Observations of training theories

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This topic contains 38 replies, has 10 voices, and was last updated by  Ryan 15 years ago.

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  • #1716

    Ryan
    Keymaster

    For several years now, I have been noticing general trends in training theories. I’m sure I am not the only one noticing these trends. In general, I have no problem with people doing whatever they want with their own training so the trends to some extent don’t bother me. However, when people start telling others that their theories (and they are usually no more than unfounded theory) are better than time tested, well proven methods of performance improvement, I have an issue because the theories they came up with in an attempt to avoid doing the work necessary to succeed are being falsely advertised.

    The underlying theme of most of what I have seen is the “less is more” philosophy, which – in general – is just as false as the oxymoron used to describe it sounds. If less is more, then why are those who are doing more winning? It seems like a simple question but the answers are usually convoluted and incomprehensible. It is as though they believe that, if they string enough big words together to confuse everyone hearing or reading those words, people will believe what they say without understanding their reasoning for it. Before you believe those words, ask them a simple question and demand a simple answer. If they can not answer this question with a straightforward answer, I would suggest that you do not consider their claims to be the path to success. The question: Please name several elites from the past 20-30 years, including at least a few of today’s elites, who use your methods.

    The first trend I see a lot is the high regard for cross-training. People frequently reference a handful of studies that claim to show that cross-training improves running performance. There is one common problem with these studies, though. I have yet to see a single study that compares adding some number hours per week of cross-training to a running routine to adding the same amount of time of running to the same running routine. I also have not seen a single study that replaces some amount of running with cross-training and has found that cross-training to be effective. The question to ask when you see claims that cross-training will help your running is whether using the same amount of time and energy to simply run more would help your running even more. Taking a look at the elites, it would seem to be so, as they first focus on maximizing their running before adding any kind of non-running exercise.

    The second trend I see quite frequently is the overstating of the need for recovery. There is one person specifically who in some circles is well known and highly unrespected and disregarded who insists that the elites have it all wrong and that the true answer to maximal performance comes in running 3-4 days a week and getting plenty of rest. This type of argument, while this person takes it to the extreme, is much more prevalent though. I was just reading recently in a fitness magazine how you could reach maximal performance in the half marathon by training three days a week for three months (and it’s great for toning up!). Of course, there was no basis given for such a statement. Even running magazines tout taking plenty of days off and just sit back and observe conversations between runners, whether online or offline, and it shouldn’t take long to hear someone announce how necessary days off are. It’s everywhere, it’s common knowledge, not taking at least one day a week off is bad for your health and will ruin your running. Well, why then do most elites run seven days a week and how do they possibly survive? Sure, most don’t run every day, 365 days a year, but very few schedule at least one day a week off.

    The third trend is related to the second trend, the quality over quantity trend. I think this trend started in this country around the time I began running and it has been gaining momentum ever since. People who believe in this usually cite studies, which conveniently almost always last 8-12 weeks. What is the significance of this time? I don’t know of a single person who denies that 8-12 weeks of high intensity training is the ideal way to quickly improve one’s performance. This is one of the central reasons for using a periodized training plan. In fact, what these studies best prove is that periodization works. What 8-12 week studies miss is the long-term importance of building base. No, you will not improve quickly but you will improve more significantly over the long term by building as big of a base as reasonably possible. Again, take a look at the elites except do so this time with a bit of caution. People love looking at the training logs of milers when discussing this topic and extrapolating that to what marathoners should do. Hopefully, it is not too difficult to see the flaw in this. While the mile is still an aerobic event, it is far from the same as the marathon.

    In the end, some of these training methods may or may not have merit on an individual basis, depending on one’s goals and one’s personal choices of where running fits into other priorities, but some people are selling these as the best way to reach maximal performance. Well, then they should be offering the proof. Lydiard did not just go out and start telling the whole world that his way was better than all other methods. He found some athletes and coached them to the pinnacle of success. He let the results speak for his methods. Today’s “experts” seem more interested in speaking for their methods with no results to back up their words. If only they could realize that real world results speak much more about the effectiveness of a training method than some 8 week lab study or some unproven theory. As the saying goes, the proof is in the pudding.

  • #15319

    randys
    Participant

    Ryan,

    I am in complete agreement with your position.

    I often question my own training after reading articles in the popular press advocating the training methods you describe.

    As someone with only a few years running experience it is easy to develop doubts about my training methods. This is especially true when confronted with conflicting information in the media.

    In the end I believe in building as large a base as possible, training with distinct phases, and resting via easy running rather than taking a day off.

    In the end the fact that the most successful and fastest runners follow these basic guidelines means more to me than what the latest copy of “Runners World” has to say.

    Randy

  • #15320

    you’re absolutely right – you’re not the only one noticing these trends. One thing I’m curious about is whether you saw or heard something recently that compelled you to compose this post or have you been preparing it for a while? I think a lot of what you’ve pointed out is the result of slick marketing on the part of those who are espousing these theories. They’ve seized on the notion that many people don’t want to work hard and so they’ve crafted their message along the lines you’ve related to sell more books, get more appearances, etc… In addition to the trends you’ve mentioned, I’ve noticed another and perhaps more insidious situation that has developed: When faced with incontrovertible evidence that contradicts their “training methods”, particularly the training of elite runners, some of those who propagate these theories have portrayed elite runners as genetic freaks of nature who don’t respond to “normal” training methods and, as a result, have gotten people to think that a different way to train is needed for the majority of the population.

  • #15321

    Ryan
    Keymaster

    I can’t say any one thing in particular brought about this post. It’s more of a number of things. However, I don’t think it would be too hard to pick up on a few potential influences.

    Really, I have been thinking for a little while that it has been some time since the last article I posted on this website and was brainstorming for ideas to write about. For some reason, this topic popped into my head yesterday and I started typing. This is a rough draft of what may become the next article to show up in Training. Seeing as things have been a little quiet around here, I figured I’d stir things up a bit by sharing the rough draft. I’ve also been playing around with an article about “experts” and who the true experts really are but writing that one isn’t coming nearly as easily to me as this one did, probably at least in part because I never have and possibly never will consider myself an expert. It’s hard to write about what a true expert is or is not when you are not a true expert yourself without sounding like a self-proclaimed expert.

  • #15322

    Anonymous

    I agree with 98% of what you said, Ryan. Hey, I’m glad someone finally did.

    a few points, though…

    1. re: the less is more….I agree its a crock…the more you run, the better you get, the same is true with nearly EVERY sport…why the heck is Vijay Singh better that Tiger right now? because he spends the most time practicing….forget all that stuff about Tigers fiance…it all comes down to reps, and Vijay puts in enough reps for 2 PGA level pros.

    more runing related…personally, I think the amount of mpw you need varies from person to person, even if they are shooting for the same goal. I knew guys that ran great college 8ks on 35mpw…and others that needed 90 mpw to be at the same level, its all relative to ability and genetics…in order for me with my gnome-like legs to run with a guy who is 6’2″ (like my roomies in college) I had to be at a higer level of conditioning to cancel out their anatomical advantages….but, thats just my opinion.

    re: cross training- there IS a place for it in MY training…for many reasons.

