at a very hard intensity for short periods did not properly prepare me for racing at a lower intensity but for much longer periods of hours rather than minutes.
What you will read below is what works for me, what I do. It is not carved into some tablet as the big T Truth of how to best train for running and is not likely to meet with universal approval from the CrossFit community. Others here will take a contrary view and advocate more intensity sooner and to dump the long miles. Feel free to modify and adjust this to best suit your needs. What is important is the end goal of getting David running faster over a distance of 6 miles. How to best get there will ultimately be determined by which training method creates the best training adaptations for David.
Regarding the questions from Craig’s post:
What are the major adaptations that occur for each type of running(sprints, LSD, tempo, fartlek)? Or phrased differently what types of running benifit: VO2 Max, lactic threshold, stroke volume, capillary density, mitochondria density, mitochondria efficency, stride efficency, recovery(long term and short term), fiber transformation, and muscular endurance.
VO2 Max is the maximum volume of oxygen that the body can consume during intense, whole body exercise. The measure of VO2 max also measures a person’s maximum capacity for aerobic work. In trained athletes it is the delivery of the oxygen to the exercising muscles that limits VO2 max and not the ability of the muscles to use that oxygen, while in untrained or lesser trained people, the muscles fatigue before the cardiovascular system fails. The good news is that we can improve our VO2 max, the bad news is that there is a genetic limitation to that improvement. The very best runners have a high VO2 max and though this can be improved through training a low VO2 max as a starting point will only improve so far. Not everyone has the capacity to become elite runner no matter how hard they train.
There are two methods you can use to improve your VO2 max: Increased volume and increased intensity. The increase in volume must be accompanied by a maintenance of running intensity or no improvement will accrue. A more potent method of increasing VO2 max is run at an intensity of 70% of VO2 max which corresponds to a HR of 75 to 80% of your max HR. The way to do a sufficient volume of running at this level of intensity is to run intervals of 3 to 5 minutes with a recovery time equal to the time spent running. Running faster than 80% of your max HR will not improve the training effect but it will smoke you and lessen the number of repeats you can do. So the workout is half-mile repeats with a recovery time equal to whatever it took you to run the half. Not a jog but not so hard you can only do one. Start with 3 and work up to 6 or so, always stopping while you still feel as though you could do at least one more. Don’t run to failure.
Lactic Acid – Lactate Threshold – Lactate Tolerance
You eat carbohydrate – the liver turns it into glucose so the cells can use it – muscle fibers either use it right away or store it as glycogen. During exercise glycogen is broken back down into glucose and a sequence of enzymatic reactions occur. The glucose becomes pyruvic acid or pyruvate and will make its way to the mitochondria via the enzyme pyruvate dehydrogenase and oxidation and yield ATP for muscle contraction or it will be converted to lactic acid via the enzyme lactate dehydrogenase. ATP: Good, Lactic Acid: Bad (well, not all bad, but bad for the endurance athlete) So, which way does the that little pyruvate go? That will depend upon exercise intensity. As the intensity increases more muscle mass is called to work and thus more lactic acid is being produced. As more and/or larger muscles get involved more lactate is produced and at some point it exceeds the amount the heart, liver, kidneys and inactive muscles can take up and resythesize back into pyruvic acid to be metabolized in the mitochondria for muscle contraction or changed back into glucose. When more lactic acid is produced than the body can get rid of the Lactate Threshold has been reached.
Lactate Tolerance is to some degree your ability to tolerate the discomfort associated with continued athletic effort at or near the LT. The higher this tolerance the greater the percentage of the VO2 max an athlete can use continuously. There are a number of things that influence this tolerance:
Exercise intensity. The harder you go, the more lactate you get
Level of training. Well trained muscles with higher mitochondrial volume improves how well the muscles can metabolize lactic acid. Improved fatty acid oxidation (use of fat as a fuel at higher energy output levels while still aerobic) does not produce lactic acid and allows for much longer athletic efforts.
Muscle fiber type. Slow twitch muscle fibers produce less lactic acid that fast twitch muscles do. Training aerobically and teaching the body to race aerobically allows the body to move fast without producing lactic acid.
Distribution of workload through movement efficiency. Large muscles moving at a moderate intensity will develop less lactate than small muscles moving at high intensity. Learning to move efficiently by distributing the workload to the larger, stronger muscles and not wasting energy through inefficient movement will allow the body to remain aerobic and not produce lactic acid.
Rate of lactate clearance. Through training the amount of blood flow to the liver and kidneys will be reduced less at a given level of exercise output and allow for increased lactate removal by these organs.
In order to improve your LT you need to saturate the muscles with lactic acid which will improve the ability of your muscles to properly buffer the acid and thus deal with it more effectively. This saturation happens at around a minute of maximal or near maximal effort with near to full recovery between sets. These exercise sets would be shorter than the VO2 max sets but at a higher intensity. Run 3 to 6 x 200’s or 300’s with a recovery about twice that of the effort.
This is officially turning into a longer project than I had intended. Rather than spend the whole of my day doing this allow me to point you to some resources:
Precision Heart Rate Training by Edmund Burke
Running Tough by Michael Sandrock
Training Lactate Pulse Rate by Peter Janssen
Breakthrough Running by Running Times
Also look at anything written by Jack Daniels, Hal Higdon and Jeff Galloway.
The purpose of the long runs is to prepare your body for the harder training efforts you will do on the track. I am not saying that you train slow and then suddenly race fast, but rather that you do the LSD work in order to prepare you for the faster interval training. I don’t have much of a power/strength background but with my long history of endurance training I managed to have a pretty good showing at one of the CF certification seminars during Big Phat Helen. The 800 meter first run and the 5 repeats rather than 3 suited me and I finished near the top. If you don’t want to go long, so be it. But I think you lose some very specific training adaptations with the elimination of at least some LSD work.
David, any whoever else reads this, I hope this has been at least a little helpful. Maybe Mark T. can chime in later to move this along. I have some work stuff and then packing for the Sea2Summit trip to do.