Last week i talked about how absolutely amazing a 4 minute workout can be and why for most people it is superior. Today i want to talk to those that insist on going long (longer than 30 minutes). I want to quickly clarify that i am talking to the people that are endurance athletes (runners, rowers, cyclists, swimmers etc…).
For those of you that enjoy this type of activity i am sure you have experienced many of the fun syndromes, tendonitis, tendonosis, and other various over use injuries. These are the fun parts of endurance and i’m sure something most of you have experienced. I want to talk to you about what do you do to prevent that injury from happening?
Lets take a deeper look at these sports as a whole and dissect what is happening and how to prevent any future issues. The First point to realize is that your training session consist of tons, i mean TONS of volume. In my world (weightlifting) a decent amount of volume for a day is less than 50 repititions of work sets. For a runner going for a short 2 mile run you may end up with something like 3200 repititions provided your stride is just over 1 yard. You also have to understand that each time your foot hits the ground up to 4xs the force of your bodyweight is being absorbed by your body. Different running techniques will absorb force differently but doesn;t change the amount of repititons at a shortened range of motion. Consequently in weightlifting i can barely squat double my bodyweight for more than 5 reps at a time.
So, what happens with all that volume? Not even looking at the pounding your joints are taking, it is a simple physiologic fact that high amounts of volume done at the same training session results in muscle endurance but NOT muscle growth and even a bit of a catabolic (Muscle Breakdown) effect. Everyone knows that if you want big muscles you don’t go run 10 miles right? Provided we have good movement patterns (good running form) you should be able to run to infinity provided we have proper fueling which is another post in itself.
With the above little tidbits in mind it would only make sense that to combat the catabolic effects of endurance training you would want to add in some Anabolic (Muscle Building) training. To understand this we have to look at what types of exercise there are.
Exercise can be divided into 3 parts.
1. Strength training (1-6 reps) – Due to the way the muscles are stimulated and the intensity (read this as the amount of weight you can move relative to a maximum effort), this causes muscles to activate and strengthens connective tissue. You can think of the effects as being neurological. Basically your nerves learn how to activate more muscle fibers. I like to explain this by looking at people that are the same lean body mass as your self but can move way more weight. Its not muscle mass, its muscle activation. This is good for endurance athletes.
2. Muscle Hypertrophy (7-15 reps) – The added volume (reps) and reduced load gives the muscles more time under tension (they are active longer) and causes muscles to grow. This is good and commonly what people think about when they think of strength training unless you have a strength related background. The purpose of this training is to stimulate muscle growth and make your muscles bigger. This is good for endurance athletes.
3. Muscle Endurance (16 reps and more) – This is your sport (endurance people). Running, rowing, swimming and biking as we saw above is tons of volume in a repetitive motion and causes catabolism of muscles and is why you rarely see big bulky endurance athletes.
From a pure training standpoint endurance athletes need strength and hypertrophy training. Strength training builds strong connective tissue around the joints and muscles and provides stability in joints. Hypertrophy training counteracts the catabolic effects of endurance training while growing muscle. Muscle mass is important for things other than looks. It is very active in a couple hormonal cascades that are beyond the scope here but trust me, they are very important. The increased muscle activation from strength training allows for better neural recruitment and better running technique (efficiency).
The next endurance post will focus on increasing your range of motion with functional movements and strength training with the purpose of helping you move faster and stay healthy longer.
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