    1. I feel that a 45 min ride is similar to a recovery run….but it doesn’t pound on my legs . On the flip side….it isn’t a run ,therefore, imo, less isn’t more, but cross training is better than no training! i won’t get inot the “it breaks up the duldrums of running” thing, because I don’t want to.

    A lot of times, the people who are struggling with theories and what to do to help them “over the hump” or get out of a rut…are, imo, 1 of 2 kinds of runners.

    #1. runner guy who is at EVERY local race and runs the same time within 5 secs EVERY time…….his problem is that he races too often and doesnt train enough. If he is happy with that plateau, cool….but if he is complaining, then thats another thing. changes need to be made. And, usually, its not his fault completely. If he ran in HS, he was taught that you race every weekend……just like HS do. That is one of the problems with American distance running…the emphasis on week to week competition.

    Lydiard had it right…..get wicked fit….race welll..then disappear and do it all again in 1 year…or 4 if you are Olympic level.

    #2. The “Oprahs”. we know who they are. They say “I dont want to ruin my joints” or “it said in RW that I can do it in 3 days a week for 3 months, AND look great in a bikini!!”

    The Oprahs have to understand that if they half ass it, they will only achieve that same level.

    BUT…if the Oprahs or local race dude are OK with it….then I am happy for them. Only when they bit*h is when I get heated.

  • #15323

    Ryan
    Keymaster
    Anonymous wrote:
    …the more you run, the better you get, the same is true with nearly EVERY sport…

    A point I actually was thinking of making. Everyone accepts the fact that the best baseball players, the best football players, the best golfers, the best hockey players, the best soccer players, the best at any sport regardless of sport are the best at least in large part because they put the most into their training. Why are so many people reluctant to accept this fact in running?

    Anonymous wrote:
    more runing related…personally, I think the amount of mpw you need varies from person to person, even if they are shooting for the same goal.

    Very true. All my life, I have had to put in twice as much work as most of my competitors to match their performance levels. I will even go a step farther and say that different people may find their ideal average/peak mpw to be different. I believe the man known as malmo called this finding your sweet spot. The key here is that most people are well short of their personal sweet spots and they are afraid for whatever reason to venture closer to them. On top of that and probably part of the cause for the fear, some sources are telling them that doing so would be a mistake.

    Anonymous wrote:
    re: cross training- there IS a place for it in MY training…for many reasons.

    1. I feel that a 45 min ride is similar to a recovery run….but it doesn’t pound on my legs . On the flip side….it isn’t a run ,therefore, imo, less isn’t more, but cross training is better than no training! i won’t get inot the “it breaks up the duldrums of running” thing, because I don’t want to.

    My point of this post/article was to explore ideas that are said to improve performance. They are taken from the angle of maximizing your running performance. As I stated, the methods may have merit on an individual basis. However, I will argue that chances are very good that your race times would benefit more from a 45 minute run than from a 45 minute bike ride. I will reword your statement a bit here: cross-training is better than no training but it isn’t running and that, in almost every case, makes it inferior to running. Maybe the run isn’t the right thing for you and the bike ride is and that’s cool with me but for someone to suggest that cross-training will benefit your running performance as much as or more than using that time and energy to run, as I have seen frequently suggested or directly stated, is wrong.

    Anonymous wrote:
    A lot of times, the people who are struggling with theories and what to do to help them “over the hump” or get out of a rut…are, imo, 1 of 2 kinds of runners.

    #1. runner guy who is at EVERY local race and runs the same time within 5 secs EVERY time…….his problem is that he races too often and doesnt train enough. If he is happy with that plateau, cool….but if he is complaining, then thats another thing. changes need to be made. And, usually, its not his fault completely. If he ran in HS, he was taught that you race every weekend……just like HS do. That is one of the problems with American distance running…the emphasis on week to week competition.

    Lydiard had it right…..get wicked fit….race welll..then disappear and do it all again in 1 year…or 4 if you are Olympic level.

    #2. The “Oprahs”. we know who they are. They say “I dont want to ruin my joints” or “it said in RW that I can do it in 3 days a week for 3 months, AND look great in a bikini!!”

    The Oprahs have to understand that if they half ass it, they will only achieve that same level.

    BUT…if the Oprahs or local race dude are OK with it….then I am happy for them. Only when they bit*h is when I get heated.

    The only time I get heated (not really even heated, more like annoyed) is when someone tries to pass off the easy way as a better way to improve performance than actually doing the work. If you want to limit your own performance by doing suboptimal training, be my guest. However, don’t tell others that your suboptimal training is the best way to train. Tell it to them as it is. Here is the hard work way, which will yield the best performances. Here is easier and less time consuming way, which will yield suboptimal performances. Think over your goals and your priorities and decide which is right for you as an individual.

  • #15324

    I have issues with using elites as the guide since they are “freaks” in the kindest sense of the word. People also ignore what they did for the years leading up to becoming an “elite”. (I will not even get into the argument about what an “elite” athlete really is since I think that term is used too liberally). There is a lot of anecdotal information there as well.

    I have seen training logs of top runners from time to time posted or written about. I have not done a count, but I remember a lot taking a day off once a week. This probably changes depending on the period of training, but I would suggest it is awfully hard to support that “most” run 7d/wk. Even if a runner is running 6d/wk, he/she may well be doing doubles on other days. A better use is the frequency of training sessions per week. Bompa has provided some examples in some of his books from time to time.

    Gotta agree with the person you referenced. As a sport scientist (and I use that term instead of exercise physiologist in this case since we are talking about sport), I find his cherry picking of studies to be a misuse of the literature and a lack of understanding of how science develops. I am even more irritated by folks like Owen Anderson since he does almost the same thing: takes one study (sometimes using untrained folks) to “prove” his low mileage ideas.

    I would classify myself as a high volume follower because I have found that works more often for more people than those training with higher intensity, lower volume.

    I am not aware of any studies that really support the idea of high volume directly but the physiological bases do seem to lean that way for endurance sports. I once argued with a fellow who is more interested in sprinting that if one of the 3 men chasing the sub 4 minute mile had followed a more aerobic based program, the record would have gone before 1954. (In reality I have no proof, just a hunch).

    From my limited coaching experience, the frustration has been that people come in with a goal in mind, but not the patience. I have made a vow that if someone is not willing to follow a more patient program (if called for), I will not work with that person. Heck, I am not making much money off the coaching anyway so turning people away will not hurt.

    Keep up the good work

  • #15325

    Anonymous

    Interesting thread, and interesting timing. I’ve been thinking alot about how I’m going to approach my training now that I’m relatively injury-free again. I’ve been reading a fair amount of Daniels, Train Hard Win Easy, HADD, Tinman, Renato, Bakken, Lydiard, Canova, etc. Oh, and this Ryan guy too. Everything is a bit jumbled right now, but I’ll throw out some ideas.

    I am convinced that lots of mileage is necessary. By necessary, I mean necessary if one hopes to reach their potential. While the benefits of high mileage can be seen fairly quickly, it takes years and years to see how crucial the miles really are. High mileage seems to be the main way to develop the systems in our body that can be improved even very late in our running careers (if you’re into Daniels, this would prolly be best decribed as running economy). Or to turn this idea around, these systems take years and years to develop.

