ATC 334: Smart Ways To Incorporate Strides, Strength Training Programs To Try This Winter, Becoming A More Durable Ultrarunner and More

November 19, 2021


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Richard L. asks:

How many times per week should I incorporate strides into the end of my MAF runs?

From a neurotyping perspective, I’ve loved MAF and not loved speed work.  However recently I’ve discovered that when I’m fully warmed up (40-60 minutes of MAF), I crave strides.  The other day I was listening to EDM and timed some intense strides with the beat drop of the songs after an hour of MAF and it felt incredible.  I want more of this but don’t want to overdo it.

I’ve also noticed that I tend to take a much longer time than others to warm up, 20-50 minutes before I can shift gears and enjoy pushing hard.  Is that normal?  In my half marathon I had to drop behind the starting pack for the first half an hour but then spent the rest of the race chasing down the person in front of me.  Is this normal?

What the coaches say:

  • Neurotyping background: The Neuro Type Workouts
  • Use neurotyping not to lock into one way, but rather to better understand where you’re at and how you’ll excel.
  • Particularly useful for coaches to help guide an athlete in a way they’ll prefer and what hormones are dominantly driving their personality type.
  • For example:
    • Type 3 has high adrenaline and are highly stimulated, so they need to chill.
    • While a Type 1 is going to go hard and listen to hard music.
    • But it doesn’t have to be all or nothing with your neurotype.
    • You may shift and change based on your goals, and goals evolve.
  • Longer warmups are normal but more so in those who are overly tired (whether from training, life or both)
  • Switch up your warmups to something that will include more muscle activation—jogging, then walking lunges, air squats, hopping, 7-way hips, plyo-type jumps, followed by more jogging then strides. This will help prevent the long, slow warmup slog or those times when it feels like forever before you’re ready to go.
  • How many strides per week? it depends.
  • Strides are not a workout in itself, they are not meant to push you into fatigue.
  • Even 20 second strides is a bit long, but this is ok if you are gradually building into each effort.
  • Stride sets differ depending on whether you’re doing them for warmups vs neuromuscular development/running economy.
  • Strides for economy development:
    • 10 x 20 second strides with the first 5 being warmup, more relaxed, as body loosens up push the speed… by the 5th or 6th build to top end speed and hold it for the rest.
    • But if you’re tired, then DO NOT do them for increasing fitness and run economy, skip them on the days you’re very tired.
  • Strides at the end of the workout or toward the end of a heavy week shift in what they are achieving, and they become more about muscular endurance.
  • You can’t really do them incorrectly unless you go too long… or if they hurt you in some way, but everyone is different here though in how they’ll respond.
  • Strides are unlikely to have a negative effect especially in a MAF program and when done in a non-fatiguing way.
  • Don’t force strides, let them happen.
  • Risks vs. benefits of barefoot strides at the end of a workout.

Molly asks:

Female runner tackling strength program this winter

I am looking to take a full 4-5 months off from structured run training and get into heavier strength training. I have always strength trained and I move well with no injuries or issues right now, so my question is, for a “skinny” female endurance athlete, what would you recommend for a fall/winter strength training program to add lean mass and see what I got as far as building strength and lifting heavy weights? I’ve been looking at 5×5 model, but it just seems like they only have you doing a few different exercises (squats, DLs, press, etc), what are your thoughts on that? What about kettlebell-focused programs? Lastly, what role does more functional low-weight or bodyweight training have here or is it a waste of time in a heavier lifting program?

What the coaches say:


Getting strong isn’t hard when:

