Read most any fitness website and you’ll see hardcore sayings like
- “Go Hard or Go Home”
- “No Excuses”
- “Pain is Weakness Leaving the Body”
- “You Only Get Out What You Put In”
- “When My Mind Shouts STOP My Body Shouts NEVER”
Ok, you get the idea: “Train hard then train hard some more.” It’s the American way! But…
Today I learned that this is really bad advice. The exciting thing is I found out why. Let me share with you.
I Thought I Was Doing It Right
I guess I always rationally knew that you shouldn’t train too hard or you will burn out, but when each day comes around for and I decide what I’m going to do for my workout, I have those “train hard” quotes echoing in the background of my mind. So I think “Well maybe I can do 5 miles today.” And then tomorrow I think “I think I’ll do 6 miles today.” And then with regard to speed, I may start off with the intention of “long slow run,” but once I get going I find myself competing with yesterday’s pace and wanting to improve it. This is not a good life-long strategy. Training only hard all the time is bad for both your fitness and your health.
I Learned I Was Doing It Wrong
I stumbled upon a great site today of Dr. Steve Gangemi, aka “SocDoc,” who helps athletes with their injuries. The reason I found myself on his site was I had been reading “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall. I was concerned about a main person in the story, Caballo Blanco, who died at age 58 while running. The cause of death was hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which is a thickening of the heart which can be due to overexertion, and Caballo Blanco was an ultra-runner who would run to the point of exhaustion and extreme hunger. Over long periods of time this over training combined with insufficient rest and recuperation leave the body highly oxidized, with high inflammation, and poor health.
I wanted to know Is long distance running inadvisable? How can the average person avoid this surprise fate?
Endurance Training Is Good When You Do It Right
“SocDoc” let’s us know that long distance training is more than fine, however a person needs to:
- Build an aerobic base (doesn’t long distance running do that? If you’re training too hard (i.e. your heart rate is too high), the answer is NO!).
- Wait to introduce anaerobic endurance training (HIIT workouts, Interval workouts, etc) until after your aerobic base foundation is in place. (There is a danger to your health if HIIT and Interval workouts are your only workouts)
- Once your aerobic base is established, you should still mostly train in that zone, adding in anaerobic endurance exercise in a balanced way, being sure to recover from these workout and also take time off from them every 5-6 weeks.
- Get sufficient REST and Recovery.
- Get sufficient Sleep.
- Eat a Healthy Diet (that is low in trans-fats, sugars and refined carbs)
He has many resources on safely increasing both your fitness and your health. And isn’t that what we all want? I do. All the other stuff will fall into place if we are focused on health and fitness.
- The difference between Aerobic exercise and Anaerobic exercise is the Lactate Threshold Heart Rate. This is the heart rate (Max Aerobic Heart Rate) after which your body builds up lactic acid faster than it can be removed. There are several reasons why this is bad for your health if done too early or in excessive amounts. (see links below)
- I need to see if my aerobic foundation has been established. Even for long term runners, this may not be the case if you’ve been training mainly in the anaerobic level which is when you are above your Max Aerobic Heart Rate.
Easy formula for this is
Max Aerobic Heart Rate = 180 – your age.
- While establishing your aerobic base your workouts should look like this:
- Warm Up – 10-15 min at (Max Aerobic HR minus 10-20 beats)
- Exercise – whatever length of time you choose between Max Aerobic HR and (MAHR-10)
- Warm Down – same as warm up but with decreasing intensity as you go along.
So a 30 minute workout may consist of Warm Up then Warm Down.
- After 2 months of having the same pace while at the same Max Aerobic Heart Rate, that’s when you are ready to add HIIT or Interval workouts.
I devoured all his resources today and I’m excited to train at the proper heart rate and see how that impacts my fitness. It should allow me to establish a strong aerobic foundation which will give me TRUE endurance as opposed to endurance that amounts to muscling one’s way anaerobically through long distances. Who knows, maybe I have my foundation built. But I bet I will benefit from this!
(I hope so because I just splurged on a Heart Rate Monitor!)
If you’re interested in learning more, here are a few links to some of SocDoc’s articles I found interesting and helpful.
- SocDoc Training Principles – there are 5 parts to this series all about aerobic vs. anaerobic exercise and the difference between health and fitness.
- Warning Signs & Symptoms of Overtraining
- Dietary Danger: Partially Hydrogenated “Trans” Fats
What About YOU?
What is your training like? Do you have a balanced approach or do you think you might be overdoing it?
Would love to hear from you! Comments and social media links below!