    I am also convinced that there has to be a heavy emphasis on developing our lactate threshold. Our LT is another system that can be continually developed late into our running careers. Like once we develop our ability to train at optimal levels (high mileage, with plenty of LT work), we may be able to develop our LT for another 4-5 years or more. Or to turn that around, our LT may take 4-5 years or more of optimal training to fully develop. This emphasis on LT work is what stands out to me when I compare the super elite to the elite, national class types. So many of the super elite have been doing lots of LT work for longer than they can remember. I like how Marius Bakken refers to this as an LT base on his site. Also, I think that this LT type training is the key to Lydiard’s success… the only LSD he seems to promote in optimal training is in the morning, up to an hour, and in addition to the day’s main run. The rest is heavy LT work (to use more modern terms) in his conditioning phase.

    Developing our VO2max is obviously very important, but takes far less time. It’s clearly essential to develop it as much as possible to race at our best, but the focus should generally be on the mileage and LT work (in other words, we should be thinking long-term). I may be wrong here, but it also seems that once developed, a high VO2max is relatively easy to maintain. Since we can develop this system fairly quickly at any given time in our running careers, and then maintain it quite easily, it’s best to do only what is absolutely necessary when it comes to hard interval training. If we are fortunate enough to reach the point where we’ve been running high mileage for many years and have 4-5 years of solid LT work behind us, then interval training becomes far more important… it is the only way to make sure we’re in peak racing form and that all of our systems are developed as highly as possible.

    I am still confused by pure speed… the best ways to develop it, why so few training programs include speed development, and how long it takes to reach its peak. Basically, it’s important because it makes our race pace feel easier (if we’re already fast) and because a big kick is great to have at the higher levels of competition. Also, training for speed forces us to get out of our distance runner’s shuffle and can help to improve our running form. Anyway, something I need to learn more about.

    Back to the main subject of Ryan’s post… This trend toward high quality, low quantity training is quite short-sighted in my opinion. Basically, it develops the systems in our bodies that respond to training the most rapidly (VO2max), while neglecting our LT and the systems that respond to high mileage running. It looks great in “studies”… get a group of recreational runners (or in some cases, weekend warriors) and have them crank out plenty of hard intervals, throw in a short tempo run, and have them do a long run on Sunday. And bam, they improve rapidly for 10-15 weeks (or however long the study is). It really shouldn’t be surprising to see this happen. The intervals get the runners in solid shape anaerobically, and the tempo run and long run (plus whatever other moderate mileage is in the mix) maintain or minimally boost whatever LT development there may be while the long run works as a bandaid to cover up the lack of mileage. In some cases, there are daily easy runs included.. in extreme cases, there are only these 3 runs (interval, tempo, long). To confuse matter even more, there are indeed guys out there who can run 17-minute 5Ks on this type of training with only 20-30 miles per week or whatever. Very few adult male runners ever hope to run much faster than 17:00 in a 5K (I would personally be in ecstacy), and even a 20, 21, 22 or whatever may sound wonderful. If this describes you, then low mileage, high quality training may be fine. But maybe you want to reach your full potential. Or maybe you just love running and would like to run longer than 20-30 miles/week. Or maybe, at least, you are ready to look further ahead than that shiny new 5k PR 3-6 months from now. Well, then this high quality, low mileage training is just bad.

    I don’t really care if a runner wants to use this approach and enjoy plenty of road races each year. Or maybe they’re just giving competitive running a try. More power to them. It’s just when they start complaining about their times not improving after a year or 2 that I lose sympathy. I also feel like this approach is terrible when it comes to the marathon. It’s hard to think of a better way to make someone hate running than to send them into a marathon so unprepared.

    Anyway, I’ll stop here. Basically just a brainstorm, to be taken with a grain of salt.

  • #15326

    Sorry… was sure I was logged in. The above post was mine.

  • #15327

    sorry, I wasn’t logged in either, I posted about the “Oprah’s” and all that stuff.

    -Ferris

  • #15328

    Ryan
    Keymaster

    Sub3, you know I respect your opinion greatly, as I do most people, but I do have a few questions here.

    sub3marathon wrote:
    I have issues with using elites as the guide since they are “freaks” in the kindest sense of the word. People also ignore what they did for the years leading up to becoming an “elite”. (I will not even get into the argument about what an “elite” athlete really is since I think that term is used too liberally). There is a lot of anecdotal information there as well.

    I agree without a doubt that people have to pay attention to what they did since the beginning of their running. Much of what that was, in many cases, was a lot of base training. Also, we do have to get past anecdotal information, past the one-week training snapshots, and into the hardcore information about their long term training methods. One thing I do question, though, is the first sentence. Yes, the elites do have something that some of us don’t have but does that change the equation of what works? Does that mean that what works for them will not work for us? From my experiences, I don’t believe this is true.

    sub3marathon wrote:
    I have seen training logs of top runners from time to time posted or written about. I have not done a count, but I remember a lot taking a day off once a week. This probably changes depending on the period of training, but I would suggest it is awfully hard to support that “most” run 7d/wk.

    From my observations and experiences in seeing training logs and talking with some elites, not many of them scheduled a day off every week. Maybe they did on a 10 day cycle or once every two or three weeks or once a month, most seemed to take a day off when they felt they needed it, not on any set schedule. The only elite I can think of off the top of my head who scheduled a day off every week was Rob De Castella.

    sub3marathon wrote:
    I am not aware of any studies that really support the idea of high volume directly but the physiological bases do seem to lean that way for endurance sports.

    The problem with studies is that they are usually short term. If one could actually coordinate a long term study of at least a few years and ideally 5-10 years, I bet the values of base training would be easily seen. Unfortunately, coordination of such a study is much more difficult than coordination of an 8-12 week study.

  • #15329

    I have issues with using elites as the guide since they are “freaks” in the kindest sense of the word.

    With all due respect, this has to be the most non-sensical statements I have seen you make. I can see where the term “freak” could be used without being intended as derogatory (e.g. a freaking awesome performance), but even in such cases it suggests something or someone who is somehow abnormal, which is not the case with elite runners. Elite runners may possess an above average level of endurance, but nobody performs at the elite level without years of hard work and sacrifice. In other words, if a 12 year old boy runs a mile in 6 minutes and a cross country coach encourages him to go out for track & cross country and develops him into a 14-minute 5K runner by age 17, the reason the kid achieves the time is more a function of the work he put into his running than any basic speed or VO2Max.

  • #15330

    The problem with studies is that they are usually short term. If one could actually coordinate a long term study of at least a few years and ideally 5-10 years, I bet the values of base training would be easily seen. Unfortunately, coordination of such a study is much more difficult than coordination of an 8-12 week study.

    This is such an important concept in my opinion. In this 8-12 week period, runners can really develop their anaerobic systems to high levels. If Lydiard is even close to being correct, this development slows down dramatically or even stops after this time. So these short studies will almost invariably support quality over quantity… our anaerobic systems just develop more rapidly. They say next to nothing about what will happen in the long term.

    We’re left to do our own research… looking at the running history of the elites. And what do we find? A background of high mileage, and often plenty of LT work. It would be great if we could find a group of runners who lack the talent to reach the elite levels, but had still spent 5-10 years running 100 miles/week with plenty of LT work. Until then, we’re stuck with the elites.

