So, How Many Hats Do You Wear?

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Pensacola, Florida, United States
Husband. *Dog Dad.* Instructional Systems Specialist. Runner. (Swim-challenged) Triathlete (on hiatus). USATF LDR Surveyor. USAT (Elite Rules) CRO/2, NTO/1. RRCA Rep., FL (North). Observer Of The Human Condition.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Grabbing From Everywhere

I was in a little bit of a hurry; when I saw the couple with the over-filled shopping cart and an empty check lane all I could think was “for the win…”  Get in, pay for the dog food, foo-foo coffee creamer (…and yes, beer) and get back to the house just in time to enjoy Suzanne’s Sunday post-run breakfast preparation.  On weekends when she’s not working after the run, and in the mood for mimosas, we do brunch; other times we’ll hold off with a slice of toast and some coffee and do a proper lunch.  But every so often she says (when the moon is full and all the stars align), “I’ve got eggs and cheese, ‘shrooms, and stuff.  I’ll cook breakfast…”  To me, there’s little better than a quiet Sunday mid-morning struggle to eat a home-cooked omelet or scrambled egg…struggle, because the greyhound speaks little but still says much. 

I am immune to begging but Rubin still gets the remnants.  But I digress.

‘If there’s nothing being moved from cashier to cart, what is the delay?’ I wondered.  Then I looked at the cashier’s register screen “tape.”  Horrors.  The entire section of tape visible above the subtotal was filled with discounts and reward points.  Then, I heard the cashier ask the lady in front of me, “now, tell me again, how did you want to pay for this?”  I’m not certain whether she was shopping for four different persons, or didn’t have all of the funds in a single account.  Who knows, perhaps she was trying to confuse the cashier; in my (still) glycogen-depleted, caffeine-deficient and ovophilic (egg-lusting?) state I can tell you she definitely had me feeling a tad addled.  She ended up paying for the groceries with one-hundred dollars in cash and two different credit cards, as well as writing a check for 120 dollars, asking for twenty dollars in cash in return. 

Suffice it to say I informed the cashier that my transaction would be much more straightforward.
Have you ever wondered whether we complicate training by grabbing from this kind of workout, that kind of workout, this cross-training program, and so on, and so forth?  What if you could get the same increase in fitness by doing a single type of workout?  Some coaches have opined that a single type of workout, such as running at a single steady pace, can produce performance improvements comparable to a regimen which includes the typical blend of long, steady distance, short repeats at efforts equaling the athlete’s aerobic threshold, VO2max, and near-maximal race pace, and tempo runs at the aerobic threshold.

Can you improve?  Sure.  It just takes a little bit longer.

All other things being equal, there’s going to be a performance increase after three weeks of consistent work at a single intensity level – most likely that of a high aerobic effort; a big increase in the first week or so, flattening out over time.  After three or four weeks an effort (or distance, duration) that might have kicked an athlete squarely in the behind at the start has suddenly (well, not suddenly…perhaps “now”) become the new norm.  And rather than stay at that plateau, I’m going to take an educated wild guess the athlete will instinctively bump up the distance, duration or effort.  Okay, there might be folks who are happy with running, say seven miles in an hour at a 60-percent max heart rate.  But I bet those are the participants at the far ends of the bell curve.

Am I recommending it?  I don’t recommend doing steady-state running as the sole portion of an athlete’s training plan, especially when it comes to racing.  That’s like having a single gearing in the gearbox of a sports automobile; it takes forever to get from zero-to-whatever, but boy, once you get there…  The ability to work at varying intensities is necessary, if not elementary, to racing...especially when there’s terrain involved.

There are runners who are going to race as a time trial, or to push a single consistent effort for as long as possible.  With researchers revealing the paradigm (shift) for endurance racing; namely that race distances require a much higher percentage of aerobic effort (95 percent for the 5,000 meters, 99 for the marathon), it means that the ideal ratio of aerobic-to-anaerobic efforts could be a little less than we suspect.  Dr. Jack Daniels, in his Running Formula, recommends no more than ten percent of training volume be at threshold, eight percent for VO2 max work, and five percent for near-maximal effort.

The bottom line is to keep things as simple as possible.  If you have to write everything out in minute detail it's probably a sign that your training might be getting a little too complicated.

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