Uncovering a HUGE training mistake
|March 4, 2014||Posted by Melinda under Vet & Sports Medicine|
I’m going to just lay it out here in the beginning, and then we will talk about why these are HUGE mistakes.
1. My goal for running was fitness. Fitness being defined as being able to do “whatever” on the weekends without too much trouble, with a strong bias towards endurance type events, and reaching my goal “fighting weight”.
2. I evaluated my running training based on mileage, duration, and pace. Decreasing times measured success and were indication of increasing fitness.
Feel free to extrapolate today’s thoughts to horses and endurance. I’m going to mostly stick to talking about running since that’s what I have clearest in my mind right now.
Here’s the trouble with number 1. By having a goal of “fitness”, it did not direct my workouts. I was in fact “unfit” when I started, but then once I “got fit” (ie met my definition of fit), without a specific goal there is no way to decide what I should be working on. Should I increase the duration of my interval runs or decrease the rest period? Should I be going faster or longer? I can make any workout a 5/5 on my perceived effort scale, but the point of working hard and training is adaptation – and if I don’t know what I’m training and adapting towards, than how do I choose a particular skill to work on?
You can’t train everything simultaneously. And if you try, you will end up NOT adapting to the stress of the training optimally and you will end up somewhere in the middle – neither fast not far (but of course, certainly fit….)
Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy running for its own sake. I like how I feel when I run, I like what it does to my body physically, and it’s a better drug for depression/anxiety/stress than anything that comes in a bottle.
In the past, whatever running I did was enough to improving my fitness base so it didn’t really matter what exactly I did. Just getting out there on a regular basis let me see great gains in both pace and number of miles run.
And then, when I added HIIT work, again I saw huge gains – having never done any speed work before I could do practically any combination of HIIT work and watch my pace improve over and long distances.
But recently I’ve noticed something odd. I’ve hit a plateau. I’m running neither faster nor longer. Overall my HIIT runs are getting slower, even though I’m spending relatively more time sprinting during them. On the distance side, I can “*effectively” run about 2-2.5 hours, which hasn’t really changed in the last couple months despite adequate recovery and continuing to push myself during workouts.
*I can run more than 2.5 hours as long as I’ve adjusted my pace accordingly, do a lot of walking etc. – but there’s no sense that I’m actually training or conditioning beyond just time on my feet – which is valuable but it’s also not doing anything beyond just moving forward – which while is commendable isn’t the same thing as still actively engaged in the activity. Sorta like the difference between staying in the saddle for 12 hours and riding for 12 hours.
Training mistake number 2 was born out of training mistake number 1. I somehow equilibrated fitness with being faster and running more miles, so is it any wonder that I evaluated the “success” of my program based on those two numbers?
By focusing solely on whether my average pace was going down and the number of miles accomplished as an indicator of success, I neglected (and was not motivated) to do any sort of training that would make those numbers look worse.
I’ve gotten as far as I’m going to get with the goal of “be fit”. Now I need to chose a goal to direct my training. Training for endurance means sacrificing speed, and training for speed means sacrificing endurance.
The trick, according to what I’m reading in Magness’s “Science of Running” is to decide which element I need and decide when it needs to peak. And then work on the other skills while not sacrificing too much of main element in the meantime. And then, bring back the main element and try to maintain as much of the other as you can.
For example, for an endurance event, perhaps you start by working on speed – while trying to maintain some endurance capacity through some long runs. Then when it’s time to start thinking about building endurance….you do so while trying to hang onto that speed you developed.
The goal is to peak the endurance that you need for the event, while you still have enough speed from your prior work.
Since you can’t build 2 opposing traits on once, the concept of cyclicity and “periodic” training is important. I may be training for an endurance event, but sometimes I’m training for speed, sometimes endurance, sometimes strength.
I swear I learned that training for speed and endurance are mutually exclusive a long time ago. This isn’t a new revolution for me. But somehow….I sorta forgot. Maybe it was both the endurance and speed gains I was getting because of the early adaptations to training.
Magness emphasizes in chapter 14 of “Running of Science” that training “isn’t simply the idea of continually building fitness in each separate area.”
And that folks, is the epitome of exactly what I was doing. Instead of integrating my program as a whole, I was working on separate aspects and expecting them to behave themselves and progress in independently of the other variables.
What REALLY drove it home for me this time that training different aspects (speed, strength, endurance etc.) does not occur in isolation was Magness laying out some of the physiological ways that adaption to a stimulus of a certain type of training can be modified based on what other training is going on.
For example, STRENGTH gains are limited when there is heavy endurance work. I’m going to quote “Running of Science” here because I’m too brain fatigued to explain it better:
“In looking at the main signaling targets for strength and endurance gains, they essentially act as antogonist, but mostly in the direction of strength. It’s one of the reasons why strength gains are limited when combining with heavy endurance work. Timing is…critical. For instance, a low amount of strength training can influence recovery via changes in hormone concentrations when done after a run. While doing it the other way around, strength first and then running right after, will increase strength endurance but dampen down muscle growth gains from the strength work because endurance exercise will shut down the mTOR pathway. Which could be good or bad depending on the goal of the training.”