    One point I have to bring up about high quality, low mileage training… I hate it when its advocates say that high mileage running tends to result in more running injuries than low mileage, high quality running. I’m like “Really? You’re kidding me! So let me guess… if I flip a coin 20 times, it should land on heads more often than if I flip it 10 times? What a concept!” It’s hard to argue with… spend more time running and the odds of getting hurt indeed go up. Run for 60 minutes instead of 30, and you have twice the opportunities to sprain your ankle. Still… from what I’ve observed, higher mileage runners tend to get injured less per hour of running than other runners. That’s what really matters.

  • #15331
    runnerdude wrote:

    I have issues with using elites as the guide since they are “freaks” in the kindest sense of the word.

    With all due respect, this has to be the most non-sensical statements I have seen you make. I can see where the term “freak” could be used without being intended as derogatory (e.g. a freaking awesome performance), but even in such cases it suggests something or someone who is somehow abnormal, which is not the case with elite runners. Elite runners may possess an above average level of endurance, but nobody performs at the elite level without years of hard work and sacrifice. In other words, if a 12 year old boy runs a mile in 6 minutes and a cross country coach encourages him to go out for track & cross country and develops him into a 14-minute 5K runner by age 17, the reason the kid achieves the time is more a function of the work he put into his running than any basic speed or VO2Max.

    There is a component called “trainability” that is partially inherited. The ability to hold up over time and to be able to put in the necessary work without getting injured is very abnormal.

    The ability to run very fast (or swim very fast, etc) is very abnormal. The elites may very well be normal in the rest of their lives, but from an athletic standpoint, they are abnormal. If you had all the 12 year olds in America follow the above training, you would have some that just would not make it for physical reasons. Some would be plain too big, not fat just too tall or heavy and some would be better in other sports like sprinting.

    Sorry, by definition they are abnormal.

  • #15332

    On quality of quantity:

    It IS extremely important to run every mile as a quality mile. I wasted two years worth of miles that didn’t make me much better because I just wanted to get in massive amounts of miles without making myself run effective mile times.

    The problem i have with quality over quantity is when people think that they can get away with fewer miles because they made sure to run their miles strongly. I think that you will probably get further off in running, you have to run quality miles, but you cannot undermine the importance of quanity.

    I think that people should not model their workouts around the elite but they should learn from them. Lance trains 6 hours a day because he know that it is what it takes to make him improve. Me cycling 6 hours a day could do anything because I do not know if 6 hours a day is what I need. Nobody told Lance what he had to do, he learned from experience. At the same time we can learn a lot from Lance, that hard work is the formula for success, that being a front finisher beats being a front runner and so forth.

  • #15333

    Ryan
    Keymaster
    neato713 wrote:
    On quality of quantity:

    It IS extremely important to run every mile as a quality mile. I wasted two years worth of miles that didn’t make me much better because I just wanted to get in massive amounts of miles without making myself run effective mile times.

    Not every mile is meant to be run fast. If Frank Shorter had no problem doing some runs at 10:00/mile pace, why should someone significantly slower than he was have a problem running 8:00/mile or slower?

    This reminds me of what I frequently experience on my training runs, especially right now as the high schoolers are getting back out on the trails. Just the other day, I was out running in Minooka Park at a nice comfortable 7:00-7:15 pace and this high schooler comes screaming by me and says something like “get your slow ass out of the way”. Interestingly, I have seen him at races and he has never finished within 1:30 of me in 5k races. If he only realized that sometimes quantity is more important than quality, maybe he would slow down and become a better runner. Instead, every time he laces up his shoes, he has to run “quality” miles instead of doing what is needed to take it to the next level. My theory is you can pass me all you want in training. I’ll let you know how fast I am when I lace up the racers and the gun goes off.

    In the words of a wise man, you have to run slow in preparation to run fast.

  • #15334

    The ability to run very fast (or swim very fast, etc) is very abnormal.

    really, then what about the ability to play the piano or solve complex equations? Are people who exhibit such abilities abnormal too? Your classification doesn’t hold water. By referring to elite runners as freaks or abnormal, you are equating them with people who have conditions such as acromegaly or savant syndrome. Furthermore, you are jumping on to a scandalous bandwagon that propounds that elites are of a different species than the rest of us, which allows them to race/train harder and faster than non-elite runners and as a result, their training regimens are irrelevant to non-elites – we will simply end up hurting ourselves if we try to run as much as they do. Elite runners are certainly more talented at running that non-elite runners, but they have the same physical systems and limitations as non-elites.

  • #15335

    Anonymous

    This dovetails with something I’ve been noticing…. There are so many philosophies about running and training that no matter which way you decide to train you can find someone “smart” who will tell you that you’re doing it all wrong.

    Thomas

  • #15336

    Everyone will be about as good at something as they want to. Anyone who trains close to the maximum for any endeavor will in general be better than the vast majority of the popoulation for that field.

    In running, my friends and I have a very good idea by now of what our wheelhouses are and what our maximum potential could be. Many of us have higher expectations of what the other person is capable of and generally try and encourage them, or basically talk trash until they get the point.

    My good friend Pski and I have trained together for years. We have even spent time doing the exact same workouts for months. Both 5’10”, left handed and about 15 months apart in age. For whatever reason, I can cruise the speedworkouts faster than him. Possibly, I have more fast twitch fibers and my ability to supply oxygen and crack it up is better than most. My best thon is 2:40 and his is 2:50. We know each other and figure on the best day we could maybe crack those barriers. But, how much better could we be? Pski was in the top 500 at Boston in 2002 and that certainly makes him vastly faster than most marathoners.

    Have we reached our potential? I would say yes. I know what I need to perform well. No book or forum guides me now, but there are some good ones out there. My training is based on experience and time availability. This stuff doesn’t come easy, it is work. I’ve done workouts at 3:30 AM, in terrible conditions, at rest stops, in lightning storms, and half injured.

    Most of it isn’t talent, it’s desire. You want to know the answers then be willing to experiment and do different things. I trained harder this winter than I ever had to run one of the worst races of all times. I learned more about myself then than I ever did before in my life. Heck, Woody still loves me.

  • #15337
    runnerdude wrote:

    The ability to run very fast (or swim very fast, etc) is very abnormal.

    really, then what about the ability to play the piano or solve complex equations? Are people who exhibit such abilities abnormal too? Your classification doesn’t hold water. By referring to elite runners as freaks or abnormal, you are equating them with people who have conditions such as acromegaly or savant syndrome. Furthermore, you are jumping on to a scandalous bandwagon that propounds that elites are of a different species than the rest of us, which allows them to race/train harder and faster than non-elite runners and as a result, their training regimens are irrelevant to non-elites – we will simply end up hurting ourselves if we try to run as much as they do. Elite runners are certainly more talented at running that non-elite runners, but they have the same physical systems and limitations as non-elites.

    First, I would never call someone with acromegaly or any other condition a freak as you do. They are certainly abnormal (outside the norm) but that word should not have an automatic negative connotation either. I am outside the norm on lots of things (internet usage time, # of graduate degrees, ability to remember trivial facts that are pretty useless, etc).

