Book Review: Matt Fitzgerald – 80/20 Running

Tri Coach NZFitzgerald, Matt (2014) 80/20 Running – Run Stronger and Race Faster by Training Slower New American Library

I’ve been wanting to read this book since I heard it was published. Matt Fitzgerald is an engaging author who researches his topics thoroughly. He is a runner and a coach himself, but primarily a writer and has a number of books with a running or triathlon theme. Having finished 80/20 Running I’ve moved on to reading another of his books – Iron War which I have been wanting to read for many years. This is the story of the race to win the 1989 Hawaii Ironman.

Back to the book in hand.

This book is really great at helping you understand the science behind by why Arthur Lydiard’s training programmes and philosophy were so successful. Although it refers to a large body of scientific evidence, it is written in  such a way as not to overwhelm you with science, but simply written in layman’s terms which help you clearly understand each concept as it is introduced and discussed.

The main premise of the book is that 80% of your training is conducted at a low intensity and the remaining 20% is conducted at moderate or high intensity. For those that use the training intensities that I use in my coaching that is roughly equivalent to Level II, Borg 2-3, PZ3 or the Endurance Power or HR Zones.

This book is a great read for anyone participating in endurance exercise whether for sporting goals or health and fitness goals who would like an understanding of the ‘why’. Why is your training better and more beneficial at the lower intensity? It is also an exceptional read for coaches who would like to be reminded about the most proven training philosophy that has created the most successful athletes ever.

Reading this book has reinforced to me that I am doing the right thing with the training programmes that I produce and will continue to do so.

I don’t sell anything on this blog, the link above to Amazon allows you to purchase the book at the best price available. Amazon give me a small credit if you click the link and purchase the book through them. I would greatly appreciate it if you are going to purchase the book that you use this link.

If you would like further advice feel free to contact Coach Ray.

Coach Ray is the Head Coach & Director of Qwik Kiwi – Endurance Sports Consultant and is a prominent triathlon and marathon coach in New Zealand.

Coach Ray specialises in assisting first timers and recreational athletes to achieve their sporting goals. He can be contacted at www.qwik.kiwiray@qwikkiwi.com and 021 348 729. Make sure you sign up to his monthly informative newsletter.

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It’s a Fine Line Between Listening to Your Body and Training Through an Injury

Triathlon Training NZIf you have a question you would like me to answer, click on this link here. This is a response to a question from a reader who askedWhen recovering from an injury, how fine is the line between listening to your body & working with the recovery to just pushing through, ignoring discomfort?

Maybe you are like John in this story here, who would just push on regardless of his injury and/or then try and play catch up with the training. That story is a cautionary tale that came right with the correct advice in the end.

However we need to get back on task and answer the question at hand. To purely answer the question the line is pretty fine. Push too far and you may find yourself re-injured again. Don’t bother trying to push yourself and you may never get back to full fitness.

The All Blacks and other elite level sports teams are surrounded by support staff to assist them get the best advice possible. You also need support staff, be it your doctor, physiotherapist, coach and other key people, depending on the nature of the injury.

The key to deciding how close to that line to push is not a sole decision. You also need to draw on the knowledge of your physiotherapist and doctor, as well as your coach. If your coach has a background and qualifications in Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation then they can be a great benefit to you.

The lead person making the decision at any one moment in time needs to be yourself, as often your coach, doctor or physiotherapist will not be right beside you whilst you are out training. You need to be responsible for driving yourself back to full fitness and not allowing yourself the excuse that you are injured. The information and guidance you receive from your support staff will assist you in making the decision of how hard to push you.

If your doctor or physiotherapist is saying ‘no running (or some other activity)’, then ask them “at what point can you commence running again?” Don’t accept the answer of in a few weeks or some other arbitrary time frame.  Ask them what physical tests can they get you to do to determine if you are ready to commence running again. Ask about the pathway to the solution to get back doing the activity that you currently can’t do. Have that as a goal and discuss it with all your support staff.

All injuries heal at different rates depending on a number of factors:

  • How fit and strong the injured part was when it got injured.
  • The nature of the injury (traumatic or overuse).
  • The duration you’ve had the injury.
  • What you’ve done since you got the injury.

