ATC 258: When to Lose Weight, How to Build Upper Body Strength, Elevation Training, Best Strength Training for Runners, and more!

April 13, 2018


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On this episode of Ask The Coaches, with guest coach/host Brock Armstrong:

Chris asks:

I am 34 years old and only got into endurance sports over the last 3 years. I’ve always been overweight, even as a D1 athlete in college (soccer). I’ve done several 13.1’s, a few 70.3’s and am running my first 26.2 in a few weeks, followed by IMLP next summer.

So here’s my question –
Does MAF discriminate when it comes to weight? I have respectable times, despite being 240lbs at 6’0” tall. I’m a sub 2 hour 13.1 and sub 6 hour 70.3. The problem is that I generally am running at much higher HRs than anyone else I know or train with. I can run at 170-175bpm relatively easily for extended periods of time. No, my HRM is not broken – this is over several iterations. To the contrary, when I try to run my MAF pace of 147, I am stuck walking the majority of the time. I can’t in good conscience train for races by mostly walking. At the same time, I would like to be a much better fat burner. I do think that my fat burning must be better than my MAF efforts entail, as I have little problem completing a 15-18 mi run on very minimal calories. My 18 mi run this past week for example at an average HR of 159 only required around 150 calories during the run.

So – should I use a different measurement to determine “easy” pace, or should I legitimately be walking? Obviously losing weight should be a focus, and it is, I am mostly LCHF and spend a good amount of time in the gym lifting, doing Lucho’s favorite, Olympic lifts, in an effort to improve my body comp.

It’s so hard to find good endurance information for those of us who do not fit the standard athletic body type. So many principals are built on an assumption of body composition. Please help!

The coaches say:
– Everyone walks when they first start MAF. Well… nearly everyone.
– Brock’s article called “Can Losing Weight Make You Run Faster?” and “Is BMI an Accurate Way to Measure Body Fat?
– A study called “Kinematic, Cardiopulmonary, and Metabolic Responses of Overweight Runners While Running at Self-Selected and Standardized Speeds
– Maybe your slow pace is close enough? 156hr would be very acceptable.

Sabrina asks:

I am a long course athlete. I love just being out there in a race and enjoying the experience no matter how long it takes me. I train primarily in Zone 1-2 (swimming 2 days per week, walks/hikes 2-3 days per week (3-4 miles), a longish run (7-9 miles), a longish bike (15-20 miles), a long bike (25-30 miles) and a long run (12-15 miles).
I love the pre-dawn hours and watching the world wake up during a run/bike.

My daughters, on the other hand, are into obstacle races (I was the one who ran to a family obstacle race last fall – and yes I completed it). On our way to their first Spartan Kids event, I quickly agreed to do a full event once my oldest meets the minimum age requirement. Then we arrived and the gravity of my quick decision hit me.

I do not want to hold my daughter back on the obstacles…..she has a hardcore game face during the Spartan Kids events and finishes well!!!! I have no measurable upper body strength!!! This is no joke……I have spent years disregarding your advice to do offseason weight training.

It is not a love of mine so it is easy to choose a different workout. I will definitely need a lot to avoid the dreaded burpee zone if I cannot complete an obstacle. The upside is I have 1.5 years to fix this issue.

So where to start? And still be able to complete my races next year?

Also, due to my kids, my husband has built Monkey Bars, a mini Salmon Ladder, and a rope climb in the backyard.

Next 1.5 years race plan:
March 2018 Local Half Marathon (registered)
May 2018 IM 70.3 Chattanooga (registered – A race – going with my tri club)
Nov 2018 Local Marathon I do every year
Spring 2019 IM 140.6….One of those I am turning 40 things

The coaches say:
– Study on high reps/ low weight or low reps / high weight were best.
– Start conservatively and build to the point where muscle failure happens at 12-15 Reps. That is your starting weight for each exercise.
– Two days a week on non-swimming days. Bike days would be good.
Al Kavadlo bodyweight exercises

Ben asks:

I am a long time listener of the podcast and appreciate all of the ATC episodes that you and Lucho do, as you both provide unique and great perspectives. I am a 40-year-old male, 6’, 170 lbs. I started endurance racing 12 years ago, and have since completed 70+ endurance events.