    How about the word exceptional. There is that less offensive to you? Elite athletes are exceptional in some many ways. In the case of distance runners, even if they did not train, they likely would have a higher than average VO2max since some of that is determined through heredity (40 to 60% according to Claude Bouchard). The rest of the difference is trainability, but guess what, some people are more trainable than others and that also has a hereditary component. So, as Per-Olaf Astrand once said “If you want to be a great athlete, pick your parents.”

    All the training in the world would never have made me a fast 100m runner. Not born with the required muscle type and distribution.

    I do seem to have a good capacity to train however. Low incident rate of injuries and good ability to recover (at least when I was much younger).

    I would put skill activities and sports in a different vein since muscle fiber type does not really matter as near as I can tell. The dedication to practice very fine points could be equated with doing very specific training that a recreational runner might not do or recreational pianist might not do.

    I consider the talent that world class athletes, world class pianists, world class chess masters and physicists, etc to have to be abnormal–beyond the norm in that area. They have most of the same needs you and I have: shelter, food, love, etc, but in one area (most of the time) they have optimized an ability. In some cases it is an outright gift. Who can explain the 5 year old that can solve very complex math equations with little formal training?

    Being a freak of nature in the way I used it was merely a literary flare. Since you do not seem to be able to understand that or the connotation bothers you, I can refrain from using it.

    Elite athletes are exceptional.

    As for what we can learn from them, I think we can look at what they do in some cases and figure out what might work, but the danger lies in having a person new to a sport see that Deena Kastor just finished doing a block of 140 mpw and thinking that is what he/she needs to do now. One missing the fact that she worked to that volume over a decade or more of focused training. The same can be said for watching skill athletes perform. I was heavily involved in tennis when John McEnroe was at his zenith; so many young kids tried to emulate his serve with often disastrous results. They did not realize that he had learned the “proper” technique first and then modified it later. There is a progression in learning as well as training that must (IMHO) be followed. A beginning runner has no business running 100 mpw (regardless of Lydiard’s professions that they could do it).

    Elites are DIFFERENT. My god, can you not see that? They do run faster than non-elites, thus the differentiation. You could take 1000 kids today, start them on a great training program; they would all get faster, but some would get faster at a faster rate (quick adapters), some would get just as fast but at a much slower rate and some would get as fast as they are ever going to get in a few weeks or months and would never run as fast. I am betting that elite runners for the most part were fast kids in their schools even with no training whatsoever. For some reason (physiology!) they just could run faster than everyone else over a given distance (for some that might be 100 yards for others a mile).

    Does all this mean that one should stop striving to join the ranks? No, not until one has exhausted the training. However, I am willing to state that I doubt I would ever see Carl Lewis win a marathon so choosing the “right” event is critical.

    On a grand scale elites do have the same bodily functions as a couch potato, but they also different in muscle fiber type in many cases, the ability to produce mitochondria, the ability to buffer lactate, etc. Some of these will be improved in anyone beginning a training program but the degree of improvement is probably set by genetics. Their limitations are not the same either in that training response differs among individuals.

  • #15338

    Ryan
    Keymaster

    OK, so let’s all accept the fact that the elites are not normal. While a lot of people strive to achieve their maximum in the same of the elites, very few relatively speaking actually reach that level. They are special but that does not answer the question that I would like to see answered.

    Accepting the fact that the elites are at the end of the bell curve in ability, why should this fact keep us from looking at their training in relation to ours? Is there a reason that we should not look at what has worked for them and apply it to ourselves? No matter how abnormal they are, they have the same energy systems as us and their energy systems work in the same ways as ours. Of course, saying Kastor runs 140 mpw after over a decade of competitive running doesn’t mean that someone who has never run over 50 mpw should shoot for 140 this fall but it does suggest that bumping things up gradually from 50 could be beneficial.

    The bottom line is that, no matter how abnormal the elites are, I still stand by my statement that they are the best in the world at maximizing their abilities. Based on this, if we want to maximize our abilities, who better to look at than the elites?

  • #15339

    Anonymous
    Ryan wrote:
    The bottom line is that, no matter how abnormal the elites are, I still stand by my statement that they are the best in the world at maximizing their abilities. Based on this, if we want to maximize our abilities, who better to look at than the elites?

    Galloway was an elite at one time.

  • #15340

    Ryan
    Keymaster
    Walger wrote:
    Ryan wrote:
    The bottom line is that, no matter how abnormal the elites are, I still stand by my statement that they are the best in the world at maximizing their abilities. Based on this, if we want to maximize our abilities, who better to look at than the elites?

    Galloway was an elite at one time.

    And he now promotes something that he has even admitted that he never would have done when he was an elite. Maybe that should tell us something about what he currently promotes.

  • #15341

    Ok, part of the problem here is semantic. Sub-3, you said that you don’t think that the word “freak” should have an automatically negative connotation, but in the context of today’s running scene, I think that it does. I’ve never argued that elite runners are not gifted or that their ability is not at the far end of the bell curve, nor that some of this ability is genetically inherited, but when we describe them with words like “freak” or “abnormal” I think it stigmatizes them in a way that is unfair and unreal.

    The other thing to keep in mind, is that the training they undergo is what allows them to compete at the elite level. They may very well have been fast kids in school – look at Alan Webb – but if they didn’t train they wouldn’t suddenly pick up running at the age of 35 and run a sub 2:20 marathon. The talent they possess simply allows them to pretend to being able to compete at a world class level, but they still have to undergo the training to compete at that level.

  • #15342

    Anonymous

    I prefer the term “superfreak”! 😈

  • #15343

    just back from a wonderful vacation and cheered to find an entertaining controversy in progress…

    as an adult onset runner and a mother of two VERY differenty built kids who both run I can say that some people just have more talent/ability to start with… but… I also know that we can learn from what helps those in the deep end of the gene pool be so exceptional…

    less in not more… but how much ‘more’ a person can tolerate is very personal… and sniping aside if Galloway can get a thousand couch potatoes out for three days a week, good for them… maybe 50 will realize that 4-6 days would be even better for them…

    the same for cross-training… it has it uses… it’s better than no training and can help to re-motivate, or keep condition up while recovering from an injury…

    quality vs. quantity… as others have said periodization has it’s place… but what most of you see as quality and quantity is beyond what some people are capable of… for lots of reasons… age, ability, time constraints and proper coaching…

    this whole discussion has to be tempered with the knowledge that while lots of miles & hard training helps those who don’t get injured, we all have our breaking point and some have busy lives that take up lots of time… there are only so many hours in the day and rest is important…

    there is no difinitive magic number of miles everyone needs to run… you have to find what works for you…

    I just wish I could remember where I read what I will now probably misquote… it was something like ‘if you can run 60 miles and do good, than try 70 miles and see if it makes you better’… what hit me was the person didn’t say ‘IT WILL make you better’… but SEE…

    all this said… I’m have the best year (so far) I’ve ever had… inching upwards with quality and (not at the same time) bringing back the quantity that has been acceptable for me…and still with 13 and a half weeks till my fall marathon…

    last note… from raising children… they change so fast, but we do too… so what works for you this year made need to be tweaked next year.. there is no right answer for each of us that holds across time… but certain emperical (based on observation, not theory) truths hold for all runners… as long as they stay healthy, and other things being equal, like weather, terrain, age, ability…

    then there is the approach of my 16 year old… his thoughts… “you think too much, just run faster”