What else can you still do despite being injured? Rather than getting down and out whilst being injured, look at what you can do. If you are a triathlete or multisport athlete you can focus on other aspects of your sport. If you are a single sport athlete, you can look at doing other exercise that will assist with developing key components of fitness for your sport. A marathon runner needs efficient heart and lungs and so does a cyclist, so maybe you can commence cycling whilst being unable to run to maintain or enhance the efficiency of your heart and lungs. Discuss this with both your physiotherapist and your coach.

Now back to that fine line. If it is physical pain you are trying to push through, this is no good and will put back both your training and your injury. However if it is discomfort from being unfit having not been able to train for a bit, then push on through it. There is a difference between the two, so listen to the cues your body is giving you.

Look for solutions from your support team and develop a plan to build you back to your previous fitness level.

Coach Ray is the Head Coach & Director of Qwik Kiwi – Endurance Sports Consultant and is a prominent triathlon and marathon coach in New Zealand. He holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Sports Medicine and a Post Graduate Diploma in Rehabilitation from the University of Otago, along with other tertiary qualifications.

Coach Ray specialises in assisting first timers and recreational athletes to achieve their sporting goals. He can be contacted at www.qwik.kiwi, ray@qwikkiwi.com and 021 348 729. Make sure you sign up to his monthly informative newsletter.

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Response to Lance Armstrong indicating that he wants to become a Trail Runner

This is my opinion in response to this article: http://running.competitor.com/2015/12/news/lance-armstrong-wins-35k-trail-running-race-in-california_141905

NZ Tri Training
Armstrong’s win at the Woodside Ramble 35K has set off debate over whether he should be allowed to compete in trail races. Photo by Jesse Ellis / Let’s Wander Photography

Those that know me, know that I am ANTI-DOPING and ANTI-DOPERS.

When Floyd Landis was announced as coming to NZ to ride in the Tour of Southland (TOS). I was like ‘No way’, ‘That’s wrong’, ‘WTF’, even though he had done his time. But over the week of the race, I was able to observe the positive role modelling he gave to his team members (he was leading a composite team of young Kiwi riders). He taught them the tactics of riding big multi-day tours and gave them a schooling they could only have got from riding ‘under the wing’ of a rider who has ridden at the level he has ridden at, which is not often available here in NZ. He also ‘sucked up’ and absorbed a LOT of banter and flack from a lot of riders and people involved in the TOS (not the organisers).  He has obviously developed a very thick skin, which also showed his team mates a level of professionalism that many would not be able to display.

What is the difference between Lance & Floyd?

Tri Training NZ
Floyd Landis
  • Floyd wasn’t given a life-time ban, that is one difference.
  • Floyd didn’t try and intimidate and dominate support personnel (mechanics, masseuses etc…) who tried to blow the whistle on his doping.
  • Floyd didn’t make the life of people who spoke out against him living hell.

At the awards function for the TOS I found myself standing alongside him and had a brief discussion, where I told him my opinion of drug cheats and thanked him for what he did for the young Kiwi cyclists. I am hopeful that his Performance Enhancing Drug (PED) days were long in his past (he certainly isn’t riding at the level he did whilst using them) and in the week he had with the young Kiwi cyclists that he only exposed them to the negative side of PED use. I had no involvement with the team he was riding for so I have no knowledge of what he did out of the spot light to confirm this, so I cross my fingers.

On the other hand Lance denied his cheating (until he had no other option but to admit it). Lance has an arrogance that he uses to bully people that don’t have the financial resources to stand up against his ‘legal team’ – people who when their life and family were threatened that they packed up their family and moved to the other side of the world giving up the career they loved to avoid the threats that Lance personally made to them (http://www.si.com/more-sports/2013/01/17/mike-anderson-lance-armstrong & http://www.stuff.co.nz/sport/other-sports/8199912/Mike-Anderson-I-won-t-sue-Lance-Armstrong).

Lance’s attitude and approach is not good for sport. If he had said ‘Yeah I used them’ then done the ‘time’ for his crime and got on with his life without the associated ‘drama’ (like a number of other convicted PED users have done in a range of sports) he possibly would have avoided the life-time ban. If he had initially worked with the investigators he possibly would have avoided the life-time ban. But he didn’t do either of these things and he got a life-time ban from sport (which I believe he deserves).

