ATC 283: Happy B-Day Tawnee, Bodyweight Vs. Weight Training, Hilly Ironman Bike Training

March 29, 2019


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Intro Announcement:

  • Tawnee is pregnant again (35 weeks)! Her and John are so grateful for the Endurance Planet community’s support and well wishes these past 15 months.

Allison L. asks:

IMLP Bike Training

I am doing Ironman Lake Placid in July, as you know the bike course ends with an 11-mile uphill.  On one loop there is about 2700′ of elevation gain.

My training route is 43-miles with about 3000′ of gain but I live at the bottom notthe top.  It is a low traffic route so it is great for training. I can do it twice and refuel at home.  The big climb is at mile 10-15 with a hard steep climb at mile 35.

I did this route last year for another full distance that also had 3,000 of elevation per loop but it ended down not up.  I felt good on the bike. The goal was slow and steady and that is what I did (time 7 hours, 14:30 total, The next day I felt tired from going to bed late but I did not feel beat up.  I even did another full 4 weeks later just for the experience).

My question for IMLP is do I need to practice more on ending with a long climb?  Or is just the overall elevation per training loop good enough?

Extra question – to improve my bike times should I do lots of climbing in Zwift or should I focus on speed since I am a slow and steady slowpoke?

The coaches say:

  • Practicing a long climb before the finish is important for race execution but not necessarily for training; the main concern is mentally understanding that at mile 100 you’re going to hit a big climb.
  • The key in training is to not push your climb, so it doesn’t waste you for the rest of the race.
  • Consider doing one of two options to make your training more specific:
    • Continue on after your second loop to do the big climb one more time, then easy spin down. This means your ride will be longer than 86 miles, but this will be good for your overall fitness.
    • You could also drive to the top of the hill and start your ride from there. So that means you end your 86-mile loop at the top of the hill (and use your car as an aid station).
  • As for the Zwift, on a trainer you’re only focused on wattage so there is no difference between a climbing interval and a speed interval. Outside you’ll actually see that difference.
    • You could simulate climbing by lowering the cadence, but you don’t want to do this for Ironman training. You want to maintain the same cadence on hills as you do on flats so you don’t kill your legs for the run.
  • Thoughts on training for speed:
    • Focus on wattage and heart rate over speed.
    • Just ride in zone 2 a lot and you will get better; you don’t have to focus on speedwork necessarily (though you shouldn’t totally neglect the higher end)
    •  Limit your time in zone 3, and zone 4 is a plain no-no.
    • Lucho’s classic workout recommendation:
      • 2 hours zone 2, 5x 10sec at max wattage with cadence 90+, rest 1-2 min., 1.5 hours zone 2, repeat intervals.

Trent Davidson asks:

Is Bodyweight Strength Enough?

My first year in triathlon, I opted for a bodyweight strength training routine instead of free weights and had reasonable success; however, I returned to weights a while back with no significant drawbacks. If my fitness goals are general health focused (as opposed to competing at any particularly advanced level), is bodyweight strength training adequate/comparable? (e.g. does it have the same benefits for cognitive function later in life; building bone density; etc.?)

Separately, are there any good cardio alternatives to running that don’t require a gym and aren’t cycling or swimming? (Had surgery for hallux limitus a few months back and have been advised not to run, lest I accelerate the arthritis).

The coaches say:

