Pedal To The Floor

The biggest debate among endurance athletes pit the benefits of high-intensity training against long duration, medium to low-intensity training.

Tony O'Keeffe March 5, 2018
Many of the athletes I work with have emotional
connections to their “go-hard” sessions. They mistakenly interpret high intensity as
quality and low intensity as a waste of time. Most people think you have to train
fast in order to get faster. To be clear, training slower will make you faster. The
reasons are because of your physiology, specifically, the aerobic capacity of your
slow twitch (ST) muscle fibres. ST fibres provide the pathways for removing by-
products out of working muscles. ST fibres need to be programmed in an aerobic
state, and the not-so-good news is that this takes time. The duration you can sustain
work depends on aerobic capacity. In short, the greater your aerobic capacity - the
longer you will be able to sustain work. Almost every athlete that I test suffers to
varying degrees, with compromised aerobic energy systems. This includes elites.
Building endurance takes time and patience
Here is the rub: long distance aerobic training is not sexy. Building endurance
takes time and patience. Working with athletes of all stripes, I approach seasonal
training programs as a system of investments and withdrawals. We purposely
“train” energy systems while we “practice” sport specific skills. The goal of our
training plan is to “deposit” as many investments into our fitness account as
possible. When it’s time (race; specific VO2 build sessions) to make a withdrawal
we want access to well-developed energy systems. And we want the sport specific
skills so as to deliver a personal best effort. I am thankful any time I am told that I
race fast. Honestly, it appears fast because the majority of the field end up walking.