He hasn’t done anything positive since ‘coming clean’.  A more apt term might be ‘coming out’ but that would be insulting to compare and associate Lance with the GLBT community.  They actually have pride in who they are Lance on the other hand only has arrogance).

Even as recently as last week the PR machine that is Lance was trying to convince the world that he didn’t actually do anything that was too wrong: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rEfSdPz1WtA

A life time ban should mean a life time ban.

Keep him well away from trail running and any other sport that has any credibility.

I am proud to stand behind this opinion piece and have this represent Qwik Kiwi.  Nothing can be more annoying where an opinion piece is followed by a disclaimer that it doesn’t represent the business that the author is associated with. – Ray Boardman.

Kepler Challenge – What an Adventure

Heather wrote an article a few weeks ago about her training in the great outdoors as she trained for the Kepler Challenge. This is her race report for the Kepler.

I was expecting to do the event in about 10 hours, but it took me 11 hrs 25 mins and 49 secs.  My left piriformis was really niggly a few days before (all the usual things didn’t make it feel better so I knew it was going to be a problem – bugger), and the stiff muscle morphed into a sore hip which then led to a really sore knee. Bugger.  Didn’t stop me though!

The race went well and I stuck to my plan.  The climb to Luxmore was easier and less steep than I expected (easier than the Pukaka/Mt Robertson climb).  The weather was rather extreme on the tops: gale force wind, rain/sleet, wind chill of -6˚.  I was running in all my gear (overtrou included) and I managed to stay warmish, but if I stopped I got cold very quickly.  I was being blown around by the wind which was a little nerve racking, but I found the conditions quite exhilarating.  Coming down off the tops on the long down was great fun – especially when I got out of the wind and rain – and I was laughing as I was running.  I realised at that point that I was going to finish!

Left Iris Burn hut in really good shape.  Legs were strong, nutrition and hydration were spot on and I felt amazing.  Plan was to run 15, walk/run 5 then run the last 10km.  I was feeling so good that I had to slow my pace down.  Unfortunately I started to get sore in my hip about 5-7 km, then in the knee about 10km.  I started power walking and walked the last 18km.  Luckily I had practiced power walking. The last 5 km were slow and painful but I finished.

All I could think about was imagine what I could have done if I hadn’t had a sore knee. I think I’ve been bitten by the Kepler bug.

I was surprised by my physical fitness, my physical endurance and my mental toughness.  I felt at the finish that if I hadn’t had a sore knee, I could have kept on going. My feet and legs were OK.  I was really surprised by that.

Thanks for the training and the encouragement – I DID IT!!!!

– Heather Collins

What are the Consequences of Missing a Workout?

What are the consequences of missing a workout? Although this isn’t a common question the implications of the answer affect anyone following a training plan. A training plan is only as good as the adherence to this plan. As a result I am often asked “What do I do if I miss a session?” but before I answer the more common question I will explain what I refer to as the ‘Why factor’. The ‘Why factor’ will help provide you with the information as to why that is the case.

Lets look at a hypothetical training programme that goes for a 4 months building up to an event with 6-10 workouts per week. So that is a total of between 96 & 160 workouts as part of that build up. If you miss one workout over that 16 week period, that is somewhere between about 0.5% & 1% missed or a consistency rate of about 99-99.5%, which is pretty damn good and I don’t think I’ve had any client that consistent (although a couple spring to mind that might have got close). Lets look at the other end of the spectrum of someone who constantly misses a session or two per week.  That represents missing 10-33% or a success rate of between 67% & 90%. Now only missing 1 session a week when there are 10 sessions to do, represents  a success rate of 90% which is pretty good in anyone’s books, but when there are only 6 workouts in that week then that drops to 83% which is starting to get pretty thin on the ground and consistently missing sessions is far from optimal, especially if that is every week without fail.

The key to successful training is consistently doing that training. This is the time of year where there are other distractions that take you away from your training, which takes you away from your goal.

