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Saturday, October 6, 2012

Ben Greenfield, chronic cardio, and the BEST reason to train long

Ben Greenfield
I ran across an interesting piece written by IM triathlete and coach, Ben Greenfield.  It talks about the dangers of what he refers to as 'chronic cardio' - something prevalent among folks employing 'typical' training schemes to prepare for ultra endurance activities and events.

In it, he presents 10 (well 9 actually) principles that can be employed to reduce the typically extremely high training hours (20+ per week on average, according to the article) of IM athletes.  While Ben himself still trains roughly 10 hours a week, his ideas are all ones that I agree with whole heartedly, although I take them to a more extreme end.

While the entire article is worth reading, I found one of the reader comments and Ben's response to be of particular interest.  One of his readers, Kate, comments:
SUPER article! I provide strength coaching for a large number of endurance athletes & I agree-there are smarter ways to train than what many try as they prep for big-distance races. It’s fascinating to me that you recommend only 1 long run a week…and seriously shorter swims…have your athletes felt like, come the real-life moment of being in the race, they were prepared to handle the long distance despite not having gone that far in practice?
and Ben's reply:
Kate – mentally, the answer is NO. Athletes actually feel intimidated when they know their friends are running multiple times per week and doing long runs of 2-3 hours. That has been my biggest barrier as a coach – getting my athletes to TRUST that minimal training works.
But physically, the answer is YES, and once that first Ironman is under their belt and they see that they actually don’t need to train 20-30 hours a week to accomplish their goal, or beat the people who *are* training 20-30 hours a week, it’s a pretty cool switch to see flipped.
I think this is a great answer that applies to all ultra endurance events, not just Ironman.  In my opinion, the best reason to choose traditional, high volume training for endurance type events (particularly as an amateur athlete) is if you lack the confidence required to complete such event.  LONG training can provide some of that confidence.  But if you've already got that confidence, or can get it in another way (trusting your coach, for example, as Ben's clients will have to do), then I think the jury is no longer out: low volume, high intensity training can and does (if properly carried out - but that's another post entirely) provide an adequate physical base from which to take on even ultra endurance challenges.

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