The mTOR pathway plays a role in strength gains and can be inhibited by doing endurance training. If you want big muscles, you need an activated mTOR pathway. It’s probably why
In addition to the cyclicity of training speed, endurance etc – where you are in training ALSO determines how much recovery you should be doing compared to stimulus. Remember our whole discussion on pre-fatigue? Turns out that depending where you are in the training cycle (competition, pre competition, base etc.) you also have to balance recovery versus training.
In some ways knowing the philosophy of training makes everything so simple. As the Science of Running puts it:
“…it isn’t simply about maximizing each component (strength, endurance, speed). Instead it’s about knowing how to balance the development of speed and endurance, and knowing when each needs to be at their highest during the season.”
And yet, this simple concept exposes some of the deepest flaws in the past training programs I’ve had for both myself and my horses.
Lots of thinking to do on both the human and equine side of things as I continue my recovery this week!
Oh yes – Thanks to Science of Running I’ve been (re)reminded of the importance of recovery. Thus when I originally planned a tempo run today since my easy run went so well yesterday I realized that it was CRAZY. Would I start training my horse after the first normal ride post race? Especially if it took a week for them to feel normal?
NO!!!!! I would give them at least another week of easy work before I asked for ANYTHING strenuous.
And so I’m treating myself like a horse and did another easy run and plan on doing nothing but easy runs for the rest of the week before deciding I’m ready to start training work again.
Hopefully by then I will have digested enough of the training advice in Running of Science to have hobbled together a training plan that makes sense based on an actual goal. 🙂
Farley already has a goal, and I think her training plan actually makes more sense than mine at this point!
These posts have been super interesting. Sometimes seriously beyond any thinking I’ve ever done on the subject, for horse or human! I am not a planner or organizer, so it is great to read your posts and maybe start thinking. My fitness goal: swim until my bad shoulder really hurts, then stop. Then take a day off and hike or ride. Then swim again. Repeat. Not very scientific. My horse has a much more sophisticated plan, and even that isn’t much compared to most people!
Irish horse – I think when you are working through an injury it’s even harder. I know that the ONLY reason I’ve gotten to the point described in the post is because this is the longest I’ve stayed injury and mental burnout free. Probably because I’ve FINALLY gotten the proper amount of recovery into my training. But before that, I ALwAYS got injuried or burntout before I reached any kind of plateau where just adding some miles or speed didnt get me immediate gains.
(Yes, I have the book, but it’s more fun to talk it over with Mel while leisurely flipping through it.) So does Magness look at it as a triangle with strength, endurance, and speed? If so, what’s the horse version of strength? I don’t think riding horses are trained for strength, just drafts maybe?
Anyway, yeah, so there’s an art to timing your gallop sets versus your long rides! Cool!
think as strength training as this: Strength training = recruiting more muscle fibers to do a job. Increased muscle fibes = increased power and hypertrophy of the cells (unless, apparently, you shut down that mTOR pathway – which I have GOT to do more research about).
In running, you can consider sprinting as strength training. So is hill work. In both it is true that you are also increasing your cardiovascular capacity and probably doing anearobic work, HOWEVER, the more important result of the exercise is that you are building muscle right?
Relating this to horses, I think that stuff like hill work is strength training for horses. I NEVER go fast enough to count any of the stuff I do with Farley as “sprint” training. So the intervals I do with her is probably more similar to tempo training. Understanding how endurance and strength training antagonize eachother (mTOR pathway?) is probably why even with all the hills I did with Farley pre dressage I NEVER PUT VISIBLE MUSCLE ON HER BUTT. All our hill work was mixed up during our long rides.
Dressage goes into strength work category probably because of the increased muscle fiber recruitment that happens when you ask the horse to push more from the hind end etc. And since dressage is typically done in shorter segments and seperate from my long distance training, THATs why when I did dressage with Farley I saw an immediate increase in muscle mass.
And that’s probably why you can’t do *all* your prep work out on the trail. Any “strength training” like hills or dressage you are doing on the trail is mixed up in a longer ride that has an endurance component in it – and you are getting someething entirely different than if you break the hills/dressage away from the longer rides.
Interesting! I’m still just being able to wrap my head around some of this stuff. as you can probably tell from my posts. There’s so many connections that are ooccuring in my brain it hurts. I hadn’t made the strength training/endurance connection in horses until this comment. Thanks funder
HUH. I’ve been viewing our hill sprints as speed training, because we usually do those pretty much isolated. Saddle up with my friend, leisurely warm up over the hill, gallop a couple miles back to the top, leisurely walk home. Because I want her to give 100% (chasing Uno is FUN! Get it, girl!) I don’t go for any real distance those days.
And thats why d has a great butt…..
It’s the miles that I love … distance… what comes with them, the gallops, long trots, leisure walks – are bonus.
Just reread my published post and noticed my thought about the mTOR pathway sorta trailed off in midsentence. Thats because I was seriously ADD when writing this and didnt go back and finish….basically what I was going to say was what I put into tge comment above in response to funder. :). Sorry about that.