As a coach I am not worried if one of my athletes misses one session once in every blue moon, but if they are missing a session week in and week out then lets be honest they are also setting themselves up for failure. Especially if that is a key session or consistently the same session. A key session for a cyclist is the Long Bike Ride and as a coach if I set that every Sunday morning for them and they are consistently missing it for what ever reason they are missing a key opportunity to condition their body and develop their aerobic energy system. Maybe they are trying to set a PB for 10km and their Wednesday Interval session gets missed constantly. This session is what will give them speed and the ability to buffer lactic acid, missing this session will potentially mean they miss their goal time. If you are missing the same session every week (regardless of the reason why you miss it) it will severely limit your ability to develop the component of fitness that that particular session was developing. It is in your best interests to get this session done, but how? Do you double up somewhere else in the week or do you try and catch up by doing it on your rest day?

Lets look at what happens in these situations. Firstly lets look at why we have a rest day. By the way, I like to schedule training that will improve you without being physically demanding on your rest day, hence why I schedule Flexibility Training for you. I’ll discuss the benefits of Flexibility Training further down this piece. But the key is that a Rest Day (or a day that only involves Flexibility Training) allows your body to recuperate and repair itself. When the body does this as a response to training it makes itself a little bit stronger, a little bit more powerful and a little bit more efficient than it was previously. Without recovery between sessions like this your body never gets this chance to develop. This IS the reason why we conduct training (to make our bodies better). Without the recovery our bodies don’t and can’t improve.

So what happens if I just double up my training on another day and do both my scheduled training and the training I missed from earlier in the week? It’s seems fair enough that if I do more training than scheduled then I will surely get better right? Not so fast. I’ll use the example of a client who did all their training from the weekend and squashed it into a single 12 hour period. Don’t get me wrong, it was an epic training stimulus, but a training stimulus is only as good as the recovery from that training load. As this person works they had a big training session scheduled on Saturday and then another one on Sunday in a different sport. If the programme was done as planned they would have had the opportunity to recover (nearly fully) from the Saturday session overnight as they slept.  They would have been relatively fresh on Sunday for the next big session that was planned. What actually happened was they did the first big session, then jumped in a vehicle and drove to the venue where they were conducting the next session and conducted it. As they hadn’t really got much recovery prior to the second big training session, they wouldn’t have got much benefit from that training session and consequently loaded themselves up with a great load of training that they now need to recover from before they would start to see any improvements. As a consequence, their training over the following days (whilst they continued to recover) will also be compromised.

I hope from these two examples you can see that there is no benefit to trying to catch up with the training that you missed. What should you do? If you miss a training session, acknowledge that you missed it (it isn’t the end of the world) and just move on with the remainder of the training and don’t worry about catching up. If you are missing the same session each and every week, talk to your coach about why you struggle to do that particular session at the scheduled time and look into solutions that involve scheduling the week differently so that the key sessions are scheduled and then conducted at a time that ensures that you can get them done.

As an aside a number of my athletes are training for a major event, but like to include low key local races as part of the training and preparation. This I fully support where it doesn’t impact the key sessions of training for what they are ‘focussing on’. There are some great benefits physiologically to doing this type of racing. It is also a great way to be involved in sport socially and support local clubs and events. But if this low key event doesn’t totally line up with preparing you for your key event it might not be the best thing for your long term goals. Further more, if this local event (or event series) then leaves you too tired to do the most important training sessions of your build up…….is it setting you up for failure?

Earlier in this piece I said I would discuss the benefits of conducting the flexibility training. There are two key reasons why I schedule the flexibility training into the programmes of my athletes.

  1. Enhanced recovery. By taking the time to stretch and focus purely on stretching with no distractions, you can relax into each stretch and slowly lengthen out each muscle being stretched. This has been shown to be therapeutic and to enhance recovery. The perfect activity to conduct on a rest day.
  2. Decreased risk of injury. Training by it’s nature shortens muscles, although some forms of training can lengthen muscles.  In general repetitive activities such as running and cycling etc shorten the muscles. By conducting flexibility training, the stretching helps lengthen the muscles returning them towards their original length.