  • Bodyweight strength training can be equal to or more beneficial than loaded weight training; but they’re not mutually exclusive. You can certainly make gains with both. Do what you enjoy!
  • Bodyweight Pros
    • Doesn’t beat up joints as much / allows body time to heal up after being beat down without stopping training.
    • Great if you have limited equipment and no gym access.
    • Allows for natural ROM.
    • Good for neuromuscular training, body awareness, and proprioception.
    • Advanced levels are incredibly intricate and require full body tension for big results.
    • Usually high rep endurance—good for endurance athletes.
    • The exercises that are equally or arguably even more effective than the weight equivalent include glute ham raises (vs leg curl), power wheel rollouts (vs ab machine), pistol squats vs. (assisted SL squats), pushup (vs bench press).
    • Can help lower injury risk (functional neuromuscular training).
    • Can even benefit bone density with the basic exercises as well as plyos/jumping-type stuff (e.g. pushups are more load bearing than easy 5lb DB curls… just look at gymnasts!)
  • Bodyweight Cons
    • Won’t build strength as quickly and easily.
    • Requires better planning to make gains.
    • Progression is not as straightforward or easily quantified as with weights.
    • Easy to get stuck in plateau and not make gains (ultra high rep not enough).
    • Can be very complex, technical and/or difficult, especially as you advance (patience, discipline, risk).
    • Harder for those with less experience.
    • Need to get more creative.
  • Weights Pros
    • Build strength more effectively.
    • More bang for your buck (i.e. higher reward per rep).
    • Load bearing for bone density.
    • Better for targeting posterior chain muscles.
    • Machines great for novices.
    • Linear progression by boosting load.
    • Easier to target & isolate specific muscle groups as needed.
    • Machines allow you to go heavier with less risk.
    • Free weights allow full ROM.
  • Weights Cons
    • Machines are not as functional and neglect stabilizing muscles.
    • Technique is key when you’re loading up weights to prevent injury.
    • Greater risk of injury.
    • Easier to overdo it and increase injury risk, fatigue, soreness, breakdown.
    • Harder on joints over time and heavier you go.
  • Interesting Research
    • Bodyweight exercises activated lower limb muscles that was comparable to bilateral leg press in stroke patients.
    • Push-up exercise with similar load to 40%1RM bench press is comparably effective for muscle hypertrophy and strength gain over an 8-week training period.
    • Including bodyweight neuromuscular training into warm-up routines reduced the incidence of serious lower limb injuries in elite female basketball players.
    • Jumping exercises (compared with stretching) conducted over a single school year during early childhood resulted in significant bone mass increases ranging between 3-8%. The benefits were maintained up to 8 years after the exercise was stopped. After 7 mo, those children that completed high‐impact jumping exercises had 3.6% more BMC at the hip than control subjects whom completed nonimpact stretching activities (p < 0.05) and 1.4% more BMC at the hip after nearly 8 yr.
    • A 5-year program of weighted vest plus jumping exercises maintains hip BMD by preventing significant bone loss in older postmenopausal women. 3 sessions a week, series of “resistance” exercises wearing vests weighted with one to 10 pounds, including squats, lunges, stepping up and down, and getting in and out of a chair. Plus they would jump – without weighted vests – about 50 times a day, three days a week. The average woman loses bone mass at an average rate of up to 1 percent a year after menopause. Overall, the control group lost 3.8 percent of total hip bone mass during the five years of the study while the exercise group lost less than 1 percent. The control group lost 3.4 percent bone mass in the trochanter compared with 0.2 percent for the exercise group. At the femoral neck of the hip, the control group lost 4.4 percent of its bone mass, while the exercisers gained more than 1.5 percent. Furthermore, this particular program appears to promote long-term adherence and compliance, as evidenced by the commitment of the exercisers for more than 5 years. Natural alternative to estrogen and other supplements for women seeking to prevent bone loss after menopause. ;

Josh Hayes asks:

Why So Much Strength Training Emphasis? (And First-Time Ironmaner Advice)

My name is Josh, I’m a stay-at-home dad and an indoor cycle instructor in Chattanooga, TN.  I’m married with a 14 yr/old step-son, 7 yr/old daughter, and 3 yr/old twin girls. I’ll be 33 in April, I’m 5’10”, and weigh 160-165lbs.  I just found your podcast a couple weeks ago and I’m completely addicted, bingeing my way back in time listening to them in the car (currently on ATC 256).

First question: Why all the talk about weight lifting?  I’ve read Pete Pftzinger’s Advanced Marathoning a couple of times and I’m currently reading (1/4 through) Dr. Maffetone’s Big Book of Endurance Training.  Not sure why I haven’t read Daniels yet, but that’s definitely next on my list. Both books mention strength training, but mostly gloss over it. Maffetone seems to mostly discourage it.  I’ve never really lifted legs, and it makes sense to me that carrying around extra the bulk associated with weight lifting could be a detriment. I used to rep 225 on the bench and be able to bust out 25 perfect form pull-ups.  I’m now down to repping 185 and can probably still bust out 17 pull-ups. I’m completely ok with the loss in upper body muscle mass. I somewhat regularly (at least twice a week) go anaerobic on the bike and while running, so won’t that build any of the muscle I need?

Second (and MAIN) question:

Given the plethora of detail below and my constraints, what constructive criticism and guidance can you provide for me in training for my first full Ironman?

The coaches say:

  • Weight lifting for endurance athletes is primarily about injury prevention.
  • You also don’t want to be a weak athlete (unable to squat half your body weight, or struggling to hit 100 watts on the bike). Weak athletes break when they ramp up their training.
  • Dave Scott, Joe Friel, or Mark Allen will be much more beneficial for Ironman training.
  • You can go to the weight room and lift a lot but not gain weight if you’re not eating to gain weight.
  • Don’t waste muscle mass on “useless” areas (upper body); more muscular legs will certainly help you.
  • You have a lot of fitness knowledge but you’re going to have to gain a lot more Ironman specific information and probably quadruple your current training if you want to go to Kona. (We believe in you!)
  • Anaerobic running and biking will not build muscle, and, don’t worry, you don’t need big muscles anyway to do well! Going anaerobic isn’t what you need for Ironman anyway. It’s time to build your endurance.

One Comment

  • Racer X says:

    I have often run with much slower runners. Here are three methods the faster runner can use to even out the paces, depending on how much he/she needs to slow down.
    1) Carry hand weights
    2) Wear a loaded race vest
    3) Wear a weight vest. These can be loaded with up to 40 pounds.

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