Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Doing It A Different Way

There is so much history to this that I cannot properly do it justice without boring you and/or writing 10 pages. Let's just say that I am a training geek and constantly tinker, learn, and form new opinions on the way to train. While I have not done it, I am familiar with CrossFit and have some fairly strong opinions about it. However, I am intrigued by the idea of using High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) as a way to get more fit. In fact, I have experimented with using HIIT in my weight workouts in the past. Yesterday, I rediscovered this article on the topic by Ben Greenfield yesterday and decided to dig a little deeper. It is worth noting that he uses these techniques and frequently goes sub-10 hours in an Ironman. Bob Africa also used this style of training to finish with the second fastest ever Leadman competition, including a Leadville 100 PR.

A quick bit of background: the predominant theory of training for endurance is widely considered long-slow distance (LSD) or aerobic. We use lots of terms like Maffetone or base building for this style of training. And I don't plan to debunk the idea that it is the best way to get prepared for an endurance event. Nor do any of the authors who advocate HIIT. I am the biggest fan of aerobic training. That said, the problem with aerobic training is that it requires extreme discipline (which sometimes leads me to boredom) and lots of volume (time and mileage). The time crunch leads many runners to ignore important elements of training like proper warm up, cool down, cross training, strength training, etc... We become singular focused on running, even more specifically aerobic running. I think almost all coaches would agree that runners should train as athletes, and not ONLY as a runner.  But I digress....

In scouring the Amazon book shelf, I came across the book Speed, Power, and Endurance by Brian MacKenzie. I found this quote early in the book that stuck with me:

But that's when things started falling apart. Hamstrings, tendons, nerves -- everything became vulnerable to injury. I saw physical therapists and I chiropractors, I did ever "core" or "functional" exercises asked of me, I lifted weights -- yet the injuries kept coming and kept getting worse.
As a former football player and avid weight lifter, this quote also resonated with me:
When I trained with my father in the 1990s, I could squat more than 300 pounds and had perfect range of motion. Now, as an endurance athlete, I couldn't squat half that weight or drop my hips below my knee crease without compromising form. I thought, Here I am in in the prime of my life and I can barely squat my own body weight -- what the hell have I done to myself?

I guess the long and the short of this post is that I am going to experiment with a High Intensity style of training. Frankly, I don't know that I have much choice given the limitations that I have with after knee surgery and the need to continue to rehab and strength train. I want to get fit, but I cannot currently run for 8 - 10 hours a week. And I am not sure that would be the best thing for me right now anyway. Instead of CrossFit Endurance, I still plan to focus on running. My high intensity work will be running and I will continue to do weight training for power (low reps, big weight, proper form) and functional movements (Yoga, core work, etc...). I will aim for a blend of something like 2 strength sessions, 1 pure HIIT session, 1 Hill session (also HIIT) and 1 longer structured interval run per week (another HIIT session), along with 1-2 bouts of Yoga per week. I may also tinker with doing a HIIT session of weights (almost like a CrossFit workout) once a week and make the weekend long an easy/aerobic workout.  So something like:

Day Workout(s) Notes
Monday Cross TrainingYoga (maybe a HIIT weight workout)
Tuesday HIIT running, Heavy Weights Intervals and Olympic Weights
WednesdayCross Training Yoga and PT exercises
ThursdayHIIT running, Heavy WeightsIntervals and Olympic Weights
FridayCross Training/Rest Yoga or Rest
Saturday HIIT runningLong Intervals (unless I do HITT on Monday)
Sunday OffRest

Honestly, this is kind of scary and exciting for me. I like to try new things and have often felt I don't spend enough time in the "pain cave" to be a good short distance runner. Maybe with this style of training I can finally break a 6 min mile and 20 mins in a 5k? They key to high intensity training will be keeping the volume reasonable (something CrossFitters often neglect), like 15-30 mins per week. And the other key is that it has to be genuinely hard, almost to failure, not just uncomfortable. I have seen some crazy hard workouts, for example 6 x 800m @ goal marathon pace on a 10% incline. Ouch.

In an ideal scenario, I can use this style of training to stay motivated, get fit, and rebuild my body for 2014. I would love to enter 2014 healthy, strong, and ready for an aerobic-based training plan, unless I decide HIIT is the only way! But I doubt that, I love running in the mountains too much. And if I get fully healthy, I am sure that by Spring my motivation to get outdoors and run will be sky high.

1 comment:

  1. McKenzie's approach is interesting and thought provoking. I have to say the Bob Africa interview was a fame changer for me. It compelled me to try CrossFit.