Further to the two key reasons a third reason to do the flexibility training is to increase the range of motion at a joint that can then turn into a performance advantage that allows you to increase your mechanical efficiency  i.e. to make you faster. We all want that.

In summary, rest and recovery is very important part of your training but you are only ever going to be as good as the consistency of the training that you do. So if you miss a training session for what ever reason, don’t try and ‘catch’ that session back up if it is going to compromise your recovery from the other training that is scheduled for you.

If you would like further advice feel free to contact Coach Ray.

Coach Ray is the Head Coach & Director of Qwik Kiwi – Endurance Sports Consultant.

Coach Ray specialises in assisting first timers and recreational athletes to achieve their sporting goals. He can be contacted at www.qwik.kiwi, ray@qwikkiwi.com and 021 348 729. Make sure you sign up to his monthly informative newsletter.

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My Awesome Weekend Completing the Queenstown 2015 Marathon

Marathon Training NZMy name is Barb Frost. I am 46 years old and I have been a runner for 10 years. I have never felt the need to enter any running events previously but 2015 has been a big year of change for me. I decided I needed a challenge at the start of the year and entered the Hanmer Half Marathon which I completed on the 2nd of May in just under 2 hours.

Not satisfied with that I decided I needed a new goal and planned to enter the Queenstown Half Marathon BUT in what I later call my moment of temporary insanity I registered to do the Full Marathon. I enlisted the help of Ray as my coach 6 weeks out from the Queenstown Marathon as I felt my current level of training was burning me out.

The scenery on the course was stunning.  The camaraderie among the athletes was unexpected for me and the whole experience was amazing! I am excited to say that I completed the full marathon in under my original time estimate of 4 and a quarter hours, coming over the finish line at 4.07.40. The early morning training runs in the freezing cold and pitch black of winter were WORTH THE EFFORT! I have now set myself a new goal – the Motatapu Off Trail Marathon on the 5th March 2016.

Is More Training Better?

Tri Training NZIs more training better? How much is too much? How hard is too hard? I’m feeling good so I should push myself hard today. All common questions or statements that I deal with as a coach. What are the answers and the science behind these?

The other day an athlete was telling me how much they suffered doing an event. They wanted to be feeling fresh at the end of the event (like the faster athletes do). If you finish an event feeling fresh, it is very clear that you didn’t push yourself as well as you could. No-one should finish an event feeling fresh and I mean no-one. Even the fastest athletes finish shattered. There are two differences between front of the pack athletes and back of the pack athletes. The first is the speed of recovery from their state of exhaustion and the other is that back of the pack athletes aren’t at the finish line to see the state of exhaustion that front of the pack athletes are in when they cross the finish line (trust me they don’t finish feeling fresh).

The more efficient your aerobic energy system is, the quicker you can recover from any effort. It is this aerobic energy system that removes waste products and replenishes the biochemical compounds within the muscle that allows contraction to occur. Faster athletes have bigger capacity in their aerobic system, hence why they perform better in endurance events. It is this capacity that allows them the quicker recovery.

The biggest issue most recreational athletes have is that they do their easy training too hard and their hard training too easy. What I mean by this is that people push too hard in their easy training sessions and this leaves them too tired to be able to push themselves hard enough in their hard sessions. Both types of sessions get done at the wrong intensity and you don’t get the training effect desired from each type of session.

I read an article yesterday about the 80/20 rule with training for endurance athletes. This indicated that you should do 80% of your training at an easy intensity (this is what builds the efficiency and enhances the aerobic energy system) and the remaining 20% should be hard (which will give you your top end speed and race performance). This aligns with the training of elite athletes, with what I prescribe for my clients and what the likes of Arthur Lydiard got his athletes to do.

Yes, Arthur Lydiard is known for his long, steady distance runs for the great athletes he coached, but he equally got them to do very gruelling speed sessions at the appropriate time in their build up. The more efficient your aerobic energy system is the greater the benefits you can get out of your speed sessions. Arthur Lydiard took the time to ensure that his athletes had enhanced their aerobic system to it’s maximum potential before he gave them their speed sessions and even then he only gave them 2-3 speed sessions per week with the other training sessions all done at the slow aerobic pace. This allowed them to enhance their recovery and ensured they were on top form for the speed sessions that gave them the speed to win Olympic medals.