    -Rita

  • #15344

    Ryan
    Keymaster
    r-at-work wrote:
    less in not more… but how much ‘more’ a person can tolerate is very personal…

    Of course but it’s wrong of people to scare others away from doing more when they may have the ability and desire to do more in order to reach higher levels of performance. If you haven’t explored your limits, how can you know where your limits really are? Even more, how can someone who doesn’t even know you know where your limits really are?

    r-at-work wrote:
    and sniping aside if Galloway can get a thousand couch potatoes out for three days a week, good for them… maybe 50 will realize that 4-6 days would be even better for them…

    I have never said otherwise. Remember, I’m not the one who brought up Galloway in the first place. However, in this discussion which was meant to be about people getting the wrong message on how to reach high levels of performance, I will say that Galloway’s “walk breaks help you finish faster” message is as off base as nearly anything out there.

    r-at-work wrote:
    the same for cross-training… it has it uses… it’s better than no training and can help to re-motivate, or keep condition up while recovering from an injury…

    I believe I mentioned something along the line of it has its place in certain situations. If I didn’t, I should have. However, the best way to improve your running is almost always through running.

    r-at-work wrote:
    quality vs. quantity… as others have said periodization has it’s place… but what most of you see as quality and quantity is beyond what some people are capable of… for lots of reasons… age, ability, time constraints and proper coaching…

    Again, I know this time that I stated we all have to find our personal balance. My message is about not letting people convince you that an inferior way is better than time tested methods. This means using both quantity and quality, whatever those terms may mean for you as an individual, in a balanced approach that has you building your fitness with quantity, followed by building your quality on top. Like a former coach of mine said, running is like building a pyramid. The bigger the base, the higher the peak. Without a base of aerobic conditioning, all the speedwork in the world is only going to produce limited results and will be much more likely to produce injury.

    r-at-work wrote:
    this whole discussion has to be tempered with the knowledge that while lots of miles & hard training helps those who don’t get injured, we all have our breaking point and some have busy lives that take up lots of time… there are only so many hours in the day and rest is important…

    Once again, I mentioned somewhere finding your personal balance. As for injuries, very few people get injured during low-intensity base building. Injuries frequently happen because of too much intensity, not too much base training.

    r-at-work wrote:
    there is no difinitive magic number of miles everyone needs to run… you have to find what works for you…

    As I quoted a guy who knows his running elsewhere, you have to find your “sweet spot”.

    r-at-work wrote:
    I just wish I could remember where I read what I will now probably misquote… it was something like ‘if you can run 60 miles and do good, than try 70 miles and see if it makes you better’… what hit me was the person didn’t say ‘IT WILL make you better’… but SEE…

    This is exactly my point. People are afraid of trying more because they are told from all angles that they will get burned out or injured. Forget that talk for a while and try doing more. See what happens. There are no guarantees but I would be willing to bet doing a little more would lead to good results more frequently than it would lead to bad results for the typical American runner.

    r-at-work wrote:
    last note… from raising children… they change so fast, but we do too… so what works for you this year made need to be tweaked next year.. there is no right answer for each of us that holds across time… but certain emperical (based on observation, not theory) truths hold for all runners… as long as they stay healthy, and other things being equal, like weather, terrain, age, ability…

    And this plays out in both ways. As we gain experience, our bodies should strengthen and be able to handle more training load. This is how the elites get where they are. We miss the years of them building one year on top of the other. On the flip side, at some point in our lives, as we get older, our bodies can not hold up to as much. For some, the additional strength gained by training will offset this. For others, this means you may have to back off some. No book or article in a magazine or on a website will tell you what you have to do, though. Don’t let them scare you into believing that something that may be just right for you is too much.

    I don’t know if you noticed but not once in the original post did I mention any hard numbers. I wasn’t saying everyone should go out and run X or Y miles per week and do Z workouts. I am simply saying understand what allows the best in the world to perform at their best, realize that they are the best in the world at maximizing their abilities, then apply the lessons learned at your own levels. For some people, this may mean dropping the cross-training twice a week and running a few miles instead. For some, it may mean trying an extra 10 or 20 miles per week for one or two training cycles and seeing what happens. For others, it might mean slowing down on some runs so they can go longer. I would never give specific numbers except in a pure hypothetical situation unless I personally knew the person and their running very well and then it would just be a suggestion of something to try.

  • #15345

    yep… I’m all for finding a personal balance… I feel that I’m very lucky with the coaches I’m working with, they have encouraged me to push beyond my comfort zone and I have found a new level (for me)…

    I think that too many articles are written for the same group that might care what lipstick to wear at mile 26(recently in RW… I was SO appalled at that one)

    for a bunch of years I was happy being just a recreational jogger who had with the same finish times (5K/10K) since it meant I was at least staying even with my level of fitness, that was enough to keep me happy… then something changed and I wanted MORE…

    I wanted to improve… so I couldn’t just read the articles in the magazines, though I did, just in case they had something better than the new style of socks… and I read books and lurked on forums without posting, just to learn… tried a couple different running groups… started with a massage therapist, then a coach…

    now I really believe that there are lots of people who say they would like to improve but are not willing to make any changes, not willing to step out of their comfort zone… I keep trying things and I’ve discovered I like most of my runs to be solitary… my sister’s dog is the best for an easy six miles (but we don’t live close enough), that track work is better with someone just a bit faster than me… that I can’t handle humidity but that I have improved on hills (and they improve me)…

    but I’ve also “used” the run/walk method to go longer than I should hve on a given weekend and I’ve used the Atkins diet to drop 40 pounds at a time in my life when I needed to do that… they were tools that worked at a time when I needed what they promised… not saying they would work for eveyone or even saying they were the smartest thing that I have done… not recommending either… but they do work in specific circumstances… I started marathon training on a treadmill and only get on it now in cases of lightning or ice…

    but Ryan, you’re right about too many people talking about injuries & burnout… reminds me of the quote that you can’t burn out it you haven’t caught fire… I think part of the problem is that our culture has become one of instant gratification… farmers used to have to wait 5 months to see if they had a good crop, now we’re told we can ‘lose 10 pounds in 10 days'(and you can if you have 100 to lose)…

    another factoid that is interesting is that 100 years ago Amreicans ate less than a pound of sugar per yer… now we eat over 10 pounds a year… gee

    -Rita

  • #15346
  • #15347

    Ryan
    Keymaster

    First, I think this, as usual, overstates this “talent” thing. It has been shown that efficiency can be greatly improved with training and that, for almost everyone, things like aerobic fitness and lactate threshold are quite trainable. Sure, not all of us can be elite but the great majority of us can improve through training much more than a lot of people think.

    Second, this doesn’t answer the underlying question. Is there a reason we shouldn’t look at the training of the elites to learn what works? In other words, is there a reason to believe that what the elites have found to work best for them would not be what works best for us?

  • #15348
    sub3marathon wrote:
    https://www.nytimes.com/2004/08/10/health/why-joggers-labor-and-olympians-fly-the-science-of-the-long-distance-runner.html

    I think the author is lurking…

    oh yeah, that’s a really scientifically valid article. The NYT ought to be ashamed for running that piece. All that is going to do is make people think that elite running performance is 99% genetically determined when the truth is that genetically inherited ability accounts for much less, perhaps 20%.

