ATC 307: Tapering Ain’t Easy, Here Are Some Strategies To Help You Nail It, Plus: Maintaining An Endurance Base When Goals Stray,

March 13, 2020


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Janine asks:

Maintaining Endurance Base during strength focus

I’ve been a listener and fan of Endurance Planet for several years now, but this is my first time writing in with a question.  Thanks for all the great content – I really appreciate your work! My main question is:  How much endurance training is needed weekly to maintain a moderate endurance base during a period of more focused strength training? Background:  I’m a 49-year-old female with some background in running and triathlon since my early 30s.  I’ve completed a few marathons as well as various distance triathlons (my only Ironman race was 8 years ago, I’ve been doing shorter distances recently).  I am somewhat injury-prone, having struggled with IT band and piriformis issues multiple times.  I’m also a martial arts athlete, and have had 2 knee surgeries (ACL, meniscus) in the past 3 1/2 years related to martial arts-related more traumatic knee injuries. I decided I needed to get stronger, so I started going to CrossFit and have gotten hooked.  I enjoy the training and community there a lot.  My plan is to take this next year and really focus on getting stronger through CrossFit.  My question is on how to not completely lose my aerobic endurance during this process.  I’d ideally like to be able to at least run a 10K without too much trouble. I currently do CrossFit 3 days per week (M/W/F) and martial arts 3 days per week (Tu/Th/Sa).  I’ve only been running once a week (Sun), and it doesn’t feel like enough to maintain running fitness.

1.  How many endurance sessions per week would be good in this situation?  Keeping in mind the fact that I’ve got a job and 3 busy teenage kids at home……
2.  Should I just run, or do one session each of run, bike, swim?
3.  Should my endurance sessions mostly be done in Zone 2/MAF range?  Or does this not matter given the low volume?
4.  When would be the best days to fit in the endurance training to allow for recovery from all of this?  Should I double up on the CF days?  Or on the martial arts days?  (Btw training intensity at martial arts is not too high – it’s much more technique-focused).

What the Coaches say:

  • How much do you want to sacrifice? You would have to sacrifice CrossFit or martial arts.
  • How much can you do? How dedicated are you to the 10k?
  • You have a good baseline that you can fall back on. If you want to finish a 10k, you wouldn’t have to change anything. One long run a week is plenty.
  • Most importantly, continue to enjoy what you’re doing! Enjoy yourself above everything else.
  • You have a good mix of everything: the power from Crossfit, the distance from running, and martial arts is a central and peripheral nervous system based movement.
  • Stick to one run a week, but if you can add another one, then do so. But do not add the run before a martial arts or a Crossfit workout. Martial arts and Crossfit are skill-based workouts, and fatigue hinders your skill; as an injury prevention method, you do not want your legs to be weak before you do one of these workouts.
  • One way to tweak adding in another run would be to add it in after the Crossfit workout (when you’re tired). 3 miles when you’re fresh and rested vs. when you’re you’re already tired are two different workouts.
  • Dedicated athletes tend to forgo enjoyment for the sake of doing what is right.
  • Biking could be a good way to add some aerobic fitness with little risk of injury.
  • Create your own Crossfit workout that includes more running. Run intervals in conjunction with CrossFit might be a good way to fill in some gaps. Be very gentle! It would be easy to overdue the CrossFit portion, so don’t push too hard (i.e., use bodyweight movements). To lessen the strain on your knees, you may want to do core and upper body workouts for the first few sessions, then as you test your durability, you can gradually add on to that (e.g., air squats, wall sits). Isometrics are a very effective way to develop strength without compromising structure. Modify everything as needed!
  • You can also substitute the running with some biking intervals in conjunction with Crossfit.
  • Questions to potentially reflect on: What does it mean to run a 10k for you right now? Do you want to finish, or do you want to perform? Why does a run 1x a week not feel enough?
  • You can also oscillate between running and Crossfit, while not going overboard. Some weeks can lean towards more running and some towards Crossfit.
  • Even a 10-minute jog after a Crossfit class counts for something!

Lindsay asks:


Hi Tawnee. I love your show and look forward to it every week. It broke my heart to hear about Siri Lindley. What an exceptional human being. She’ll be in my thoughts. I have a general question about tapering and the conventional wisdom. Most coaches seem to say that during your taper you should cut way back on volume, but maintain intensity, even for Ironman distances. They also say that the longer the race the longer your taper. This all seems backwards to me since you gain and lose endurance so much faster than you gain and lose speed or even muscular endurance. Wouldn’t it make more sense for iron people to reduce training stress by reducing intensity and leave their endurance workouts alone? And wouldn’t that suggest that iron people should have the shortest tapers, since we can’t even skip one long run without feeling it the next week? I’m wondering if the conventional wisdom is extrapolated from studies on shorter-distance athletes. It makes perfect sense that if you’re training for a 5k you can taper with plenty of intensity and lower overall volume since a good training plan gets progressively more race-specific. I also suspect that any athlete benefiting from a three week taper is really just recovering from overtraining. Am I thinking about this wrong? Is this just wishful thinking? I hate messing up my beautiful training routine for some silly race haha.

What the Coaches say:

  • They disagree a little that you gain and lose endurance much faster than you gain and lose speed; it goes back to the baseline.
  • The taper is meant to elevate you for your race. Your taper is determined entirely on the previous 8-12 weeks.
  • The point of a taper is for compensation. You have to go into a state of overreaching (or be at your peak) before your taper.
  • Lucho is a fan of the decay taper (a slow, gradual reduction).
  • You don’t maintain intensity during a taper. There is a 40-60% reduction in volume intensity.
  • Keeping frequency may help with avoiding staleness and keeping everything loose and activated.
  • Tapering can be so individualized, though.
  • The main goal is to reduce fatigue.
  • If you use Training Peaks, an easy metric to look at is Form.
  • Your confidence going into a race trumps everything!

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