  1. You do it consistently
  2. You don’t do excess endurance
  3. You lift heavy enough
  4. You eat well
  • Taking 4-5 months off isn’t necessary to make gains unless you’re actually ready for a break from what you’ve been doing and perhaps this can also become an education opportunity to study strength training and different programs and experts.
  • Perhaps look to your neurotype to help guide a plan, while even resources like T-Nation is a wealth of knowledge on everything strength training.
  • 5×5 strong lifts
    • This method may or may not be necessary for her profile and goals.
    • 5×5 came about in the 60s and 70s.
    • It includes 5 multi joint barbell lifts a week, done 3x a week.
    • Starting point is generally 50% of your 5-rep max for each lift.
    • A/B split program format, always a squat, usually only 1 set of 5 DLs.
    • Goal is to increase the weight you lift by ~5 pounds each workout and/or week.
    • Not going to failure.
    • It’s low maintenance from an equipment perspective, with no machines.
    • Modify as needed to fit your time frame (i.e. workouts can go long, like 90 minutes, but you can modify to fit your schedule).
  • Downsides?
    • 5×5 format can be hard for some endurance athletes to sit around and take that much rest between sets.
    • It may not be the best place to start for a newer strength athlete who doesn’t need such a “loaded” program.
    • Not everyone does well with heavy squats or deadlifts so that could be something to consider if you need to omit those movements.
    • Are squats risky? They can be, every body is different. Some people just need to avoid them and their knees can’t handle them, but other people thrive off them. Same for deadlifts. Try and see, and make sure you learn good form before lifting heavy.
    • At some point you may need/want a bit more complexity or different stimulus, so maybe a modified 5×5.
    • Limited exercises. We always recommend functional stuff that may or may not include weights. as well as other complex exercises like cleans, push press, KB swings, etc.
  • Easy Strength training program by Dan John and Pavel Tsatsouline
    • Easy Strength program utilizes the same lifts per day 5 days a week, with a lower intensity (lower % of 1RM than 5×5) and was found to be an effective strength training program.
    • It could be a great starting point!
    • What they do here is:
      • 40 workouts total (ie 40 days of training), 8 week program consisting of five training days in a row followed by two days off. Loads based off 1RM.
      • In it, you never go close to failure or even struggle.
      • Exercises include:
      • squat
      • bench
      • DL
      • pullups
      • loaded carry
      • ab wheel
    • “The most likely mechanism for the strength gain was neurological adaptation. With the same lift performed on a daily basis, neurological adaptation will lead to increased “skill” at performing the movement (Tsatsouline 1999; Tsatsouline 2004). This could lead to higher motor unit recruitment or more synergistic motor unit recruitment (Duchateau, Enoka and Semmler 2006).”
    • “The lower percentage of 1RM, resulted in a low daily volume, helping to prevent excessive muscle fatigue and allowing for a faster recovery and adaptation (Tsatsouline 1999)…. but, the weekly volume for each lift was relatively high because subject worked out 5 days a week.”
  • Speaking of Dan John there’s an online article by him on T Nation that discusses the simplicity of strength training, and building your own straight-forward program for gains.
    • This really embodies how simple it can be and that too light of weights or chasing fatigue are NOT the answer.
  • Other ideas for strength training:
    • A more circuit-style of training with high reps and lower weights, which may fit an endurance athlete’s personality type better.
    • PAVEL Tsatsouline STRONGFIRST kettlebell training or classes.
    • An Olympic lifting program where you learn these lifts with a coach.
    • Lastly Charles Poliquin can’t be forgotten- if you want to go further down the strength training rabbit hole and be a student of lifting I’d definitely look at his resources, such as this.

Brad P. asks:

How not to slow down in a tough 100k ultra?

Hey Tawnee and Lucho!! Thanks so much for your great shows, I love the podcast and learn a ton from both of you.  I have a question about attempting my first ever 100K ultra next year: How do I modify my training to be able to run strong for the duration of a 100K ultra on a tough technical course with lots of elevation gain?

A quick bit of background on me:

  • I have completed multiple 50Ks and two 50 mile ultras, along with a bunch of halfs, 25Ks and marathons
  • Primarily trained by HR (maff style) fo most of those ultras and focused mainly on high volume for those races (i.e. no outside work lifting weights, hardly any speed sessions, etc)
  • My first 50 mile finish was on an easy but muddy course, and I finished in 10:42.  My other 50 miler (actually 52 miles) was at the Superior 50 in northern Minnesota. The course is super technical, with about 12,500 feet of ascent. That race took me 13:43
  • Woodstock 50 race data finish)   & Superior 50 race data finish)
  • Looking at my data from both races, I dropped way off pace wise in the last half of the race. I think my pace was way worse in the last half of superior because my stomach went south at mile 25 and I could not suck down any more Ucan; which is all I had trained with and also used on the previous 50 miler.  I switched over to just taking 1 gel each hour, due to my stomach and I know I shorted myself on calories really badly.  I think the thing that jumped out at me for the end of the superior 50 mile race was that my HR was not the limiter, my legs were just dead.

The 100K race I am targeting is called the Wild Duluth 100K and it takes place on a different section of the same trail system that the Superior 50 miler was on, so it will also be very hilly and technical. What do you think I need to add/modify in my training, as opposed to just volume volume volume?  I have attached a screenshot of my training for superior 50 so you can see the volume, maybe I overdid it?

What the coaches say:

  • Shift the big block of training (peak mileage weeks) to earlier in the training cycle so it’s not too close to the race itself (finish biggest block at least 4 weeks before the race, not any closer, and even further away is ok too).
  • Any signs of a calf strain should be dealt with immediately and not let it drag on until it’s a bigger problem.
  • Maybe a bigger emphasis on recovery weeks and lowering volume even more on those weeks.
  • Being mindful of overall life stress and its role in recovery and fatigue.
  • No weighted packs for this type of training.
  • Figuring out nutrition—this is key and it was a monster red flag in what killed his last race (i.e. not being able to eat after 25k).
  • He definitely did enough, and the back to backs were awesome, but was it too much? Unlikely too much, but maybe it just needs to be modified a bit (i.e. enough rest in the weeks leading into the race).
  • Strength training will help if he’s willing to add.
  • Why does nutrition go south in a race for so many of us? Pacing… hormonal response… stress… GI issues due to going too hard (or going too hard too early).

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