    Since this thread was started, I mentioned it to a couple friends of mine who are sub-elite runners to get their reaction. In both cases they were adamant that if they had not trained the way they did for the length of time that they did, they would not have developed into the runners they have become. One of them recounted some of his times at various distances to underscore what he meant:

    Age 15

    40 yard dash – 4.9 seconds

    100 meter dash – 13.5 seconds

    400 meter dash – 57 seconds

    800 meter run – 2:16

    1 mile run – 5:13

    5k cross country – 17:40

    Age 32

    800 meter run – 2:07

    1 mile run – 4:41

    10K run – 34:29

    Marathon – 2:34

    As can be seen from his times at age 15, his basic speed was not exceptional. I think that if you look at similar performances for elite runners when they were younger, you’ll find similar results. Does it mean they have some ability that the non-elite runner does not, sure. Does it show a genetic predisposition to run world class or near world class times, no.

  • #15349
    Ryan wrote:
    r-at-work wrote:
    less in not more… but how much ‘more’ a person can tolerate is very personal…

    Of course but it’s wrong of people to scare others away from doing more when they may have the ability and desire to do more in order to reach higher levels of performance. If you haven’t explored your limits, how can you know where your limits really are? Even more, how can someone who doesn’t even know you know where your limits really are?

    r-at-work wrote:
    and sniping aside if Galloway can get a thousand couch potatoes out for three days a week, good for them… maybe 50 will realize that 4-6 days would be even better for them…

    I have never said otherwise. Remember, I’m not the one who brought up Galloway in the first place. However, in this discussion which was meant to be about people getting the wrong message on how to reach high levels of performance, I will say that Galloway’s “walk breaks help you finish faster” message is as off base as nearly anything out there.

    All this may indeed be true, yet those who truly do have the ability and the desire would not be at all influenced by the likes of Galloway. That Galloway is known to prevaricate to support and spread his $15.95 gospel is not much of a secret, and he should of course be rebuked as often as he is praised (even though he is given far too much credit for getting any fanciful number of couch potatoes to exercise) for doing so. Both sides of the usual Galloway debate give him far too much credit, though.

    Ryan wrote:
    r-at-work wrote:
    the same for cross-training… it has it uses… it’s better than no training and can help to re-motivate, or keep condition up while recovering from an injury…

    I believe I mentioned something along the line of it has its place in certain situations. If I didn’t, I should have. However, the best way to improve your running is almost always through running.

    Cross-training is erroneously used outside of the contexts of injury recovery or adding more training volume once maximum running mileage has been determined (by actual and honest trial) and reached.

    Ryan wrote:
    r-at-work wrote:
    quality vs. quantity… as others have said periodization has it’s place… but what most of you see as quality and quantity is beyond what some people are capable of… for lots of reasons… age, ability, time constraints and proper coaching…

    Again, I know this time that I stated we all have to find our personal balance. My message is about not letting people convince you that an inferior way is better than time tested methods. This means using both quantity and quality, whatever those terms may mean for you as an individual, in a balanced approach that has you building your fitness with quantity, followed by building your quality on top. Like a former coach of mine said, running is like building a pyramid. The bigger the base, the higher the peak. Without a base of aerobic conditioning, all the speedwork in the world is only going to produce limited results and will be much more likely to produce injury.

    Yes, some of those same people underestimate (or limit) what they actually are capable of because they short-change their aerobic development. I am unaware what “most” here “see as quality and quantity” so I cannot really comment on that statement.

    Ryan wrote:
    r-at-work wrote:
    this whole discussion has to be tempered with the knowledge that while lots of miles & hard training helps those who don’t get injured, we all have our breaking point and some have busy lives that take up lots of time… there are only so many hours in the day and rest is important…

    Once again, I mentioned somewhere finding your personal balance. As for injuries, very few people get injured during low-intensity base building. Injuries frequently happen because of too much intensity, not too much base training.

    Rest and recovery are absolutely critical, to curtail those would be a mistake. A busy life is a result of personal choices and should not be mentioned as an insurmountable obstacle in the same light as genetics; basically, everyone who has the desire and ability does the best with what one has where one is. As indicated, injuries most often occur when one attempts what one’s body is hardly prepared to handle; cover the prerequisites and the risk for injury not-so-coincidentally is lowered.

    Ryan wrote:
    r-at-work wrote:
    there is no difinitive magic number of miles everyone needs to run… you have to find what works for you…

    As I quoted a guy who knows his running elsewhere, you have to find your “sweet spot”.

    Precisely. High mileage and low mileage are both relative terms and mean different things to different people. I have seen this mentioned elsewhere: right mileage should be the focus, the optimal maximum amount that one can handle at any given point in the training cycle. There is a great quote posted over at Kemibe.com that neatly encapsulates the key idea here:

    Keith Dowling, 2:13 marathoner wrote:
    Some say there’s no magic formula. I say there is. It’s just that the magic is different for everyone.

    Ryan wrote:
    r-at-work wrote:
    I just wish I could remember where I read what I will now probably misquote… it was something like ‘if you can run 60 miles and do good, than try 70 miles and see if it makes you better’… what hit me was the person didn’t say ‘IT WILL make you better’… but SEE…

    This is exactly my point. People are afraid of trying more because they are told from all angles that they will get burned out or injured. Forget that talk for a while and try doing more. See what happens. There are no guarantees but I would be willing to bet doing a little more would lead to good results more frequently than it would lead to bad results for the typical American runner.

    I see those who get wrapped up and obsessed over numbers and then let numbers intimidate them. If 50, 60, 70, or whatever scares a person, then quit counting for a while and just let the running come to you.

    Ryan wrote:
    r-at-work wrote:
    last note… from raising children… they change so fast, but we do too… so what works for you this year made need to be tweaked next year.. there is no right answer for each of us that holds across time… but certain emperical (based on observation, not theory) truths hold for all runners… as long as they stay healthy, and other things being equal, like weather, terrain, age, ability…

    And this plays out in both ways. As we gain experience, our bodies should strengthen and be able to handle more training load. This is how the elites get where they are. We miss the years of them building one year on top of the other. On the flip side, at some point in our lives, as we get older, our bodies can not hold up to as much. For some, the additional strength gained by training will offset this. For others, this means you may have to back off some. No book or article in a magazine or on a website will tell you what you have to do, though. Don’t let them scare you into believing that something that may be just right for you is too much.

    Adult humans do not change at a rate (provided a lack of major trauma or disease) that would warrant any significant revamping of training on a yearly basis, though status quo is the path to stagnation. As indicated, it is a building process and will take time to accrue and mature.

  • #15350
    r-at-work wrote:
    I think part of the problem is that our culture has become one of instant gratification… farmers used to have to wait 5 months to see if they had a good crop, now we’re told we can ‘lose 10 pounds in 10 days'(and you can if you have 100 to lose)…

    It does seem to be unfortunately pervasive. Ever-increasing convenience and excess can be detrimental by-products of sustained prosperity. Labor-saving devices and the increased convenience they provide were ideally supposed to allow members of society more time for higher pursuits; perversely, we have collectively opted to instead develop greater impatience, dissatisfaction, disconnect, and idle time which all too many fill with no end of unconstructive (and even destructive) pursuits.