How do you know how fast is too fast? There are a number of ways to measure intensity, in order of priority I prefer:

  • Pace for swimming and running, power for cycling as a priority;
  • Heart Rate (HR) for running and cycling comes in next;
  • The subjective Borg scale, if and only if nothing else is available.

As a coach, if you are training with a GPS and/or HR watch, we can measure and monitor precisely your exercise effort and intensity. We can take data from specific workouts and calculate the exact training zones that will optimise your results and then give you feedback after sessions ensuring you maximise the time in the appropriate zones (without wasting your training time by training ineffectively with sessions conducted too hard or too easy).

With the subjective Borg zone it is very hit and miss. What you think is easy is often not easy enough and when we start looking at hard training intensities there are a few different options. Is the training intensity the pace you would sprint 100m? Is it the pace you would run a kilometre? What about the pace you would run 5km or 10km? How about a marathon? All are hard, but they are at different intensities and I would never expect you to hold your 100m pace for 5km, the same as I wouldn’t expect you to hold your 10km pace for a half marathon let alone a full marathon.

I don’t put all my training onto Strava (I like to keep some secrets), but this week I’ve loaded up two sessions on two back to back days to allow you to look at my run training and I’ve also linked a third session of some hill reps I did on Saturday.

Tri Training NZFirstly look at this easy run that I did: https://www.strava.com/activities/290663574 5km and nearly 37 minutes. Most of you reading this can cover 5km quicker than that (this is the type of session I would normally be too embarrassed to post publicly, but I am out there doing them). This was an easy session designed to allow for recovery and I had a few key aspects I was focusing on with this session. This session had a TSS of only 27.

Next look at the session I did the day before: https://www.strava.com/activities/290039100 a touch under 16km in 75min. A bit of a contrast to the session discussed above, as this session involved a 3.5km warm up, then running 10km pretty solidly prior to cooling down. This produced a TSS of nearly 150.

Saturday’s Hill Reps can be seen here: https://www.strava.com/activities/287323013 This session involved doing four repetitions of five minutes running up a steep hill, prior to jogging down for my recovery (obviously this was after a warm up and prior to a cool down). When we break down the workout my IF for the up hill sections were 1.03, 0.93, 0.93 & 0.86 and the IF for the downhill jogs were 0.15, 0.14, 0.15 & 0.17.

So what does TSS & IF actually mean? TSS is Training Stress Score or how much stress I put my body under. Running solidly for an hour will give a TSS of 100. My session on Wednesday gave a TSS of well over 100 after only running for an hour and a quarter, so this was a very solid run which put the body under a lot of stress. Conversely Thursday’s run was only 27 so it was clearly a very easy recovery run.

IF is Intensity Factor and is a look at how hard individual portions of a workout were actually conducted. A value of 1.00 is a hard intensity. The amount of effort I put in over the four reps slowly decreased with each repetition due to fatigue and I suspect the effort of the first rep being a touch too hard for me to maintain it. My recovery jogs on the other hand, with them being very low, confirm that I was right down, maximising my recovery prior to the next rep.

How are TSS and IFs calculated? It is a complicated algorithm that is imbedded into the coaching software Training Peaks that we use. It takes into account your speed/pace (or power for cycling), HR and change in altitude to see how hard you were working. Unfortunately without a GPS/HR watch we can’t utilise this technology to see how your sessions are developing.

It is important if you are to get the most out of your training that you conduct the sessions at an appropriate intensity. This ensures you get the desired aims out of each and every session. Just like Arthur Lydiard did with his athletes, we need to spend our time training at lower intensities, prior to incorporating speed sessions. Without the time taken to develop the aerobic engine in our bodies we won’t be able to optimise our top-end speed.

If you would like further advice feel free to contact Coach Ray.

Coach Ray is the Head Coach & Director of Qwik Kiwi – Endurance Sports Consultant.

Coach Ray specialises in assisting first timers and recreational athletes to achieve their sporting goals. He can be contacted at www.qwik.kiwi, ray@qwikkiwi.com and 021 348 729. Make sure you sign up to his monthly informative newsletter.

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