Monday, June 8, 2009

Why speed work is necessary for elite endurance

This article is now located here


  1. Well done. The graph is very illuminating. I'm going to bookmark this for future reference in my intarwebs arguments.

  2. This was an awesome read! Very well put together:)

  3. Question:
    Do LSD and High intensity work produce the same adaptations in the heart? All the searches I've made seem to point to very different adaptations. And as far as endurance training, I think it would be a mistake to say LSD is only used as a "recovery run" and is only specific to endurance athletes. There's something to be said about including it in training whenever one needs to be conscious of sympathetic/parasympathetic dominance...

    Your blog is very nice BTW :)

  4. Chris:

    Adaptations in the heart. I've seen some statements where they do produce different adaptations, but I've also seen some statements debunking those.

    However, in my point of view it doesn't matter. If you're going to be training for endurance and do both intervals and longer duration work then you'll get the same adaptations anyway regardless of whether they are similar or different. Remember, if you read section 4 even the best endurance runners have a combination of both.

    Also, I do not think it is a mistake to label LSD that. Any exercise is sympathetically dominant (longer duration exercise is less sympatically dominant but for a longer period of time). It's obviously useless for non-endurance athletes except as recovery.

    The main point though is this: I don't see any adaptations with LSD that are beneficial that you can't get with training what I recommend in the article -- (1) strength/power work, (2) speed work, (3) interval work, and (4) longer faster runs. If you can spot any be my guest.

  5. Everything has its place, you certainty can't achieve the adaptations of speed/stength/interval/AT work with LSD. But LSD does offer benefits that shouldn't be thrown out the door.

    Read about "Maximum Cardiac Output" in this article:;jsessionid=KCRZ69ySPHnrvs2D2j61YZsb5VhjT8TzJHQTrRxvFJCynx2wZ39f!-631714950!181195629!8091!-1?index=11&database=ppvovft&results=1&count=10&searchid=1&nav=search
    The morphological differences between cyclical and speed-strength athletes's hearts:

    The effects of training stimulus on which adaptations one achieves are very well documented, elite endurance athletes have put in extremely large bases over their lives that have given them increased stroke volume.

    Now lets say,we just take a speed-strength athlete, any novice athlete, or an average joe off the street. We want to vastly improve their endurance running potential and performance. The training you describe will certaintly work. But is sub threshold running useless? Absolutely not.

    As far as the nervous system, all exercise is sympathetic, but I speak of promoting a balance in ANS tone while out of exercise.

    I've spoken with a couple of coaches who have access to OmegaWave technology, which uses heart rate variability to access ANS function. What they have said is that athletes who have trained heavily in intervals and upper-range aerobic work tend to be overly sympathetic dominant, effectively restricting the workload they are able to tolerate. Using longer, slower distance work, they bring the athlete's ANS tone into balance, raising their capacity to handle higher volumes of the work you recommend.

    You also have mechanical efficiency, as you mentioned, as well as other adaptations such as increased capillary density. These adaptations require quite a bit of work, and it would be impossible for a novice to achieve this by running all the time at faster paces. You're begging for burnout and structural breakdown.

    And even if we're not talking about endurance athletes, many of the benefits still hold for team sport athletes and even speed-strength athletes, and if you look into the physical preperation of these athletes oustide of the US, you'll find that it often is performed.

    I think you have the ability to influence the way a very very large number of people think about exercise and caution you not to throw out longer, slower distance training as is the trend. You have a vast knowledge of training and science, and I think it would be excellently complimented should you look into the practices of a couple very knowledgeable people:
    Mark McLaughlin at Performance Training Center - you can find him on in the Q+A.

  6. Are you referring to sub-lac threshold intensities of longer distance?

    If so, if you read section 4 as I said before as you built up your capacity for speed and strength and it plateaus off then you transition into longer runs. This is the sub-lac threshold intensity running that brings up the mechanical efficicy as well as cap density, etc. as you are talking about.

    For beginners this is not that important as the other characteristics we need to develop are vastly more important for getting faster times. If you take any novice, you will get them to a sub 5 min mile time faster with more high intensity work... then once they are fast you transition them into the longer runs for the endurance, etc.

    I honestly don't see where we are disagreeing except maybe some application of longer runs more in the beginning of a novice/intermediate training program? I would disagree with this, but I could see how it may be beneficial to incorporate them.