OLY – 2:09
HIM – 4:54
½ Marathon – 1:38
Marathon – 3:33
2x qualifier for Duathlon Worlds

I took a few years off with low training volume (~2 hours wk) due to work, family, and other obligations. In late 2014 I decided to get back into the swing of things, and subsequently posted my Marathon PR in the fall of 2015, but came out injured w/ severe plantar fasciitis. After months of rehab, multiple cortisone shots, and other attempts at curing it, I opted for surgery in May of 2016. Under the direction of my doctor, I started biking a few weeks after surgery, and on the 3rd ride I was hit by a car. Luckily enough, there were no broken bones, but there was a lot of body trauma and a severe concussion that eliminated any resemblance of working out for 3+ months. Once I was able to return to working out, I noticed that my surgically repaired foot still did not feel “fixed”, so in talking with my Dr, we opted for a 2nd surgery in November of 2016. I am happy to say that I have been on a solid road to getting back to decent training volume. While on a group ride in August I was buzzed pretty close by a vehicle, and realized that I wasn’t fully recovered mentally from my car/bike accident, and sold the road bike that I had built from scratch. So, I did the only thing any self-respecting (read: crazy) endurance athlete would do, I spent too much money on a mountain bike, and have dedicated my training/racing to off-road triathlons and mountain biking J Because after all self-inflicted injuries > car inflicted injuries J

I will be racing my first off-road triathlon in July at the XTERRA Mountain Championships at Beaver Creek, and while I am not expecting to qualify for XTERRA worlds, I would be lying if I said it wasn’t at least in the back of my mind. The predicament that I am in is that I live at 900 ft and will be racing at 7500 ft, with the bike course having 3000 ft of climbing (with almost 2000 in the first 5 miles) and the run course having 1300 ft of elevation gain. I will be flying in the day before the race, but have a couple of work-related trips that will afford me at least a little bit of elevation training a few weeks before the race –

– 4 wks out – 3 days of riding/running between 5,000 and 6,000 ft

– 2 wks out – 2-3 days of riding/running between 6,500 and 7,500 ft

Outside of what I am already planning on, what recommendations do you have to help bridge the 7,000 vertical foot gap/lack of oxygen that I am faced with so that I can perform to my full potential in July? Looking forward to hearing back from you.

The coaches say:
– Beet Root and Echinacea to improve oxygen transport capacity.
– A supplement like BioTropics Chlorella
– HIIT to help develop oxygen carrying capacity.
– Practice that first ascent but don’t forget about speedy descent as well.
– Breathing exercises that strengthen the diaphragm.
– Those practice sessions will only be good mentally, they’re not going to help physically.
– Nutrition is key at altitude. Especially hydration.

Max asks:

Been listening to your podcast for a few months and really enjoy it. Lots of useful advice! I am wondering how to incorporate strength training into my training program.

Some background: I am just getting into trail running and have never run regularly in my life. I am 23 and have a background in swimming and water polo competitively and hiking/backpacking or skiing recreationally. I am running a race in mid-August (6.8 miles 2,200ft of vertical) and may run a trail half marathon 3,400ft of vert) in early September depending on how my training goes over the next several months. I live in Denver so I can get to the mountains on the weekend but generally not during the week. Through my research and listening to your podcast I have settled on doing 3 months of only MAF HR training building up volume and consistency over the three months. Then the next 3.5 months leading to the races will be mostly MAF training incorporating strides and trying to pack in as much vert as safely as possible (to avoid injury) on the weekends.

During the second part of this training cycle, I am considering adding some strength training a couple days a week after easy runs. I imagine doing strength exercise using Dumbbells or body weight nothing extreme. My goal with the strength training is to build durability to avoid injury and strength to tackle hills as I can’t always run on hills during the week. Also, I always take one rest day per week. My long-term goals involve moving up to longer distance over the next several years and would like to enjoy this sport for a long time.

How should integrate strength training into my training? Should I focus on running volume now and incorporate strength training in the winter?

Thanks for all the great advice and for putting on this podcast. Keep up the great work!

The coaches say:
– Areas that all runners need to strengthen: Core (form and efficiency), Upper body (fatigue resistance), Legs (extra power), and Stabilizers in the ankles, knees, and hips.
– Single leg work.
– Plyometrics
– Barefoot work to running efficiency, agility, and strengthen your feet and lower legs.

Comments (3)

  • cmd111183 says:

    Is there a download link available for this episode? It's not showing up for some reason!

  • McDuffer says:

    For whatever reason, there is no customary download link on this page to allow me the usual ability to download the episode?

  • Steve says:

    Seems like OCR is becoming more and more popular these days. I’ve done quite a few Spartan races, and can say that being able to run well gets you ~70% of the way to being competitive in the field. Running + rock climbing is a great way to train for a Spartan race, or at least adding some grip-specific exercises in your workout. Picking up heavy dumb bells and just holding them, doing dead hangs off of pullup bars as long as possible, or carrying a bucket full of rocks (e.g. the “Bucket Brigade” obstacle in most Spartan races) are probably the best ways to train grip. Traditional grip strengtheners are not as effective since they train concentric muscle movement (crushing something in your hands) while Spartan obstacles utilize eccentric strength (resisting your hands from opening).

    One thing to look out for is overdoing it. You have very few muscles in your hands, it’s mostly tendons, so you have very little circulation. That means fewer nutrients and amino acids get in your hands to repair damage from exercise. Working grip too frequently when starting out, like rock climbing more than once or twice a week, can lead to tendonitis or tendonosis. I try to hit grip strength HARD, but only once every four or five days at most.

    I hope my experience can help someone looking to get ready for their first OCR.

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