I figured the mTOR stuff was just going to be a post on its own! 😉
It would be if I could find anything readable or understandable on it! in despiration I actually asked one of my professors if she knew anything about the mTOR pathway and she gave me a blank look. *sigh*
This is an interesting area for me because I enjoy doing both dressage and trails. I found that despite serious limits in terms of distance, frequency, and pace due to crappy weather and footing this winter my horse managed to improve his speed even though we literally never worked on speed for months. I rode once or twice a week, alternating LSD rides with dressage training and then did a random, faster paced ride. Based on what you’ve read and experienced, do you think this was a fluke or did the dressage training contribute?
Gail – did you see the comment above to Funder? It was about a point i wanted to make about dressage in the post that I sorta forgot because my brain failed me :). The summary is YES – dressage absolutely makes a difference. Ancedotally I saw EXACTLY the same thing when I started dressage and now that i know about mTOR pathways I understand why I never saw the results I should have for hill training (which is a form of strength training) and I DID whn it came to dressage (another form of strength training). One was mixed up in my endurance work and one wasn’t. In fact, I’m so convinced now it wasn’t just my rose colored glasses I’m serious about putting a day of dressage into farely’s weekly schedule. Remember that the pottom line of strength/power/less fatiuge for endurance activities relates at least in part to being able to increase recruitment of muscle fibers, which is pretty much the MO of strength training.
Thanks, Mel. I did see your response to Funder, but I was reading it on my phone while being poked in the face by my 17 month-old daughter and so I admit that my comprehension was probably a little limited. I also wanted to mention that there is a book called Equine Fitness by Jec Ballou that recommends working your horse 6 days a week, but with a variation of dressage, conditioning, lungeing, and stretches. I once was in a position to be able to get 5 days of riding done a week and I followed her plan as closely as I could and I did see huge gains in my horse’s fitness. But, when I started endurance riding, I saw that many experienced riders seemed to recommend more like 3 days a week with lots of LSD work and one day of speed work, so I thought I should take that into consideration because I figured they knew what they were talking about:) However, I noticed that Jec Ballou used to do distance rides and she still recommends her 6-day plan. I didn’t really understand the science behind it until I started reading your posts. Once the weather improves and we get a little more daylight to allow for evening rides, I’m going to try to incorporate sessions that more closely mirror Ballou’s recommendations. She’s also the author of a 101 Dressage Exercises book that I love to use for inspiration when I get bored in the arena. I look forward to reading about how you incorporate dressage into Farley’s training schedule, so I can get some more tips:)
I’ll probably just add one session a week of 20 to 30 minutes of arena dressage. Nothing fancy.in the past I was riding my horse 5 to 6 days a week and incorporated multiple arena dressage sessions with multiple tempo shorter trail sessions a week with a couple longer rides per month . Currently my opiniin is that us way too much ridingand I would never do that again. I am more I the camp of two the three times a week. Dressage gave me huge gains….but riding less gave me even bigger gains. The ratio of training to recovery changes as you move from base to precompetition to competition phases. Five or six days a week Iis fine for base work but they are shorter easier sessions. Once you ask for special or specific workouts the amount of recovery versus training increases. Im in this section of the book now and will try to post something on this
Typing a long comment on my phone is a lot of work! Not to mention the fear of it all dissapearing because I randomoy touch the wrong thing!
Good point about the need for recovery time as sessions get longer and harder – I had forgotten about that. We’re probably still in the baseline development stage where Nimo should be able to tolerate shorter, more frequent work.
Sounds like you have a good handle on it! I got really worried when you started talking about 6 day a week program. but if you are still in your base building part of your conditioning then that can be totally appropriate. Also funder reminded me that my definition of work is may be different from how other people use the word. To me work = stimulus = training. And what types of things cause stimulus is different from different horses. For Farley, I can’t saddle up and go for a nice walk because invariably there will be some sort of stimulus, even if it’s pure mental (and mental work and stress is still work). I can hand jog her and have that be a non-working day. So if your horse is stall bound and needs to get out, but you are the point where you are trying to “work” less days per week, you’ve got to figure out what your non-work options are and they might be different than the “easy/rest” days that are in someone else’s program.
I don’t think anyone ever needs to worry about me working too hard – I’m totally lazy:) Funder is right about work meaning different things. When I was talking about 6 days a week of “work,” I was including one day of hand walking with stretches, one day with 20-30 minutes of long lining, 1 day of LSD, 1 day of serious conditioning with speed or climbing, and 2 days of dressage, where one of those days would involve lateral work and the other would be more on transitions and non-lateral work. So from your point of view, that might only really be 3-4 days of actual work:)
So glad you put the comment up to explain!
Mel – I’ve tried twice now to update my blog reading list with your new address & still get directed to your old page?
mmm…not sure what the issue is, but are are you sure that you aren’t accidentally resubscribing to the old URL when you look me up in feedly? Unfortuantley the new URL in feedly looks a LOT like the old one. And it “suggests” my old one as the URL when you search for my new one. The new one has less subscribers if that helps you differentitate it. What RSS reader are you using? that might help me trouble shoot.
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