  • #15351
    runnerdude wrote:
    sub3marathon wrote:
    https://www.nytimes.com/2004/08/10/health/why-joggers-labor-and-olympians-fly-the-science-of-the-long-distance-runner.html

    I think the author is lurking…

    oh yeah, that’s a really scientifically valid article. The NYT ought to be ashamed for running that piece. All that is going to do is make people think that elite running performance is 99% genetically determined when the truth is that genetically inherited ability accounts for much less, perhaps 20%.

    Claude Bouchard estimates that “ability” is 40 to 60% inherited. Gotta pick your parents as Per-Olaf Astrand likes to say. There is some hereditary aspects of trainability as well–also from Bouchard’s work. You can look it up at PubMed for the abstracts.

    Since this thread was started, I mentioned it to a couple friends of mine who are sub-elite runners to get their reaction. In both cases they were adamant that if they had not trained the way they did for the length of time that they did, they would not have developed into the runners they have become.

    Well, no shit! Not sure where I or anyone ever stating that training is not important. I am willing to bet that somewhere in the US there are people who could run a faster mile that Alan Webb, but they are not running for whatever reason (other sport, no interest, etc).

    One of them recounted some of his times at various distances to underscore what he meant:

    Age 15

    40 yard dash – 4.9 seconds

    100 meter dash – 13.5 seconds

    400 meter dash – 57 seconds

    800 meter run – 2:16

    1 mile run – 5:13

    5k cross country – 17:40

    Age 32

    800 meter run – 2:07

    1 mile run – 4:41

    10K run – 34:29

    Marathon – 2:34

    As can be seen from his times at age 15, his basic speed was not exceptional. I think that if you look at similar performances for elite runners when they were younger, you’ll find similar results. Does it mean they have some ability that the non-elite runner does not, sure. Does it show a genetic predisposition to run world class or near world class times, no.

    anecdotal information…poor way to win an argument. I once met a guy who fell from an airplane and his chute failed. He could not get the back up chute to deploy in time, lived. Does that prove that everyone who falls /jumps out of plane and had a chute failure will live?

  • #15352

    Claude Bouchard estimates that “ability” is 40 to 60% inherited. There is some hereditary aspects of trainability as well–also from Bouchard’s work.

    Ok, I’ll tell you what – I’ll go along with this little “estimate” of Bouchard’s for the sake of this argument. However, all it does is underscore what I’ve been trying to explain all along, that ability is only part of the equation. In other words, if you take an 18 year old guy and test his VO2Max, trainability and all the other genetic gifts that elite athletes are endowed with and find that he’s got the elite gifts, he won’t run at an elite level, e.g. sub 2:20 marathon without training. I don’t care how many gifts one has, they don’t inherit strength, fitness, aerobic base and desire.

    Not sure where I or anyone ever stating that training is not important.

    No, but you played into the hands of the “less is more crowd” when you stated that elite runners are abnormal freaks.

    anecdotal information…poor way to win an argument.

    Not if the anecdotal information is correct. In any case it’s better then dubious or yellow dog journalism.

  • #15353

    Ryan
    Keymaster

    Claude Bouchard estimates that “ability” is 40 to 60% inherited.

    Even if we are to believe this estimate, what does this mean in terms of race performances? I’m not sure I understand how to apply the roughly 50%. If anyone would like, I can look up the name of the person who said any (I’m sure healthy would be implied right about here) male, with the right training background, can run a 2:30 marathon. Is there a reason we should believe Claude Bouchard instead of this person or is 40 to 60% equal to about 25 minutes?

    Dare I again ask the question what does all of this have to do with my original point that we should pay attention to what the elites are doing and learn from them? Unless I missed something, I don’t think I’ve seen this question answered and I thought all of this started from a disagreement with that statement.

    I can’t believe this thread has lasted this long. Sure, I wanted to spark a little discussion but wow, I had no idea what I was starting.

  • #15354

    Even if we are to believe this estimate, what does this mean in terms of race performances?

    My view of this estimate is that it probably has more validity for runners who compete in distances between 800 meters and 5K in which VO2Max is a greater factor on performance than longer distances in which lactate threshold is a greater determinant of performance.

    should pay attention to what the elites are doing and learn from them?

    Absolutely. In fact, there is an excellent editorial in the current issue of Running Times that addresses this question. In it, the editor in chief, Jonathan Beverly, expertly points out what some in the media seem to forget, notably that elite runners possess the same physical systems as other runners and that while they are certainly gifted, this doesn’t make their training irrelevant. I’m sorry this discussion veered off track, but I think it reveals the extent of the chasm that exists within the running community between the Lydiard-inspired camp and the “less is more” coalition.

  • #15355

    should we pay attention to how the elites train… yes

    but does that mean ALL that they do will work for those less gifted… maybe… 😉

    there are certain physiological truisms that apply to all… simplistically, whatever your starting point, training makes you better and more training (assuming you stay healthy) adds more at (eventually)a decreasing rate…

    I think what tends to throw people off the track is the occasional outlier or odd practice that may not be what made the runner great, but didn’t hurts the runner either… I’m thinking of ‘anecdotal’ evidence such as Joan Benoit water jogging after surgery… but the comment in the article I read said that she was world class when she got into the pool, so they tried to buffer against everyone jumping to the conclusion that waterjogging is the silver bullet to make us all world class runners…

    we are all searching for what will make us better and wouldn’t it be great if it was a (legal)food, beverage or fewer miles… but no, the time tested (and elite tested) ‘silver bullet’ probably is as simple as more miles…

    but let’s keep watching the elites just in case…

    -Rita

  • #15356

    Ryan
    Keymaster
    r-at-work wrote:
    I think what tends to throw people off the track is the occasional outlier or odd practice that may not be what made the runner great, but didn’t hurts the runner either… I’m thinking of ‘anecdotal’ evidence such as Joan Benoit water jogging after surgery… but the comment in the article I read said that she was world class when she got into the pool, so they tried to buffer against everyone jumping to the conclusion that waterjogging is the silver bullet to make us all world class runners…

    Actually, I would like to point out here that Joanie’s use of aquajogging is a great example of how cross-training can be effective. Her injury/recovery from surgery precluded running so she did what she could, as closely mimicing the demands of real running as possible, to maintain as much fitness as possible. This is a great application of cross-training: when injury eliminates the possibility of running, do what you can to maintain as much fitness as possible. Applying that to a healthy person who has no conditions that preclude running is where this falls apart.

    r-at-work wrote:
    but no, the time tested (and elite tested) ‘silver bullet’ probably is as simple as more miles…

    I just wanted to point out that it’s not just more miles. For the majority of less than elite runners, it is more miles. However, in general, it is a more balanced but focused training plan. This means finding your right balance between quantity and quality and focusing on running, not outside activities that will not help your running performances as much as simply running.

    Again, as I participate in this discussion, I am focusing on what it takes to reach maximal performance. Of course, your choices in how you balance your life might change the equation of what you do as you accept less than maximal performance in order to focus on things you put more priority on but nothing changes the maximal performance equation. You get out what you put in. If you want to become a better runner, you have to put more into your running. There are no shortcuts. This was my original message and this is what I have been trying to focus on throughout this thread.

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